The weekend was here, and somehow the nights were going to get later (Young Grandma over here already thinks nights that end at 1:00AM are far too late). Airwaves was halfway over, but the shows I was most excited for were nearly here. I was meeting all kinds of people, and living in a permanent state of excitement and anticipation about what great show I was going to see or discover next. This day was a little more planned out than Day 2, as I had a couple specific bands I needed to see, but there was still room for flexibility and checking out some bands I’d never heard of before.
- Sisy Ey
- Júníus Meyvant
- Sin Fang
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra
- Þórir Georg
- The Vintage Caravan
- La Luz
The previous day and evening had been quite warm by Icelandic standards, and since it was such a pain to carry around both a coat and a sweater at venues, I had decided to wear a short-sleeved dress underneath my coat. I promptly realized after getting off my bus downtown and almost being cut in half by the wind that this was a bad call, so I had to bus all the way back to Kringlan to grab a sweater, and then come back to meet my cousin, Kimberly, at Laundromat Cafe for an afternoon of off-venue performances. Another evening of carrying my layers around was just a fact of Iceland Airwaves I was going to have to live with.
The crowd to get into Laundromat Cafe during Grísalappalísa was insane, so we watched through the door windows. I had seen them the previous evening, and it was neat to see them still bringing their same energy (and the lead singer once again taking off his shirt) at 1 in the afternoon in a restaurant. Once their set finished, we were able to get inside, and Kim grabbed us a table that, though it had poor visibility of the stage, was at least a seat. After doing a lot of standing in shoes with no arch support for the past two days, an afternoon of sitting and listening was welcomed.
Mammút came on, and I enjoyed the energy and spastic hand motions of the lead singer, though the music isn’t necessarily my taste. I’m finding with a lot of Icelandic bands that the live performance is much better than the recorded versions – for instance, I’m not sure I could ever sit at home and listen to Grísalappalísa, but whenever I am in Iceland again I will not miss an opportunity to watch them perform again. Shortly after Mammút left, I had an Icelandic celebrity sighting – Jónsi, the lead singer of Sígur Rós, which is one of my favourite bands of all time. He waited at the bar for service and left shortly afterwards, but I snapped a discreet picture of him like the unabashed tourist that I am.
Sisy Ey came on and provided some generic, dance-y beats while I ate my ham and cheese sandwich and downed a Tilburg beer with Kim. Because of the poor visibility of the stage, I wasn’t able to take any photos or videos of this afternoon, which in a way was kind of nice. It was only the second time I’d hung out with my Canadian second cousin who was now studying in Reykjavik, so the pleasure of her company backgrounded by music was enough for me.
Fannar joined us right after Sisy Ey and the three of us had another beer in the crowded cafe as Júníus Meyvant came on stage, who I had already seen the day before at KEX. I was anxious to head to Straumur Radio Station at Bío Paradis, which was the lobby of an artsy movie theatre ,to possibly catch the end of Sin Fang’s set and see Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose official venue performance was conflicting with Caribou, Retro Stefson, and East India Youth. I figured it’d be best to catch their off-venue in the likelihood I wouldn’t see their main show.
We got there and got in no problem as Sin Fang ended, and after grabbing some beers we found a standing spot just where the seated people ended, so our view was perfect. Little did we know that as soon as Unknown Mortal Orchestra came on, all of those seated people would stand and my visibility would be zero. (Ironically, Dan Snaith of Caribou was standing right in front of me – why do the tall people insist on doing this to me?). The sound in the lobby wasn’t great either – much quieter than it needed to be, and didn’t give justice to the hazy rock and roll of the band. It was the only show so far to genuinely disappoint me.
Snævar joined us and we headed over to Iðnó, a charming old theatre near Tjörnin made especially charming by the fact they had racks where you could hang your coat free of charge (yesssss). We caught the last few songs of Þórir Georg, whose style seems quite informed by Snorri Helgason. However, I didn’t see enough of a set to make a real judgement.
Following him was a band called EMBASSYLIGHTS, which was a combination of Icelandic and Calgary musicians – Benni Hemm Hemm and Prins Polo with Woodpigeon, Laura Leif, and Samantha Savage Smith. I actually had listened to a lot of Woodpigeon’s music last year, but had no idea he was part of a group at Iceland Airwaves. They had a very acoustic set, similar to much of the acoustic-folk that comes out of Alberta.
But what’s most funny about accidentally happening upon this group is that the musicians from Calgary were on my flight to Reykjavik, and one of the girls had jammed her ukulele into my overhead compartment despite her seat being far away. My biggest pet peeve in air travel is people pushing the limits of their carry-on allowances, especially when they decide to use my compartment and get in my way. I just had my little camera bag up there, so a couple hours after she spent ten minutes defying physics to get her ukulele in my compartment, I decided to save myself the hassle of dealing with her and her stuff when we were trying to get off the plane and just get my camera bag now, and tuck it under the seat. Her ukulele consequently almost fell on my head and it took me forever to get it back into the compartment after I got my bag out, and I resented her for it, not knowing, of course, that she was performing at Airwaves. Ha.
Next, to lift the mood and energy of Iðnó, was The Vintage Caravan, our primary reason for heading over to the venue. They’re just kids, but this hard rock/metal band takes influences from all kinds of old-school rock, and it’s good to see younger bands draw their creativity from those influences. Again, it’s usually not the kind of music I would just listen to at home, but they were super fun to see live, and I had some serious long-hair envy of the lead singer.
The final act we’d see at Iðnó was an all-girl group from Seattle, La Luz. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen an all-girl group that was actually good (I believe there is one dude in tUnE-yArDs, so they don’t count), and I enjoyed their grungy style that also featured surfy guitar licks you’d find in a Quentin Tarantino movie. During one of their songs, they made us “part the crowd like Moses” and create a soul train of dancers coming up the middle. One thing I noticed in Iceland throughout the festival is that they are not huge dancers at concerts – mosh pit-goers and jumping and and down-ers, but not dancers. So I left my two Icelandic friends to go dance in the soul train (probably with the other Americans and Canadians) while the Icelanders watched. Even Snævar remarked that “This is never going to work in Iceland.” Odd that a country so creative in every other way doesn’t want to let loose and dance at a concert!
After La Luz, we headed over to Harpa Norðurljós to catch one of my most anticipated shows, Kiasmos, who I’d already seen perform a short set at KEX earlier that week. But we were quite early, so we saw a Swedish electronic group that wasn’t The Knife come on beforehand. The band, Zhala, was by far one of the strangest sets I’ve ever seen live – the singer was dancing like a cross between being in a Zumba class and getting exorcised, while to the left there was a scarfed man doing slow hand movements while sitting crossed-legged, and a girl sitting on a bench slowly eating olives then throwing the pit over her shoulder. This continued for a while, then the guy switched to slowly humping the stage, and then the fully-nude girl got up and stood behind the guy, and the two moved their hands slowly in synch. The music in isolation was not much more than Eurotrash techno, in my opinion, but the performance was certainly weird to watch.
Finally, Kiasmos came on stage, and we were in the front row. It was midnight, and I expected people to get their dance on, but I didn’t see much of that – maybe it was all behind me in the crowd, but I thought there’d be more going on at the front. Nevertheless, the melodic strings and piano over the deep beats filled Harpa Norðurljós like I was being surrounded with sound, and though there wasn’t much visually other than lighting effects and Janus and Olafur bobbing over their computers, it was one of my festival highlights.
After Kiasmos was my last chance of Iceland Airwaves to see Agent Fresco, playing at Gaukurinn at 2:30 in the morning, but when we went by the line was far too long, and to bother to see anything else would just be for the point of seeing something. The amazingness of Kiasmos made it also feel like, unless we were seeing Agent Fresco, there wouldn’t be much point in bothering to seek out something else, so we called it a night and went home.
It was the last day of my relatively open schedule – many of the bands that I’d come to Airwaves to see were all playing on the Saturday, and many of them conflicting with each other, so I’d have some hard decisions to make, many of which I still wasn’t even sure on despite my group’s decision. Would I go to The Knife’s last show ever or see one of my current favourite bands, Future Islands? Jungle had cancelled earlier in the week, so would I see East India Youth, Caribou, or Retro Stefson? Was I going to see FM Belfast, Rökkurró, Young Karin, or Lay Low at all this festival? With only really a day left plus the final closing show day, I was beginning to wish that Airwaves was 10 days long instead of 5, though I’m sure my slowly degrading body wasn’t thinking the same.
Click below to find out about the other days I spent at Iceland Airwaves 2014: