Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 2

This is the seventh consecutive Airwaves I’ve attended with Holly and our friend Norberto. Counting the first two nights of this year’s festival, that means we’ve seen 32 nights worth of official, on-venue performances – over a months worth.  And last night as we walked home, tired but fortified with late night street hot dogs, we all agreed on one simple fact:

The line-up at NASA last night (Thursday) was the the BEST full slate of bands, start-to-finish, we’ve ever seen playing together at the same location.  Ever.

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But NASA wasn’t our first stop of Day 2 of Iceland Airwaves.  Instead it was Mengi, a small space created and managed by artists used for intimate musical and other artistic performances.  It was a great little location, and on this night hosted a showcase of artists associated with one of my favorite labels, Lady Boy Records.  The first two hours were given over to a menagerie of individuals working together, moving in and out of the performance area, including Nicolas Kunysz, Sindri Geirsson, and Frímann Frímannsson (a.k.a. “Harry Knuckles“) that yielded a range of experimental electronic sounds, some beat driven and others not.  Next up was russian.girls (above), a side project by Guðlaugur Halldór Einarsson of Fufanu fame.  His set was exceptional – some heavy beats, at times moving into industrial, and also utilizing his guitar and effects pedals to contribute to the music in some very un-guitar-like ways.  Holly and I are big fans of the tape he put out with Lady Boy, and his performance last night just solidified russian.girls as a band to watch in our minds.

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Then it was off to NASA.  I wrote yesterday about our excitement that NASA is back open and part of Airwaves, and while we were certainly going to make sure to see some shows there, it was just kind of a scheduling fluke that we found ourselves posted up there for both of the first two nights.  Norberto and I really wanted to see Bubbi & DIMMA and HAM, while Holly was stoked to see Operators, so we figured we’d get there early and stake out a good location.  The fact that Börn was opening the night made it that much of an easier decision.  We’ve seen them live before and I’ve reviewed some of their music on the blog.  Börn’s style of raw punk rock has attracted some international attention, with a nice interview by Noisey and a recent month-long US tour as evidence.  They played a high-energy set that seemed to be over before it began even though it ran a good 25 or so minutes.  Next up were Icelandic post-metallers Kontinuum.  I’d heard of them before and seen them on various Airwaves schedules, but for whatever reason we’d never caught them live.  And after last night I’d like to travel back in time to some of those past Airwaves and tell myself to stop being a douche and to get out and see Kontinuum, because I dug their set.  The five-pieces includes three guitar players and they make full use of everything that offers, putting up a wall of dense and at times intricate guitar sounds.  A very pleasant surprise.

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Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

That moved us into the heart of the night’s line-up, starting with the relatively recent partnership known as Bubbi & DIMMA (above), which last night featured most of the members of Icelandic metal band DIMMA (minus lead singer Stefán Jakobsson), with the man who is one of the originators of punk rock in Iceland, Bubbi Morthens, doing vocals.  We weren’t entirely sure what to expect from this pairing, but figured with this much musical talent in one place it had to be good.  And it was outstanding.  Bubbi burst out like a caged animal, rocking a Ramones t-shirt and looking more than a little like Stone Cold Steve Austin, and he exploded all over stage throughout the set with his energy and intensity.  I believe most of the songs, if not all, were from Bubbi’s extensive catalog, and the fans, both young and the not so young, sang along throughout.  Musically I stand by my assertion that Ingo Geirdal is probably the absolute best guitarist on the planet who you’ve probably never heard of, and his shredding was all over the music, so much so that at times I found myself watching him and not the prowling Bubbi.  The three of us agreed, without any need for detailed discussion or debate, that this set was one of the five best individual musical performances we’ve ever seen at Airwaves.  Period.

That brought us to the American/Canadian group Operators who are all the rage right now, and after their set I can see why.  A little bit of the Kills, a little Bloodgroup, and a lot of great beats and synths had the crowd dancing throughout their 30+ minutes.  I will definitely be checking out more of their music when we get back home.

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Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

All of which led us to the apex of the night, the inverted pinnacle of hell that is the doom metal of HAM.  We are HAM!  We’d secured a spot up on one of the side risers just to the left of the stage, which was the perfect venue for watching the band, watching the crowd, and going deaf.  They opened with one of my favorites, “Dauð Hóra,” getting the head banging off to an aggressive start and the floor ate it up.  From there it was a ten-ton metal assault on our ears as the band tore through a briskly paced set that ran roughly 40 minutes.  The crowd seemed to wane a bit at the half way mark, and it felt like they would be running on fumes across the finish line… at least that is until HAM began their final song of the night and played the opening chords of their arguably all-time classic “Partýbær” (in English – “Party Town”), a song prominently featured in the popular Icelandic movie Sódóma Reykjavík.  A mosh pit immediately erupted on the floor in front of the stage which quickly engulfed roughly 30 or so active participants as well as a number who were in-and-out at various times.  It got somewhat intense, but showing all the characteristics of a classy pit when two people hit the floor late in the song a space immediately opened up and others reached down to pull them onto their feet.  We are HAM.  You are HAM.

We left NASA spent by happy, and partially deaf in our left ears.  Day 2 of Iceland Airwave is in the books, and it was a doozy.  I can’t wait to see what Day 3 brings.

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