Taste of Iceland is back again, March 16-20th with a variety of Icelandic events to please everyone. Art, Food, literature, Short film, and of course, Music. Every year they seem to top themselves, and this year looks to be no different.
Reykjavik calling is a free concert at the Middle East Club in Central Square on March 18th at 9pm. Every year it is packed, and while doors open at 8pm, I would suggest being there early as the line typically wraps around the building and latecomers tend not to get in, so show up early and make new friends while in line.
The Icelandic bands for this year’s festival are Mammút, and FUFANU. Both bands are extremely popular all over the globe, so it’s really cool they are going to make it to Boston.
Mammút consist of Katrína Mogensen, Vilborg Ása Dýradóttir, Alexandra Baldursdóttir, Arnar Pétursson, and Andri Bjartur Jakobsson. Shortly after forming in 2003 they won the coveted 2004 Músiktilraunir, the annual Icelandic battle of the bands. And now 14 years later they are working on their 4th album. The following song is still one of my favorites, but you should check out their Youtube page for more videos.
Katrína has one of those powerful voices that along with the rest of the band creates a powerful wall of sound that pulses through you like an angry heartbeat. They are one of my favorite bands to see in Iceland.
Fufanu have certainly evolved over the last 9 years. In the beginning they were Captain Fufanu an electronic duo, but now they have dropped the captain and Fufanu has released their second album, “Sports.”
Now a three piece, Kaktus Einarsson, Guðlaugur Einarsson, and Erling Bang have created a part new wave – part minimal Alternative pop album that suits their stage presence nicely. I’ve seen them play many different types of music, but this last year they really were on a plane of their own as they cranked out one hell of a solid set in front of a massive crowd at Harpa. If you’re a fan of bands such as Oasis, Blur, and the Servants, you’ll really dig their set.
From Boston, the Dirty Dottys will be performing. A seven piece, self described “pop-motown, rump-shaking, heart-thumping, swoon-inducing ensemble whose goal is to create music that makes their audience, move, groove, and high five their neighbors.”
Live shows are like a party, and the musical powerhouse group entertains as well as moves their loyal crowds.
There is a lot more going on during the week as well. chef Siggi Helga from Grillið restaurant is flying to Boston to create a three course Icelandic dinner at The Merchant with the help of American chef, Edwin Morales. And he’s joined by the mixologist Kári Sigurðsson and by the Merchant’s Bryan Ames using my favorite Icelandic vodka, Reyka Vodka, and the classic Brennivin. Check out the Taste of Iceland website for menu and pricing.
The first lady of Iceland, Eliza Reid, will be at WBUR, to discuss the attractions and lure of authors to Iceland, as well as talking about famous Icelandic authors and books. The Brattle theatre will host a viewing of the short film series, Stockfish, a 6 short film series of Icelandic films. There will be a discussion and display of Icelandic contemporary art at the The Kingston Gallery at SoWa, hosted by Björg Stefánsdóttir.
This week is always a lot of fun, and most of it is free to the public. Check out the Taste of Iceland page for RSVP’s, details, and fun contests they will be having during the week.
Well, it’s over. Another year another massive amount of music, art, and sight seeing crammed into 5 days. It began with an art show, a toilet museum opening with a Q&A from John Lydon, and continued with a ton of new music. On top of that I managed to go beyond my comfort zone and took part in conducting live interviews with bands, and created a few podcasts.
Jason from Zombie Popcorn convinced me to get behind a mic and conduct interviews and podcasts with him. There were a few hilarious moments, a few cringe worthy moments, but a lot of good dialog with bands and musicians such as Dr. Gunni, Tófa, Milkywhale, and Sóley. It’s all been compiled nice and neat like over at Zombie Popcorn on an Airwaves page.
I took all the photos in the blog post and you can see all the Airwaves photos here.
It all started the night before Iceland Airwaves officially began at Mokka-kaffi. Dr. Gunni of Bless, S.H. Draumur, Unum, and his own band had an art exhibit opening at the cafe. It’s his new album, ATVIK, of which he’s only made 18 copies all with acrylic paintings of historic moments in his musical life on the album covers. The bottom middle photo above is of Dr. Gunni giving the legendary Bubbi Morthens an empty Coke bottle… because that’s what you do apparently.
A new punk museum opened in Iceland. Housed in an old public toilet the museum gives you the history of punk stall by stall, with memorabilia and pull down headphones so you can sample the goods. John Lydon, accompanied by Rambo showed up for the opening and participated in a Q&A where he talked about underwear, and questioned if punk was still alive.
One of the great things about Iceland Airwaves is there is always something new, and there is always something for everybody. In the event you can’t cram it all in at the official shows there will always be extra off-venue gigs throughout the city during the day. This blog post would turn into a book if I commented on everything I saw so I will stick to highlights for me of new bands and veterans.
First, the new:
One of the freshest highlights was Tófa. The word Tófa is Icelandic for a female blue fox. An animal that looks sweet and innocent but actually can be vicious and cunning. And much like their namesake the began with innocent banter about who they are right before blowing out our eardrums and manufacturing mosh pits with their heavy high-spirited sets both off-venue and on. Even a power outage at Gaukurinn was no match for drum solos and banter.
Milkywhale is what you get when you cross an upbeat choreographer with a musician from one of the most party-est bands in Iceland. He was bouncing and smiling behind the decks, she was all over the stage, belting out while the audience danced away. Both shows I saw this Airwaves were full of interactions with the crowd breaking down that wall between performers and festival goers.
Hórmónar is another new band that I was really impressed with. I actually left PJ Harvey early so that I could catch their gig at Gaukurinn and they ended up being a great way to end the festival. they were all over the tiny stage and guard rails, with the drummer using a wheel rim and a saxaphone player stuffed in the corner. It all added to the rough and angry set. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for next year.
Last but not least is Cyber. Comprised of some of the Reykjavíkurdætur crew, Cyber did aerobics with the crowd, rapped about Daddy issues and Aspen Barbie-world problems, and there was some hugging it out while pretending to pretend they were at prom. Icelandic hip hop has become rather large over the last few years, and Cyber definitely was my top pick this year for the genre.
Now for the highlights from the veterans:
This year was FM Belfast’s 10th anniversary playing Airwaves. I first saw them in 2009-10?? when they closed the festival at NASA. The festival ended with hordes of people dancing and running past us in their underwear. I have seen this band play small bars in Boston and stadium sized venues in Iceland and every time they leave you sweaty, out of breath, and wanting more of the party.
Now, 10 years later, they’ve upped their game with confetti-cannons, rolls and rolls of streamers, and costumes galore. The band revved up the crowd to the point the floors felt as if they were going to give in from the insane crowd jumping up and down.
In an interesting twist of things, two veteran bands I see whenever they play swapped up their stages. Prins Póló dropped his band and Berndsen added one. Things are always changing and even established bands like to completely swap things out for the fun of it.
Prins Póló was joined by Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson from FM Belfast/Milkywhale/Plúseinn. Perhaps having less folks on stage led to the heightened party atmosphere and more aggressive vocals and powerful beats. Svavar was flying all over the stage interacting with the crowd as he sang songs we’ve all come to love.
Berndsen on the other hand, showed up with a full band. He played a lot of the classics, and a few of the new songs from his upcoming album, “Alter Ego.” The new material still has that 80’s feel, but there’s more of a rock element now. I’ve dug what I’ve heard so far and can’t wait to get my grubby mits on the full album. The set ended with a stripped down Berndsen, and the drummer standing on his kit.
Part of the fun of going to Airwaves a lot is you get to watch bands evolve. Fufanu is one such band, I’ve been watching them for a few years now and this year was the best I’ve ever seen them. Their music was tight and on point, the visuals complimented the set, and they filled the Harpa hall with rock quite nicely. They’ve released a great new video for Sports, and their show superseded my expectations.
Vök packed the Reykjavik art museum and their high-octane performance with saxophones, synths, guitars and simulated drums was had the crowd excitedly dancing and singing along. They seem a lot more at ease on stage and worked as a full rock unit playing a lot of material I actually hadn’t heard yet.
And then there was Pink street boys. I fully admit to having a musical crush on this band. Their dirty, garage punk rock style is just my type of music and they killed it at Gaukurinn. The place was packed, and the sweaty horde of festival goers were rocking Their album is a go-to staple for me at home and in commute and I only wish I could see them play live more often.
And then there was PJ Harvey.She filled the enormous hall at Valshöllin. I was not only excited for the chance to see her live, but damned near ecstatic I was given the opportunity to photograph. The band entered the stage in marching band style with PJ in the middle playing the saxophone.
She lined up in formation and once everyone was set moved front and center to begin the show. While she played a few of her classics, her focus was on the new material. With band members moving from brass instruments to strings, and her holding on dearly to her saxophone she filled the hall with her quirky style of music.
So, yet again another fantastic year at Iceland Airwaves. All of the photos are mine though the featured image contains the Iceland Airwaves logo as well. Early bird tickets will be on sale soon so make sure to follow Iceland Airwaves on Facebook and check their website frequently. If you want a head start on learning about more of the Icelandic bands that may be playing next year, or just want a reminiscent feel for what you saw I suggest you check out Straumur on Facebook and their website. They compile fantastic playlists mixed with international acts, but a lot of the new Icelandic bands coming out. Also, follow Iceland Music Export on Facebook as they deliver speedy news on new bands, bands that are touring, and new information about the bands you already love.
Greetings, so it’s been a crazy time up at Iceland Airwaves this year. I’ve branched out from my typical ramblings and have been working with Zombie Popcorn, delivering podcasts and interviews. I am also photographing the concert, and you can follow along at my Facebook page for galleries of each day, or you can view the here:
Iceland continually maintains a wealth of musicians and bands. There isn’t a genre missing on the small island, and there is a lot of talent found almost everywhere you look. From atmospherically haunting soundtracks to the darkest metal, you can always find something you’ll dig. And while this list doesn’t encompass all said genres, it’s my personal list of bands I’m enjoying at the moment.
Full disclosure, this blog post is about the 11 bands I’ve been lucky enough to compile on the new Icelandic Whatever compilation. They are 11 bands I truly dig, and I hope you will as well. The new compilation is released on November 11th, and is available for pre-order for $3 here. These bands are presented in the order of the compilation.
Most of these bands will be at Iceland Airwaves 2016. So if you’re going, make sure to check them out. The schedule and more info for Iceland Airwaves can be found here.
David Berndsen is Berndsen. I try to describe Berndsen not as 80’s retro, or a blast from the past, but as a continuation of the 80’s, with unique beats, heavy synths, and a booming voice. It’s not just a pinhole representation of what we loved about the 80’s, it’s a feel good modernized trip back to what we dug. In my opinion, he’s taken what can be a very dated musical genre and made it timeless. His music videos are also something of pure genius and are frequently on almost all of my house party playlists. The video above is “Shaping the Grey” featuring the talented singer/songwriter Elin Ey, and Högni Egilsson of GusGus fame. It is from his new album “Alter Ego.” The title track is on the compilation. Other videos you should watch are Lover in the dark, and Game of Chance.
Dr. Gunni – “Ég er aumingi”
Dr. Gunni is a veteran punk, he’s been at it since the 80’s. And as well as the band Dr. Gunni, he has been in the legendary bands: SH Draumur, Bless, and Unun. He wrote, “Blue eyed pop” which is the most comprehensive book on the history of rock in Iceland and has also has released a few compilations in his time called the Snarl series which was the inspiration for me to begin releasing compilations. The song “Ég er aumingi” is on the new comp, and it’s from his upcoming album, “ATVIK”.
MilkyWhale began as a musical project between choreographer Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir and Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson (FM Belfast, and Pluseinn.) It’s dance pop, with unique breaks and as with their music, their live shows are filled with high energy moments that somehow bring both band and audience together almost as if everyone in attendance had rehearsed their dancing. “Invisible” is on the compilation.
Yes, Icelandic Disco does exist, perhaps it’s not well known, but one of Donna Summers favorite songwriters was Icelandic. I fell in love with Boogie trouble the first time I saw them at Iceland Airwaves years ago. It’s a super group of talented and seasoned musicians, and their new album, “Í bænum” is one solid disco dance-fest. I’ve written about it before, and I still thing the song, “Moldun” is about the quest of a lonely space cowboy to find his electric-slide line dancing space cow folk. Thankfully, the band has let me put said track on the compilation.
I like contrast, and Pink Street Boys delivers said contrast. Dirty, sludgy punk infused garage rock. practically insane in everything they do, they’ve been my go-to rock out band for quite a while now. I originally wanted “Evel Knievel” for the compilation, but they delighted me with a new gem, “Let it down” and it does not disappoint.
Æla continue to be a treat. They are a punk band whose live shows are always a must-see for me. Every year after their gig I say “that’ll be tough to beat next year,” and every year they beat it. The dedication they put into their show antics are only beat by their dedication to their music, and their new-ish album, Vettlingatök (Handle with kid gloves) is solid. “Rólegur” is the track on the compilation, and the performance above was at the Iceland Airwaves KEXP stage at Kex last year.
Myrra Rós, is well known in Iceland for her solo project as well as a vocalist for the band Var. She is an enchanting chanteuse, her soothing voice soars only grounded by heavy instrumentation below her. Her new album, “One Amongst Others” is an atmospheric collection of other-wordly songs. The title track shown above is on the compilation.
Svavar Knútur is the traveling troubadour. From the west side of Iceland his folk songs are a contrast of serious topics happily sung. He takes his audiences on comedic journeys and with or without a backing band an audience is never left without. The song above is an acoustic version of the song”Wanderlust” from his newest album, Brot (The breaking) and the album version is on the compilation.
Cyber is an interesting duo. Formerly they were what I can only describe as disco/metal/rap duo, and now they are hip hop. I was stoked when they agreed to be on my comp, as I really like their music + lyric combination. Typically they rap in Icelandic, but the video above is in English. MÁVAR is the track they’ve let me use for the compilation, trippy beats, Icelandic lyrics.
It’s no secret that Reykjavik! is one of my favorite bands. They are somewhat garage/punk rock legends in Iceland, and they are a band I thought I would never get to see live. So last year when they played a surprise gig at Kaffibarinn, I became that happy little kid on Christmas morning. It was sweaty, and nobody could really move except for the band, which managed to hang off the ceiling, bars tops and audience members, you can see the pics I took of the gig here. So you can imagine how happy I was when they let me put their classic track, Flybus! on the compilation.
I was beyond stoked when Futuregrapher agreed to be on the compilation, even more so when he sent a brand new track. he mixes multiple layers of trippy broken beats combined with the atmospheric noise to create unique songs you can’t help but get wrapped up in. He’s a breath of fresh air to see live, and you get sucked in not only by the music, but by his unique style behind the machines. I’ve written about him before, and the new song, Shemale, which is on the compilation is something different I’ve never heard from him before. It’s the perfect ending to a great list of musicians on the compilation.
Here it is, the 2016 Iceland Airwaves Icelandic musicians page. I’ve loosely sorted them into categories in the hope that you can quickly reference bands to dig as you explore the many possibilities this year. On top of the 210 bands performing this year, Bedroom Community will be celebrating their 10th anniversary as a musician collective in Iceland and I would highly recommend you check that out. And Airwords is back, the poetry/literature/music event that began in 2013. All part of Airwaves and all worth checking out. Also, you can check out my Tips to get the most out of Iceland Airwaves.
143 of the 210 bands are Icelandic this year and they span the deck in style and genre. This year, I split them into five categories:
- Rock / Singer Songwriter / Jazz / Blues / Reggae
- Pop / Rock / Dance / Electro / Disco / Indie
- DJ’s / Electronic / Atmospheric / Classical / Composers
- Heavy Rock / Metal / Hardcore
- Hip Hop / Rap / R&B Soul
Diversity and genre bending are two things Icelanders are rather good at which makes defining bands a bit difficult, so if you feel a band belongs in a different spot please comment below and I will check it out.
|DJ’s / Electronic / Atmospheric / Classical / Composers|
|Ambátt||Ayia||Bára Gísladóttir||Ben Frost|
|BLKPRTY||DJ Yamaho||dj. flugvél og geimskip||EinarIndra|
|Kristin Thora||Mike Hunt||Reptilicus||RVK DnB|
|Sigga Soffía & Jónas Sen||Sigrún||sxsxsx||Tómas Jónsson|
|Heavy Rock / Metal / Hardcore|
|Endless Dark||Hatari||Kælan Mikla||Legend|
|Mammút||Pink Street Boys||Singapore Sling||SÓLSTAFIR|
And here is the Spotify playlist, it includes ALL bands playing Iceland Airwaves, not just the Icelandic musicians:
With a little over 10 weeks to go before the 2016 Iceland Airwaves Music festival the time has come to begin prepping for the crazy 5 days on a volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean.
Yet again, the Iceland Airwaves crew have come up with an amazing 5 days of music. Digable Planets, Boogie Trouble, PJ Harvey, Snorri Helgason, Santigold, Of Monsters and Men, and many more. In fact, 128 bands have been announced so far, with what I believe will be another announcement coming up shortly. And this is just the on-venue set of bands, there is still the daytime 0ff-venue gigs with even more bands for you listen to and discover during the day.
This year I will be working with Zombie Popcorn to bring you recaps, interviews with bands, interviews with fans, and a lot of photos. Also, soon we will begin highlighting the bands on our Facebook page. Start following it for a daily dose of music.
And with that, here are some pointers on prepping and enjoying the festival:
- Sign up to the Iceland Airwaves Mailing list
- Be relaxed, be social
- Be prepared
- Be a tourist, in and outside the city
- Respect the land, yourself, the people, and your fellow festival folks
- Support the artists, buy their music
- Food, alcohol and favorite places
- Have fun
|Iceland Airwaves||Iceland Music||Reykjavik Grapevine|
I highly suggest you follow the above pages on Social Media, the Iceland Airwaves page will give you the quickest updates and information on bands. IMX is an awesome source for finding out the history of bands, and they also shoot out information on tours and new music to look for. And the Grapevine is an English language newspaper, in an informal sometimes snarky manner they discuss the happenings around Iceland and you can gain more knowledge on things to do while you’re visiting. They typically put out a special Iceland Airwaves edition, as well as run a blog during the festival dedicated to Airwaves.
Be Relaxed, Be Social
Combining the normal tourist activity with over 9000 festival folks makes Reykjavik a busy busy city. Relaxation is key to enjoying yourself. You may have to wait a little longer for drinks/coffee/food/entrance into a venue, so just relax and breath in the fresh air. Be social, if you’re stuck in a line chances are you’re stuck with people of like mind, so don’t be afraid to ask your queue cohorts why they are there, what bands they’ve seen, what they are going to see and why. There are quite a few unannounced gigs that will be going on around the city, and being social is the only way you’re going to find out about them.
There is a lot of music, a good deal you may have never heard of. Listening to the Spotify link and/or checking out the page I’ve created of Icelandic bands playing are both extremely easy ways to begin prepping for the festival, and most likely you’ll find bands you never knew you couldn’t live without hearing live.
The Airwaves crew have done an ace job of making it easy for you to plan ahead and navigate these different venues with an app they will announce closer to festival time. Make sure you download it so you can start putting together a game plan of what you want to see when they release the official schedule. The app will save you a lot of time with maps, time schedules, alerts and reminders of upcoming gigs. It really will keep you on schedule, or help you alter your schedule in seconds.
Be a tourist, in and out of the city
Nobody needs to tell you, but Iceland is gorgeous, so make sure you take some time to enjoy it. whether it’s just walking around Reykjavik looking at all the murals and art, or taking daytrips, get out and experience Iceland, there are plenty of options. Here are two of my favorites:
I heart Reykjavik is a fantastic walking tour company that will take you around Reykjavik discussing it’s history and unique attributes.
They book up quickly, so I would suggest trying to reserve a spot now. It’s especially nice during Airwaves as there will be more music in the streets than usual while you walk around learning about old famous hangouts, and the history of the capital city.
Kexland is another fantastic touring outfit, more designed for smaller groups of tourists to take you out of the normal touring zones. Quite often an Icelandic musician will accompany you for a day of tours. I also suggest you check them out earlier than later to make sure you get a spot.
Also check with your hotels, or the tourist office located in the city center. there are plenty of day trips to take you to see waterfalls, geysers, and the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland.
Respect the island and it will respect you. Built on multiple volcanoes with lava in its veins, The island may try to kill you if you give it the chance. Just be aware of your surroundings, footing, and the weather. Common sense goes a long way, and Icelanders fully believe folks should use said common sense. Have a good time not an out of control painful time. There’s a lot to do and even the half day you spend recovering from the night before will result in you missing a lot.
Support the artists, purchase their music while you’re there. There is a lot of music you won’t find off the island, or if you do it’ll cost crazy shipping. So purchase it while you’re visiting. Iceland has some amazing record shops, Lucky Records, 12 Tónar, and Reykjavik Record shop are the ones I’m most familiar with. All ran by folks who love music, and love talking about music.
Food and favorite places. There are a lot of solid places for quick bites or sit down meals. And there is the Bónus grocery store in the event you want to grab your own stockpile of munchies. I tend to go for the lighter side of things such as the Noodle Station or Núðluskálin. Noodle Station is your quick simple three option noodle place, good for warming you up and filling yer gullet quickly and cheaply. Núðluskálin gives you more options, including spice level. “Noodles in a fen number 6” just so happens to be my favorite noodle dish in Iceland and required at least once when I’m visiting. For a very quick simple fix, there is also the famous Pylsurs (hot dog). the famous “Clinton” stand down by the Reykjavik art museum. Cheap, and they are good.
Bars are plentiful in the city, and the prices only slightly vary. There will be bands or DJ’s playing in most of them. During the week the bars close at 1 or 2am, but on the weekend the bars will be open until 4. Find a bar with the atmosphere you dig and have at it. Alcohol purchased at the liquor store is taxed pretty heavily. I suggest picking up a bottle of wine or spirits at the duty free shop while you wait for your baggage, It will be considerably cheaper that way.
And finally, the most important factor, have fun. Don’t get too wrapped up in details, maps, or must sees. You are going to experience one of the most unique festivals in the world, and you’re going to do it with northern lights above your head. If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to comment below, or send me a Facebook message at Ragnaarbastiaan.
Iceland is one of the most musically diverse countries in the world. You can find everything and anything your heart desires so it’s no surprise to find a full-fledged Disco band in 2016. Disco isn’t all that strange for Iceland, Þórir Baldursson was rather successful in the 70’s working with Donna Summer during the global disco hay-day, and I’m pretty sure there are closets and caves with hidden disco balls and way too tight disco pants all over the island.
Klara Arnalds, Ingibjörg Elsa Turchi, Sunna Karen Einarsdóttir, Sindri Freyr Steinsson, Arnar Birgiss and Sigurður Tómas Guðmundsson are all Boogie trouble. I first saw them a few years ago at Iceland Airwaves, their live gigs are more parties than gigs and it only took a short time before they became local favorites. I’ve written about them before And this review is about their highly anticipated new album Í Bænum.
Quite frankly, Í Bænum is the perfect rump shaking album for summer. There are layers of horns, percussion, strings and a good share of bwap-bwap guitars all wrapped around a solid dancing beat that just doesn’t quit. Klara Arnald’s voice is perfect for this style of music, strong enough to rival the brass yet nimble while it dances in between the other musical players, such as on the title track:
My second favorite track on the album, “Gleymmér ey.” opens with almost a disco-80’s fusion type of sound before Arnalds voice comes to us in a lower pitch. The beat remains a highly energetic roll of percussion reminiscent of a stampede of horses rolling over the countryside.
I wasn’t going to translate any songs as my Icelandic is limited to colors, time, and asking where the bar is. But “Moldun” has become my favorite track on the album because when you listen to it, it basically translates itself. It’s fairly obvious that the song is about a disco space cowboy who has landed on a strange planet in search of his beloved disco ball which has gone missing. Feeling all alone and run out of town for being a strange disco space cowboy, he finally finds the disco ball in rafters of an old Icelandic countryside church shining down on many disco cowpeople grooving away. I mean, I could be wrong but I’m 99.2% sure I’m correct:
All in all this album will make you dance. It has become a necessary album on our party playlist, and DJ sets. Even my local bar has begun playing a few tracks off of it to keep the night interesting. You can listen to the entire album and purchase it here on Bandcamp, and I highly suggest you follow them on Facebook.