I always try to do my homework before Iceland Airwaves, checking out at least a few songs from any bands I’m not familiar with. It can definitely help when you’re trying to plan out your night. I remember doing this exercise before the 2017 festival and landing on the page for ANWIYCTI because I had to do a double take. Wait, there’s a band from Hong Kong playing this year? Cool! Their lineup is three bass players and a drummer? Wha…? But I was 100% intrigued. We managed to catch half of one of their sets and it was what you’d expect – loud, pounding, percussive.
I’ve had ANWIYCTI in the back of my mind for a while and decided to order their album during one of those Bandcamp “all money goes to the artist” Fridays. The album, the title of which is the full phrase that makes up the acronym, came out in 2014 in a numbered limited edition of 500 on white vinyl (which you can get HERE). And it’s not exactly what you’d expect given that three-bass-attack lineup. There’s some dark dreaminess here, a fluidity that isn’t exactly shoegaze but something more nuanced. Sure, the low end is right up front and in your face, but it’s not always pounding, the edges instead smoothed over with thick layers of long sonic waves. Definitely something different and worth checking out.
Day 2 didn’t know if it wanted to be rainy or sunny in Reykjavik, so instead it decided to be both at the same time.
But a little rain couldn’t stop us and after sleeping in we hit the streets just after Noon. Our first stop was the retail space/office of FM Belfast‘s Lóa, who posted on Facebook yesterday that she’d have some pre-release copies of the band’s new album Island Broadcast available. The vinyl copies were still in transit, but I picked up a signed copy of the CD as well as a signed print drawing she did of the entire band (Lóa is an accomplished artist across multiple mediums). After that it was off to Bíó Paradís to catch the electronica set by one of our favorite Lady Boy Records alumni, Andi, who as usual did not disappoint with a fun mid-tempo set. From there we popped over to Íslenski Barinn for some lunch, and while there heard one of the most unusual live performances we’ve ever experienced at Airwaves.
When people ask me “what kind of music do they play at Airwaves” my canned response is “everything but country and jazz”. Well, the opening song by this female duo in matching dresses who go by Bergmál seemed to effectively cross country off the list with a somewhat comical song about how not remembering someone’s name is about the meanest thing you can do. But then things took a turn for the surreally weird with a song literally about women farting. And then came the pièce de résistance, a song called “Your Anus Is Not of Uranus”, which helps clarify the fact that the planet is not the same thing as, well, you know… your anus. A song that includes the lyrically incredible Biology… and astronomy bitches… the four of us were laughing so hard that we were all in tears. That was followed by songs about necrophilia and menstruation, because of course it was. Just check out their video. You’re welcome.
Later in the afternoon we headed over to KEX Hostel to catch the Russian new wave/punk band ГШ/Glintshake(below/left), a show that was being broadcast live back to Seattle (and across the planet via the black magic of the internet). And man did they hit it out of the park. With a funky rhythm section and sometimes jangly, sometimes disjointed guitars, they maintained a old-school punk rock edge with a pop aesthetic. We scored a spot right in the front and as always at the KEX shows the sound and lighting was perfect. As soon as the show ended I get a text from my buddy Travis in Seattle telling me he’d just heard this band live on KEXP and that I had to check them out… and it was the show we literally just saw. I’ll definitely be trying to track down some of their albums.
After a couple of beers at the KEX bar it was out to the beautiful theater Gamla Bíó for some metal and industrial. Godchilla opened up the on-venue evening and delivered a heavy sludge metal set that was thick and driving. Next up was Une Misère (right), a relatively new Icelandic hardcore band that provided an unexpected shot in the arm that hit me like a dose of meth. (♣) With three guitars this six-man outfit came out in straight aggro style, got in our faces, yelled at us, and drove nails into our skills with the sheer wall of power they produced. Une Misère came, saw, and conquered all before them and left us all impressed.
And then shit got weird.
Like, really, really weird.
The band I was most interested in seeing tonight was Hatari (below), (♠) who have built a reputation not only for their music but for the extremeness of their visual performance. Some folks who saw their show at KEX earlier in the festival were uncertain about the whole thing but the high stage and dark room of Gamla Bíó was the perfect setting for their brand of harsh IDM. The place was packed and the mood just right when the guys came out dressed in their best bondage gear and proceeded to tear our faces off. The sheer performance was impressive, with all three members staying within their on-stage personaes throughout flanked by a pair of female dancers who looked like they walked off the set of one of the Road Warrior movies… at least until they opened up their black fanny packs (yes, fanny packs) and started throwing suckers into the crowd. It was pure, controlled insanity and the crowd lapped up every last drop of it. Their new album just dropped and you know damn well I picked it up. While the CD will lack the stunning visuals of the live performance, the music in and of itself was outstanding and I have a feeling it’s going to be in regular rotation upon our return. We ran into the guys later in the evening, and they couldn’t have been nicer and more reserved. Holly and I agree that this was definitely one of the Top 5 shows (out of 300 or so…) we’ve ever seen at Airwaves… and might just be #1.
Following that we bounced out to Gaukurinn where we saw an interesting trio of performances. First up we caught the tail end of the set by CeaseTone, a sort of modern new wavy group. Next was the enjoyable singer-songwriter tunes of Soffía Björg who held the audience in the palm of her hand throughout her 30+ minute performance. Then it was Hong Kong’s A New World If You Can Take It (ANWIYCTI), a band featuring three bass players and a drummer. Their low beats were intriguing, though might have benefitted from higher pitched vocals to offset the chest-pounding low end.
That brought us to our last stop of the night as we popped next door to Húrra. There we caught the tail-end of dj. flugvél og geimskip who absolutely packed the house and had requested in advance of the show that people vape during the performance, all the better for all her crazy lighting. But we were there because we had an appointment with the good doctor. And by good I mean bad. And by doctor I mean the yellow rubber-glove-wearing Dr. Spock (below). It didn’t take long from the start of the set for a fairly substantial mosh pit to break out in the small confines of the Húrra performance space, and the crowd and band fed off of each other’s energy throughout the blistering punk/metal set. The “Sons of Ecuador” killed it, as did their insane Beach Boys cover and interlude featuring Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer”. Horns and raised fists all around.
After a late-night hot dog, interrupted by three dudes not wearing any shirts screeching around in a BMW convertible with the top down at 1:00AM, it was time to call it a night.
Two days down, three to go!
(♣) Disclaimer: I’ve never done meth. I enjoy having my teeth too much for that.
(♠) Not to be confused with the 1962 John Wayne movie about big-game hunting called Hatari!, because that would have been even weirder.