Day 4 of #Airwaves18

Day 20/100 – well it seems my challenge has failed somewhat. I could’ve sworn I posted my day 4 review but as this was empty I guess not and in case you couldn’t tell, post holiday fatigue set in and stayed in. I’ve had a super busy week at work and this weekend had family staying so no real time to blog and now all that excitement is catching up with me and I’m coming down with a cold. But, I’ll try and remember what I enjoyed most about the last day of airwaves.

Clue, it was a lot. We went a bit off-schedule with our planning. This year the festival reduced the off-venue program, whilst the press have said this was for financial reasons, we heard from some locals that apparently it was because the Icelanders themselves apparently don’t buy tickets anymore and just attend off-venue shows – not sure how true that is? I mean they’d still need to book time off work etc to attend shows, another ru mour we heard was that Icelandic bands playing on-venue were limited to one off-venue show, however that ended up not being true, but it certainly was like in the past where bands played multiple shows througout the festival, and it’s not like the off-venue replaces the full festival – most of it shuts down at 7pm. For us the off-venue compliments the offical shows, making it easier to see more people if you see someone at lunchtime friday, that might free up saturday evening to see 1 or 2 other shows for example.
Anyway, we started with an Airwaves favourite – Una Stef, performing at Lucky Records, which turned into a full on dance party, which audience synchonised moves!

Una Stef @ Lucky Records

Una Stef at Lucky Records

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Tap list at RVK Brewing

We made a detour to RVK Brewing, a micro brewery with tap room that was easily a highlight of the trip (much more than Brewdog Reykjavik which was oddly disappointing), the flight of beer was a lot cheaper and in much cuter glasses. They were also playing the new LP from Benny Crespo’s Gang which reminded me to pick up a copy on our way back past Lucky Records, where we also saw a snippet of Godchilla.

We then went for another Airwaves tradition and stopped off at Reykjavik Fish for a lovely fish supper, before heading back to our apartment to drop off our bags – here we were delighted to find the Northern Lights playing out!

Aurora over Reykjavik

Northern Lights over Reykjavik

With this giving us giddy levels of excitement, we then headed to Hurra, as it was a venue we’d not been to, we caught the end of Munster’s set which was alright. We then headed across the road to the Art Museum to see Emmsjé Gauti, an eminent Icelandic rapper performing in the Art Museum, the venue was large and not very crowded when we were there, which meant we could sneak right up to the front for the feel good show (even though we didn’t understand the lyrics). We then went back across the road for Vio, who we saw last year off-venue and were great – really energetic indie rock.

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Dr Spock at Gaukurinn

Promptly followed by Dr Spock who are not indie rock at all, but loud and crazy punk rock, handing out marigold gloves and singing whilst wearing an elephant mask, and omg the crowd loved it and so did we!

After this we headed to our final gig of the the evening, timings being what they were meant we had just missed the end of Ceasetone (thankfully I managed to see them earlier in the week), but not too late for Benny Crespo’s Gang. I had first heard of them a couple of Airwaves back, being a fan of LayLow – I had no idea at the time that she was in a band that were much more rocky than her laidback, soulful music. Another crowd pleaser of a band, this small intimate room at Bryggjan Brugghús was pleasantly full of people dancing and singing. A fantastic end to the festival for us.

(We may have already bought early bird tickets for next years’ festival).

Aurora & Xamvolo, Oxford o2 Academy

Tuesday night for me was almost a year in the making. You see, I’d somehow missed seeing Aurora play at Iceland Airwaves last year, I don’t recall whether it was a schedule clash or pure exhaustion, but either way I missed her show and regretted it. Then to rub salt into an already raw wound, I found out she was supporting Of Monsters and Men who I was seeing in later that same month, but not the date I had tickets to. So unsurprisingly when news of a full UK tour came around and by some stroke of luck an Oxford date was announced, I was on it like the proverbial car bonnet and snapped up a ticket. I’d also like to state for the record that my love for Aurora’s music has everything to do with the Running with the wolves EP and nothing to do with that John Lewis advert (I also wasn’t a fan of the song when Oasis were one of my favourite bands).

So on with the support act -21 year old Xamvolo came on dressed in black, cutting a sleek silhouette in amongst the stage smoke and really blew away those cobwebs between my ears. having checked out the video below on youtube I was expecting good things. I was perhaps not expecting a an upbeat jazzy set that had the crowd dare I say, dancing? He has such a powerful voice and stage presence, as well as having a cheeky sense of humour, the crowd really started to warm up.. in his words ‘ I play this jazzy upbeat stuff, then I play … other stuff and played Down’ (also from the Chirality EP like Runner’s High). You can check out more of this stuff on soundcloud I think he will be one to watch in future.

In the swift break between Xamvolo and Aurora I grabbed a beer from the bar – the O2 Academy sells one of the Wychwood ales in an orange bottle – either a ruby or halloween ale, it was dark, malty and a nice respite from the 3 or 4 types of lager they seem to overly promote – hidden in the fridge out of view, would be nice if they promoted it a bit more, or even had a drinks list visible, so I’m just putting it out there!

Norwegian singer Aurora Aksnes performing at the Oxford O2 Academy
Aurora @ O2 Oxford Academy 2

On to Aurora, when she enters the stage looking several years younger than her 20 summers the crowd go pretty wild. There’s a good mix of people here- from young kids with parents, to people old enough to be my parents. Stood in front of a backdrop of a woodland scene she immediately starts with Black Water Lilies her voice mesmerising the crowd as she waves her arms around reminiscent of a Hindu goddess. We get treated to almost the whole of All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend, as well as the whole of the Running With The Wolves EP. My 2nd favourite track from the latter, In Boxes was particularly drum heavy which I loved – Aurora later told us that any variations to the tracks were down to a new band member Noel (or possibly Noah sorry if I’ve gotten that name wrong.. I couldn’t hear that well) who was ‘very creative’ and bringing new things to the music.

Aurora
Aurora

After several upbeat songs, the stage cleared leaving just Aurora and the guitarist (who may or may not be called Olaf), and sometimes co-writer to perform a new song Animal Soul, where Aurora declared she thought there were several of us audience members with animal souls. It is these sort of whimsical comments that endear her to the crowd instantly, that we all feel like we’re living in her fantastical world with her, just for tonight. After another acoustic track by way of Murder Song, where we’re reminded how dark her world can go we remain fairly mellow with Remain and Runaway (where I muse that I still can’t believe she wrote this when she was 12!). But soon enough the energy is fired back up with I Went Too Far and Running With The Wolves – where the intense, more danceable drum beat was back, reminding me of the remix that’s included on the deluxe album version. And just I was thinking, well the show can’t be over yet, she hasn’t sung Conqueror, Aurora announces that this will be their last song, as the inevitable drum beat starts the crowd cheers and we all start dancing again, then I realise I need to leave and get the bus, to beat the rush. I get on the bus happy and exhausted put my headphones in and relive the last hour and a half, blissfully unaware that there was one more song…

 

full photo set here.

Day 4 – Driving South Iceland back to Reykjavik

The last day of our South Island trip, we were heading from Vik back to Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves festival. Our plan was to see the infamous black beach, Dyrholaey and be at our apartment for 3pm, as we had to return our car by 3:30.

So off to the black beach – it was less than 10 minutes drive from our hotel, and when we got there, it was raining and blowing a gale, all whilst the sun is shining!

Black Beach at Vik (Reynisfjara)

Then it was time to visit Dyrholaey. it was a landmark already programmed into the SatNav, however we were expecting to be taken onto the beach aside it. Not onto the cliff overlooking it. It was the scariest drive of my life, so steep with what looked like a sheer drop to the side of the single car pathway. Once we reached the top and I stepped out of the car I seriously felt ill, the thought of driving back down was terrifying. However it was more than worth it for the view – also worth mentioning that there is a WC up there, should you need it!

Dyrhólaey

Dyrhólaey

The drive down, oddly enough was less scary, even though we had to deal with passing a car, which was a bit hairy! Then it was time for the drive back to Reykjavik, which again was full of natural wonders, such as snow capped mountains, more waterfalls, at one point we got stuck in some very slow moving traffic, behind a hearse!

We arrived at our apartment just before 3pm. Went to check in, and uh-oh, no keys left for us. This was despite having email confirmation and making payment 10 days before arriving, our booking had been lost… we were then given a room that was technically an upgrade. Yay, we thought, but it is a weird room, we gain a sofa to watch tv on, but lose a wardrobe – there’s a chest of drawers but this was stuffed full of spare bedding! We’ve actually stayed in this same apartment block for the previous 2 years, so weird to find that the luxury room doesn’t have a kettle, or tea, coffee & oil for cooking – which were previously provided in our basic room. Unessassary shopping trip ahoy.

Anyway, we didn’t get up to much else, after sorting our room situation we mnaged to get the car back to BSI with seconds to spare. No extra payments were made, at times we did wonder whether all the pot holes and gravel roads would end up with some additional fees for damage, but thankfully not.

We then headed directly to Harpa to collect our wristbands for Airwaves, followed by Lebowski for a burger – its a personal tradition. And at this point we’d realised we hadn’t eaten since breakfast!  We then headed back to our apartment, too tired to head out for some early starting Off-venue events, and this played in our favour, as around 7:30pm the Northern Lights came out in full force! Although many, many guides seem to insist that you need clear, dark (ie no light pollution) skies, here is proof of what you can see & photograph, when your back yard is awash with street and security lights!

Aurora over Reykjavik