Now for the recap on Airwaves, Yes initially I was going to do a day by day, yes I was ambitious. No, after day 1, it didn’t happen. So, I am going to do a couple blog posts on stuff that was new to me, and stuff I dug.
To start off, Kudos to the Iceland Airwaves staff and crew. This was the smoothest I’ve seen it run, and I really appreciate how much help they are, even to us small potatoes that dig music and blog about it out of fun and not as our careers. So, thank you guys for another great year.
As with all 5 years that I’ve attended, there was good, and there was notsogood. The high points out numbered the rare low points and it’s easy to call this my favorite music festival of the year.
One of the highlights was the off-venue schedule being added to the app. It really made picking a band during the middle of the day a lot easier, and if the off-venue performance you wanted was too crowded, it was easy to pick something else. And this year that became more important than in the past, as it seemed the off venues were packed almost all the time, and quick changes of plans were necessary.
My goal was to focus on Icelandic bands that I had not heard before, I relied heavily on the suggestions other Icelandic musicians and friends, and regardless of their genre I made an attempt to see them play. I did make an exception to my rule in order to see Zola Jesus, FM Belfast, and John Grant. But all the other bands on my schedule were Icelandic, and/or bands I had seen once or twice. And with over 200 of them rarely did I have a time where I couldn’t find something to see.
Top 3 new bands I had not seen before were Boogie Trouble, Oyama, and Hudson Wayne. Oyama was on my list based on the blog I did about them, and Boogie trouble was a must see, as a lot of Icelandic friends and musicians recommended I not miss their gig.
Boogie trouble’s upbeat music came in second only to their lead singers energy and charisma. She was laughing, dancing around the place, and the entire band jammed away at both gigs I attended. Two entirely different crowds for those shows, and yet the band created the same party like atmosphere in both situations. They played the first day I was in town at Lucky Records, and again at Hressó near the end of the festival. Well worth the recommends they received, and their cover of Britney Spear’s Toxic is not to be missed.
While so called “shoe-gazing” music isn’t typically my jam, I was excited to see Oyama, as I like the music I’ve heard and was interested to see how their live show would turn out. I also saw Oyama twice, once in front of the 12 Tónar shop at Harpa, and once at the Amsterdam bar the last night of Airwaves.
The off-venue gig at Harpa turned scandalous, as the band was just too wild and crazy for the stone cold walls, and as their music filled the event hall, it breached the serenity of the Ólafur Arnalds Symphony experience, causing a panicked man to whisper pleas into Úlfur’s ear to stop briefly to allow the symphony to end in peace. Ok, not that dramatic, but the band did have to stop briefly, you can read more about it here.
At both sets the band played energetically and together, the smaller set at Harpa was definitely more mellow than the on-venue set at Amsterdam. And at the Amsterdam set I was really impressed with Júlía, who obviously was having issues with her voice, and yet it came out strong, non-wavering, and almost pitch perfect the entire set. the Amsterdam set was more rowdy, and there was nothing shoe-gazing about the guitar and bass trio break-down during one of their first few songs. I highly enjoyed the new tracks they premiered during their set.
Hudson Wayne gets a golden star as being one of the only bands I’ve ever heard at Iðnó where I thought the sound quality was great. They were so spot on it would be hard to believe they were Icelanders and not from the Mid Western part of the U.S. They appeared to be having almost more fun than the audience. So, aside from the over-priced beer at Iðnó, I stayed the entire set and really enjoyed myself. Was very glad to finally hear them play.
I’ve seen Pétur Ben perform before, but not the newer darker catalog he has, and not with a full band. So it was great to make it to Kex and hear him play full on. Even though the new album is quite a bit darker, the music came off strong and I really dug the new live tracks.
Once again, Kex Hostel had KEXP hanging around, doing live streams of the music during the entire festival. If you want to hear the live sets they recorded, I suggest heading over here to give them a listen. They all work incredibly hard every year exposing new acts and bringing music from Iceland to the United States.
Sadly, the one set of new artists that turned out not so well was the Samaris show at Gamli Bio. There were massive tech issues from the beginning, and the band looked really out of sorts and discombobulated in their performance. I wish I could have seen them at another gig, as I was really excited to catch their act. So until I do see them again, I am holding off judgement on their live act.
Last but not least by any means, another great new band was Nini Wilson. Comprised of Örn Ingi Ágústsson from Seabear on guitar, Árni Vilhjálmsson of FM Belfast doing vocals and guitar, and Björn Stefánsson on drums. Their music was made public only days before the festival, and yet there still was a near full venue waiting to hear what they had to offer. After taking a moment to relax via a bottle of Lavender oil, which they passed around for the crowd to inhale, Nini Wilson began a very tight set of Folk-ish rock, moving through the set entertaining themselves and the audience with quips about being naked, not being naked and of course, a few rock guitar solos intermixed. Very entertaining and I wish the set had been longer as it was one of the more enjoyable ones of the festival. Can’t wait to hear what else they have in store.
You can click any picture above to see my entire photo set from Airwaves this year.