My second day of Airwaves was the day I had least planned out. On my airplane ride over, I had little else to do but use the super handy Airwaves app to figure out which off-venue shows to see (best festival app I have ever seen, by the way), and how I could see as many bands as possible, especially those with schedule conflicts. But for my festival Thursday, the only real must-see for me was For A Minor Reflection at Harpa Norduljós, which was happening fairly early in the night at 9 PM. I wanted to leave at least one day open for musical discovery, and not just see bands I’d heard of but only mildly liked, so this was the day to do that.
- Júníus Meyvant
- Low Roar
- Kiriyama Family
- For A Minor Reflection
- King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
I spent my morning humming and hawing about where and when I wanted to begin my day. I decided to head to KEX to see Júníus Meyvant, who I had passed on at Gamla Bío the night before in favour of Benny Crespo’s Gang. He didn’t come on until 4 PM though, so I figured I would check out the band that was coming on at 2 PM that I’d never heard before, Árstiðir.
Unfortunately, I was not there as early as I was at KEX the day before, so I was stuck behind the crowd of people who couldn’t even get into the door. The unfortunate thing about shows at KEX is that the stage is located right by the doors, so people crowd around and make it so it’s impossible to get in. If I had been thinking, I could have gone back down the stairs and tried to get in through the other patio entrance, but that thought didn’t cross my mind, as it had been pouring rain all day and I had no interest in going back outside. I still was able to hear Árstiðir’s full set, and their beautiful string melodies were a lovely treat to listen to.
Once the crowd let out and I was able to enter KEX, there was not a seat or familiar face in sight, and everyone was wrapped up in their own conversations, so I did what any normal person would do and ordered a beer. It was my first time trying the Danish Mikkelar beer, and it was so delicious it certainly won’t be my last. I hung my coat up on one of the handy hangers underneath the bar, and leaned against it, planning on doing not much else than people watch and schedule plan for the next hour or so.
Once Júníus Meyvant came to set up and sound check, I moved to be right in front of the stage, which was great sight-wise but I was also right next to the amp, and I could feel the hearing damage, so I moved back a few feet. I wasn’t expecting the full band, funky performance, and had assumed he was an acoustic-y singer, so that was a pleasant surprise. I had to leave before he performed his last two songs, however, so I could hoof it over to Slippbarinn, which is on the harbour and a good twenty minute walk away from KEX. I had realized that Slippbarinn might be my only opportunity to see Low Roar, since I missed them at 12 Tónar the day before and their Saturday set at Gamla Bío was conflicting with a bunch of other bands.
The crowd was starting to pile in at Slippbarinn, but I still managed to score a spot with decent visibility of the stage as Low Roar was starting to set up. The performance was much more ambient than the recordings I am used to, but it was mesmerizing nonetheless. There were no breaks in between songs, and it was almost like his voice was echoing through the room since the crowd was so quiet for him. I didn’t look away once to look over at my friend throughout the whole performance, and instantly regretted the possibility of not being able to see longer than a 35 minute set. When I am next in Iceland, seeing a full Low Roar show in a venue other than a bar is my first priority.
Next up was Kiriyama Family, who I wasn’t super familiar with, so Fannar and I took that opportunity to grab a cocktail. If you’re ever planning on going to Reykjavik, I highly recommend getting a cocktail from Slippbarinn; they are among the most creative and delicious drinks I’ve ever experience in the whole world. They’re not cheap, but even watching the intricate preparation process the bartender has to go through to make your drink is like paying for a show in itself. I had a “winter sour,” made from cherry apple cinnamon bourbon, lemon syrup, and thyme, with nutmeg sprinkled on top. Yum!
Following Kiriyama Family was AmabAdamA, who I had also never listened to before. I had never thought that “Icelandic Reggae” would ever be a genre that exists, but apparently it does, and it’s actually very good. They were so much fun to watch, and I also filed them into a “want to see in a bigger venue eventually” list.
Following that, another friend, Snævar, joined us and we walked over to Frederiksen, formerly the pub called Amsterdam. A band called CeaseTone was playing, which had been described to Fannar by a guy in the urinals as “super psychedelic Deep Purple shit with strong keys.” That wasn’t really what it ended up being – I could see influences from Foals, and other indie rock pioneers, and the keys were not emphasized in the slightest. Still good tunes, just not the evening’s highpoint.
After Frederiksen, I broke away from the group so I could see For A Minor Reflection, who are an instrumental band that is cut from the same cloth as fellow post-rockers Sígur Rós. Before they came on, Vío, a young male singer-songwriter/rocker, was performing in the same hall. When I was in Iceland earlier this year, I attended Musiktilraunir, which is an Icelandic battle of the bands, and I watched Vío win. When compared to some past winners (Vök, Samaris, Of Monsters and Men, and Mammút), he seems largely out of his league, and I had the opinion after he won that he wasn’t nearly as inventive or unique as some of the other finalists. His performance at Harpa was much the same as his Musiktilraunir set, though perhaps a bit more refined and with more backing musicians. Though perhaps I’m not his target audience, and he caters more to the teenage girl.
I expected the For A Minor Refelction show to be fairly mellow, but the band really rocked out to their building melodies, aided by visuals of various Icelandic scenes and some lighting effects. Moreover, they sounded just fantastic in Harpa Norduljós, so I was glad that my one must-see of the day did not disappoint.
A New Zealand band I love, Tiny Ruins, was scheduled to play after them in the small Harpa Kaldalón, so I made my way downstairs to investigate the line. I had previously seen Tiny Ruins play in a tiny bar in Edmonton, and was curious to see her in a place with better sound engineering and acoustics; moreover, the band was on my bus from Keflavik to Reykjavik! Unfortunately, theirset had started and the line was 25 deep, so it was unlikely I’d be able to see them. My best option was to head over to Gamla Bío to reunite with my friends – one of my strategies for picking what bands to see this day was pick the ones with the funniest names, which also happened to be the bands they were seeing.
I caught Fufanu ten minutes into their set, but they left their set early due to a problem with their computer. I found this surprising, especially in such a crowded venue and with the next act not scheduled for another forty minutes. They had instruments, how come they couldn’t just unplug from the production and play their instruments? Their explanation was in Icelandic so I only got the brief summary of events from Fannar – I suppose the show can’t go on for everybody.
Next up was Grísalappalísa, which became instantly more fun to say once I was told how to correctly say it (“Gree-sah-lah-pah-LEE-sah”), sharing the stage with who was described to me as an old “Icelandic rock legend,” Megas. Apparently, he has also procreated with many women and has children all over Iceland. The more you know! Megas came on stage with a music stand and sheet music – so he could follow along, I suppose. Though I can’t understand what they’re saying anyway, it was still hard to hear Megas – he looked a little overwhelmed by the performers around him, especially since the lead singer was covered in glitter paint and had stripped his shirt off by the end of the fourth song. All that being said, the performance was certainly the most energetic and enjoyable set I had witnessed yet at Airwaves, and certainly the one that had me bobbing and dancing around the most.
The last act of the evening was the ultimate in funny names – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, a stoner-rock band from Australia. One of their albums is more slow and melodic, but they tended to stick to their faster, rockier fare, seeing as they were following Grísalappalísa and beginning their set at midnight. They were also late on stage, but it all fit the persona of the long-haired Aussie stoner, even whipping out a flute for one song halfway through. Definitely fun and entertaining way to end the night.
After King Gizzard, Day 2 was over, and we were just about halfway through Airwaves. My feet were starting to hurt (next time I should invest in comfy granny shoes instead of Steve Maddens), my ears wouldn’t stop ringing (I still refuse to wear ear plugs), but my overall excitement for the festival was enough to keep that adrenaline pumping for its remainder, no questions asked.
Click below to find out about the other days I spent at Iceland Airwaves 2014: