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:
Tófa @ 12 Tónar
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.