Iceland Airwaves – Reykjavik; November 6th to 11th, 2018
Iceland Airwaves round four started out with me feeling that it had lost most of its charm. Since the organizers went bankrupt after last year and somebody new took over, there have been quite a few changes and it soon became clear that they were actually focussed on making money this time around. Therefore, international artists that played officially were not allowed to play off venue and it seemed like the Icelandic artists were limited to two shows. This resulted in much fewer off venue shows this year and being left with no concert to go to from time to time. Also there was no final concert and the whole festival had been shortened by one day which felt like nothing special at all despite them celebrating their 20th anniversary. As if that wasn’t enough to make it feel off, dslr cameras were banned from official venues for the first time. All this and many small things led to me claiming that everything that used to be cool about Airwaves was now gone and I was probably not going to come back next year.
Well, by the time the festival was over I’d been enjoying myself so much and had seen so many great concerts that I immediately booked accommodation and bought a super early bird ticket for 2019, because let’s be honest, nothing beats Airwaves in terms of variety, diversity and new discoveries you can make all in a short time and within a few kilometers. Not everything may be as cool or as fun as it used to be, but it is still a brilliant festival and despite my initial reservations I had a ton of fun. So I am raising my glass to this past Airwaves and all the ones to come. Here’s to you, I can’t wait to see you again!
6 days, 40 artists, 41 concerts, 17 venues, no idea how many pictures taken and I can’t check, because I have already sorted and edited half of them, 56 tweets, 114 817 steps (83 km) and 3,2 km of swimming according to my fitbit, lots of fun, happy tears and good times.
DAY ZERO (NOVEMBER 6TH)
Day zero of Iceland Airwaves was just a warm up to get into the mood and only led me to one venue, but I managed to see four artists and have lots of fun in the process. It was a nice start.
My Airwaves (and pretty much everyone else’s who arrived in Reykjavik that day) started at Dillon. Why? Because this years the off-venue shows have gone down to a trickle and there wasn’t much to choose from. Dillon was pretty much the only venue offering anything at all on Moday and Tuesday (honorable mentions to Vinyl, Kaffibarinn and Kex who offered an unofficial off-venue programme).
I did not quite make the first two acts, but got there just after 8 pm when Grúska Babúska had already started. It was packed and for a while I did not even make it up the stairs. eventually I was in the room and could hear them at last. I liked it. They played a nice mixture of instruments and somewhat poppy tunes. There was even dancing going on at the front. Slowly I got closer and got a look at the four women on stage with red clown cheeks being the first thing I noticed.Not sure how to really describe or categorize their music, but they sure were fun and did well on interacting with the audience and encouraging them to participate. They even gave out prices for most creative dancing, but I could not see what it was.
After this good start, a few people left and I made it closer to the stage. Saw Svavar, waved to him briefly and looked on to see what was gonna happen next. Shawn William Clarke from Canada was up (wait a minute, did I not hear no off venue for international artists this year? Maybe that only goes for those that play official shows?) Anyway, the singer/songwriter played some good tunes. I instantly liked his songs and remember he had some great lines. Sadly I cannot recall any of those now, just that I though “This is clever!”. His final song called for women to take over the world, because otherwise it might get destroyed. It brought a lot of cheers.
At the start of his set I had noticed Kyle in the audience and quickly said hello. Familiar faces everywhere. Now we were waiting for Pétur Ben and while I was getting a drink he unexpectedly started already – 10 minutes early. At my first Airwaves in 2014 I had seen him too, but not since. Big mistake! he was just great, playing a mixture of his own songs and cover versions from Frank Sinatra to Iggy Pop, rocking the house. It was so much fun watching him and he got everyone in the house to sing along too. I loved his performance, loved to see him take over the audience and asked myself why I’d not gone to see him again much earlier. This was my highlight of the night.
I’d expected it to get noticeably more crowded for Snorri Helgason, but it wasn’t the case – maybe everyone else felt as tired as I was. I chose to stay though, since I’d hear good things about him. He brought guests to play with him, two members of Valdimar at first. He started with some Icelandic tunes, very listenable with great guitar playing, then threw in some covers. It was nice so far, but I wasn’t totally convinced yet. Then he asked Mr. Silla on stage. From then on the music drifted into soul and it was amazing. They played a lot of covers together, switched to English and finally won me over. Many people were singing along by the end and they even got an encore. Yay! Thus, my first night ended on a high note and I went home happily.
It was a night of Singer/Songwriters with one exception and that is the type of music I know I will always enjoy. I did this time around too and it warmed me up for the days to come.
Day One (NOVEMBER 7TH)
I woke up just after 9, but was too lazy to get ready and make it to Grund for the festival opening with Sóley. Hoped I’d catch her later. At noon I was in line for my wristband and it seemed to take for ever. Judging by my watch it was about 5 minutes every time the line moved. As I got closer I noticed most of them had the tickets on their phone and that seemed to be difficult. Case in point: My stuff was printed and it took about a minute to get my wristband and T-Shirt. Sometimes being old school helps. 😉
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
Arrived at Kex around 1, a hour before Ólafur Arnalds started and it was already full. Got a nice spot about 4 rows back where I could see over the heads of shorter people. They were rehearsing so I took the opportunity to take pictures. It turned out to be a good plan, because not only did Ólafur ask us all to sit down and I could not see all that much after that, but we were asked to be really quiet because the whole thing was being recorded and I knew my camera would have been too loud for that. The performance was beautiful, fragile and tranquil. The first song drove me close to tears. Between songs, Ólafur talked a lot, introduced the second song as ‘Unfold’ and the last one, ‘Nyepi’ as being inspired by the way people celebrate New Year’s in Indonesia with a day of silence and not using electronics. He also told us about buxing self playing pianip because he had an accident and could not play any more. Thus he formed a techno band, where he only needed to press buttons. 😉 The entire set lasted only 25 minutes, but it still surprised me how people actually managed to be quiet. Well, except for the baby that chose the moment the concert began playing to start crying. 😉 She was quickly carried out by daddy. These moments make concerts special. 🙂
VENUE: PETERSEN SUITE
As this year’s Airwaves does not have all that much to offer when it comes to off venue shows, I had a break until 3:30 when it was time to see Julian Civilian at Petersen Suite. while the venue as such is quite nice, I found it extremely distracting that behind the stage was a huge TV screen on the wall, showing ‘Friends’ and they did not even bother to shut it off for the duration of the performance. Really? I guess we have to be happy that it was muted at least. Anyway, the band was OK and much into their music, but it did not speak to me much. I left halfway through their set. Therefore I had some free time to find food and move onwards well fed.
My next stop was Slippbarinn for Indirdi. The place was almost empty when I arrived and did not get much fuller. I liked the big stage, but wondered why there is rarely good light at off venue shows. So this ear, with DSLR cameras not allowed at official venues I will have crappy pictures from my good camera because there is virtually no light during many off venue shows or halfway decent pictures with my much slower and crappier compact camera. *sigh* 🙁 Anyway, back to the band. They were alright. Nothing to write home about, but entertaining enough for me to stay.
VENUE: 12 TÓNAR
Hurried onwards to 12 Tónar to see gróa. The three piece all girl rockband was one of my best discoveries last year. I accidentally saw half their set, because the played before someone I”d wanted to see. They are still in high school, but bloody good already. No wonder the venue was packed to the max even with everyone standing up. They played a great set, including some new songs, joked with each other and had as much fun as the audience. Even without understanding the language they spoke to me. I was happy to be there and enjoyed their performance.
Onwards to Slippbarinn because I had heard good things about Valdimar and wanted to check them out, especially after seeing two of the band members at Dillon the previois day. It was totally worth it. The place got crowded real soon and they were much fun! One memorable moment was Valdimar playing the trombone and then telling us that he was only going to play it this one time, but would hold on to it anyway. They played well and I soon understood why they are so popular. I guess it should be described as a brand of Pop music. I enjoyed it, I moved, I watched people dance and I smiled at S. who had recommended them. Yes, I like this! Took a short break after, had some food and rested a bit.
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
Despite having a VIP bracelet I showed up early to Gamla Bío. Not taking any chances this year. Kyle and his folks stood next to me so I was in good company. I vaguely remembered Kiriyama Family from my first Airwaves and was sure I would like them. I did, even better than I had expected. They were great! Good songs, good music nice variety. Glad I went there.
The band I had really come to see were Árstíðir of course. Highly anticipated the show, because they had promised a completely different set from last Airwaves. Well… it wasn’t exactly that, in fact they played pretty much the same songs they had played at their final show last year. It was good though, I love those songs. They greeted us briefly, saying we’d all be dead tired by Sunday and started right into ‘Mute’. Not having listened to Nivalis in a while, I needed a little to get into it and sing along, but then it all worked out nicely. 🙂 ‘Lover’ was next, followed by ‘Entangled’. I like both a lot, so I was smiling happily by this time. The sound, unfortunately, could have been better. During’ þar sem engin fer’ there were times I could not hear Daníel sing and the drums were a bit overpowering at times for most of the set. I like the live drums though, they are more interesting than just hearing them from the computer. 😉 The guys didn’t talk much, but told us to ask after the show what the one Icelandic song might mean. 😉 The went straight into ‘While this way’ after it and I loved watching them work. Especially seeing Hallgrímur on cello wasa treat, having him there made me really happy. 🙂 They ended with ‘Friðþægingin’ followed by ‘Shades’. Both songs are great, but for me they didn’t really work well back to back. Either one would have been fine to end the show with. It was a good set overall, just wish it could have been longer.
Þar sem enginn fer
While this way
I stayed for Hildur Vala and really liked her music. She had great stage presence too. It fit in well with Árstíðir and I could well imagine going to hear her again or hear more of her in the first place. Unfortunately, there was another band I really wanted to see, I could not stay for her full set though and after four songs I moved on.
VENUE: REYKJAVIK ART MUSEUM
My destination was The Reykjavik Art Museum for Rekjavikurdætur and I thought it would be a good idea to show up early as they usually get a full house. They did eventually, but I needn’t have hurried. It was great to make it close to the front though. They are one of my must-see bands at Airwaves as they always put on one hell of a show. This time they had an intro video where they showed each member of the band before they walked on stage. If I recall correctly they were twice as many people last year. The show was great as always, but it took me a little time to get into it. Soon I was moving with the music though. The crow was with it too and really went wild when they opened a few bottles of bubbly and fed it to the people at the front. For the next song they got everyone to sing along. In Icelandic! They also commanded the crowd to get down and croigh and the floor and then move back up. It was great fun! Totally what I needed.
Sadly that meant I could not see the full set of Var, but I rushed over to Húrra where I could at least hear the second half. They always rock and this was no exception. As usual during Airwaves there will always be some bands you just can’t see. It’s just the way it goes and I’m happy I managed to catch a glimpse of them at least. 🙂
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
Back to Gamla Bío it was where the house was full for Moses Hightower. Heard the last song, but have to admit I was not paying attention.
Una Stef was my reason to go there. Ever since my first Airwaves in 2014 she is on my list of people to see again. I love her soulful voice, I love her band and somehow her music always makes me happy. They were all in a great mood too, joking with each other. One funny thing I remember is Una telling us how she was nominated for singer of the year and her song forcsong of the year and how she was so proud. The she did not win, because the not singer of the year presented the not song of the year. It was her cool song too. The whole show was fun, easy going and danceable. They even showed us how to dance, being rather silly about it. I grooved with the music and enjoyed it very much. The perfect end to my first day at Airwaves.
They first official day of Airwaves had it’s ups and downs from old favorites to new discoveries and shows I loved to those I would not have minded missing. At the end of the day I had a good time and that’s all that counts.
DAY 2 (November 8th)
Day two brought mostly familiar bands at familiar venues, but I also tried some new stuff. Slowly, but surely I was getting into the festival and really enjoying myself. 🙂
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
The day started at Kex hostel again with Június Meyvant. Since the KEXP shows tend to be packed I got there about one hour before it started. Wise choice, I got a good spot. Had not seen him the past two Airwaves and was looking forward to it. He was just as good as I remembered and then some. Funny too! Since wr had already listened to his soundcheck, he started by saying “Thank you for coming, this was my last song!” I forgot the other funny bits, but laughed a lot in- between songs. At one point he randomly asked if there were any Keniane in the house and it turns out thre was one guy from Ethiopia. 🙂 It was a great set too. He played a bunch of new stuff from his upcoming album. it was totally worth coming for!
Until the Last Minute
Across the Borders
Lay Your Head
Let It Pass
Punch Through the Night
After that I was a bit indecisive of where to go and whom to see next. Finally I settled for Beebee and the Bluebirds at Dillon and was surprised at how empty it was, especially when they started playing. They were great. Blues Rock with power and drive. I had so much fun, swaying with the music and smiling the whole time.
Again I did not want to be late for my next must see concert and went to Slippbarinn early. I had not really planned on seeing VASI again, but liked her a lot better than I had back in August. She has a good voice and I like her songs, but they still don’t really speak to me. It was alright to pass the time though.
Next up were Árstíðir for their only off venue show this year. The place filled quickly, but it did not get as packed as I had expected. Anyway, I was were I wanted to be and looking forward to their set. They came without a drummer or violinist this time. In the beginning, Ragnar told us about the tour where they always told jokes from the jokebook they had with them, claiming to have forgotten all the jokes. A. next to me and I said in unison “We haven’t!” 😀 Like the previous day they started with ‘Mute’, but for ‘þar sem enginn fer’ they had technical difficulties, i.e. their laptop did not perform as it was supposed to. It started playing the backtrack, but it wasn’t quite correct, so they did not continue the song. While the equipment was acting up, Ragnar remembered a joke after all. 😉 Gunnar asked us if we wanted to knew ‘Ljoð í sand’. We did, thus they spontaneously changed the setlist and played the song. It was a big hit with the crowd. When it started, I looked at Kyle next to me, joking it was his turn to get on stage. He claimed to have forgotten all the lyrics, but then sang along anyway. The show continues nicely with ‘Entangled’ and I wasn’t missing the drums or the violin. The computer drums were a bit more in the background than the real ones, which didn’t hurt at all. I like it when I can hear the other instruments too. I loved the music, especially ‘While this way’ and the guys looked like they were enjoying it too. ‘Lover’ was great too and they ended again with ‘Friðþægingin’, but did not add ‘Shades’ this time. In the end, because they were one song short, they decided to play an a cappella song, ‘Bæn einstæðingsins’. It was beautiful! <3 So this short concert contained everything I love about them and left me very happy.
Þar sem enginn fer (start, then nothing)
Ljoð í sand
While this way
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
Back home for a bite to eat and to leave my camera and onwards to Gamla Bío for Mr. Silla. This seemed to be the year where I revisit artists I saw at my first Airwaves. Mr. Silla, now in full stage outfit was looking very different from what she had looked like when she’d shared the stage with Snorri Helgason on the first day. Watching her was fascinating, dancing across stage, alternating between guitar and keyboards. She started with her back to us, moving slowly, then turned and started singing. A guitar player joined her. I have no idea how to describe the music, but enjoyed her set very much. Atmospheric Pop tunes is the best I can come up with. Whatever it is, her voice is great and she’s an awesome performer. This night she was wearing a silvery outfit and told us she could not see because of the weird contact lenses she had. She’s so versatile and every airwaves she seems to pop up here and there to sing with other artists. It’s always fun and so was her own show. 🙂
I moved on to Gaukurinn to see gróa again because one concert clearly wasn’t enough. 😀 They killed it! The first show I saw was good, but this one blew me off of my feet. I really needed some rocking that night and they rocked hard. There are too few all girls rock bands and finding one as good as this one make me so very happy. They are so young still and amazing already. It a fun gig and a funny one. At one point the bassist announced they were going to play a really old song only to be corrected by the singer that they were going to do a new one in fact and all of them laughing. They interact well with each other and they sure got the audience going. Their gig gave me a chance to let go and rock out. Loved it!
On my way to the bathroom I ran into Baldvin who had played at Gaukurinn with his band Vicky earlier. Geez, I can never keep track of all the many bands everyone plays in. 😉 I told him I’d see him for sure with different Turns on Saturday.
Next up were Hórmónar. I’d never seen them before, but always heard good things so I decided to give them a try. Holy shit, they were awesome. Punk rock at its best. Powerful, engaging, just a force of nature. Also quite young still and mostly women. What an impressive band they are! When they announced a song about PMS they added “This is a feminist band in case you didn’t know!”. YAY! They also involved the audience, telling all of us we could join their cult and the singer went into the crowd kissing guys on the foreheads. 🙂 I had so much fun watching them and despite not understanding the words, the music translated well and I felt them. Strangely a sudden sadness overcame me somewhere through their set and I was close to tears for a while, but just being there and rocking out with them made it all better. I left with a huge happy grin on my face, swearing I would try to see them again. It didn’t happen this Airwaves, but they are on my list of bands to remember!
VENUE: BRYGGJAN’S BRUGGHÚS
Not sure what to do now I opted for something completely different and went to Bryggjans Brugghus to see AmabAdamA. I remembered seeing or rather hearing one of two of their songs in passing at my first Airwaves and always wanting to check them out. Dancing to their Reggae tunes was the prefect cure for any sad feelings. They made us get down on the floor in a crouch and jump up again, they asked us to sing and dance and I gladly followed suit. It was funny too. Salka introduced the others and said Steinunn was her favorite person in the world. Gnúsi added mine too and Salka quipped “They are together. I only stand between them so they don’t make out all night.” 😀 Some fans from Faroe Islands at the front especially had a lot of fun, but so did everyone. I swayed with the music, watched everyone else dance as well and let the sunny music take over and put me in a sunny mood. 🙂
Afterwards I went back to Gaukurinn to ckeck out Descartes a Kant. The description sounded intriguing and I was looking forward to the show. It started out really well with a sort of countdown that asked us if we were ready for them. I don’t know what I expected really, but the mixing cabaret elements with music can’t be a bad thing. However, during their first song I realized that this wasn’t working for me at that moment so I left. As I squeezed out, L. and L. were squeezing in, but it was too loud to even say hello.
On the way home I felt hungry, so I decided to have a hot dog at Baejarins Beztu Pylsur where some nice Norwegian Airwaves visitors struck up a conversation. Soon we were complaining about all the cool thing missing this year and the guy concluded that their worst mistake was not booking FM Belfast. I agree, as I had been looking forward to seeing them again. It turned out meeting these people was the best coincidence ever, because they had heard of an FM Belfast post Airwaves show at Kaffibarinn on Sunday. That made my night!
The second official day of Airwaves was a good one, that I thoroughly enjoyedl, even though I did complain a bit here and there. I saw some great bands and great shows and even discovered a new favorite.
DAY 3 (November 9th)
The festival was in full swing by now and I was in a zone between venues and artists. Still there were new bands to discover and familiar bands to see and this day was looking especially interesting right from the start.
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
By the third day I had developed a routine of getting up, going for a late morning swim and starting the day at Kex hostel. This time it was supposed to be Nadine Shah whom I had not bothered to see the previous night, because she had this concert too. Or so I though! Had some interesting conversations with other Airwaves goers, some of them true veterans compared to me, who said this felt more like the old days when you had to find out about off venue shows on your own. I also learned a few other interesting things and eventually realized that I was not going to see Nadine Shah, but Team Dreams. It was perfect for me though, because I knew I would not have a chance to attend their other show. They were even better than I could have possibly imagined. Having seen both Sóley and Sin Fang on their own I had a vague idea what to expect, but these two together with Örvar Smárason was a completely different story. They were so so good. I loved their interactions and I loved their stories too. Sóley told us how they had talked her into joining them for recording one song every months and making an album after a year and soon they all learned that this was a lot more stress than they had imagined. For the song ‘Tennis’ Sin Fang told us about recording tennis ball sounds and having a tennis competition to find the drummer. Say what? It all sounded cool though. What a great start to the day!
VENUE: HITT HÚSIÐ
Again I didn’t really have any plans for the next hour or so. There were some options, but nobody I absolutely wanted to see. In the end I opted for Ljósfari at Hitt Husið. It was the right decision. They were pure fun. All Icelandic rock music. Not too hard, not too soft, just right. Very listenable and for some people the tight music to dance to as they proved right then and there. Just the right music for the moment.
VENUE: KEX HOSTEL
Back to Kex for Teitur Magnússon the usual hour in advance that prove too early this time. So i could have seen someone else in-between. Oh well, it was too late then and I was rewarded with a great spot. To my surprise Hálfdan was not playing with him this time around, but he had a great band either way. I can’t remember everyone who was there, but I’d seen at least half of them play with other bands before. Together they created some musical magic that made everyone in the room smile, played some fun tunes to dance to and conducted an audience sing-along. For the third time this week I saw Mr. Silla on stage, yet again looking a bit different. She joined Teitur for a few songs. I had a blast. Even though I have no idea what he sings about his songs sound so happy go lucky they always make me feel good. 🙂
VENUE: NATIONAL THEATER
So much for the day’s programme. Once again I did not trust my VIP bracelet to get me in after the venue opened so I took a little break and got to the National Theater early to make sure to be inside for Eivør. I needn’t have worried, people who arrived much later got in as well. The good thing was that I was almost the first person inside and got to choose my pot. Opposed to my usual habit I chose the fifth row over the first as the front row was lower than the stage and from row five I just needed to look straight. It was perfect! Eivør was brilliant. Great voice, great sound, great show. She drew me in and I am sure the same thing happened with everyone else in the room. I could not take my eyes off of her. Her energy was palpable and she took all of us along for the ride. We rolled with it and when she asked us to sing along something unpronounceable we sure gave it a try. What an amazing show! I heard several people refer to her as Queen Eivør and didn’t understand why. Now I know.
The band I’d absolutely hadn’t wanted to miss though was Sólstafir. I’ve sure come a long way from thinking they were cool, but not really my thing to actually liking them. I blame my friend Ragnar – first I went to see him play keyboards with them, then I started to enjoy their music too. 😉 Their show brought down the house. The band played their hearts out and this time they even had a violin. It was absolutely amazing to see and hear them. Of course the sound was great for everyone who played there so that made it extra good. Addi mostly spoke Icelandic, even though people asked him to speak English, but still managed to get us to scream on his count. He dedicated ‘Goddess of the Ages’ to all the women in the house, took a stroll up the stairs to the back of the theater and came back walking across seatbacks. He sat down somewhere, looking at the women beside him, giving one of them his hat and posed for selfie. Meanwhile on stage, everyone rocked as hard as they coud and Ragnar took the Hammond for a walk. It was a brilliant show that left me with a big smile on my face.
Goddess of the Ages
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
Happily I rushed out and walked onwards towards Gamla Bío which luckily is nearby. On the way I talked to a guy who had also seen them and handed me a guitar pick he had gotten from Addi after confirming I liked the band. Yay! 😀
I arrived just a little late for Mammút and the house was already packed, but I found a spot with a view upstairs by the side of the stage. I could not see everyone from there but I could see enough. Their show was just as energetic as always and while I found it a bit difficult to switch from the previous high to a new band, I loved seeing them again. The crowd was going wild and the singer easily commanded the room, commenting how great it was to see so many familiar faces. It was the right decision to go and see them. 🙂
Next up were Agent Fresco, the band I had really come for. I don’t have words to describe the madness of their show. It was perfection on so many levels and yes, this show brought down this house! People were dancing, going nuts, loving it. Arnor Dan was constantly moving back and forth across the stage and the photographers in front moved with him, trying had to capture his energy. I had the perfect view from upstairs by now and was lucky enough to have a nice guy next to me who refilled my water during the show. I just could not take my eyes off of the stage with Vignir and Þórarinn giving us all and Keli drumming like crazy with his hair flying all over the place. They played a few new songs for us too. I’ve seen them live before, but this show at Airwaves was something special, because everyone in the crowd was into it and there were so many more people than at the other gigs I have seen. In the end Arnor went into he crowd, hugged people and shook hands with them, while everyone around him was dancing and a photographer moved backwards in front of him, trying to capture the moment. Great, just great! Had a nice chat with a woman I met there, L., after the show was over.
I was thinking about seeing Ólafur Arnalds at the National Theater at midnight, but I did not want it bad enough to go back there right away. I had two other artists to see on my list and could not really decide for either one. Since they played 20 minutes apart from each other I first stopped by Gaukurinn to get a taste of Nanook. It was good,but not the right thing for me at that moment so I left.
VENUE: HARD ROCK CAFE
Swedish Singer/Songwriter Plàsi at Hard Rock Cafe had been the other option and I got there before he even started. It was much more to my liking. Soft, lovely songs with nice lyrics. He reminded me very much of Milow. It was juts the right thing to listen to after all that rocking before. Stupidly I left early to try for the National Theater, but depite being first in line it was hopeless.
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
With time to kill I moved back to Gamla Bío, thinking I should give Hatari a try as everyone seems to be raving about them. I am sure they put on a great show, but they also sound very much like Rammstein and I really do not like that band. Long story short: They were running late and I decided to leave.
VENUE: HARPA FLÓI
Onwards to Harpa where this year the concerts were only out in the big hall downstairs. I was already exhausted and there was a lot of time to kill so I sat down on the floor in the back. Big mistake! By the time I got up the place had filled up and instead of being close to the front I was about 20 rows back. Aurora was the last show of the night for me. She was all sorts of wonderful and immediately drew me in. I loved the lights, I loved her beautiful voice and I loved the things she said. It was the perfect ending to a great day – the best one so far. This festival was shaping up to something great after all.
Day three of the official festival fully restored my faith and reminded me of everything I love about Airwaves. I had a brilliant time all day and made just the right choices for bands to see. This was exactly how Airwaves is supposed to be.
Day 4 (November 10th)
The final day was Svavar Knútur day somehow, mixed with some of the gigs I had been looking most forward to. I already knew it was going to be a great day before it started and I was right. 🙂
VENUE: LUCKY RECORDS
And on the fourth day… I finally saw Svavar Knútur. He had only announced one show when airwaves started, but posted about two more later. This first one took place at Lucky Records and he told us how he’d forgotten to apply, but they called and asked if he wanted to play. 🙂 He mentioned we were “pinkish-brown” and according to that he needed to start with ‘Lady Winter’. Despite everyone telling him it is not a single, it is loved by many and I am one of them. That day it unexpectedly drove me close to tears. It’s all good though, the Svavar shows where he makes me cry are the best ones. Afterwards he made us laugh with his story about lying to Canadians and how they believe you when you don’t add “I’m kidding”. 😉 When everyone laughed at his explanation about break-ups getting easier before ‘Ölduslóð’ he noted that he was not a stand up comic and this his reaction to anxiety. We also learned that he feels like the last punk, who does not try to be cool and just sings stories from his heart. I approve and judging by the cheers, so did the rest of the audience. He finished the show with ‘the Hurting’ and I was already happy that I’d see him again a little later in the day.
Next up was Febrúar at Ský Bar. It is located at the top of one of the hotels near Harpa and thus offers a beautiful view of the sea and the mountains. This was the backdrop for the concert, since the stage was right in front of it. Febrúar and her band played beautiful Pop tunes that fit right in with the background and joked they might be turning towards the windows eventually to take in the view. I enjoyed her set a lot.
Onwards to Aurora to see Svavar Knútur again. On the way I went by Slippbarinn, where Hórmónar just started. Would have loved to see them again too so I watched though the window for a short while. Wow, it looked really good. L. passed me by and we walked the rest of the way together. When we arrived I was happy to find out that Svavar would play in the Aurora room in front of the Northern Lights projection so we sat in the dark and watched the lights dance across his face. It felt very fitting.
The show was completely different from the first one that day and started with “a song about flawed personality” dedicated to the crew of guys that always sees each of his shows when he play Airwaves. I was in tears almost instantly. ‘Emotional Anorexic’ does that to me most of the time and I felt comfortable crying in the dark. Svavar said he liked the venue because it was a completely acoustic gig and it felt nice being “musically naked”. Talking about mornings led him to try out rooster sounds. 😀 He also talked about sharing pain in music and how he gets other people’s pain back in return, making him feel like a “comfort hobbit”. ‘Wanderlust’ brought us a nice sing along, so we could feel together instead of divided. 🙂 Svavar shared so many funny stories at this gig. This time he spoke about his son and taking him along to a concert at a community center. 😀 At the end he mentioned about his love for ABBA and played ‘When all is said and done’ for us. Unexpectedly, this was the second time I cried. Right then and there the song touched me deeply. We even managed to get an encore out of him. It was Cole Porter’s ‘You do something to me’. It ended the show on a high note and I left smiling.
When all is said and done
You do something to me
That was everything I saw off venue that day, because again I wanted to be sure I would get to the front at the first officisl show. When I arrived at Gaukurinn the bartiers were not even set up, but Baldvin was outside smoking and told me I could walk right in. So I did, said hello to Hálfdán, ordered a cider and briefly talked with Ragnar. I was do curious to see different Turns live. The only one of his bands apart from Árstíðir I finally got a chance to see and I was not going to miss this opportunity like I did with Momentum in 2014. I love their current album and really wanted to know what they would sound like live.
I had to wait a little longer, but didn’t mind at all and then I saw them rock the place. Gaddi and Ragnar were alternating in singing the lead and the band sounded great too. I love their current album, but they were even better live. They played songs from the first album as well and I immediately decided that I needed to check that one out too. Occasionally they announced the songs and noting that ‘Do you want coffee?’ is about Tinder lead to a few jokes on who can be found on Tinder later on. Sure, I had the typical feeling of “I bet the sound is better by the mixing desk”, but it did not matter at all. Everything about this gig was new and fresh and exciting. I loved it with all of my heart. It was so much fun watching them and I enjoyed to see yet another one of Ragnar’s stage personalities emerge. When the show was over I felt high. 😀
Fix the glare
Tame your Lover
I was tricked
Do you want Coffee?
The venue filled considerably more for The Anatomy of Frank‘s final show at Airwaves. After years of participating in the off venue circus, trying to outdo themselves with more shows every year and gaining more fans in the process, their hard work had been honored and the band had finally been accepted to the official shows. Since they are an international band, the can never take part in official airwaves again now.
Their final show was absolutely everything I vould have hoped for. They pulled out all stops and rocked ad if there was no tomorrow. They even brought Julius of VAR on stage to help them out on guitar for ‘Svalbard’. Of course they could not play all the songs we might have wanted to hear. In that case the concert would have lasted for hours. They did play a good selection though of newer songs and old favorites. The audience hung on to their every note and despite technical difficulties with the keyboards the show could not have been any better. Their final song was ‘Vancouver’ and it could not have been anything else. Kyle went all rockstar and ripped off his T- Shirt. The whole band fully went into the song and they did not even have to teach us the sing along. We all knew what to do. Kyle’s proud mom was watching with a big smile on her face. There was a lot of love in the room and it felt like a well deserved finale. 😀
Photographs of Inuvik in January (Intro)
Diagonal North America
Girl from Ipanema
VENUE: BRYGGJAN’S BRUGGHÚS
Ready to go I met A. We talked, hugged Kyle on the way out and talked some more until going our separate ways. I went straight to Bryggjan. No experiments, I wanted to be sure to be front for Árstíðir and I had the artists before them on my list anyway. It was Matthildur I’d like her songs on Spotify. She had a good voice, very soulful and her tunes were nice. It was alright, not more, not less.
My last show that night was Árstíðir‘s final Airwaves show of the year, but I didn’t know that then. I had planned to go see more afterwards. There were a lot fewer people than I had expected, but those who didn’t come missed a good concert. The guys played a fun show. With full strings, i.e. cello and violin again, but without real life drums – they had a computer for that. They went right into ‘Mute’, without warning or introduction and on the last note someone from the audience yelled something I could not quite detect. Gunnar commented that it was not their first time the computer acted up at this festival so they should probably learn not to trust it. “It sounded good though!” came the reply and they moved on with ‘Entangled’ and it was beautiful. Ragnar explained that it was actually about quantum entanglement as a metaphor for love and let Kyle confirm that it made sense.
‘Himinhvel’ came as a nice surprise for me. 🙂 The played ‘Ljoð í sand’ and dedicated it to Erin, their manager. It sounded lovely and again was a big hit with the crowd. I sometime wish they’d love the new songs just as much. Ragnar talked about similarities between people living on islands, specifically between Faroe Islands and Iceland, because Sakaris, the producer of their new album is Faroese. ‘Þar sem enginn fer’ was great too. Before ‘While this way’ they asked if we’d seen the video, joking that Daníel did the only stunt, climbing uphill. 😉 Afterwards Daníel asked us if we could hear drum in the room and we assured him that yes, we did. That is the disadvantage of having in-ear monitors I guess. 😉 Sounds and lights were good though and stayed that way until the end.
‘Lover’ is a song I always enjoy and even the combination of ‘Friðþægingin’ and ‘Shades’ worked better than the first time around. It was their longest concert of the festival, but still too short of course. 😉 I absolutely loved it and sang along to everything I could sing along to, even gave the Icelandic songs a try. 😀 It was an enjoyable last gig.
They even had handwritten setlists for once and I grabbed one as soon as it was over. The guys next to me wanted one too, so he asked. We chatted a little before he rushed off to the next gig. I waited, not really feeling like going elsewhere. Eventually I left and opted for going home. I was beat and it was a good show to end Airwaves with.
Ljoð í sand
Þar sem enginn fer
While this way
The last official day of Iceland Airwaves ended earlier than I had expected, but it was so full of beautiful music that it felt absolutely right. This was the festival I had come for and the one I already knew I’d come back to.
After Airwaves is before airwaves and the next morning, when they announced super early bird tickets for next year and I realized it was going to happen the week after the Nordic Film Days again, I instantly bought one. So much for last Airwaves.
Considering it was officially over, there were a surprising number of concerts going on on Sunday. Hórmónar were playing at Gaukurinn in the evening and I thought I was going to see them again, because at first they were announced at 8, Then it was moved to 9 though and they were playing with three other bands so they would be the last ones up. Since I had my mind set on seeing FM Belfast at Kaffibarinn at 10:30 and that night started at 6:30 I decided to just go there all evening.
The day started at Dillon though with one more Svavar Knútur gig. When I arrived only his crew of Airwaves followers was there, but more people dropped in eventually. My best guess is we were around 25 for the show. Dillon is such a nice venue and has great staff too. They even made a tea for me.
Svavar spontaneously began playing The Ink Spots’ ‘Into each life some rain must fall’. When it ended he told us it was enough for soundcheck and started the concert proper by greeting us all. If we were wondering about his choice of beverage he assured us he had not stopped drinking beer, just had had enough of it on tour. 😉 He told us he wanted to do more covers for us and did ‘Hjá lygnri móðu’ by Jón Ásgeirsson, explaining the story to us first. It’s about a boy meeting a girl by a river and how he will always remember her. I’d never heard him play this one before and it sounded beautiful. 🙂
‘Clementine’ was next, followed by ‘Spor’ which he played so we, the people who had seen the other two shows, would not hear the same songs again. I loved this song and the message it carries that it is OK to fuck up and everything will be OK eventually. Everyone listened intently to ‘While the World burns’ – it was surprisingly quiet in the room – it was a huge contrast to the first one at Lucky Records which had a lot of background noise. Clearly, everyone enjoyed this gig very much and so did Svavar. He made some jokes about his liver not being able to deal with all the beer. That led to a monologue about Icelandic emotions and how they do not show them. 😀 He introduced ‘Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir’ as “a song about sex on a mountain” and added a warning about not trying this in November. We got a nice sing-along too. After ‘Morgunn’ he asked how much time he had left, the barkeeper answered “another 20 minutes if you like”. Thus we got another funny story, the most embarrassing of his career as he claimed, so it shall not be repeated here. 😉 ‘Undir birkitré’ followed and brought another sing-along. And while we were at it, we continued for ‘Wanderlust’. 🙂 It all ended with the story about why he never play official Airwaves shows and a powerful rendition of ‘The Hurting’.
This gig clocked in at 50 minutes total and I loved every second about it. His longest at Airwaves. Afterwards I said goodbye and hugged him before he left. Had some fun when Kyle called and Svavar made jokes about his name.
Into each life some rain must fall
Hjá lygnri móðu
While the World burns
Yfir hóla og yfir hæðir
I grabbed some food on the way and went straight to Kaffibarinn. The place is tiny and I expected people to show up early for the FM Belfast gig. I needn’t have worried, it was still pretty empty and stayed that way for the next two hours. Oh well, I was there and I was not going to leave any more. Had some cider, found a seat, chatted with the woman next to me and listened to the first three performers as background music. Áslaug didn’t really speak to me, but MSEA was more interesting. One thing I remember is her asking if we had a sex self and then specifying “I am not talking about a sex elf”. Made me laugh. Haldór Eldjárn played very chill music. Worked for me.
After he was done, I left my jacket on my chair and decided to get up. Was second row n front of the stage and immediately knew it was staying there or ending up at the back, because suddenly the small bar filled up. Post Performance Blues Band started playing and I totally loved them. It was a mix of theater and music performance, that is the only way I can describe it. It involved costumes, acrobatics and drinking shots. I have no idea how to describe their music either, but the show was awesome fun!
After they were done, a few people left and suddenly I found myself front row while FM Belfast set up their stage. Holy shit! I did not remember much about their music, but I do remember that last time I had seen them at Airwaves two years before the entire venue turned into one big party and I was very much looking forward to that! Ending up front row was totally worth all the waiting and soon the bar was so packed nobody could get in any more. This was going to be good.
As soon as they started the whole place went nuts, screaming and singing along, jumping when they did (at least those of us who had room to jump): Örvar looked at the mayhem and asked the people on and especially under the stairs if they were doing OK. They were. Loa was throwing streamers and handing out wreaths, of which I got one and they live streamed the show on the internet. I don’t know any of their lyrics and did not remember songs, but I just let the groove take me over and rolled with it. Dancing, jumping, sweating, screaming and feeling super-happy.
They made us get down to the floor in a crouch and jump up again, they made us dance and I am sure they made every last person at Kaffibarinn feel high – I know I did.
While they were performing inside, more and more people gathered outside, looking in through the window. Eventually Ívar opened the door and asked how they were doing, then place a speaker on the stairs so they could hear better. At one point said speaker was even on somebody’s head, supported with a towel. Loa handed wreaths out to the people outside. They were partying and dancing in the street and at the high point of the show Ívar went crowdsurfing outside. It was brilliant. They said they were gonna send us to sleep and made us all hush and get down to the floor only to get up and go wild again moments after. It was hands down the best party in town and the best gig all week (and the week was not short of great gigs to begin with). I never wanted it to stop and when it did I was so elated I almost danced home. What a great night! Small wonder I could absolutely not sleep after this.
The final day in Reykjavik, that was actually a day post Airwaves was one of the best, that brought so much fun. Especially the FM Belfast gig felt very special. And so it ends! See you next year.