By day three routine had set in: wake up, find out that I had missed breakfast, check previous night’s pictures, plan schedule for the day ahead and find food on the way to or at the first venue of the day. It was the day of the grayest weather, the darkest official venue, the best atmosphere so far and the longest night for me. Finally back at my hotel, I had learned that even the best camera has its limits and renewed my faith that pretty much any genre of music can be interesting when heard live.
On the third day I grooved to Electronic beats by Kajak and 80ish Electro Pop by Berndsen, enjoyed Singer/Songwriters Greta Svavo Bech, Lindy Vopnfjörð and Pétur Ben,
still loved The Anatomy Of Frank and got to hear Klassart again. Also on the menu was fun Alternative Rock with Rökkuró, more Eletronic Pop by Kiriyama Family and François Pernel playing harp.
VENUE: IÐA ZIMSEN
The first stop of the day was a café and bookstore where The Anatomy of Frank played in front of the shelves. Since the beginning of the festival, they had already gained a following and rumor has it the same happened the previous year. With this in mind, the band announced they were going to play at least one different song at each gig so people would not hear the same over and over again. Everyone but singer Kyle was playing multiple instruments and he turned out to be a great storyteller. Letting us know how they had planned to record one album on each continent and sharing stories about family and friends. They brought such positive vibes that everyone in the audience was smiling throughout the concert. With each song, people got more involved, and when they brought a friend on stage to sing with them, the cheers grew even bigger. For the last song of their set, Kyle divided the audience into two groups and taught us (just with gestures!) which parts we had to sing. Nobody refused and the sing-along made for a grand finale. I was amazed how happy the beautiful and somewhat folkish songs made me feel. Maybe there was a chance for another taste of it later on.
Wait what? A concert at EU Info center? With sandwiches, cake and beverages? Why of course! I’m willing to bet Airwaves has seen stranger things. I arrived in the middle of French musician François Pernel’s set. He played somewhat mystical songs on his harp, ranging from folkish elements to experimental sounds. It wasn’t the type of music I would usually listen to, but I was quite taken by his skillful playing and enjoyed what I heard.
Singer/Songwriter Petúr Ben was next. He played a good mix of his own songs and cover versions. His music was straightforward and honest, no frills, just a man and his guitar. It was typical Singer/Songwriter Pop/Rock music, just the way I like it.
VENUE: THE LAUNDROMAT CAFÉ
With a spot by the bar across from stage I was ready to see Rökkuró at The Laundromat Café. However, I had not expected to find myself in the middle of the action when the bass player decided he had to play on the bar. OK, cool, I liked being close and it made for some interesting pictures. The music? It was awesome! Beautiful contemporary Indie Rock with the power to draw people in. Their songs had a wonderful variety, some rocking out, others rather soft. They were clearly enjoying their time on stage, took the audience over by storm and left me wanting more.
The evening started at Fredriksen again with Faroese singer Greta Svavo Bech who played many “really depressing songs”, according to her announcement. She was on stage alone with just her guitar, an electric piano and a keyboard, but when her strong voice filled the air, it became clear that she didn’t need any support. It’s difficult to pinpoint her musical style, since she used elements from many genres. A bit of Pop here, a bit of Electro there, some Classical influences and other sounds that defy or at least expand the Singer/Songwriter categorization. With the diverse music she created on her own, I could not help but wonder how she would sound like being supported by a band or even an orchestra. It must be interesting to check out some of the collaborative work she has done. Either way, I enjoyed her set very much.
Lindy Vopnfjörð may have a very Icelandic name, but he is actually Canadian. He entertained us with his stories and his guitar, singing songs about love and life and daily events. Some of his songs I loved, others I did not care for, but overall it was fun. He proved a great sense of humor, joking how he’d be surprised if anyone wanted to talk to him after the gig. He even paid heed to his roots by incorporating an Icelandic song into an English one about his grandfather and getting the audience to sing along. It was fun!
Across the road, long lines were waiting outside Húrra in the cold, and inside it was so packed that it got incredibly warm in no time. I had arrived just in time for Electronic duo Kajak, getting much more than I had expected or even hoped for. Not only did I find their songs very listenable, but they immediately made me want to dance and soon I found myself swaying to the beat. Many others did the same, some really dancing ecstatically. While they played they projected landscapes on the screen at the back of the stage and created surprising soundscapes in front of it. The drums and tribal sounds in their music spoke to me wordlessly and held my attention. It was fun to watch them interact with their fans too. One of them was handed a drumstick and got to beat the drum together with Kajak. What a great gig!
One of the more well known artists of the festival was Berndsen, reinventing and recreating 80ies Pop music with Electronic elements reminiscent of OMD or Ultravox, to name a few. Attending this gig was pure joy and absolutely worth watching. Not only the audience, but also the band on stage was moving and dancing to the beat. David Berndsen was not afraid to get close and soon commented “Did I scare some of you? Don’t worry, it’s gonna get much worse!” It was hilarious and awesome at the same time, music to get lost in and forget anything bad in one’s life. After a furious finale they came back for one encore. A roadie helped Berndsen out of his T-Shirt and he took a bath in the crowd for “Gimme Gimme”. I left with a happy smile on my face.
After some aimless running around and sampling a few bands at Harpa, I decided I’d had enough Electro Pop for now and instead of seeing FM Belfast, I opted to revisit Klassart and see their full lineup. It was the right decision for me. The multiple instruments added several layers to their sound and I loved hearing all of those. In the end, I could not decide if I’d liked the full line up or the duo better. Each performance was wonderful in its own right.
Electronic Pop band Kiriyama Family were the last ones I saw and even though I liked their music, I felt too worn out to really enjoy it. The long day was taken its toll and the partly drunk audience was pushing a bit too much for my liking. Thus, the band failed to make much of an impression on me, even though I am sure they were good. Maybe I’ll give them another try, but right then and there it was time to call it a night.
The day left me tired to the bone, but very happy with my choices. I had seen a few bands I never expected to enjoy as much as I did and revisited two that I had really liked. It was the perfect mix of music and deserves 8.5 reindeers for the fun alone.
More photos of all bands in the gallery, link in top section!
DAY FOUR (NOVEMBER 8th)
After a good night’s sleep and one look outside the world seemed much brighter than the previous night. With the sun coming out, it had turned to temperatures below freezing, but everything looked shiny and new. It would have been the perfect day for some touristic activities, but having been to Iceland before I had no reservations about skipping those and seeing more bands instead. The night ended earlier than planned, and by this time I had learned that not everyone’s music recommendations are right for me, but a full house is a good indication of a band that puts on memorable shows.
On the fourth day, I was blown away by the passion and fun that Mammút and Future Islands brought to the stage, wondered why so few had come to hear the lovely music of Íkorni, enjoyed Electro Pop band Moving Houses, clearly left Slippbarin too early after Vio and revisited The Anatomy of Frank yet again. Long lines at off-venues kept me from seeing more.
VENUE: HITT HÚSIÐ
The venue was located in the same building as the post office and on my way there I already heard the bands playing inside from the speakers out front. By the time I got in, it had ended though, and I could get comfortable waiting for the only German band I saw at the festival: Moving Houses. The duo played fine Pop music with Electro influence on keyboards, guitar and cello. Not only did I like their music and voices in general, but the cello really did it for me. Instruments beyond the standard guitar, bass, drums and keys always make me happy. Their music was very listenable and provided a good start to the day. Despite being highly recommended, Toneron, up next, did not speak to me at all and I left before their set ended.
VENUE: IÐA LÆkJARGATA
Another day, another store, and it was time to get lost in the music of The Anatomy of Frank once more. They excused their “drummer” (read: guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist), who was absent after having “a bit of a rough night“, and were just as entertaining without him. The audience was smaller this time, standing around the guys playing right by the door, behind the store’s main window. Quite a few customers walked in during their gig, some stayed and a few even watched from the sidewalk outside. Either way, the music immediately made me forget the surroundings and I started dreaming to their beautiful melodies. The band’s interaction with the audience felt natural and their brief “commercial break” to advertise their album and shirt for sale was hilarious. These guys are just so likeable they are hard to resist and they know how to make good music to boot.
Thus, it didn’t surprise me at all that several people, myself included, walked with them to the Hitt Húsið for their next gig. The second concert included one song I had not heard before and just as much fun as the first. The atmosphere was a bit different, a little more serious perhaps, as the venue was better suited for a concert. Yet, no matter where The Anatomy Of Frank play, they always draw people in. Here too, the audience was smiling and singing along in the end. I sure hope I’ll get to see them again one day.
After a brisk walk to the marina I arrived at the bar in time for the afternoon concerts. Alternative Rock band Vio had been a late addition to my list after checking out a few of their songs in the morning. It was a relaxed concert with many people sitting down in front oft he stage and others just standing by the bar, listening, but not watching the band. Singer Magnús’ smooth voice is just a little bit rough on the edges and carries the songs well, and the other musicians in the band are just as good. It’s no surprised they won the Icelandic battle of bands only weeks after their formation. Their concert was quite enjoyable, I would have liked to hear more.
Leaving the bar after their set was a mistake – the lines at The Laundromat Café were too long to get in for Sin Fang, and returning to the bar for Agent Fresco didn’t work out either, because here, too, a huge line had formed in the meantime.
The old theater right by the pond (on Vonarstræti no less) was very empty when I arrived and had around 30 guests when Íkorni started playing. Their music deserved a much bigger audience though, and in a much later conversation I agreed with others that one day we may proudly claim to have been there when they played in front of so few. Their music was an interesting mixture of many different styles and instruments, building layers of rich texture. Classical with strings and a flute, Pop with guitar, bass and drums all paired with beautiful voices shared by two singers. The songs ranged from soft ballads, some almost kitsch, via country-ish melodies to slightly jazzy tunes, mostly in Icelandic. All in all I loved the variety of it all and alternated between watching the band having „a heap of fun here“ and happy fans dancing in front oft the stage. This was good stuff to start the night with.
VENUE: REYKJAVIK ART MUSEUM
It continued at the largest venue I so far, which was already packed when I arrived to hear the last few notes of Introbeats. Mammút were one of the few bands on my list long before the festival started, and while I cannot remember how they ended up on my radar, all the positive things I heard about them during the first three days only confirmed that they were a band that should not be missed. Of course with so much praise in advance there is always the danger of the band not living up to their reputation, but not in this case. They delivered above and beyond my expectations, putting on a rocking show that absolutely made my night. I loved the singing, the playing, their sound, the lights and the overall performance.
The band put so much energy and passion into their show that it was impossible not to be moved by it. Their sound drew from everything good in contemporary rock music, mixing it into a new and very recognizable blend. Together they crafted intricate yet catchy melodies that made you want to listen again and again. Mammút’s incredible energy and pure enjoyment of playing was contagious. The audience was moving, dancing and head-banging to the beat, elated smiles on their faces. The band was my highlight of the night!
The fun continued with Future Islands, who made people dance even in the photo pit. With a rough idea of the US band’s Pop sound, but no clue what I was in for, staying at the venue was a choice of convenience rather than a conscious decision to see this band. The reward was an energetic performance with frontman Samuel T. Herring wildly moving and dancing across stage so much it encouraged everyone in the room to move with him. By contrast, bassist William Cashion stood almost motionless on the right side of the stage, quietly playing his instrument. Admittedly, I was so focused on watching that the lyrics completely escaped my attention. The music was interesting though and most of all danceable and that was enough right then and there. Their show was quite hypnotic, lots of fun and left me feeling content.
After the natural high these two artists provided me with, I was indecisive on what to do next. Harpa was calling with bands I wanted to check out, but somehow what I’d seen and heard felt like enough so I called it a night and caught up on some much needed sleep.
Happiness was the overwhelming feeling that day, and gratitude for having the chance to be there. It does not happen so often that I get to see so many engaging, fun and simply good musicians in such a short amount of time and even though by day four it had become clear that for every great band seen I have missed five great performances elsewhere, regrets had no place in my heart. Airwaves is not about the people you miss, but about those that move you, amaze you and make you happy in the here and now. The beauty of it all lies in the fact that with such a high quality of artists to begin with, there is no wrong choice to make. Whoever you see, even if it is a genre you usually don’t listen to, will have the power to entertain you if you’re willing to keep an open mind. And if you come across something that doesn’t work for you, there are more than enough alternatives within walking distance. Again, 8,5 reindeers for the fun and the magic of that day.
More photos of all bands in the gallery, link in top section!