Iceland Airwaves 2019, Day 2

We weren’t out too late on Wednesday night, so we hit the streets relatively early by Airwaves standards – probably about 10:30AM.  I headed straight over to Lucky Records to spend a few hours digging and building large stack of music to pick up later in the trip (see the Day 3 post…), before meeting up with the gang for lunch at one of our all time favorite joints, Noodle Station.  From there we popped over to Waldorfskólinn Sólstafir to see the hip hop duo Cryptochrome.  What was particularly notable about this show is that Waldorfskólinn Sólstafir is, well, a school.  So we were in a room that was about half adults and half little kids watching a performance, which is about as surreal as it sounds. (♠)  After that we popped over to Jörgensen Kitchen & Bar to catch one of our favorite Icelandic bands, and one we’ve never seen live, Foreign Monkeys.  And despite playing inside a bar nestled within a hotel, the Monkeys (below) absolutely crushed it with a blistering 40 minute set that included songs from their original album, 2009s , as well as the recently released Return.  Even the folks in our group who don’t generally gravitate to hard rock loved this set, with the strongest compliments being given to the drumming.  I know we’re only half way through the festival, but so far this has been my favorite show.

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After another record shopping detour, this time at Reykjavik Record Shop, it was time for dinner and the official on-venue portion of the day.  We started at Gaukurinn (formerly Sódóma) because we wanted to check out our friend Haukur and his metal band Blóðmör (below), and the young men did not disappoint, rocking our faces off with a blend of metal and punk, replete with long hair, head banging, and a Flying V guitar.  They destroyed all comers.  If these guys represent the future of heavy metal, then the future looks bright my friends.

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Blóðmör were followed by the always solid Kontinuum.  After that we bounced over to Gamla Bíó for Glass Museum (below), an intriguing Belgian duo who play instrumental songs using keyboards and drums.  The house was nearly full for their set the crowd responded with approval to everything the pair performed – clearly most folks in the room knew of them already.  Their style is hard to describe, the vibe more electronica than traditional popular music, with definite jazz and contemporary influences.  I know that may not sound like it should work, but trust me, it does.

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We wrapped up the night early as I’m still battling a cold I picked up during our flight from Seattle to London, but given how strong all five bands were today I don’t feel like I got shortchanged.  Plus we still have the festival’s two biggest nights ahead of us.

(♠)  When we arrived we agreed that if four guys, unaccompanied by children, showed up at a grade school to watch a musical performance, someone probably would have called a SWAT team.

Iceland Airwaves 2017 – Day 3

Well, it’s the “hump day” of Iceland Airwaves – Friday.  Day 3.  The tipping point.

We finally stumbled out of bed and got ourselves organized sometime around Noon after a  late one last night and hustled down to KEX Hostel to see Mikko Joensuu.  A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to get to spend a bit of time with KEXP DJ/Program Director Kevin Cole and he was absolutely gushing about Joensuu, so I knew I wanted to check him out at Airwaves.  And Kevin hit the nail on the head with this recommendation. Mikko performed with a fairly large ensemble – somewhere around 9-10 musicians including a string section.  The rich textures of his voice reminded me immediately of my dad’s favorite, Neil Diamond.  But don’t be fooled, because this isn’t your father’s (or grandfather’s) music.  Joensuu brings a spiritual vibe to his lyrics and musically offers a contemporary take on folk and indie rock.  I got a bit reflective during this show, reminding me as it did of Diamond and given my dad’s passing earlier this year; I think dad would have enjoyed Mikko’s music.  One of the things that strikes me about artists, and musicians in particular, is how much they expose themselves in their work, something that is not easy for most people to do and in fact is something we’re encouraged, either directly or indirectly, to suppress.  The words of “Drop Me Down” are so spiritually heavy, and Joensuu’s delivery so authentic, that it was almost painful to listen to, but I’m glad that he was willing to share this experience with us.

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Later in the afternoon we were back at Lucky Records for a pair of performances.  First was the electronica set by the previously reviewed Kuldaboli, who put out one of the best albums of 2016 in Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016.  After that we got a solid 40 minutes from Epic Rain, mostly material off the recently released Dream Sequences but also with a track from 2014s Somber Air.  They’re always a favorite, and this was their only show at Airwaves in 2017 as they prep for an upcoming French tour.  Good stuff.

The on-venue evening started weakly, and since I don’t like to talk crap about musicians on Life in the Vinyl Lane I’m not going to tell you who we saw.  But we were definitely the oldest people in the room with the exception of some of the performers’ parents, and I wasn’t interested in hearing a bunch of very young dudes telling me how “money comes and money goes” and how they’re “rollin’ kilos” in the mean streets of Reykjavik 101.  I wanted to tell everyone in the room to get off my lawn.  But after that things improved considerably with the sort of soul/hip hop performance by CRYPTOCHROME (below) in front of a small but enthusiastic group and we felt like things were moving in the right direction.

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From there it was off to Gaukurinn where we saw American performer VAGABON in a stylistically diverse indie set.  That brought us to the band we came to see, the one I had circled on the schedule weeks in advance – Tappi Tíkarrass. (♠) Before Björk became a mega-famous international star, she was in a band called The Sugarcubes.  And before she was in The Sugarcubes, she was in Kukl.  And before she was in Kukl, back when she was still a teenager, she was in Tappi Tíkarrass.  They only left behind an album and an EP in the early 1980s and disbanded in 1983.  As near as I can tell, they reunited once for a show in 1987 and that was the last anyone heard from them until 2017 when the band reunited, sans Björk, and played a show at the Hard Rock in Reykjavik.  Which brings you up to date to last night when we saw them rock the house at a not-quite-packed Gaukurinn (below).  It was a fun, old school punk show, and even without Björk (who we secretly hoped might make an appearance) I’m glad to have checked this off my music bucket list.

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Holly and I called it a night after that, making a quick pit stop at the Waffle Wagon on the way back to our apartment.  Our friends Norberto and J headed over to the Art Museum to catch FM Belfast and partied late into the night with a thousand of their newest best friends, because watching FM Belfast is a family experience.

We’ve passed the half-way point of Iceland Airwaves 2017, which is always a bit of a surprise when it happens… even though you know it’s coming.  Just two more days to go…

(♠) Which roughly translates to “Cork the Bitch’s Ass”.  Really.