Iceland Airwaves 2014 – Day 1

We hit the streets of Reykjavik running this morning, going down to Sandholt Bakery for coffee and pastries before heading over to what is perhaps my favorite record store in the world, Lucky, to get my fill of vinyl.  And fill up my bag with vinyl and CDs and tapes did Ingvar and Gestur.  Not only did they have some stuff I’d requested on hold, but they also put together a pile of recommendations for me to go through, and about an hour and a half later I waked out with a pretty health score, all of it Icelandic music, including some stuff for friends back home.

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Time was limited today as we were meeting some friends for lunch, but that didn’t keep me from stopping by Reykjavik’s newest music store, Reykjavik Record Shop.  I didn’t have enough time to go through all the stuff there, but I did pull the trigger on a Þeyr 7″ that I’ve been wanting for some time.  I’ll likely head back tomorrow to keep digging.

After lunch it was down to KEX Hostel to see Kiasmos, the new electronic partnership between Janus Rasmussen, best known as the male vocalist in Bloodgroup, and Ólafur Arnalds.  The duo have a new album that just dropped, and hopefully my copy will be waiting for me in the mail upon our return from Iceland.  The pair packed the house and played a relatively short 20 minute set that was available as a live stream on KEXP radio.  They killed it, and by the reception they got it was obvious that there are a lot of people keeping an eye on this pairing.  We also got a chance to meet and say hi to Life in the Vinyl Lane reader Leana who was working the merch table at KEX, which was very cool.  Hopefully our paths will cross again on this trip.

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Next up was Good Moon Deer at an off venue in the lobby of movie theatre, Bíó Paradís, a surprisingly good place to see a show.  We’d seen Good Moon Deer last year and came away impressed with their combo of experimental electronica combined with a live drummer, and this year was no different.

After dinner it was down to the tough choice of the night – where to go for the on-venue program.  Holly and I decided to post up at Húrra for the entire evening, as we liked how most of the card there looked.  The evening opened with the punk rock stylings of Börn, a band recently reviewed here and one getting a lot of international attention.  Personally I think they are one of the few bands to take the foundation laid by some of the classic Icelandic punk bands like Purrkur Pillnikk and Þeyr, and give them a more modern punk twist.  Great set.  Next up were a pair of electronic performers, Seattle’s own Vox Mod and his blistering set of high energy beats, and the psychedelic electronica stylings of Iceland’s own dj flugvél go geimskip (photo below), who’s blend of innocence and sincerity combined with some hints of Japanese and Persian stylings made for a truly unique experience.  From there it was the competent (the bass player was fantastic) indie of Sindri Eldon & The Ways, then a couple of punk bands, Muck and Pink Street Boys.  Muck’s music generated an impressive mosh pit that lasted throughout their hardcore set and, no joke, resulted in one fairly nasty cut to a mosher’s forehead, while Pink Street Boys pounded the audience with a wall of sound and noise that eventually also gave rise to a pit.  Ghostigital closed it out with a robust 50 minute set and absolutely destroyed the place, taking control of the crowd early and combined stream of consciousness industrial and some classics from their albums.

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After leaving Húrra we made a stop at the hot dog stand for some of the famous Icelandic franks and dodged the drunks on our way back to our apartment… worn out, but ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

Iceland Airwaves 2013 – Day 2 (“…and a cassette”)

For the first time during Airwaves 2013 I’m writing with most of my brain working – not hallucinating from lack of sleep on our travel day nor at 2:30 AM after a complete day of concerts.  So hopefully I’m more coherent, because if not I’ve got real problems.

We went over to Lucky Records today to pay for and pick up all the stuff that I’ve had on hold, and even I was surprised at the volume, which is what happens when you ask to have  a few things put aside, but spread out those requests over the course of weeks.  That being said, I was stoked about what I had waiting for me, both the stuff I picked out as well as a few nuggets Gestur and Ingvar put aside, like a super limited edition múm picture disc, a couple of 45s, some random CDs, and yes, my dear readers, even a cassette.  Let that last part sink in for a minute.  This wasn’t a vintage cassette like the Snarl II compilation I wrote about recently.  Oh no.  This is brand spanking new industrial insanity dual effort from Iceland’s own AMFJ and Auxpan, and I’m looking forward to checking it out… assuming, of course, I still have a tape player floating around in my garage somewhere.  Either that or I’ll have to sit in my wife’s car.

I have a stack of cool stuff to listen to when I get home, including new material from The Samúel Jón Samúelsson Big Band and Emilíana Torrini, plus used stuff by Björk, Purrkur Pillnikk, and some almost completely unknown Icelandic bands (well, at least unknown to anyone not from Iceland!).  As near as I can tell I got about 27 records and 21 CDs (and one cassette!) so far… and frankly I don’t have room for much more – though I still need to hit up the flea market on Saturday.  I can’t wait to get home and start listening!  I’m not as much looking forward to cleaning all these records and having to reorganize my shelves… but that’s the price you pay.

We weren’t too inspired by the off-venue program today, but we had one band we wanted to catch – the industrial duo known as Ghostigital.  Not too many bands can be as intense and weird as Ghostigital while still being awesome.  This marked the fifth time we’ve seen them at Airwaves and as usual they did not disappoint, this time playing a small stage on the top floor of Reykjavik’s opera house Harpa, with the setting sun coming in through the angular windows on two sides and a crowd who was ready to get after it.  And they brought it.  There were a couple of songs from their latest album, Division of Culture and Tourism, plus a few I didn’t recognize.  The small crowd (maybe 75 people?) was way into it and some people were seriously rocking out.  This moved solidly into second place in my personal list of best shows this year, behind only Legend.  We also caught part of Good Moon Deer’s set, some nice experimental electronic played by one guy on the controls and the other on the drums.

[BREAK…]

OK, while earlier I told you how amazing this post was going to be because I wasn’t sleep deprived… well… it’s now about 2 AM and we just got back from our second night of shows, so bear with me.

We spent most of the evening back at Harpa catching heavy metal and punk type shows.  Momentum opened with their brand of psych metal, though it wore on me a bit as there wasn’t a lot that differentiated the songs in their set.  Dimma, however, looked, acted, and sounded like rock stars, like metal gods from the bygone age of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.  The lead singer knew how to strike the poses and flat out hit the notes all the way through.  These guys are a new favorite, and I’ll be looking for some of their stuff before we leave.  Endless Dark followed with their own brand of quasi post-hardcore, a relatively large band with not one by two vocalists – though to be fair one was more a shouter/growler and the other a singer.  Regardless, they were hard, fast, and awesome.  Muck was next, and we saw them live when we were last in Reykjavik back in April.  Some decent punk, but while I didn’t think it was anything terribly special, they probably had the largest crowd in that room tonight.  Sólstafir was the band we really came to see, and while they were good their sound was a bit droning, sort of Icelandic cowboys (based on how they were dressed) singing like old Alice in Chains.  Their style is a difficult one to pin down – I think their music takes a conscious effort to truly appreciate.  A lot of people are way into them, and I feel like this is the kind of band I should totally love, but I just don’t quite get them.  We snuck out of there a bit early to head over to another room within Harpa to listen to a few songs by Yo La Tengo, who were decent in a kind of folk rock way.

After that it was off to the waffle truck for some amazing waffles before taking a chance and strolling to Dolly Bar downtown to see if our friend Ingvar, aka DJ Lucky, was still spinning his Afro-beat dance set there.  We’d only found out about this earlier in the evening, but we were able to catch the last 10 minutes or so in a packed sweat-box full of dancers, drinkers, and people snorting unknown substances.  At one point I saw a guy in a police uniform walking through and thought some folks were going to get busted, but Holly pointed out that his shirt was unbuttoned pretty much down to his pants, so… probably off duty?  Tough to say.

Oh yeah, and we saw the northern lights tonight just up the street from our apartment.  So check that one off the list of things to see.

God I need some sleep…

Muck and Klikk live at Lucky Records in Reykjavik

We saw more live music today in Reykjavik which should come as no surprise to anyone since (1) we love Icelandic music and (2) you can’t walk a hundred feet in Reykjavik and not run into someone who is in (at least one) band.  Today our friends at Lucky Records were doing an in-store show featuring a number of groups, and this gave us the chance to see Klikk and Muck.

As soon as we saw Klikk setting up we recognized singer Ulfur Alexander Einarsson (shown below) – he’s also a member of Oyama, who we saw last year at Airwaves, and he used to be part of another great band we got to see once called Fist Fokkers.  He and his bandmates put on a loud hardcore screamfest with power, speed, and some intense singing.  Ulfur was all over the place, including climbing over the back of the sofa my wife and mother-in-law were sitting on, nearly choking them out with the mic cord.  I suspect the experience was a bit much for my mother-in-law, who’s a trooper to be sure but one I don’t think was quite ready for her first hardcore punk experience.

Klikk was pretty cool and their set was a tight 20 minutes or so – but these guys were spent when it was all over, and it was obvious they put everything into it.  You’ve got to respect guys who bring it with that level of intensity.  I’ll certainly be on the lookout for them at Airwaves this year.

 

 

 

Muck lists a bunch of different genres on their Facebook page to describe their music, but I think the two most apt are hardcore and grunge.  They play hard, though some of the songs are much lower and heavier, giving them that grunge feel.  This is a band that really knows how to groove together – they’re on the same page and drive some incessant rhythms that hit you right in the core of your existence.  As soon as they started to play, the crowd came closer and you could see the heads bobbing in unison.  These guys know how to get it done.

The volume was cranked up and the 50 or so folks who showed up at Lucky all looked like they were having a good time.  A few passers-by looked stunned when they walked by the store and heard the noise coming from within, but hey, it’s Reykjavik, where there seems to be a concert around every corner, so why not?