Iceland Airwaves – Reykjavík; November 5th to 10th, 2019
When you have been to a festival five times (almost) in a row, can you claim it is a tradition? It certainly felt like it was my personal tradition to return to Iceland Airwaves in November in a sense that a) I could not have imagined being anywhere else and b) I was surprisingly chill about most things. Granted there were new changes and they ranked from somewhat confusing to mildly annoying, but in the end, despite complaining about stuff that felt shitty, I had a good time after all. So yes, they are trying to make money at every turn and yes, the whole “official venue” / “off venue” / “on venue” thing still makes no sense to me whatsoever, the “goodie bag” was a joke and hell yes, the fucking app did not work the way it should have, but what remains after is the fact that I’ve seen great bands, made some surprising discoveries and got to hang out with friends. What more could you ask for? As my friend Ragnar put it “It’d rather have this Airwaves than no Airwaves” and he is absolutely right. Even with all the changes it is still one hell of a cool festival that I would not want to miss. Needless to say I bought the early bird ticket for next year as soon as it was over.
As opposed to last year, ticket pickup went smoothly and quick. soon I had a wristband and was ready to go. As usual, everything was well organized and no matter which venue I went to, I always felt safe.
I had come for the music and the community and got just that – great artists and hanging out with good people. All the details of who I saw and what I thought about their performances is covered in the remaining post.
The trusted Iceland Airwaves App was fucked up. Instead of being able to see all concerts of one artist or all shows at one time, you had to always make a choice which type of venues you were looking at first. This was further compicated by the addition of “on-venue” some in between thing that was not official, but not off venue either. It made it really hard too find all of the shows, plus there were some extra things not even announced on the ap – it was a mess and made planning a lot more complicated.
The “goodie bag” that was promised with the VIP ticket. The previous years it had contained a T-Shirt and some other nice knick knacks. This year, however it was a small poster, a sticker and a few tiny cosmetics samples. everyone I talked to about it thought there was something missing when they frst got it. Yep, exactly. Don’t promise a goodie bag if you can’t fill it.
Oh and many of the cool off venues like Kex or Dillon were now either official venues or “ON venue”, i.e. you could not get in for free any more. Looks like they were really scared of losing money to people who can’t or won’t buy tickets and just enjoy the free shows.
Overall there were a lot less off-venue shows than previous years, often not starting until the late afternoon. Rumor had it, the venue snow had to pay to host artists. If true, not cool. All the small off venues and the variety of shows contributed a big part to the charm of this festival.
I generally had beef with the VIP tickets (or Plus tickets as they were now called) this year. While the previous year there was only a limited number available, they just made more once they sold out. But if anyone can buy them, what is the use of a priority line. Regarding On-venue, the Plus ticket was completely worthless (i.e. there was no priority line), so for much of the shows I wanted to see I still had to go insanely early to make sure I got in. Granted, I got a drink discount, but so did regular ticket holders (if not as much) and for one drink per night it is not worth paying more for the plus ticket additionally than the regular one cost (which I need anyway). If that doesn’t change next year – pass.
Photography? Still not allowed. I didn’t even bother bringing my dslr camera this year, because it was unclear if it was OK to bring it to the ON-Venue shows
There was a new venue category this year. Between the official venue that you need and Airwaves wristband to enter and the off venues, where all the shows are for free, there was suddenly “ON-Venue”, a place where you could go with your wristband or pay at the door. Yet with payment, you did not get the “early entry” privilege of the wristband and the places were small. Generally speaking it was just an off venue that you suddenly had to pay for. Not cool to begin with and also just unnecessary. If you wanted to make more money off of these venues just turn them into official ones and don’t make up a new category.
I spoke about it to many people and nobody really understood how this made any sense. My best guess was that they hoped to make extra money from people buying tix at the door, but frankly with places as small as Dillon, how many people are even gonna get in once the wristband owners are there? Those, who remember Dillon as being of venue might be in for a surprise if they go there and suddenly have to pay, but I wonder how many actually did and how many just turned around and left once they found out it wasn’t free any more.
Apart from now having three categories to chose from in the app, there were different rules for the ON-Venues, but frankly, never learned what exactly they were. The wristband got me in and it got me discount on drinks, but the plus wristband did not get me in earlier. Would I have been allowed to bring my camera? Who knows.
6 days, 33 artists, 14 venues, 39 concerts, around 2000 pictures, 85615 steps, 5 kilometers of swimming, about 36 total hours of sleep, lots of good hugs and always good fun.
DAY ZERO (NOVEMBER 5TH)
Warm up day, with only two venues that I heard of. Thus I checked them out both, just to do something. It was alright, but nothing special and I could have easily skipped it. At least I got a good night’s sleep.
Like the previous year there wasn’t all that much happening on the pre-Airwaves days, so I went to Dillon to check out what they had, not every having heard of any of the bands who played there. I didn’t even get there until after 7, even though I had arrived in Reykjavik earlier than the previous year.
Either way, when I got there Beware the Blue Sky were playing. It was Rock, or as they describe it Post Rock, it was alright, but nothing that really stuck with me. Next up were Keelrider. A little heavier maybe, very listenable, but again nothing that grabbed me. Nice kick off for airwaves, but not bands I was going to see again. It looked like the rest of the evening at Dillon offered more of the same, so I left.
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
Moved on to Kex, where KEXP had set up their stage. I had never heard of Lucy in Blue before, but I kinda like dthe name and decided to check them out. Their proggish, long songs flowed into each other, which fit my current mood very well. It was all relaxing, they played great and I even saw some familiar faces, on stage as well as in the crowd. Every thing I heard that evening was nice, but nothing really grabbed me, so I decided to call it a night and get some sleep while I could. There would be enough short nights ahead.
Some pre airwaves days are good fun, some are just so-so. This was the latter, so I called it an early night.
DAY ONE (NOVEMBER 6TH)
The first official day of the festival brought the opening festival and a variety of great shows throughout the day and evening. Every decision I made about going or staying was rewarded and I enjoyed every performance I saw, seeing some of the people I really wanted to see and finally managing to catch a few I had never seen before.
I woke up surprisingly early so I made it to Grund in time for the opening ceremony. It was the usual mixture of old people, who live there, young kids and festival guests. I sat down on the floor somewhere near the front and waited. At first the director (I assume he was) of Grund welcomed us all and then started a bit of morning activation, where he instructed everyone to move their hands and later their feet. Most people took part, space permitting and it sue made me feel more awake. He asked people to move to the front and sit on the floor, then he officially opened airwaves by giving the word to Iceland’s President, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson.
The President spoke about how singing is good for you, music is generally healthy and brings people together. “I have never heard of a war started because of music”. Right on! It does unite us, rather than tear us apart. After he was done taking he casually sat down on a piano bench, right next to where I was sitting on the floor.
The musical guest of the day were Hjaltalin. I had heard about them many times, but never actually heard them play. The band was not complete yet, but started anyway. It was lovely music. Sigríður, the female lead singer, sang an Icelandic folk song together with the children in the room and the President was singing along as well. It was a song about a raven. Finally, Högni, the male lead arrived and they played us some more music, amongst it a brand new song. We got a nice sing-along for everyone too. I’d say this was the prefect start to the festival and was glad I’d managed to go there. 🙂
After this I had a break that I used to go for a swim and grab some food before moving on to the next venue.
VENUE: WALDORFSKÓLIN SÓLSTAFIR
It was a long walk to Waldorfskólin Sólstafir, but I still managed to get there before the intended time. Rapper Darri was still playing to a happy crowd of kids and adults. The kids were not shy at all, standing and sitting around him, moving in tune to the music. It was all rather cute and he had a big smile on his face during his performance. It looked like everyone was having a blast and the music wasn’t half bad. Not my usual style, but pretty cool.
Eventually he finished and some people cleared out so I got a seat at the front. C. arrived shortly after and got a seat next to me. We both wanted to see Svavar Knútur. Since I’d missed one of his Germany shows due to being ill, I was especially looking forward to seeing him at Airwaves. This one turned out to be a very special show, because not only did he play a few songs I’d never heard him play anywhere else, but he also had prepared a few songs together with some of the kids where they joined him on stage. It was lovely and they were all having such a good time.
At the beginning he told us about a workshop he had sone with children at this school and would play with them, but first he’d do a few songs on his own. First one was “about friendship and love trying to wrestle in on it” – ‘Ölduslóð’. Svavar made all the announcements in Icelandic and English so everyone could understand and at some point joked about that he’d might have to speak German, because the kids understood everything. Next was a Zombie song the kids had requested, the title translates to “Why am I always so hungry”. It was funny.
Before inviting the children to the stage, he told us foreigners a little something about the Icelandic tap water – don’t drink the hot water! With the kinds he played three songs with them singing background and playing drums and a few other instruments. It was great, because the kids were playing against time too. Very cool. For ‘Undir birkitré’ everyone in the audience got to sing along too. The final song song was one he wrote for some kindergarden kids. It was wild and they all had fun going along with it.
“Why am I always so hungry”
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
Luckily my friend C. had come by car and offered me a ride back into town, so I did not have to walk all the was to Kex Hostel and arrive din good time to see gróa. They had been added to the list of performers last minute and I was glad to see them at all if only in the KEXP concert setting that never lasts longer than 30 minutes. They used their time well and absolutely killed it. It was a great, powerful show, just as Punk as I wanted it to be. I love these young women screaming, jumping, singing and raising hell. They are good at what they do and they have fun doing it. Nothing more to ask for.
VENUE: LUCKY RECORDS
Rushed to Lucky Records to see Svavar Knútur’s second gig of the day. He was just playing ‘Morgunn’ when I arrived and had almost 30 minutes time left. He told us about the “much abused” ukulele he was using and then left it at the store at the end of the gig to be given away to the person who bought the most Icelandic music vinyls that day. We learned that January is the superhero of the months, because he makes the sun come back. A short poll resulted in knowing that a lot more people wake up with a hangover and feeling like shit on January first than on February first. 😉
Then ‘Humble Hymn’ made an appearance and we all sang along. He even told the story of how the song was written in a very hungover state. He told us that in Germany he learned how certain words change meaning depending on the people who say them or rather which accent they are spoken in. so when Germans say “cool” it is not, but when Icelanders do it sound very cold indeed. ‘Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir’ was next, his warmest song he claimed.
‘Emotional Anorexic’ made an appearance too, which made me love the set even more. <3 The final song was ‘The Hurting’ complete with the story of how he played it at some Crossfit tournament in Reykjavik. So apparently it is the workout song of the century.
Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir
Onwards to Slippbarinn, once again getting a ride with C. While she was searching for a parking space, I went inside and was surprised at how packed the venue already was. At first I thought I was not going to get anywhere near the stage, but somehow I ended up by the side near the mixing desk. Eventually C. caught up to me and we got a side view of things. I knew JFDR’s music, but had no idea she was going to be so mesmerizing live. Her voice was great and her show really energetic too. She joked about dramatic songs and had fun teasing her guitar player about his solo. The app inficated she was going to play an hour, but then dhe already announced her kast dong. We still left a little early to be at the next venue on time.
We got to Gaukurinn too early, the doors were not even open yet. Thus we had front row spots for Kul. I didn’t have much of an idea what their music would be like, but I knew all but one member from Ragnar’s different bands. I’d chosen well, they were great, full of energy and power. The band totally rocked the house and even played us a brand new song. Apart from hearing good music it is always fun to watch Hálfdán or Skuli at work. 🙂 What a great start to the night.
Drop your Head
Rather than changing location I decided to stay. Hrim weren’t on my list of people to see, but they were a pleasant surprise. I have no idea how they categorize themselves or how I would describe their music. Their sound drew me in for sure with elctro and pop elements. There was a nice variety to their songs and they even changed singers for a few of them. This was the first of many Airwaves surprises this year. 🙂
The artist I’d really come to Gaukurinn for was Ragnar Zolberg. I was looking forward to seeing him again and it was fantastic. His set was shorter than at the summer gig, but partly the same – I recognized some of the songs. Most of them were from his latest album I believe, but one was older for sure. If I recall correctly he introduced it as a Sign song. It was called ‘ Rockers don’t bathe’. The whole set was brilliant. It was emotional and powerful with everyone playing like there was no tomorrow. His band is amazing too – a highlight of the night.
Rockers don’t bathe
My Symbol Sól
We debated where to go next and settled for Hresso where Ásta was playing. I believe I had last seen her five years ago at my very first Airwaves. The venue was packed snd people at the back by the bar were talking loudly while dhe was alteady playing delicste songs. C. gave up and left, but soon I had the opportunity to move closer to the stage. I could still hear people talking, but it was much better there. Ásta’s songs were sad and she cried a lot while playing them, getting very emotional. It was beautiful and I truly enjoyed her music despite sll the talkers. It was just her and her guitar and that was all I needed.
Konfekt were up next. I had fond memories of them from Secret Solstice and was looking forward yo seeing them again. C. joined me as well and it turned out to be a fun last gig of the night. They were even better than I remembered. An all girl band is still an unusual sight in this day and age, especially if they rock as much ad these girls do. They had everyone dancing and the crowd even demanded an encore. Since they didn’t have any more songs, they played one for the second time. I hope I get to see more of them in the future.The night could not have ended any better and I happily went home.
The day brought mostly familiar faces with Savvar Knútur, gróa, Ragnar Zolberg and Konfekt and some nice new additions with Hjaltalin and Kul (even though I knew members of both bands already as well ;)). It was a satusfying start to the official festival.
DAY TWO (NOVEMBER 7TH)
Day two was a day of surprises, where the bands I wanted to see where even better than I could have imagined and the ones I decided on as I went along really blew my mind. This is what Airwaves is all about.
The second day’s concerts started with Sóley at Slippbarinn. she had brought a guitar player and was mysteriously wearing a black veil, which made it all a bit spooky. As they were getting ready to start she confessed that she was currently living a nightmare since people were watching everything she did. Then she told us she would be only playing new songs for us and if asked us to bear with her … or we could leave. “This is a free country, I think”. It wasn’t the only joke and I really dug her sense of humor. The music was great too, even if some of the songs took getting used to. I liked it.
VENUE: JÖRGENSEN KITCHEN & BAR
It was a long way to the next venue, but there was more enough time to get there and when C. and I arrived Flammeus were just done so we got good spots, seats even and could watch as they stage was changed. I had absolutely wanted to see Una Stef & the SP74. They were fantastic, getting everyone into the groove and making us smile. Their music spreads so much positive energy that it is impossible not to be happy and the rhythm really grabs me every time. By the end of their set I wa sout of my seat and dancing, as were most other people. Going to see them is always worth it.
Beebee and the Bluebirds were up next, but I felt the need to get something to eat before the next gig so I left. Hopefully I’ll catch them again next time.
The main course of the evening started at Kornhladan, a new venue for me. It was a nice bar/cafe and they even served food. Had I known I could have gone there for dinner. I was too early anyway, which turned out to be great, because I caught the full set of Blankiflur. In the beginning she asked if she could speak Icelandic and I asked her for English instead. She obliged and introduced each song to us before playing it. It was nice to get a little info on what the songs were about. Stefan, who played the piano and she had been making music together for a year and a half. The piano melodies were beautiful and she sang with lots of power, yet full of emotion. I hadn’t planned on seeing her, but I should have. She had a great voice and I thoroughly enjoyed er set. What a wonderful artist.
The highlight of he day was yet to come though. I wanted to see Valborg Ólafs and had really liked her stuff on the playlist I’d heard. Also, Baldvin Freyer (of Lightspeed Legend) played with her and seeing him is always a plus. His wasn’t the only familiar face in the band. Valborg was amazing. She was just as good live as she had been on Spotify. I absolutely loved her voice and she had great songs too. And the band was great overall, each one of them playing well. It was highly entertaining, with a good variety of songs, from catchy music one could have danced to to more groovy tunes. Had I been standing, I would have moved along with it. as it was, I had trouble sitting still. As far as I could tell she also had good lyrics. Among all the songs we a got a brand new one, a beautiful ballad called “Ghost love” (I think). Her set was just what I had been hoping for. This is the type of artist I go to Airwaves for – completely off my radar before I arrive and then pleasantly surprising me. When her set was over I wanted more and asked her for CDs, but she did not have any with her. Will have to find one on my own then.
As it often is during Airwaves, I had a few options for artists to see next, but none of them really fit my schedule, i.e. would get me to Dillon in time for the band I really wanted to see. Thus, I went there straight away and saw Paladin. They were really entertaining and I had much fun listening to their set. Afterwards C. and I wondered why these days everything is referred to as “Metal” (Power Metal in this case) while in our youth, this music would have been been called Hard Rock. Doen’t matter, it was melodious, it was very listenable and I enjoyed it. Airwaves is as much about just having a good time as it is about new discoveries.
The band I really wanted to see was In Siren, a band I’ve been aware of for years, but never had the chance to see live until that night. Granted, they did not do much since 2010 either. Now they were back though with a new line-up and a few new songs too. I’m the first to admit I am not a huge fan of prog, but certain bands still appeal to me and there is always a huge difference between hearing them on CD and attending a concert. It was the same here. I absolutely loved it from the start. Right there at the beginning, Ragnar introduced them and asked how many people had heard them or heard about them. a few hands went up so he concluded we knew what to expect and thanked everyone else for coming and checking them out. They promised us four new songs, written recently and four old ones from the old line-up. The first one was so new it didn’t even have a name yet, but it sure rocked. For the first time ever they had tried something in Icelandic and especially ‘Hverfum’ was absolutely brilliant. i also loved the second song they played, which only has a working title so far. The older stuff I knew already, but enjoyed the explanations for the song titles. ‘Endless Sea’ = LSD, because “you get lost, right?” OK then. Overall I preferred the newer stuff though. When asked about it later, I described it as “less proggy”, whatever the hell that even means.
They delivered a powerful performance and sure got in touch with the audience, Ragnar being ooff stage as much as he was on it, moving around the room, singing to people. Kjartan and Hafliði on guitar, Erling on bass and Kristján on drums were great too. I had an awesome time! After that, I didn’t really feel like seeing anyone else, so I went home. It had been a good night.
A really fun day that left me smiling and content. So much even that I was home before 1 am. Now the festival had really started.
DAY THREE (NOVEMBER 8TH)
On the third day I revisited JFDR and Svavar Knútur during the day before spending the entire evening at Dillon. Looking at my schedule I thought I might be missing out on something great, but when the night is over I knew I’d made the right deciding. It was an awesome evening filled kick-ass performances and exactly what i needed.
Hressó was my first stop of the day and to my surprise the stage had been moved from the back of the restaurant to the front by the window. For the remainder of Airwaves it was the stage for some radio show presenting the artists. When I arrived, everything was packed and Hatchiku was on stage. I could not see her, but she sure sounded great. I regretted not coming earlier and vowed to remember her name for later. That was a nice start.
After she was done, some of the crowd left so I managed to get much closer to the front for JFDR. This time I didn’t have to go anywhere else and got to enjoy her full set. It was absolutely lovely. She was alone this time, playing guitar, but that didn’t bother me at all. I was just happy I got to hear her again. 🙂 Her music was really mesmerizing and her voice grabbed my attention fully. It was a great mixture of delicate and strong if that makes any sense. No wonder so many people had turned up for her show. 🙂 I remember it was quite funny too, but I cannot remember why we laughed so much. It might have been the melancholia of her songs contrasting with how she announced them. Either way, I enjoyed hearing her.
There was still time, but I went straight to Kex, knowing how packed it sometimes gets. It was a good call. Not only did I get to pick my spot, but saw Svavar Knútur soundcheck too. This was the first Airwaves gig I saw him play with a band. It was a huge band too with a string section, drums, bass, keyboards, an additional guitar and a background choir. They all did a wonderful and the full show was broadcast on KEXP radio. He was announced as “A remarkable artist and storyteller who is not afraid to dig deep into the dark psyche of the human condition and emerge with songs of hope and redemption.”
Svavar was noticeably nervous at first, but there was really no reason to and soon he got into the grove. He greeted us and said he was a “comfort hobbit”, then let us know how 99% of his best days had started with mornings. Hence ‘Morgunn’ was the first song – I loved the strings from the start. For ‘Emotional Anorexic’ Hildur joined him at the mic. That song always works for me, no matter how and with whom it is played. He has many great songs, but this might just be the most perfect one. <3 The background choir did a beautiful job too. Comparing Icelandic forests to Finnish guys waiting for a taxi in the middle of the night really brought the image home and ‘Undir birkitré’ worked well in the full band arrangement. Of course we all got to sing along. ‘Lady Winter’ was next and I was happy he managed to pack so many of my favorites into such a short set. ‘The Hurting’ concluded the gig. There wasn’t all that much time for stories in 25 minutes, but he told more than enough anyway and I loved the show nonetheless. 😀
C. and I discussed how early we should get to Dillon after this to make sure to get in for Árstíðir. Granted, there were other bands I would have liked to see before them and it wasn’t supposed to be full for the band that played directly before they did, but I did not want to take any chances, considering how tiny Dillon is. We decided to meet there after dinner and went ur separate ways.
I arrived first and scored a seat on the side. Since my feet were killing me, this was a good thing. Had planned to see Siobhan Wilson, but she got sick and was replaced by Nising. It was OK, his guitar playing was great even, but it didn’r really do all that much for me. Nice songs, but not much more. C. got there before he started and when people realized that Sobhan was not going to play, some left and we could both sit down.
Brett Newski followed and he was wonderful. He was funny, he played great songs and at one point he decided to climb the rafters and play one song while sitting directly under the roof. It was a totally cool stunt. If ends up playing another airwaves I’ll sure go to see him again.
The place got more crowded for Pétur Ben, who is really popular. I’d enjoyed his set last year and was looking forward to seeing him again. He recognized some people who had seen him the previous night or the previous year and said he felt honored that we’d come back. He was only going to tell jokes though. 😉 This time around he sang mostly sad songs, some of which were from women’s points of views or at least that is how he introduced them. He also played some interesting cover versions, one of which I am sure I’ve heard Svavar sing before. His explanation was that all his songs are about death and so he tried to find cover songs that were not. About one of them a fellow artist told him that it is use to teach people CPR – fitting. His original songs were great too, varying from soft to more powerful and guitar oriented. I loved his show and laughed quite a lot. If I recall correctly he also mentioned that many of his songs have never been recorded. Pity.
I had really expected people to come for him and then stay all the way until Árstíðir, but it wasn’t the case. Dillon emptied out after Pétur was done and we moved closer to the front for Flavor Fox. From the description I’d read I didn’t have high expectations, but they surprised me. They introduced themselves as the non-metal band of three metal guys (i.e. their other bands are metal) and played some good rock music. They sure had fun and so did the audience and they even brought on some Reggae vibes. In the end, we got a metal song too. All was well and I was truly entertained.
It got noticeably more crowded for Árstíðir and rightfully so. They were just playing as a trio this time, but I was as excited as always to see them. Also I’m not sure they would have all fit on that small stage anyway. 😉 They arrived and did a small line check, which already sounded like fun.
The show started with ‘While this Way’, always a crowd pleaser, followed directly by ‘Lover’. I enjoyed both, no complaints here. Generally speaking the sound wasn’t great, but I’ve had worse and they made up for it with great enthusiasm. All the way through it looked like they were having fun. They really surprised me with the next song. It had been a while since I’d last heard ‘Silfurskin’ and it’s one of my all time favorites too. It turned a good setlist into a perfect one. <3 I didn’t even miss our dear string players and I usually do when they do a trio gig.
Ragnar mentioned they would buy anyone a beer, who was not Icelandic and managed to pronounce the next song title correctly, while the other two looked at him slightly confused. When he announced ‘Þar sem enginn fer’ I knew why. That is usually reserved for ‘Friðþægingin’. 😉 It was a great performance nonetheless. Ragnar was talkative and told us they always say “takk” three times, while Gunnar was like “Do we?” 😀 ‘Mute’ was great and ‘Passion’ even better. We all cheered for the best indy album award they won in summer and appropriately reacted with “awwww” when Gunnar told us they were down to their last song. It was ‘Things you said’ and afterwards we cheered so much that they gave us one more, ‘Kill us’, fully acoustic. It was awesome and just the right ending for my 192nd gig.
While this Way
Þar sem enginn fer
Things you said
There was just enough time for a quick hello and a hug before they had to pack up and make room for Ragnar Zolberg. He and his band took the stage and then took the crowd by storm. I had enjoyed their gig at Gaukurinn, but this one was so much better. The band seemed so much more energetic and into it than they had been that night.
At the start Ragnar wasn’t all that happy, because he had been speaking Icelandic and Erin, who had organized that whole Dillon thing chided him for it. He found it strange to speak English in his home country, but then did it anyway. It wouldn’t have mattered to me either way. Luckily it didn’t spoil his mood for long and he had some fun with it insetad, speaking very slowly at first, when he introduced the band. 😀
Surprisingly the sound and lights were better than at their previous gig or at least it seemed that way. They delivered a tight and powerful set, not holding back even one bit, flying hair and great playing included. I had a ton of fun and everyone else in the audience was really into it too. They even played us a never before played song. The night could not have ended any better. What a blast that was.
Chatted a bit with Ragnar (Ólafsson, not Zolberg), had a final drink with C. and A. and evntually made it back to my guesthouse, too wound up to sleep. It was a perfect Airwaves night.
The entire day can be summed up as loads of fun. I saw one of my favorite bands, I saw other artists I love and rocked into the night. Perfect.
DAY FOUR (NOVEMBER 9TH)
The last official festival day was more quiet than the previous one in a sense that the music overall was a bit softer. However, the night had a rocking end and everything leading up to it was just beautiful. Again, I went home smiling.
VENUE: ALDA HOTEL
First stop of the day was Alda Hotel, where Teitur Magnússon was sceduled to play in the lobby. He did, eventually, but not before rearranging the flowerpots around the stage to his satisfaction. Once he was done, he asked us “Are you comfortable?” nobody answered so he continued, “vegetable?”. 😀 I’d seen him a few times before, but he waas always playing with a band then. This time he had only brought a guitar. Thus, the show was more quiet than I was used to and he told a lot of stories, i.e. gave introductions to his songs. I liked it a lot and for the Icelandic songs he even gave us translations. It made me smile when he spoke about a song based on a poem by Davíð Stefánsson, as that was the same poet my friend Ragnar had based a song on as well. Everything is conneted. Overall his set was lovely and he played a lot longer than he was scehduled for. In the end he was joined by a friend on stage and introduced his latest single too. He passed around a hat so we could donate some money and joked that he really wanted the hat back too. It was a fun start to the day.
Next I accompanied C. to Dillon, where she had planned to see a Dutch Artist next. Before that though, Sturle Dagsland from Norway was playing. I’d heard good things so I wanted to check him out. After about five seconds I knew his music was not for me and left.
VENUE: 12 TÓNAR
Rushed over to 12 Tónar where gróa were playing a show that wasn’t announced on the official schedule. The small record store was packed and as usual they were raising hell. It was fantastic! These young women are so brilliant, I hope we will hear a lot more from them in the future. Powerful, energetic and so into it that you can’t help but being drawn in by their performance. I love watching them and feel Punk is very much alive in their hearts. Not that I understand much of what they are singing, but they sound rightfully pissed off and ready to take on the world which is a good sate of mind to be in if you want anything too change. You go girls!
My next stop was Fríkirkjan, always one of my favorite venues. Sycamore Tree is a duo, so I was pleasantly surprised to see them backed by a full band. The had strings among them, with Unnor on cello and Ásta on violin. They played lovely tunes that I’d describe as fitting somewhere in the Pop category. Their music reminded me of someone, but I could not put my finger on it. It might have just been reminiscent of a combination of artists. Either way, I enjoyed it very much, loved the variety of Instruments and especially liked Augusta Eva Erlensdottier’s voice. The band was wonderful as well – It made me happy I’d come to the venue early.
The Wild Wind
My Heart beats for you
No more Words
During the break. C. arrived, but for now the people in my row stayed and she sat else where. Next up was the Canadian pianist Alexandra Stréliski. I have to admit I mostly stayed, because I did not want to lose my great seat, but I was in for a surprise. It was just her and the piano in the darkened room, with some projections on the back wall that made it even easier to dive right into the music and stay there. Classical music isn’t easily accesible to me, but her playing instantly grabbed me and moved me all the way through. It was absolutely superb. Emotions were chasing each other through my heart as I listened and I was driven close to tears several times. From time to time a few words were interjected, but they were not lyrics as such, just adding to the general mood like the projections. It was a gorgeous performance and grabbed me fully until the very end, when I felt like slowly coming up from great depth and back to reality. 🙂
Svavar Knútur had brought the full band again and I was looking forward to his set. Meanwhile, a few people had left and C. sat next to me. Soon he greeted us and announced ‘Ölduslóð’ as a song about a friendship that love tried to ruin but could not. I really enjoyed the song that night. He thanked us for listening to songs in Icelandic and told us that some people wanted him to write “hit songs in English” – “No!” came the protest from the crowd. And they were right. I love his Icelandic songs. He won’t stop writing them eiher, considering them precious. Kristina Stefansdottier (if I heard that right) joined him for ‘Ástarsaga úr fjöllunum’ (Love Story from the Mountains). I had not heard that one in a long time and it was beautiful, underlined by some great guitar playing. Next, he invited Hildur Vala to join him for his “apocalyptic love song” ‘While the world burns’. It had to be followed by a break up song of course, since we need break-ups to grow. 😉 What could it be other than ‘Emotional Anorexic’? I loved both, sang along quietly and was happy to be there, getting lost in the music. Even though I have to admit the band treatment felt a bit much for the latter. I think I like th stripped back treatment better. For ‘Undir birkitré’ the band fit really well and of course we got to sing along too. 🙂 I really loved ‘Lady Winter’ too. Once in a while a deviation from storyteller Svavar is really fun. After ‘Janúar’ he ended his set with a rocking version of ‘The Hurting’. That was awesome! The perfect final song. It made me a little sad that this was the last concert of his I as going to see this year.
Ástarsaga úr fjöllunum
While the World burns
C. left and I stayed for John Grant since I liked his songs on Spotify and had heard good things about him. He made everyone laugh with a new Iceladic word he had learned and ist meaning. Can’t remember what it was exactly, but it must have been funny. His piano playing was beautiful. a completely different thing from what Alexandra Stréliski had done earlier. He had an additional pianist with him, who joined him on a few songs. I enjoyed his singing very much, but still left halfway through the set, wanting to be early for the next gig. Glad I stayed for a while though.
TC & Honeybear
Touch & Go
Is he Strange
No more Tangles
Over at Iðno I got to see and hear the end of Cautious Clay‘s set while I slowly made my way to the front. His tunes were bluesy-jazzy and he had a band that knew how to play so it was rather enjoyable for me too. He played the flute which was surprising for me, since I didn’t know anything about him. Apparently it is ihis thing. I liked it, a nice way to entertain me before the bad I really came to see. Soon I found A. and C., together we made it to second row after he was done.
Sólstafir was the band we had all come to see. Seeing them live is always amazing, they are just such a good band. I was in a good spot to watch each one of them and gave up taking pictures soon since it was just too dark for that. Instead, I enjoyed the music and soon got lost in it. They were killing it, playing a powerful set of four songs only that lasted all of the 40 minutes they had. The performance blew me off of my feet, making me smile and cry at the same time. Who would have thought I’d get to the point where this band gets me so emotional? I was loving it. For the first time in a long time, maybe for he first time in all of the shows I have seen, they did not end the set with ‘Goddes of the Ages’, so there was no taking the Hammond for a walk this time. The show was still perfect and there could not have been a better way to end the night and the final day of Airwaves.
I stuck around for a bit, but went to the back eventually to get a drink. Caught a glimpse of Grísalappalísa, but did not feel inclined to stay. The venue was packed and I am sure it was great, especially because it was there last ever oncert. tehy sounded just fine from the back, but my night was done and I left. Bumped into Daníel at the bar and said a quick hello, then joined C. outside, catching some air. The night ended with hugs from Ragnar and saying goodbye. It was great seeing you, until next time.
When Airwaves is right, it ends, making me want to go back and do it all over again right away. The fourth day and especially the night was exactly like that. I am still looking for the rewind button.
DAY FIVE (NOVEMBER 10TH)
For the longest time it had looked like the final day of Airwaves, or rather the post Airwaves day was going to be one with nothing going on and aaybe even early bedtime for once. It was quiet, but really nice and yes, it didn’t last until too late which was just fine with me.
Everything wound down on the final day of Airwaves that really wasn’t part of the festival at all. While the previous year there had been so much going on that I found it hard to choose, options were rather limited this time. Rumor had it that off venues had to pay money to hosts concerts – that would explain why so many stopped doing it. Such a shame. 🙁
Like on the pre-airwaves days, Dillon seemed to be the only venue offering anything. Met C. at the burger place downstairs for dinner (not recommended!) and arrived at the venue for the end of Rock, Paper Sisters’ set. It was fine, but not much to write home about and while I enjoyed the half naked drummer (hey,, eye candy is just fine with me), it was a bit loud for me at that particular time. Oh well, they did not play long.
We had both wanted to see Una Stef and the SP74 again and they rocked or rather groved the house. It was all a big, fun party and they instantly made my mood much better. The sat was great, everyone danced and sang along and we had a big smile on our faces when it was over. On the way out we bumped into Una and told her we’d enjoyed it. She thanked us for dancing along and said it gave her the energy she needed. Any time!
The rest of the evening at Dillon had not sounded all that interesting and Gaukurinn offered a singer/Songwriter night so we decided to check that out. On the way we met L. and she joined us. They called the evening Post Waves, but we soon learned that they are doing a songwriter night once a month. MC for the night was XXXXXXXX who was going to play later, but for now introduced everyone else.
First up where Axis Dancehall. I’d describe their music as electro, but I have no idea really. They were fun though, two guys on huge mixing boards and one elf-like female singer in white. They ate kale the entire time and fed some of it to the audience, telling us it was good for us – it tasted pretty good too. Funnily enough I was wearing my Svavar Knútur broccoli T-Shirt and it felt strangely fitting. C. and I went with the flow and enjoyed it, but L. didn’t like it at all, especially because our front of stage table was in the bright light. Sadly, she left us soon.
Singer/Songwriter Stefan þór was not my taste at all. He knew how to play guitar for sure, but his songs were just kinda boring. There was nothing in the lrics that spoke to me at all, sorry. Luckily the next band, Rós was much better. I really loved them. Their songs, no matter if Icelandic or English brought all the colors back. The music was good and I felt a whole scale of emotions while listening to them. It was lovely.
After that I felt tired enough to sleep and happily went home. As usual i had an early flight to catch.
This year’s festival ended on a quiet note with post day Singer/Songwriters. It was a good way to come down a bit and get relaxed enough for going home and back to work. It was fun, see you next year.