Iceland Airwaves 2015 – Day 5

This will probably be a bit briefer than I’d like it to be, but today we leave Reykjavik and head back home, so that means last minute packing and goodbyes with not enough time and not enough sleep.

The Sunday schedule is pretty limited with only a handful of off-venues going during the day.  We saw two acts at Lucky Records, singer-songwriter Man in Between and the punk/noise duo Döpur, a project by Krummi of Legend, Esja, and Minus fame.  I missed Döpur last year so I was glad to be able to catch them this time around, and they had Lucky almost complete full for their noise/drone set.

We headed over to Vodafone Hall for the main on-venue program, arriving probably 30 minutes after the first performer was scheduled to start only to find a long and growing line outside.  We were afraid this was going to be a repeat of Saturday’s attempt to see Beach House, since the capacity of Vodafone is quite a bit lower than the number of festival passes sold.  After about 15 minutes a staff member came out and let everyone know there were some delays and that they’d be opening the doors soon.  <phew>  At least it wasn’t raining.

The line-up at Vodaphone was strong, though the first four or five performers all shortened their sets a bit to try to get things back on schedule.  Vök opened, the second time we’d seen them on the trip, and they put together another great set.  I made a point of picking up their CD at Lucky earlier in the day.  Next was an interesting run of three performances, all of which saw the instrument playing band members of Agent Fresco performing.  First they backed hip hop artist Emmsjé Gauti, then they did their own five song set as Agent Fresco which featured my favorite song of theirs, “Eyes of a Cloud Catcher” off of A Long Time Listening, and concluding as the backing band for the hip hop duo Úlfur Úlfur, who I really enjoy.  Next up was the UK hip hop duo Sleaford Mods, with their more cadenced storytelling delivery who were interesting to listen to but not terribly compelling to actually watch.

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Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

That all led up to the two main performances, beginning with a roughly hour long set by the electronics group Hot Chip, who put on a great show both musically and visually and seemed to surprise the crowd with an electro cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”  The crew at Vodafone turned the stage surprisingly quickly following that set and the world’s greatest party band, FM Belfast, hit the stage and took it home.  I’m convinced that every Airwaves should end with an FM Belfast set – it’s simply the perfect way to conclude your festival on a high energy high note.

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Copyright Life in the Vinyl Lane 2015

It’s hard to believe it’s all over… sad, but we’re all so tired that bringing some sense of normalcy back to our lives will probably be a bit of a relief too.  Takk to all our friends we got to see this year, old and new, and we hope you’ll all be coming to Iceland again next year for Iceland Airwaves 2016 from November 2-6.  Early bird tickets go on sale November 16…!

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.

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.