Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 4

Day 4 (Saturday) of Iceland Airwaves is the last day where you really make some tough decisions, and a lot of them.  The schedule is massive – 42 “official” venues compete for your attention with the first shows starting at 11AM and the last one at 2:30 AM.  Compare that to Sunday, the final day of the festival, when you’ve only got 13 venues up and running, and the main on-venue acts all packed into one mega-show at Vodafone Hall.  Often Saturday is your last chance to catch those bands you’ve seemingly been missing throughout the week.  Inevitably you will end up missing at least someone you really wanted to see, but that’s Airwaves.  All the more reason to keep coming back.

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One of those bands we wanted to see this year was Ghostigital.  We’d already missed their one on-venue performance, and on Saturday afternoon they were playing the little tiny Smekkleysa (a.k.a. “Bad Taste”) record store, owned by none other than Ghostigital vocalist Einar Örn.  We knew it would get packed so we went down early and posted up in the corner, and I’m glad we did because there were at least as many people watching the show from the sidewalk through the window (in the rain) as their were inside.  Even Rolling Stone contributor David Fricke, who we’ve seen at pretty much every Ghostigital show we’ve been to over the years, was relegated to the mean streets of Reyakjavik, on the outside looking in.  Electronics guru Curver was a bit late in arriving, which led Einar to spend some time telling the intimate crowd stories about growing up as a punk in Reykjavik, Icelandic politics, and how cool it was to get to meet his own personal idols from The Pop Group at this years festival.  The set was a four-song, intense stream of consciousness, as it generally is with Ghostigital, and we were as usual suitably impressed.  Plus, while looking at the window right before the show started, we made the obligatory Björk sighting as she walked down the street in front of the store.

From there we hustled up the street and back to the artist space Mengi to see the jazz/reggae/electro-ness of Kippi Kaninus.  I reviewed their Temperaments album in late 2014, and this was the first time we had a chance to see the collective perform live.  The room was packed and the band didn’t disappoint, performing a solid mid-tempo set in front of a truly appreciative and attentive crowd of a hundred or so people who crammed into the space.

After a nice dinner it was off to see some on-venue action.  We began the night at the beautiful Gamla Bíó, which I believe was added to Airwaves for the first time last year and has quickly become one of our favorite venues.  There we saw the absolutely outstanding female band Kælan Mikla who wove a tapestry of dark no-wave, made all the more intense by their intentional stoicness.  I LOVE what these women are doing.  I chatted for a second with one of the members and asked if they had released any music yet, and the answer was only a super limited (of 50) CD, but that they’re working on some new stuff.  I’ll be following them closely and keeping my eyes peeled for that when it eventually comes out.

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Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

After that it was time for our friend Dr. Gunni (above – right), who opened his set with guest dj. flugvél (above – left) and all her pure positive upbeat energy.  Gunni’s new 10″ is a pretty solid record, and the band he surrounded himself with was quite good.  We were right in the front row for the show, a rarity for us, but something we felt comfortable with due to the generally chill vibe in the venue.

Next up was a walk over to Harpa with the intention of seeing Beach House and Gusgus, but our plans were thwarted by an insanely long line downstairs just to be allowed upstairs to get to the venue.  After covering maybe a quarter of the line in 15-20 minutes, the last 10 of which were spent unmoving, it was obvious we would never make it in in time to see Beach House, so we said forget it and headed over to NASA instead.  As Holly reasoned, “It’s better to be seeing bands than not seeing bands,” and as it turns out that was a spectacular decision.

First up was the electro-awesomeness of Vök, a major up-and-comer in the local scene.  The crowd at NASA was in love with their style and emotion, and I’m pretty sure the lead singer started to tear up just a little in response to the huge ovation they got right before they started their closing number.  Next was QT.  I won’t lie – I wasn’t sure what to make of this performance, and frankly I’m still unsure.  Consider this description from Pitchfork, which described QT as an artist “whose first release was a love song to a fictional energy drink and whose second was the actual, suddenly non-fictional energy drink itself.”  I honestly have no idea what is real any more.  The crowd seemed to enjoy her beats, though, so there’s that.  Given that the image on the screen behind here was just a rotating can of her drink, though, it kind of felt like a weird commercial, or like I was stuck in Max Headroom world.

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That brings us to East India Youth, who put on one of if not the most intense solo performances I’ve seen anywhere ever.  Electronics, keyboard, electronic drums, and a bass guitar, all played by one guy with the energy of 10 men.  His hands were so fast on the keyboard you’d have thought he was the Flash or something.  He was practically vibrating on stage, nearly toppling his keyboard setup multiple times.  Sometimes more traditional song structure, sometimes pure dance beats, the crowd loved all of it and he left the stage absolutely drenched in sweat, having left it all out there.  An excellent capper to the night, and way better than waiting in line at Harpa.