Airwaves 16 – Days 1-2

Because I really haven’t had the time or energy to blog daily  🙂

Day 1 – Wednesday

A first for us this year was arriving the first day of the festival rather than a day or two before. So it was fairly late Wednesday when we got our wristbands and as a result we didn’t see very many bands, in fact we sort of saw one off venue band – VAR and despite how much I love them, the venue (bar 11) was awful, unless you were 6 foot plus you weren’t going to see anything, and for me there’s nothing more annoying that someone (or 3) shoving past you to get closer, who then puts ear plugs in – seriously go home.

Snorri Helgason & Mr Silla

So we chilled out for a bit then headed to see Snorri Helgason at NASA, or as the other half calls him (and his band) the Snorri Helgason Good Time Band. Really upbeat and with Mr Silla on co-vocals for several songs we loved it. So it turns out that half the band are also in Tilbury (I did not know this until now) who were on just afterwards – strange band, half look like they belong in a 70s metal band and the lead singer with his snap back like he should be in a rap group – but neither of these apply – really amazing uplifting vocals and streaming guitars. But we were totally knackered so left part way through.

Day 2 – Thursday

We started the day really lazily, taking a walk around the harbour and grabbing brunch at Fredrikson Ale House – we highly recommend this place, the portions were huge (think 8 pieces of bacon!) and kept us going until evening. We then headed to Harpa as we’d won tickets to an exclusive session with Mugison, courtesy of Nordic Playlist. With only 30 audience members and a backdrop of Reykjavik through Harpa’s amazing windows it was so cool – we heard a few well known tracks and some new ones from the album released this week, we must remember to get a copy before we leave.

We then headed to Bryggan Brugghus to see Mr Silla perform off venue as a solo artist, although she was accompanied by her husband on stage. Again, mind blowing vocals, different arrangements of song I know and love. She also tipped us off to another band she was performing with today – Throws, a UK band with one guy from Sheffield and the other who lives in Reykjavik.

So for our evening entertainment we started at the Reykjavik art museum for JFDR, aka Jofridur from Pascal Pinon, Samaris and Gangly. This was her solo stuff and it was a haunting and melodic as Samaris. We then quickly headed off to Hurra for The IllIs, a Slovakian band. I would like to peg them as metal, but they had moments of dreamy pop melodies that were then interrupted with the crashing guitars – they were so energetic and fun. And on their final song one of the guitarists handed his guitar to the guy next to me in the audience so he could rock out, this was hilarious as the guy like me clearly did not know what to do with it! If you ever get the chance to see these guys then do – they really know how to rock a party!

The Ills @ Hurra

We then arrived at Gamla Bio whilst Hannah Lou Clark from the UK was playing, highly popular it would seem, as afterwards the venue practically empty. So we waited for Throws – worth noting Gamla Bio has the BEST free wifi I’ve ever experienced that doesn’t require signing up for something/tedious registration process.

Throws absolutely killed it. They started with a male voice choir of at least 15 members who were all very impressive, then slimmed down to the two of them plus two drummers, who were so energetic I felt sweaty just looking at them, then Mr Silla popped in for a track or two in the middle before finishing back with the choir who some of which were drinking beer at this point! Fab evening, danced loads, smiled even more, went back to our apartment exhausted.

 

Airwaves Day 3 – the queuing

Today was the day that you could queue for Flaming Lips tickets – included in the price of your wrist band but with only 2200 tickets and 8000 wrist bands sold, obviously not everyone gets to go (you could purchase tickets as an extra prior to the festival as well). So based on last years queues for Kraftwerk we decided up early was the way to go, as at least you’d be queuing in the warmth of Harpa, good plan as the Icelandic weather was showing up who was boss today!
We decided to walk to Harpa via the seafront as we know from experience it takes half the time as it does to walk via Laugavegur – the wind was blowing a gale and waves were crashing against the rocks a couple of meters high, spraying the footpath with icey cold salt water – needless to say, once we reached Harpa at just after 8am we were a bit wet. And only 20th in the queue. Seems a lot of people had the smart idea of staying in bed little longer, but we like many others sat down with a book, grabbed a coffee and waited patiently (some ham & fried egg butties also helped).
Thankfully the Airwaves staff decided to not make everyone wait until
12 and handed out tickets a little early, as we left there was a substantial queue snaking out the doors into the cold, so we headed back towards our apartment feeling chuffed. We popped out head into lucky records and saw Brooklyn singer Eric vitoff performing with lots more energy than most of the people in the room put together, dancing and singing into his guitar at times!

After a refuelling back at our apartment we stopped by Lucky Records again, this time catching Bellstop – not my cup of tea but the husband enjoyed them, self described as folk rock.
We also caught the tail end of the intriguingly named Hide Your Kids (which tbh just reminds me of that bed intruder song from a couple of years ago), we only heard 1 song so I don’t feel I can make a judgement call on whether I like them or not – but they were giving away free CDs so something to listen to when we get home!
At this point in the evening my husband headed back to the apartment as man flu started to kick his ass, so I fought my way through the howling wind into the sanctuary of Frikirkjan to see Snorri Helgason perform. I’ve seen Snorri play at airwaves last year, and in Manchester supporting Asgeir, but both of those times he was very much a one-man-band with simply an acoustic guitar and harmonica. For his Airwaves show however there was the band Snorri Helgason (we noticed this a few times, solo performers create a band then the band performs under what is essentially the solo artist’s name) which included Mr Silla (not a mister at all btw) also on vocals as well as a bassist & drummer from some other well known local bands.
The church looked breathtaking with candles lighting the stage area, it was very atmospheric, with everyone seated in the pews. Having a full band and the addition of Mr Silla’s vocals brought a wonderful depth and richness to songs that already work well stripped down. It was a show that in my opinion was all to short!

FALK night @ Harpa

Next stop was Harpa (again!) for Mugison (again!) which was yet another fantastic show with the added depth of having a full band, some new tracks and plenty of old favourites meant the crowd were excited but Mugison brought it down a notch with a duet with his wife who is (like many other music teachers in Iceland) currently on strike to protest against unfair pay for music teachers. It was a beautiful moment to watch.

Last events of the evening for me were part of the FALK (fuck art let’s kill) night in the smaller, seated room in Harpa Kaldalon.
First up was power noise artist AMFJ who gave us a full on ear assault, having seen him perform before I felt the music balance wasn’t quite right and was struggling to hear the vocal performance over the music. Ok so I don’t understand Icelandic but still…
Last show of the evening for me was then KRAKKKBOT who is slightly more palatable to the ears and plays (like quite a few electronic musicians) from his laptop, except he holds it kinda like he’s playing guitar!
Also people started bringing him drinks during the performance – which started getting a bit surreal.

Snorri Helgason & Ásgeir – Deaf Institute, Manchester

Last night I headed on down to Manchester’s Deaf Institute for a gig featuring not one, but two Icelandic artists in the form of Snorri Helgason and Ásgeir who are both often described as folk, melodic sometimes poppy but most definitely folk.

I was looking forward to this immensely (despite only hearing of and booking my ticket less than 2 weeks ago), as I’d previously had the pleasure of seeing Snorri perform back in November at Iceland Airwaves festival, against the interesting back drop of a men’s clothing store, surrounded by deer stalker hats!

Up until a couple of weeks ago the only Ásgeir track I’d heard was a cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shaped Box on YouTube (and only a matter of days before Gizmodo ran an article entitled ‘watch this one woman band cover an uncoverable Nirvana song’ err yes not that uncoverable then). I’ve since listened to the few tracks available on Soundcloud and liked what I’d heard.

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The Deaf Institute is a wonderful gig venue, small and intimate without feeling overcrowded, bird print wallpaper lines the stage area which is draped with deep red, luscious curtains, there’s even a fireplace if you look hard enough!
Snorri kicked off proceedings with an all too short 30 minute set, playing at least a couple of songs I recognised from his most recent album Autumn Skies (give it a listen on Soundcloud) and the harmonica made an appearance. There was new track he wrote whilst in Nashville which at first I thought was called mad cap (and didn’t know what to expect!) But by the end of the anecdote I realised that as someone had described the song to him as ‘like the last you drink before you put the candles out’ I realised it was called Night Cap.
Then it was all over, I managed to grab a copy of Autumn Skies directly from the man himself after the gig and managed to not to say anything too embarrassing in the process.

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After a short break Ásgeir and his band took to the stage and started with two songs in Icelandic before introducing himself to the crowd and later on the rest of the band which includes his brother.

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The afore mentioned cover of Heart Shaped Box was in there along with Dreaming, new single Going Home and finishing with the upbeat Torrent. great night all round, I’m hoping to catch both artists back at airwaves in November.
Oh BTW Ásgeir’s record Here It Comes with Heart Shaped Box on the B side is a Record Store Day release on Saturday 19th April – go buy it!