Iceland Airwaves 2014 – Days 4 and 5

I was totally wiped out at the conclusion of Day 4… so I didn’t write a post.  Instead I figured I’d combine the last two days of the festival into one entry.

We actually didn’t see a ton of music on Saturday.  We opened strong, though, with the hip hop group Úlfur Úlfur off venue at Íslenski Barinn, a cool little pub that also may be home to Reykjavik’s best burger.  The guys played a cool stripped down set that didn’t try to do too much and they gave us a really good time.  I may need to pick up one of their albums before we leave – they were that good.  Do yourself a favor and go to YouTube and check out their video for “Tarantúlur,” which is pretty much all burnouts and dudes eating hot dogs.  You can thank me later.  Honestly I’m not sure when the hip hop scene here got so killer, but every single performance we’ve seen this trip has been rock solid, whether rapped in English or Icelandic.

Later in the afternoon we were back at Lucky Records for an in-store by the hip hop group Epic Rain.  This was a new style of live show for the group, as they were accompanied by a five piece band instead of relying exclusively on electronics for the music.  A standup bass, a violin, guitar, keyboard, and even the former drummer of the Sugarcubes pounding the skins!  The guys were great and the band played impressively well together in front of a relatively packed house at Lucky.

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From there we posted up for the rest of the night at Gamla Bíó.  The evening program there opened with the intriguing Lily the Kid, a new group featuring a couple of members of Bloodgroup including female vocalist Lilja K. Jónsdóttir.  They play a somewhat dark, ethereal style of pop, and last night’s show was only their second live performance (we caught the last song of their first show the night before).  I expect that we’ll be hearing more from them.  Next up was Low Roar, a talented performer with a great backing band, but one who plays a very low key, “quiet” style of music.  Prins Póló kicked it up a notch with his nice guitar work and talented drummer, but our energy was starting to fade fast.  We got through about half of How to Dress Well‘s electro-pop set and called it a night.

Sunday started with a relaxing morning at Blue Lagoon Spa, followed by an early afternoon techno set from Futuregrapher, who did a mix of music and reading from a book (in Icelandic).  He played one track off of his upcoming album, due to drop later this month, and it was a much more upbeat danceable number – should be one to be on the lookout for.

We closed out the festival at the “headliner” event featuring the Flaming Lips.  This is the first time at Airwaves that we’ve gotten tickets to an event that wasn’t covered by the general festival pass.  Most years the only way to get tickets to these special events is to wait in long lines, but this year they also offered the opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets in advance, so we took advantage of that to guarantee ourselves a spot.  The opener was The War on Drugs, who played a solid one hour set, the last of their current tour.  Then it was onto the Flaming Lips, which can best be described as an experience – psychedelic patterns, big inflatable things, LED lights, balloons, costumes, and just general shenanigans.  While at times it was perhaps a bit overly theatrical it was still a really enjoyable time, with the band playing for a solid 90 minutes before taking a brief break and then doing an encore.

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And that, dear reader, is how our sixth Iceland Airwaves ended – with a pretty decent bang.  Our band count was “down” in 2014 (I only saw 33 shows…), but we had a great time and didn’t feel like we ran ourselves ragged trying to see everything possible.  Plus I’m coming home with a huge bag of vinyl, CDs, and tapes (more on those to follow), so I have that to last me through at least the end of the calendar year.

Only 51 more weeks ’til Iceland Airwaves 2015…

FM Belfast and Prins Póló Live at Faktorý in Reykjavik

We knew there would be some live music happening in Reykjavik while were in town because it’s Reykjavik – there’s always live music happening somewhere.  The only question was what bands would be playing, and this time we lucked out big time in the form of a four band show at Faktorý headlined by Prins Póló and FM Belfast.

I was concerned we might not be able to get in to see two such popular bands in a relatively small venue, but some folks on Facebook assured us that if we showed up when the doors open we wouldn’t have any trouble, and they were right.  They were also right that there was pretty much no chance the show would start on time, though it was maybe only 20 minutes late in getting under way, giving us enough time to stake out a small table in the back and get some drinks.  There were probably around 200 people at the show, which was a good amount as it kept the back of the room relatively open so we didn’t feel packed in like sardines.

The opening band of the night was the duo Vök, a recent battle-of-the-bands winner.  Just a girl and a guy with a guitar, a sax, and some electronics, I have to admit I was really impressed.  Margrét Rán Magnúsdóttir has an incredible voice, deep and soulful, and she could give a lot of people a run for their money.  I’m definitely going have to keep my eyes on these guys in the future, especially if they play Airwaves.

Next up was the trio Kjurr who brought a ton of energy to the stage with their straight forward rock sound.  All three members play their instruments well – at different times I caught myself thinking, “the guitarist is really shredding,” “the bassist is kicking out some funky beats,” “that drummer is getting after it,” and I was right on all accounts.  The show climaxed with a shirtless lead singer running through the crowd singing through a bullhorn. Why not, right?

Simply put, Prins Póló kicked butt.  Borko joined his band on drums, and they sounded tight.  Lots of energy and everyone got into it, especially one dude in the back sitting by us who was obviously a major Prins Póló fanboy.  We’ve missed Prins the last few years at Airwaves, so it was cool to see them in such an intimate venue.

 

 FM Belfast was what FM Belfast always is – awesome.  Their set ran close to an hour and they played some of our favorites – “Underwear,” “Stripes,” “I Don’t Want to Go to Sleep Either,” and “I Can Feel Love,” and in typical FM Belfast fashion the wove covers in and out of the middles of their own songs, kicking out verses of “Pump Up the Jams,” “Fight for Your Right (to Party),” and other faves.  Great show start to finish, and the crowd was way into it.

We wrapped up the night with a walk over to the food trucks for a late-night waffle (with whipped cream and cinnamon, if you must know), a great capper to the evening.  It was well worth the $12.50 cover charge (for charity) for yet another magical night of music in Reykjavik.  If you’re a music fan, you have to find a way to get here.  Trust me.  You won’t regret it.