Iceland Airwaves 2016 – Day 3

Today’s post is a bit like a time machine.  You see, Life in the Vinyl Lane went dark sometime during Day 3 of Iceland Airwaves, apparently due to some failure on my part in not responding to a validation email about the site’s domain name.  I wasn’t able to get that straightened out until we got home from Iceland, so now I’m sitting here on Tuesday trying to remember what the hell I did last Friday.

To keep things in sort of a chronological flow, I’m actually going to write individual blogs for Days 3-5, and post them retroactively to the days they should have fallen on the calendar. So while I’m writing this on November 8, it’ll actually appear on the blog as if it was posted on November 5 thanks to the magic of the internet.  A very simple example of why you shouldn’t believe something is true just because it’s on the web.

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Our musical schedule opened with another trip down to KEX Hostel, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite venues in Reykjavik, to see the hip hop collective Digable Planets (left).  They’ve certainly made an impact in the music world over the years, but I have to confess ignorance of their catalog.  That being said, after their Airwaves performance I’m going to definitely need to get my hands on some of their stuff, because they tore it up at KEX.  Rapper Ismael Butler (aka Butterfly) has Seattle ties and is part of Shabazz Palaces, so there’s a local angle there for me as well.  Definitely a top-notch show.

While on the trip our friend Andy pointed out that there were little plastic toy army men glued to various signs, ledges, and window sills throughout the city, something he’d noticed on a separate trip to Reykjavik earlier in the year.  This led to us spending a lot of time looking up as we walked around town and snapping pics of the various army men and other small action figures/toys we found about town… including one army man on our second floor apartment window sill.  We actually got to the bottom of the mystery while having a pre-lunch beer (hey, we’re on vacation…) at Prikið when we asked the bartender what the deal was.  He told us it was a guy who worked at the arcade/toy store across the street who everyone referred to as the “Toy Distributor,” and he was pretty thrilled that tourists were actually noticing this renegade street art.  Only in Reykjavik.

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After dinner we posted up in Harpa for the night, bouncing back and forth between the north and south rooms.  First up was the intriguing aYia (above), an ethereal electro trio performing some spacey ambient jams accompanied by some female vocals.  Not normally my cup of tea, but the whole thing came together with an intriguing fragility that made them a very enjoyable listen.

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Next was a band that is almost sure to make my end of festival “Best Of” list, Dream Wife (right). These ladies flat out rocked, blasting us with killer pop-punk riffs and fronted by none other than Rakel Mjöll, who we immediately recognized from her previous work with Halleluwah.  Dream Wife gives Rakel a chance to step away from the classical cabaret style vocals of Halleluwah and instead get a bit down and dirty, a fun contrast with her at times very young sounding voice.  Bella Podpadec kept the bass hard and funky throughout the set, driving the band forward.  And as for guitarist Alice Go… damn, she was one of the two best guitarists I saw on a stage anywhere at Airwaves (the other being DIMMA’s Ingo Geirdal) and she can go toe-to-toe with anyone; she’s got serious chops on the axe.  The morning after this show I was bouncing all over town looking for a copy of the band’s recent release EP01, and I finally found a copy on baby blue vinyl over at the flea market, so you’ll definitely hear about Dream Wife again on Life in the Vinyl Lane.

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Then it was time for DIMMA (left), a band that impresses me more and more every single time I see them perform.  They’re unquestionably one of the most talented bands, top to bottom, not just in Iceland but anywhere in the world.  Now, I confess, part of my appreciation of DIMMA is because I love their style of music – 1980s style heavy metal, with intricate guitar work and soaring vocals.  After their set I was talking to another American about them and he commented that he was really impressed with their sound, which got us talking about metal in general and me making a comment along the lines of “I love that they play that 1988 style of metal that I grew up with”.  The guy immediately looked down and started shaking his head and his girlfriend started laughing, so I figured they thought what I said was pretty stupid.  But no.  It turns out my man is in a 1980s metal cover band that is actually named 1988!  What are the chances of that?  I should have bought a lottery ticket.

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We stayed up front for the next band as well, Seattle’s own Thunderpussy.  If there was a trend for this year’s Airwaves it was definitely the seemingly massive increase in female bands, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.  We’d met the ladies from Thunderpussy briefly at The Sonics’ show at KEX earlier in the week, so we were stoked to check them out.  And they brought it.  There are all kinds of reasons to love Thunderpussy’s style of hard rock / sleaze metal, and while the photographers couldn’t get enough of guitarist Whitney Petty (right) and singer Molly Sides, I personally couldn’t take my eyes off of bassist Leah Julius who was absolutely murdering those bass lines.  Julius doesn’t get fancy, she just comes to play, and play hard, shredding her side of the stage and looking every bit the part of a rock god.  This night just kept getting better and better.

We took it down a notch for the final set, grooving out to the atmospheric electronica of Kiasmos (below).  The room was absolutely packed solid with swaying, sweaty bodies, including a few who were only still standing due to the concerted efforts of their friends – amateurs!  This is Airwaves, kids; you have to pace yourself when you’ve got sets starting as late as 2:50AM on a Friday night/Saturday morning; you can’t be passed out at 1:00AM!  We didn’t stay for the whole set because despite their great laser and video show there really wasn’t a lot to actually see as part of the performance, so we called it a night and picked up a late night slice of pizza on the way back to our rental apartment.  It was a full day of great shows, and probably one of the best beginning-to-end days we’ve had at Airwaves.

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