On a tiny island bridging two continents a festival occurs every year. Bands, fans and puffins from all over the globe take over the tiny town of Reykjavik to blast away the cold with beats, guitars and alcohol. This was my 4th year attending Iceland Airwaves, and even with the hurricane winds making a guest appearance it was another successful year. I try to see at least 6 bands a day when I go, and while the evenings are dedicated to my favorite bands, day time goes to bands I don’t know, or visiting friends.
Airwaves is unlike most festivals. The gigs are held in different venues around the city, so while it is a festival, you still get the feeling of pub gigs and concerts. And with so many bands going on at different times, you get to see some impressive bands up close and personal. As there were so many bands, I am foregoing the normal link to individual songs and sites, there will be a playlist in Gogoyoko with all the bands if you are interested.
First night of Airwaves landed on Halloween. This by far is my favorite holiday of the year, in fact one of the few I happily celebrate so of course a costume was in order. My luggage consisted of a small amount of clothes, Root Beer for my friend Dr. Gunni, and of course, this:
Yes, I was Chewbacca for Halloween. My wonderful friend Alison was Princess Leia and we attended the FM Belfast gig at KEX, as well as a few bands at Bar 11 before heading to Gabríel. We stood front and center for Gabríel, and it was entertaining to watch them try to perform while avoiding looking directly at the Wookiee. To be honest, I thought many times about wearing the Wookiee costume the rest of Airwaves as outside it was heavenly warm.
A college friend of mine and her husband joined me on Thursday, they had to detour to London and back to Iceland due to the hurricane and missed the first night but we started off the day with coffee and more off-venue shows. My goal was to hit at least 6 shows a day, these guys didn’t slow me down a bit. And even though they made me break my sacred rule of no food, just Vodka after 6, we were able to stay out until early morning every night, and for the most part still get up early enough to enjoy the day.
I also was able to spend quality time with some of my Iceland friends, coffee’s and house visits abound. This trip was my favorite so far as I got more of a homey feeling on the island, in fact it wasn’t until I was leaving that I realized I barely had taken any photos.
my favorite gigs of this year had to be Apparat Organ Quartet, and of course the Sigur Ros show at the end of the festival. I am going to write on Apparat Organ Quartet later, but even with only 4 of the 5 musicians present, they did a fantastic job. My friend and her husband had never heard of them before, and the look of satisfaction on their faces when it was over made the gig that much better. They truly do put on an amazing show and I hope they make it stateside sooner than later.
As for Sigur Rós, I have seen them countless times in a lot of different settings, from little bars in Park City to massive arenas here in Boston, they have always played outstanding shows, but this show was the best performance I’ve seen since 2008. They appeared to really up the ante in their home country. Part of enjoying Sigur Rós is the uniqueness and new-ness they bring to the table. The quality of the show made another first for my friend even better, and the new song gave me the chance to experience that new-ness again, I’m really excited with the direction they are taking and looking forward to the 2013 tour
I also was able to spend some time with Dr. Gunni. He’s kind of a jack-of-all trades in the Icelandic music world. My first contact with him was years ago when he worked at Smekkleysa. At that time he did the job of sending me the Icelandic music my store in Utah sold. I actually met him face to face 3 years ago at Airwaves, and I stalk him on Facebook as any “normal” person would do.
This year he released a very well put together, cool book on the history of Icelandic music. For now the book is in Icelandic but I was able to get a copy and I love the way it’s put together. I’m also very flattered as he used a quote from a Facebook note I had written in a very delayed, very groggy state at an airport a while ago on why I loved Icelandic music and the musicians so much. Here is a photo of the book:
if you search the archives of the grapevine website, you will find some English translated entries of his from an old History of Icelandic music book he wrote years ago. If you speak Icelandic, or can deal with horrific google translated text here is his blog. Again, another Icelander who takes pride in what he does, and has an incredibly humble and strong work ethic.
overall this was a fantastic Iceland Airwaves and I look forward to another fantastic one next year. I’ve listed below the most notable acts that I saw by the days that I saw them. You can get to the playlist here at Gogoyoko. My next artist review will be Lay Low and hopefully it happens a little quicker than the last.
Wed: Apparat Organ Quartet / Steindór Andersen / Gabríel / Sin Fang /
Thur: Ólafur Arnalds / Echo Vamper / Sudden Weather Change / Ewert and Two Dragons
Fri: Woodpigeon / Sin Fang / Apparat Organ Quartet (full show) / Nico Muhly / Ben Frost
Sat: Rico’s Band / Rökkurró / Epic Rain / Ghostigital / Æla / Gus Gus / Sykur
Sun: Sigur Rós