Iceland Airwaves – Reykjavik; October 31st to November 5th, 2017
After being there for the second time last year I have come to accept that once you have been to Iceland Airwaves, it does not let you go. Despite my best efforts to forget about it and do other things in early November (like going to my beloved Nordic Film Days for instance), I realized that the festival ha taken root in my heart and I am unable not to wish I was there when I am elsewhere. So I finally resigned and booked my trip, early bird even, knowing I’d miss the movies, but regret it if I didn’t go. As more and more artists were announced, my smile grew and I knew this had been the right thing to do. 2017 turned out to be my best Airwaves so far with amazing concerts and a few great discoveries. The secret to enjoying it to the fullest was to embrace riding the emotional roller-coaster and just go with it, accepting the fact that the powerful music and the lack of sleep would leave me emotionally drained and just letting it be. It was totally worth the trip and I am already making plans for next year.
Once again I flew from Frankfurt and stayed from Tuesday before the festival to Monday after. Coming a day early helps me getting into the flow and I’d never leave before the festival is over. Reykjavík greeted me with a downpour, but at least I managed to get my festival wristband on the first day, checked in, saw two bands and even one of my friends. Before I left home I felt completely unprepared for the emotional roller-coaster that awaited me, but after last year’s down I swore that would not happen to me again and tried to have no expectations whatsoever. I just wanted to go and see what would happen. This doesn’t mean there was nothing I looked forward to. In fact, this year’s line up made me very happy. 🙂 Thus, despite being a little scared, I jumped right in and it worked. In retrospect I think this is the only way to do it. 😀
This was my third time around and by now I felt I knew the drill. I was familiar with most of the venue as well as their locations and had a good grasp on distances so I knew what was possible and what wasn’t. Coming to Rekjavík as often as I o sure helped with that. My planning was even less than the previous year. I knew the artists I absolutely wanted to see and otherwise checked out the ones that sounded interesting on Spotify and added them in the Airwaves 17 App. Once I had a schedule there I checked what was actually possible and decided what I was going to try for, knowing already that not everything would work out. It turned out that this planning, with a few hints from friends and strangers here and there as enough to get me through the festival and guarantee a good time with even a few chances to breathe in-between. Once again I had the full spectrum of emotions, laughed, cried, was happily surprised and sometimes amazed by what I saw and heard, loved the music, enjoyed the venues, had some good conversations and came home feeling enriched and happy. Some days were better than others, but overall, I made good choices regarding the bands to see and never regretted skipping a concert either. When I felt I had enough for the day I went home and never looked back. Still did not get enough sleep, but kept my mind from going into overdrive. This is how it should be, this is how I would lie to have it every year. Yes, I am already planning on going back.
6 days, 36 artists, 43 concerts, 1 movie, 22 venues, 2454 pictures taken, around 70 tweets , 121054 steps (89 km)according to my counter, 3.5 km of swimming, about 2 kilos of Skyr consumed, so much fun.
DAY ZERO (OCTOBER 31ST)
Day zero brought lots of rain and two bands to easy me into the festival, both from genres I usually do not like much or listen to. Yet, it was a fun start to the festival and once more showed me that Airwaves does not have any bad bands and it’s always worth trying out a new band or a few when Im there.
VENUE: LUCKY RECORDS
It was still raining when I set out to the first venue, but luckily I did not have far to go. Like the previous year, Lucky Records became y starting point for the festival. Surprisingly few people had gathered and when We made God started playing they were still quite far from stage. They were rather enthusiastic, but a bit too heavy and loud for my liking. I still had fun watching, especially when the guitar player jumped off the stage and played close to people. After he had climbed back up, the singer commented “Please come closer or we will”. It made me smile a lot. I loved their energy, but knew they were not the band I would go to see again. Briefly spotted Kyle in the crowd, but did not say hello. That could wait.
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
I took a break at my hotel and left again for the equally close Kex Hostel. Way too late as it turned out when I arrived. It as packed all the way to the door and when I finally managed to get inside, I still could not find a spot from where I could actually see the stage. I ended up watching the camera’s monitor behind the mixing desk more than the actual stage. Kiasmos were playing and knowing elecctronic music is not for me I had avoided seeing them so far. This time around, however, I had decided to give them a try. They did not even have the light show they are known for, but they did have great energy and played their hearts out as far as I could see. It was quite hypnotizing, people were dancing and everyone had fun! I actually liked what I heard, so much that I decided to see them again when I got the chance and be earlier this time. I should have just trusted in Ólafur Arnalds’ ability to make great music to begin with. 🙂
Sadly, I got a call from my credit card company while there so I had to step out. They were calling about replacing my stolen credit card which was all sorts of complicated. The call was long, frustrating and lasted past the end of the concert. Luckily my friend R. called right after that and made everything better. We met briefly before calling it a night and I moved from being close to a nervous breakdown to a much happier state. 🙂
Day zero of the festival was a good one for me, not without hickups, but once again showing that all is well that ends well.
DAY ONE (NOVEMBER 1ST)
Day one brought sunshine, happy tears in the morning and many familiar faces. Apart from bands I know and love I saw and loved a few new ones I enjoyed. It was just the right amount of artists and venue for one day, leaving me smiling and looking forward to the rest of the week.
The next day greeted me with sunshine and beautiful weather. It felt like early morning when I made my way to Grund, the old people’s home / kindergarten to see Ásgeir. I had seen a great show there the previous year and I already knew I was not going to make it to Ásgeir’s official show so this was my chance. Little did I know this was going to be much better than any official show could have been.
I was early though and first caught the last few songs of Between Mountains and female duo on piano and guitar. I really liked them and was happy I got there early . Their singing was beautiful. I moved closer to the front and one of the organizers told us to come and sit on the floor. I did not argue and ended up on the floor right behind the two artist chairs. It was not only Ásgeir performing, but also his father who read poetry in-between songs. Not only did we hear beautiful music and poetry, but also could I not have been any closer. I contemplated for a moment how lucky I was, smiled and enjoyed. At one point I was even moved to tears. The audience was mixed from really young to really old and most of them were very attentive. Not understanding the words that were spoken and sung made me wonder what they said. I had to rely on sound to get a feel for everything. It worked though, I was moved and that was everything I could have asked for. My day could not have started any more perfect. 🙂
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
My next stop, later in the afternoon, was Kex which was surprisingly empty this time around. Not that there were not any people, but it was nowhere near packed when I arrived and I got a spot close to the stage. It was my first time of seeing Sóley. She only played about 20 minutes, broadcasted live by KEXP. I loved her voice and I loved her, mostly female, band. She talked a little about her songs and told us one was about always leaving her daughter when she goes on tour. Live I liked her even better than I do on her CD and was glad I finally managed to see her live.
VENUE: HLEMMUR SQUARE
Lucily Hlemmur Square is not far aways so I did not have to hurry and got there even before Teitur Magnússon started. Árni Vil was still playing when I arrived and I was surprised to see Hálfdán, who play in three bands with Ragnar playing upright bass here. When they were done he came and said hello, telling me he was going to play with Teitur too. How cool. It was a fun said. Feel good music that had me moving in my seat and put a big smile on my face. Of course I have no idea what he was singing about, but the melodies were flowing nicely and made me happy. Definitely something I’ll go and see again!
Next up were The Anatomy of Frank at Aurora, the first band of the festival I absolutely did not want to miss. I’ve loved these guys since I’d fist stumbled upon them in 2014 and was looking much forward to hearing them perform the songs from their new album South America. There were a few familiar faces in the crowd when I arrived. The same people come to see them at Airwaves every year. 🙂 Seeing them was a lot of fun and they rocked much more than I expected. Last year they brought the drums and I had expected those, so it was louder and more powerful than the soft acoustic band I had met in 2014. This year, however, Kyle played electric guitar. It was awesome! Their entire set was great if too short and of course we got a sing along going for ‘La Llorona’. They gave me everything I had hoped for and we even had a little time to chat after. I told them how much they had rocked and Kyle said that I should wait and see what they did for ‘Leavenworth’.
How do we lose it
VENUE: AMERICAN BAR
My next stop was the American Bar to see Jón Jonsson. The place was so American in decoration that it did not even feel like Iceland anymore with a huge US flag behind the stage among other things. Sat down at a table with some tourists who had just stumbled upon the festival and we chatted until it started. The atmosphere was very relaxed and Jón was funny, making jokes about being at the American bar and having one song that every Icelander knows (and is tired of because they’ve heard it so often). They played good music too. Bluesy rock stuff, really fun to listen to. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The next day I almost bumped into him as I was leaving the Viking Brewery and he was going in. Told him it had been a great show!
Another new venue for me was Hverfisbarinn. I came to see Una Stef, but arrived early enough to catch the last of gróa‘s set. First it was full, but the doorman took pity on me and let me in. The were great. An all female, young girl rock band. Very powerful. I absolutely loved them and would have liked to see them again, but did not manage to squeeze them into my schedule. Maybe next year. Either way, I was glad I had come early. They were worth it. The perfect start to the official part of the night.
The audience pretty much changed around for Una Stef. I have the feeling that many people keep coming back to see her just like I do. She is an amazing singer, has a great band and she always delivers. The band has such great energy and they all exude such positive vibes that it is a joy to watch them. Una is good a light hearted banter too, telling us how much she admires Beyonce and after a song dedicated to her she had to play a cool song. Then she told us that she only had one happy song that she wrote in summer and was going to play for us. I enjoyed all of it.
Took my time going to Iðno and walked in when Dísa was almost done playing. I vaguely remembered here from 2014 and she had not left much of an impression. She should have though, I liked what I heard. As I walked closer to the stage I got distracted by a familiar face on stage: Karl (formerly of Árstíðir) was playing the violin. When it was over I met Linda and we chatted for a bit until she was off to the next venue. Karl came out and we talked for a while too. It was nice seeing him again.
The band I had come for was Ceasetone. I had wanted to see them the previous year, but never managed to see even one of their many gigs. It was good fun and I liked the music, but it was nothing more. I enjoyed watching and found it really listenable. I had fun watching, but I was not moved. Oh well, I tried and I know I would not mind seeing them again, but they will not become my favorite. Warmland, who followed after were just strange. Later during the festival I overheard someone describing them as looking like bankers trying to rock. Yep, something didn’t quite fit there. It was OK, but didn’t speak to me so I left.
Stopped by Hard Rock Cafe after briefly. It was so packed I could not even see the stage and I soon realized I was too tired so I called it a night.
Day one of the festival was a fine day over all. Good music, good venues, nice people and great weather too. Everything I had hoped for. 🙂
DAY TWO (NOVEMBER 2ND)
Day two started with a movie and ended with a Rap collective. In between I saw tow of my favorite bands, some bands I had missed the previous year, some new ones and some I wanted to see again. Except for the late evening it was mostly a chamber music, a little folky, singer/songwriter day and I would not have wanted it any other way.
VENUE: BÍÓ PARADÍS
Another early start, at least considering Iceland Airwaves usually means late nights and little sleep. Before noon I found myself at Bío Paradís to attend a screening of Ólafur Arnalds’ Island Songs. I own the movie, but I had not gotten around to seeing it yet so I opted for the big screen. It was so beautiful I cried. Lovely music, lovely scenery and again a few familiar faces. Unnur, Hallgrímiur and Karl played with many other musicians. The movies was done in seven weeks with seven different songs and seven different musicians in seven locations. It showed where they lived and worked and it showed one take of the song. Òlafur was there for a Q&A after and told us he wanted to show and Iceland that is not what tourists see. Musicians in their natural habitat so to speak. He had wanted to film teh whole thing in seven days, but that was not possible and we learned that they only had money for one camera and shot every song in just one take. Wow. There will also be some interesting concerts coming up next year that he hinted about and we learned that he had his hand injured and could not play piano for three years. I had no idea. It was great to have him there and I was happy to have finally seen the movie. Funny for me was the fact that director Baldvin Z could not be there because he was screening the film at the Nordic Film Days in Lübeck. Everything is connected.
VENUE: IÐA ZIMSEN
One Week Wonder was another band I’d wanted to see but missed the previous year. Once they started playing I knew why I’d wanted to see them. Their beautiful, soft, folkish pop tunes were exactly the right thing for me at that moment. My heart grew happy and I knew I should have checked them out earlier. No chance to squeeze them in again, but they will be on my list for next year. Lovely music, apparently nice people. I will have to be on the lookout for their EP.
A long walk to Grandi took me to Kaffivagninn. With the name I had imagined something not stationary and outside. How wrong I was. It was a lovely cafe and one of the oldest in Reyjkjavík apparently. Met A. and chatted until the concert started. Elín Ey was great, entertaining us with her own music as well as cover songs. Her sad version of Abba’s ‘Waterloo’ is fantastic and I loved her own songs too. In the end she invited her sister on stage to sing with her, explaining that they always do this to each other. Seeing her was a good choice.
VENUE: VIKING BREWERY
Just up the road, the next stop was the Viking Brewery. It was already nicely filled when I arrived, butI still found a seat at a table in front. Árstíðir were already on stage setting up and sound checking. I looked around for familiar faces. Linda was there and I spotted a few people I might have seen before, but nobody else I knew. I smiled at the guys and they smiled back at me while they were getting ready. Ragnar told me they had different shows planned for each of the three gigs they were going to play.
It was showtime and they announced this one would be a show with old songs whereas they’d play different stuff at the other ones and they’d recommend coming to the final one if we wanted to know what they’d been working on lately. They started with ‘Ages’ and I immediately felt like I was being taken back to our beginnings. I love their new songs, but once in a while I like the nostalgia I feel when they play music from their first two albums. It was perfect right then and there and it only got better.
Next song was ‘Látum okkur sjá’ which I had dearly missed. Ragnar was playing baritone and piano for this gig and Gunnar had the guitarlele.They had promised us some really old songs and they certainly played them. If this was their way to say goodbye to these songs they could not have picked a better time and place to do so. We also got to hear a story about a festival that might have happened in Romania, where the sound guy had never seen a baritone guitar and did not know how to deal with it. We all laughed,
The show really felt like old times, even with ‘Someone who cares’ and ‘Moonlight’. After all, Hvel is a few years old already as well. It reminded me of everything I love about this band with the music lifting me high and carrying me. I could not stop smiling and loved every moment. In summer I had been sad that I could not attend their concerts, but apparently it did me good that I had not seen them since May. Despite the familiarity of the music, everything felt fresh again.
In between songs the guys exchanged some words in Icelandic, but they spoke English to us which was nice. I was very happy when the played ‘Days and Nights’ as well. It has always been one of my favorites and I was sad when they kicked that one off the setlist for good some time ago. With ‘Silfurskin’ added to the mix it was already as close to a perfect setlist as it gets, but it wasn’t over yet.
The final song though was the biggest surprise for me. I knew what it was going to be the moment Gunnar said that they only had one more song but it was as long as one and a half. ‘Siðasta Kveðjan’! <3 I could not help but cry. It was absolutely perfect. So full of emotion and power, so beautifully changing from slow to more dynamic and back again. It has always felt like two songs rolled into one for me and it has always been at the top of my list. Gunnar and I have an ongoing joke about him screwing it up with minor mistakes every time they play it for me, but this time he didn’t. 🙂 After the final note he hopped off stage and fist-bumped me. Rightfully so! What a great set, what a great start to their three concerts. 😀
Látum okkur sjà
Someone who cares
Days and Nights
Afterwards I had something else planned, but the guys were staying for a drink so I decided to change plans. It was nice to have the opportunity to chat for a bit, knowing how busy they always are during Airwaves. Linda stayed as well and I met J. who has known them for a long time as well. It was nice and relaxed. In the background, i.e. on the stage where the guys had just performed, Glowie was playing. She had been on my list of people to see at one point, but I had not managed to fit her in originally. Well, it served as nice background music, but I must admit I was not paying very much attention. She had some nice tunes though.
VENUE: BAR 11
Finally hugged everyone goodbye and left for Bar 11 to see The Anatomy of Frank again. Ran into A. once more and sat at the front, smiling at the guys. Their show at this venue had been one of my favorites the previous year so I was looking forward to it. The sound may not be the best you can get, but the atmosphere is so “small rock club” it just really appeals to me. The guys seem happy there. 🙂
They played a great show, starting with ‘Scandinavian Moon’. I have not figured out all the lyrics to this song yet, but I love it very much. It includes many descriptions about life on tour that I can relate to. <3 With ‘Minnesota (Part I)’ I remembered what I had already noticed the previous day. They had grown louder and more rocking than before. At least it felt like the drums were stronger. I liked it. 😀 The guys delivered a powerful show overall, but eased us into it, but starting softer and growing much louder and stronger towards the end.
‘Patagonia’ and ‘La Llorona’ were both wonderful, the latter including a pretty good sing along. I loved, loved, loved it! With the final two songs, ‘Andes’ and ‘Leavenworth’ they turned it up a notch or a few, with Max going crazy behind the drums, Kyle playing electric guitar and joining Jimmy behind the keyboards. Unbelievable! Especially Leavenworth was a killer, so they made good on Kyle’s promise. I never thought I’d say they truly rocked, but they did – the entire show was so much fun!
Minnesota (Part I)
When it was over I made the mistake of staying for a chat. That prevented me from getting into the national theater across the road and seeing Emiliana Torrini and Benjamin Clementine, because when I got there the line was already down the stairs. It did move eventually after the first band was done, but it did not move enough and I gave up, seeking other artists to see.
Went to Fríkirkjan instead. That had been my original plan anyway, but I’d given up on it in order to get into that other gig. Well, that did not work as planned. I arrived in time to hear the end of Aldous Harding‘s set. She had not been on my list, but what I heard was amazing and I slightly regretted wasting time in line instead of just going there right away. Bumped into Linda and Ragnar, who’d apparently enjoyed the gig and were now on their way out.
Biggi Hilmars was the artist I had come to see and he and his band did not disappoint. The music spoke to me plus I got to see Karl and Hallgrímur play and that is always a treat. It was great and certainly made up for the concert I missed. Biggi traded vocals with his wife and switched between playing guitar and piano so there was nice variety in the music. It was beautiful and felt very much at home for me. 🙂 Talked to Hallgímur after the show, hugged him and told him how much I’d liked it.
The lines at the National Theater were still huge when I returned so I did not even bother trying to get in. Benjamin Clementine would have to perform without me. Gunnar had recommended Kalli at Hverfisbarinn so that’s where I was headed. Met Lena and Gunnar outside and went in with them, but they stayed further back from the stage than I was. It was very enjoyable Singer/Songwriter music. I loved the fact that apart from guitar and drums he had a cello in the mix. He immediately won me over with that. there was a nice variety in the music, I loved his voice and the lyrics were good too. Definitely something I need to look into more. He told us he just had a new EP out. I’ll be sure to check out that one.
VENUE: REYKJAVIK ART MUSEUM
Determined not to miss another band I wanted to see I moved onwards to Reykjavik Art Museum right after. Ulfúr Ulfúr were just ending their set when I arrived, but I must admit I did not pay much attention. It looked like a fun show, but from what I heard it wasn’t rally my thing. Rap generally isn’t, but here I was, slowly working my way to the front. It was surprisingly easy to get there and I was only a few rows back when Aron Can started playing. I was positively surprised by the energy he brought to the stage and really had fun listening to him and seeing the audience’ reaction. I had no idea Hip Hop could rock, but Aron Can certainly did. It was cool and I did not mind being there at all. It made the waiting time much more enjoyable.
It did not take long to change the stage again and meanwhile I made it all the way to the front, breaking into cheers as soon as Reykjavíkudætur hit the stage. After last year’s Airwaves thy were high on my list o bands to see again and I did not regret it. They were just as awesome as I had remembered. Powerful, unapologetic and voicing their opinions. No need to understand Icelandic to feel what they are all about. Strong feminist women all of them, loudly and proudly exclaiming how they view the world. I loved their energy and power. Their set was just the right mixture between delivering a message and getting a party going. We were all partying with them and at one point they even passed shots to the crowd. It was Brennivin I believe – tasted great anyway. As I accepted the glass I was thrown a kiss. 🙂 I had so much fun moving with the music and watching them dance across stage. Hell yeah, you go ladies! I will certainly come and see them again next year if I get a chance. After that I felt highly energized and not tired at all, but there wasn’t anyone I wanted to see so my second day ended there.
Day two of the festival was beautiful and even though I did not make it to all the concerts I had planned to see, I saw the ones I needed to see and felt I was in the right places at the right times. That’s all that mattered.
DAY THREE (NOVEMBER 3RD)
Day three was an emotional rollercoaster throughout, starting and ending with tears, leaving me emotionally drained, but tremendously happy. It was a day between old friends and new discoveries where I witness greatness and met legends. I was reminded of why I fell in love with music in the first place and how the best artists in my book will always be the ones that move me.
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
As usual I did not get enough sleep during the festival and by day three I felt it. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment though and a little after noon I arrived at Kex in time to see Mikko Joensuu. They were soundchecking when I arrived so I picked a nice spot near the stage and listened in, already liking what I heard. the band was much bigger than I expected and I especially liked the string quartet in the mix. When it comes to me you can’t go wrong with a cello. 😀
More people arrived, the KEXP crew got ready to broadcast and the band was announced. Mikko said a few words before they started playing. I was in no way prepared for what happened then. With the first few lines of the first song, ‘Warning Signs’ I started crying and I could not stop. I don’t know what it was that hit home so much: The music, the amazing lyrics or the way it was delivered, but the combination of the above certainly got to me. His singing was exceptional and he visibly felt every word. Being emotionally overwhelmed did not stop for the next few songs either and I thoroughly enjoyed the set. It ended with a wild guitar solo that I loved and I found myself quite lost for words when I walked out. Wow, what a start!
VENUE: BRYGGJAN’s BRUGGHÚS
I had to hurry to get to Bryggjan’s Brugghús in time to catch Árstíðir and the space in front of the stage was already rather packed when I arrived. I spotted Lena on the left side by the speakers and joined her there. she graciously offered me her spot to be in a better position to take pictures. <3 I sat down a little further to the right though, in front of the keyboards and watched the guys setting up. Gunnar was joking about them being “the most complicated acoustic band” and just before they started Ragnar asked everyone to sit down so the people in the back would be able to see too.
They surprised me with a completely different show. Sure, they had said it would be, but I guess I did not believe them until I heard it. First was a new song called ‘Mute’ and I found myself headbanging (!). Ragnar smiled when he noticed. Not that I understood much of the lyrics while sitting so close to the speaker, but the music rocked! The rest of the set was powerful as well with the highlight being a killer version of ‘Friðþægingin’ – they should really play that song all the time! I absolutely love where they are going with the band and really wanted to hear more of the new stuff. They promised to play more at the final show. 🙂
Managed to quickly say hello and goodbye before having to hurry off again to the next gig, rather happy with the one I had just seen and even happier there would be one more chance on Sunday.
Things you said
Someone who cares
VENUE: HITT HÚSIÐ
There was not much time to spare when I arrived, but the venue was still comparably empty. The Anatomy of Frank were into last preparations for the gig and I sat down right in front of the stage. Sure, here were seats, but they were too far back for my liking. I assumed others would join me before they stated, but I sat there alone until the end when Kyle asked people to move forward. 🙂
The guys consider Hitt Husið their home turf and thus delivered a very relaxed show. I pretty much knew everyone in the audience from other gigs, this year or last. They always build a following at Iceland Airwaves and it seems that most people come back after having seen them once. The first song was ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ which contains such great lines as “I come from the only state that’s named after Virginity. Lord what does that do to kids and Lord what did it do to me?” – it makes me grin every time.
We were treated to a beautiful rendition of ‘The Promised Land’ and then got the powerful combo of ‘How do we lose it’ and ‘Andes’ both covering the full range from slow and soft to bringing the house down. I can’t stretch enough how I love the fact that they can be called a rock band now. Who would have thought? 😀 Especially ‘Andes’ shows the transition very well.
They only played five songs, but had me singing and moving along the whole time. Only when it was needed I completely failed on the lyrics. Kyle spontaneously decided to put ‘Vancouver’ back in the set, started playing and then was liked “Fuck, what are the lyrics?”. At that precise moment I cold not remember either and they only came back to me when Max started singing them. It lead to lots of laughter. 😀 When I chatted with Kyle after the show he jokingly complained that I was of no help to him.
The Girl from Ipanema
The Promised Land
How do we lose it
For once I did not have to rush to the next venue and even had some time to order food and eat it before Myrra Rós started playing. It was lovely to see here again. she played alone, just accompanied by her guitar. she told us she had not even planned on doing Airwaves because she had not released anything new lately, but then decided to do it anyway. She even surprised us with a great new song. It was all lovely and very relaxed. 🙂 At the end she asked us if we wanted a quiet lullaby or a more upbeat song for which we’d have to sing. we choose the latter and got a beautiful version of ‘Sail on’. it was the perfect ending to the show.
I went back to Bryggian afterwards to see Mammút, but it was packed to the roof and I would not have been able to see them so I decided against it. I did not manage to see them at all this year, but that’s OK, I am sure they will be back. Got some ice cream (perfect when the temperature is around 0C ;)) and slowly went back downtown to my first and only concert at a clothing store this time around.
I fondly remembered The Anatomy of Frank‘s gig at Cintamani the previous year and I already knew this was going to be good. As if that wasn’t enough, Kyle had promised me there’d be a surprise at their next gig and when I entered the store I knew what he meant: Karl was there to play with them.
The stage setup was different from the previous year where they had played with their backs to the store windows. This time around people who watched from the outside could see them sideways. Quite a few had gathered and a little girl even stepped up on the ledge in front of the window to take a closer look at Karl who was just on the other side. 🙂 A. and L. were there to see the show with me and Guillaume arrived before it ended.
We were treated to a pretty wild show overall. Already during ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ Max was hitting the drums like The Animal and especially during ‘Andes’ they went crazier than ever. 😉 Somehow I really felt ‘Patagonia’ and sang along loudly and with ‘To keep our Hands from shaking’ we got a song they had not played at the festival yet. The last song was ‘Svalbard’, that will be on the next album I assume. I have not grasped all the lyrics yet, but really like the atmosphere of the song. The needed two starts to get the sound right, but then it was great. Karl’s violin was a nice addition to their sound. I loved the show and was happy I would see them one more time before the festival was over.
L., Karl and Guillaume were all on the way to the Nordic House next, but they were in no hurry. I on the other hand wished I had a time turner so I could arrive there fifteen minutes or so before I left Cintamani. Thus I say a quick goodbye to everyone and ran most of the way there.
The Girl from Ipanema
To keep our hands from shaking
VENUE: NORDIC HOUSE
I knew it was imposible to get to the venue in time to see Svavar Knútur’s full performance, but at least I wanted to try to see some of it. He played several times at Airwaves, but this was the first gig that I could fit into my schedule. Upon arrival I was momentarily not sure where he was performing and walked into the wrong entrance first. When I finally found the right one I already heard ‘Emotional Anorexic’ when I walked in. It could not have been more perfect. The next and final song was ‘Girl from Vancouver’ which prompted me to sing along, but pretty much everyone else stayed quiet. I was happy to have at least seen these two songs and looking forward to Svavar’s next gig.
Malneirophrenia was the band I had not wanted to miss. With Hallgrímur (formerly of Árstíðir) on cello I was pretty sure I would like it. Apart from the cello there was a piano and a guitar in the mix, but no vocals. Their music has been described as a horror movie soundtrack and as containing classical and electronic elements. I had heard a few tracks and was quite curious about it, but didn’t really know what to expect.
It was absolutely amazing! The music drew me right in and I wanted to move closer to see their fingers working on strings and piano keys. Time seemed to stop for a while, but then went faster somehow, because it was over in a heartbeat and left me with my mouth hanging open in awe. I can’t say how many pieces thy played or how long it took, but I know I loved it and did not want it to end. Still I have no clue how to describe the music so all I can say is: “It was awesome, go check them out!” Talked to Hallgrímur after and told him just that. he was happy with my assessment. 🙂
Onwards to Fríkirkjan to stay for a while. When I arrived, RuGl had just started and the church was pretty full so I had to sit on the floor in the aisle. Soon someone moved over and offered me a seat though. 🙂 I enjoyed seeing the band again and hearing their lovely voices. Like the previous year I marveled at their young age and liked their music a lot. It was a solid performance.
Between Mountains were next and performed well too. It was good to have a second chance o see them after witnessing half their set at Grund on the first day. I liked their music, but realized that I got just a tiny bit bored by the end. I still found it very enjoyable, but was no longer sure I’d want to hear an hour or more of this. Their songs differ from each other and they play several instruments too so I can’t put my finger on what it was. Maybe I was just tired or it’s not for me after all.
During their set I had kept moving to the front and once they were done I scored a seat in front row. Thus, I had a perfect view for Billy Bragg. I was quite excited to finally see him live. It is not like I know his music very well, but I like what I know and had great expectations. He played a full show that lasted well over an hour and exceeded every one of them. He made me laugh, he made me cry and he managed to restore some of my faith in humanity that I had deemed lost. I could not have asked for more.
The church was packed and we greeted him with great cheers. After a few final preparations for the gig he just unceremoniously started playing. He told us it was nice to be here and joked about this being an independent church and hence allowed having cushions on the pews. According to him the nicest thing about church gigs especially on a Friday night was not having to compete with people who were trying to pick up men and women at the bar.
With the second song I was already in love with Billy Bragg’s lyrics. I had not listened to the one CD I have of his music for quite some time and hadn’t remembered just how good his sings are. I have been a Singer/songwriter girl all my life and this was right up my alley. Beautiful lyrics, filled with passion and many other emotions, moving me, making me feel. 🙂 He played his own songs and he played cover songs and some that he modified from the originals. Political songs mixed with love songs, timeless ones and songs about current events all performed in a manner that made them seem true, made me feel he believed in the words he sang.
We learned that it was his first time in Iceland and how he’d spent his day walking around the city. Eventually he reached the topic of football and used it to make fun of Trump. 😀 He talked about Woody Guthrie and how his songs still resonate with us today and noted that some of his own songs have become like that which could either mean that he was a great song writer or times were really messed up. ‘Accident waiting to happen’ was dedicated to a long list of people and things it could be fitting for like the former prime minister or the Brexit.
The songs were moving just as much as the stories told in-between were funny, for instant the one about people queuing at the airport for a direct flight to Portland and every one of them having a hipster beard. He let us in on the secret that the whole point of having a beard is having grey in it. 😉 I can’t stretch enough though that the music and the stories told by the lyrics spoke more to me than the ones told in-between. Quite a few of them made me cry, some for the sadness of the story, some for the beauty of the words and others because they made me feel like I am not alone in the world. <3
For ‘Greetings to the new Brunette’ he even got a little bit of a sing along going. There were quite a few fans in the room. The audience was great overall, listening quietly and laughing at just the right moments. Also I was not the only one who started crying. Anaïs Mitchell’s ‘Why we build the wall’ brought goosebumps to my skin. Each and every word rang true. ‘I keep faith’ made me believe it was possible to do just that. Then and there I understood why Billy Bragg has been making music for so many years and why people have been listening to him all this time.
The concert was quite educational too. Until this concert I had never heard about sunny day floods and I learned other things as well. Most importantly I learned that the cynicism that may help us get through the day is what makes us believe that we can’t change anything and if we learn to overcome it and learn empathy and compassion instead we will have the power to change the world. He said his part in this was to let us know, our part was to go out and act on it. When the concert was over some of my faith in humanity was restored and for the first time in a long time I felt hope that not all may be lost yet in this world.
Billy came out after the show so I went and thanked him for his music and his words and for moving me to tears. He responded that it was easy to make people laugh, but moving people to tears meant making them feel empathy that was needed for change. I wanted to hug him and asked if it was OK. He said it was and gave me a long good hug. That was all I needed right then and there.
The warmest Room
I got no home in this world any more (Woody Guthrie cover)
Accident waiting to happen
Must I paint you a Picture?
Levi Stubbs’ Tears
King Tide and the sunny Day Flood
Greetings to the new Brunette
Why we build the Wall (Anaïs Mitchell cover)
I keep faith
There Is Power in a Union
The Times they are a-changin’ back
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
After the emotional roller coaster with the wow effect I strolled around for a while and had some tea, not really sure what to do next. My schedule said Arab Strap so I made my way to Gamla Bíó and got in surprisingly easy. Went to the front, stood there for a while and just as they were about to start I realized I was not in the mood for more music, would not be able to handle any more songs after the emotional roller coaster I#d already had. So I turned around and left. Bumped into Jimmy on the way out, said hello and walked out.
All evening the Airwaves App had sent notifications about the Art Museum being at capacity. My original plan hade been to end the night with FM Belfast, but it seemed hopeless so I went home instead. I learned the next day that it was not a problem to get in for their show, but I have no regrets. It was a perfect night that ended on a perfect note. 😀
Day three of the festival was the best one of them all. Not only of this year’s Iceland Airwaves, but of all three I have been to. I could not have been any better. 😀
DAY FOUR (NOVEMBER 4TH)
Day four started slowly with a long wait that never seemed to end, but it got a lot better later. I did not see all that many shows and the ones I did see where a mixed bag from great to not my cup of tea at all. I felt exhausted when I got home, butwas looking forward to the final festival day.
VENUE: BAZAAR ODDSSON
I spent much of my morning and early afternoon at Harpa, standing (or rather sitting) in line to get tickets for Fleet Foxes. Last year the line had been fun with great conversations, but this year it was more annoying thanks to the guy behind me, who not only didn’t have any interesting things to say, but also tried to jump the line on me at the last second. Really? *shakes head*
I missed yet another Svavar Knútur concert while I was waiting, but made it to Oddsson in time to see about half of Heiðrik‘s performance. He was good, I really enjoyed his songs and once again I saw Karl playing the violin. I immediately checked it there was another chance to see them play after this and here was a gig scheduled for the following day so I put it on my list.
Karl stayed for this festival’s last gig of The Anatomy of Frank and it was perfect. They welcomed us to their last Iceland Airwaves gig and started with ‘Diagonal North America’. I’ve heard the song so many times I keep forgetting it hasn’t been released yet. 😉 Kyle said it was a honor to play with Karl and then messed up his name when introducing him. It made me laugh a lot. He told us how much input Karl had given on the album in the making.
They finally played ‘Viteri’, the song I’d been waiting for since the first gig. It is by far my favorite on the ‘South America’ album and was so beautiful it made me cry. <3 When it was over, Kyle told us he loved all of us and they went straight into ‘Andes’ – awesome! Since they started a bit late, they only got one more song. All four songs they played were all rather long though. It was great to hear ‘Leavenworth’ ones again and watch them go wild. A bit too wild it seemed, because Jimmy looked like he hurt his hand beating at the keyboard too much. I wanted to ask him about it after, but he disappeared. So I said goodbye to Max and Kyle, whom I’d see on tour in Germany soon.
Diagonal North America
I was going to see Soffia Björg At Solon Bistro next, but the place was packed so I skipped that show and rather took a break. The lack of sleep was catching up wit me and I felt tired.
A bit later then I made my way to Friðarhús to finally see a full Svavar Knútur gig. It was his last one at the festival and I was happy I made it there, because it was rather special. he liked the place and the owners as he told us and thus played several songs he had not played in a while. He started with ‘A Prayer for the Dead’ and told us he wrote it for his grandfather after he died. It is a great, but very sad song and I’m sure I had never heard it live before. We got to hear a few stories about said grandfather too.
The dark mood was cured with ‘Ease your Mind’ that told us not to worry so much. Right then and there it was the perfect song for me. The beautiful ‘Spor’ made e cry, even though I did not understand the words. Svavar really had me between laughing and crying within a few minutes time. Before ‘Ev’ry time we say goodbye’ he told us how Cole Porter never claimed the song was anything special, but it just made people feel good and how this is what he wanted his music to be like.
‘Slow Dance’ was another one I have never heard live (I think) and I loved it. The song nicely changes pace throughout, alternating between slower and faster. For the next song Svavar asked his friend Philip (?) on stage. They sang Cole Porter’s ‘You do something to me’ and they did it well, especially considering it was the first time they tried. 🙂 He told us a few more really funny stories about comments he gets from people without asking for them. Finally he sent us home with ‘Girl from Vancouver’. Before I left I thanked him for the great show!
A Prayer for the Dead
Ease your Mind
Ev’ry Time we say goodbye
You do something to me
Girl from Vancouver
VENUE: HARPA ELDBORG
I spent some time at my hotel and was almost too late for the Fleet Foxes concert at Harpa. Being first n line had provided me with a third row center ticket so the view was great. Sadly Mr. annoying had the seat next to me so I switched seats and ended up next to L. She loves Fleet Foxes and was excited to see them, while I had no idea what to expect, barely remembering what I had listened to on Spotify. I leaned back, relaxed and waited for things to come.
It was a bit difficult for me to get into it at first. They had a screen in the back they used for projections and I caught myself staring at it in fascination. I loved it, but it took my attention away from the songs. The music was certainly beautiful, but it did not immediately touch me so I mostly felt like an observer, capturing the show with my camera until I was told to stop. It was a good thing, because I had no distraction any more and listened more closely. There was an acoustic song somewhere in the middle that I loved. It was performed just by the singer. I also loved the double bass played with a bow, the transverse flute, the instrumentation in general.
For some of the songs they had a choir on stage and it worked very well. The sound at the venue was amazing and the lights were gorgeous too. I had never been in this venue, the largest concert hall at Harpa, before. I enjoyed the show overall and felt it was worth the wait for tickets. Fleet Foxes are a band I want to check out again. I am pretty sure their music will grow on me if I give them a chance.
I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar
– Naiads, Cassadies
On Another Ocean (January / June)
He Doesn’t Know Why
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Robin Pecknold Solo)
Mykonos (with Graduale Nobili)
White Winter Hymnal (with Graduale Nobili)
Third of May / Ōdaigahara
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Ridge Mountains
Blues Run the Game (Jackson C. Frank cover)
Oliver James (Robin Pecknold Solo)
Crack-Up (with Graduale Nobili)
After the show I did not have any specific plans so I went for a drink and a chat with L. before she moved on to the next gig she wanted to see.
VENUE: REYKJAVIK ART MUSEUM
Wanting to avoid the mistake of the previous night, I went to the Art Museum straight away and arrived during HAM‘s set. I must admit I did not pay all that much attention. They were loud, that’s all I can say. Songhoy Blues were a nice surprise. They grooved, they danced and they made the audience move. Not only did I have fun watching them, but they also played some really nice tunes. I enjoyed their set, happy I had arrived early enough to see it.
Gus Gus are quite well known in Iceland and for that alone made it on my list of people to see this year. It was a risk, considering I don’t like electronic music, but the one album I own (Mexico) worked for me as I recall. I’d heard good things about their show too so I was there, ready to try something new and see where it would take me. Sadly, it did not take me far. My first thought was “This may not be for me”, but I kept trying, watching people dance and getting lost in the music. Three or four songs in I was dreading that it was going to be a 90 minute show and soon after I knew I would not get into it. Therefore, I gave up and left. Sometimes it is all about realizing what isn’t for me. at least I got a good night’s sleep for once. 😉
The fourth day of the festival was a bit of a letdown after the previous day’s high, but had some great moments nonetheless. I already knew then that the final day would be much better.
DAY FIVE (NOVEMBER 5TH)
There was a huge storm brewing on the last day of the festival and after going for a swim in the morning, they weather was less than inviting, certainly not made for walking all the way across Reykjavik. Most of my afternoon plans fell through but the final show at Valshöllin made up for all of it. It could not have been any better.
My plan had been to see Bellstop, whom I remembered from my first Airwaves, but I did not feel like braving the storm and walking all the way across Reykjavik to see them. Sorry.
My only stop before Valshöllin became Friðarhús where I checked out I Am Halo a band I had read about the previous day. I didn’t know what to make of them or how to define their music. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really draw me in and felt a bit weird over all. They used light projections all over their faces which made for an interesting effect, but didn’t add anything to the songs. I remember some longish explanations about the songs that I could not connect to the music or the lyrics at all. Well, it was worth a try.
Heiðrik was on afterwards, but it had been announced that doors at Valshöllin would open one hour early due to the storm and I wanted to be at the front for that show so I skipped seeing him again. Maybe next year.
When I booked my trip to this year’s Iceland Airwaves the final show had not been announced yet, but when it finally was, I could not have been happier. I’d been wanting to see Mumford & Sons for years and finally I’d get a chance. Making sure I’d get in, I even bought a ticket. As if that wasn’t enough, Árstíðir were supporting them for the nigh – perfect line up is perfect!
I arrived around 4:30 pm for door to be opened at 6 pm and was not surprised that I wasn’t the first person in line, 11 others had gotten there before me. What did surprised me though was that the handful of people who had come to the festival for Mumford & sons only had been sitting there since 10 am. OK then. I was number ten or so in line which was fine with me. Of course the doors did open much later than announced, but since we could wait inside it wasn’t a problem. I made it to my usual spot on the left, there was nothing more I could have asked for.
At the two off venue gigs they’d played this year, Árstíðir had promised us this last one would be special and they sure kept their promise. Not only did they play four new songs, three of which were never performed live before, but they added an additional violin and a drummer! It was amazing. 😀 I fell in love with them all over again and I especially loved the new songs. After hearing the new ones they played early this year, I thought I had a good idea of they direction they were going in. I was wrong though, or at least not expecting the changes to be this big. It is a huge step from ‘Hvel’ to this and I can’t stretch enough just how good it is. I love each and every one of their albums and when ‘Hvel’ came out I was so happy with their new style I could not imagine anything else, loved the new sound they had developed. Yet one of the things about this band that I admire most is that they do not stand still, but evolve ever further. <3 Each album sounds different and I already know the new one will be great and in some ways unexpected. I can’t wait to hear it and find out which of the new songs I already know will be there. 🙂
The concert started on familiar territory with Himinhvel’ followed by ‘Things you said’, both sounding bigger somehow with the additional strings and the drummer. From the first note I was mesmerized like I had not been at one of their concerts in a long time, looking back and forth between the guys to take everything in. I wanted time to stand still so I would not miss one single note, gesture or look.
Daníel greeted us and thanked us for braving the storm. He did a little poll how many were Icelanders as opposed to foreigners. The latter group sure cheered louder and he decided we should get extra points for getting there despite the weather. They eased us into the new songs with ‘Mute’, the song they had already played two days ago. Gunnar sings lead on it, the others sing harmony. It seemed slightly familiar, but sounded different than before. I did not understand much of the lyrics, but I did like what I heard.
They announced ‘Someone who cares’ as an oldie. OK, but what are the songs from the first two albums then? 😉 Ragnar told us they were recording a new album and spent the airwaves days recording strings with Guillaume and Jean-Samuel. To give us a taste of what was coming they played ‘Lover’ a brand new song with Ragnar on lead vocals. It instantly moved on my list of favorites. The music was just the way I like it and what I understood of the lyrics worked well for me too. 🙂 ‘Entangled’, with Gunnar singing lead was amazing too. Just about as perfect as it gets.
I was already happy with what I had heard so far, but they treated us to one more, ‘þar sem enginn fer’ or ‘Where nobody goes’, so far the only Icelandic song for the new album. Here the vocals were mostly shared by Daníel and Gunnar. Once again this differed from the others and I instantly liked it too. It seem they have struck gold with every new song. 🙂 They thanked us again for coming, said they were looking forward to Axel Flóvent (which Ragnar pronounced ‘Axl’ and then joked about it) and Mumford & Sons. The set ended with ‘Shades’ and it was a brilliant version too. For this alone it was worth coming to the final show. 😀 The show was loud and powerful overall. Looks like they are turning into a rock band on me and I’m loving it.
Things you said
Someone who cares
þar sem enginn fer
Axel Flóvent was nice, really nice. I liked the sound a lot, liked what I understood of the lyrics, liked the performance. The music was lovely, good pop tunes and I much enjoyed listening to it. One of them was his new single ‘City Dreams’ of which he said it was the first time he was playing it with a band. Apart from bass, guitar, drum and keyboards, he had a cello in the band too. That’s always a plus in my opinion. 🙂 I’m not sure if this music appeals to me enough to listen to it all the time, but I’ll certainly give it another chance or a few. Then and there it was a good fit for the other bands. 🙂
Finally it was time for the band most people had been waiting for: Mumford & Sons – it’s been a long time coming but now it was here and I have to say they were totally worth the long wait and just as good as I had expected. I’ve loved their music for many years and we so happy to be there. Felt a little weird in the beginning because everyone around me was a big fan and I am not. It didn’t matter though, in fact it was great to see the looks on their faces. So it seems the show was great by their standards too. 😀
I soon realized that I did not remember many of the songs or any of the lyrics. Sure, I recognized the music, but I could not have named and titles, much less which album they were from. Either way, the music was brilliant, everything felt very familiar and I truly enjoyed being there. The band proved to be perfect showmen too – great sounds, great lights and great fun. I fully understood why some people had traveled to Iceland Airwaves for this alone. For me it was also nice not to be so emotionally involved for a change. While I love the music, the band isn’t important to me, so I could just enjoy the night without emotional roller coasters of any kind.
Early on I took pics, but rather soon a security guard told me not to. I had not expected that, because bringing my camera and taking pictures of the main band (PJ Harvey) had not been a problem at all. Oh well, at least I got a few shots in while the official photographers were still around so I just shrugged and put my camera away. No distraction from the music then. 😉
The biggest surprise for me was when they covered Springsteen’s ‘I’m on fire’ – it came totally unexpected and was very beautiful. It instantly made me smile, I always love it when bands tip their hats to Bruce. 🙂 Somewhere during the evening there was talk about football and how Iceland had beat England in the Euro 2016 football match. They got everyone in the room to do the ‘huh’ and clap thing. It was crazy. Then they dedicated the next song to the Icelandic football team and all other songs to the English football team! 😉
Before the encores the band played on the smaller stage which was like a platform in front of the main stage. They all stood around one mic. It sounded beautiful. 🙂 They stayed there for two songs. Then they left and we cheered for them to come back. Of course they did and we got three more songs, one of them ‘I will wait’, one of the few I did not only recognize but remembered.
Somewhere towards the end of the show, I think it might have been during the encores, Marcus Mumford went into the crowd. It was awesome! We could always hear him, but he disappeared to the back and I could not see him for a while. Only the spotlight that followe him and the movement in the crowd indicated where he was. Then he finally reappeared and came back towards the stage right were I stood. As he passed me by I gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder and noticed that he was rather sweaty. 😀
Overall Mumford & Sons delivered a perfect show and I walked home with a happy smile. What a great night to end the festival with! I would not have wanted to miss this one and was already dreaming of seeing them again. Thank you Iceland Airwaves!
Little Lion Man
White Blank Page
Lover of the Light
Tompkins Square Park
Blind Leading the Blind
I’m on Fire (Bruce Springsteen cover)
Ghosts That We Knew
Awake My Soul
Roll Away Your Stone
Dust Bowl Dance (Extended Intro)
Where Are You Now? (First time performed around B Stage mic. Acoustic, with all members around one microphone)
Timshel (Preceded by snippet of ” Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus. Acoustic, with all members around one mic)
If I Say
I Will Wait
Day five of the festival felt shorter than the others, mostly because the storm kept me from a few concerts. I did get to see the most important ones though. It was a great festival overall and already made me think of coming back next year. Maybe I will.