This year edition of Iceland Airwaves was held between November 5th and 9th. Now it is gone with the wind. Maybe even literally since this festival does never indulge guests with a good weather. So seems like it‘s a perfect weather to step into some of plenty venues in Reykjavík downtown and enjoy sounds surrounded by warmth and performed by many artists both from Iceland and abroad.
The festival was opened on Wednesday. As a musical aperitif I tried my luck at 12 Tónar to see Low Roar but I was quickly reminded that the smaller venue doesn’t necessarily means the more cosy. In need of cheering up I arrived at KEX Hostel right in time to enjoy one of the best Icelandic bands of young generation – Oyama. Specially for the festival they were joined on stage by the producer of their debut album – wonderful Pétur Ben – and a saxophonist Tumi Árnason. Five sublime compositions from Coolboy enchanted with a great shoe-gaze energy, harmonious vocals and spacey guitars. With an appetite for even more, I waited for Mugison, a legend of the Icelandic music scene. Smiling and positive, Mugison went on stage with his guitar and jumped on a chest to be more visible for an audience that herded together. He presented two new promising songs and didn’t forget about his hits like crazy Þjóðarsálin (what a voice!) and Murr Murr that cranked up almost everyone in the room. Heading to more energetic acts I ended up watching in Hurra how crazy shows are offered by Icelandic hardcore punk band called Muck. They are loud, fast and furious and gave definitely more than 100% of their insane power, maybe even that much that electricity system in Hurra decided to rest in peace for a while but it didn’t really destroy Muck show, rather simply added more amazing noise and riot on stage. Guys played a lot of new material that will be finally released in February next year.
Thursday started in Bíó Paradis with rediscovering a gem – Bastardgeist from US. I have to confess, maybe I’m just partial to spacey falsetto voices that can reach so high and are decorated with pearly waterfalls of sounds generated from a computer, kalimba and synths. It kind of translate to a shape of music astral travel thanks to multi-layered compositions of Bastardgeist. Magic happened also later, in the evening. Arguably, the most cute Swedish girl of the festival was singer-songwriter Alice Boman. She gave an awesome 25-minute-long performance that was full of emotions and tenderness. I´m still enchanted by her trembling warm voice that emphasises deep, beautiful and honest songs. Then I decided to check out another debutants, Horse Thief. Those five Americans have already released their first album and you could easily see how happy they were thanks to possibility of playing in such wonderful conditions in Harpa Concert Hall. They offered sonically uplifting beautiful folk with sweet harmonies and a vocal that reminded me a bit of Cat Stevens. Fortunately, they didn’t forget to explode with blast of energy at the end of not that short performance. But the later it was, the more I wanted to experience something truly mind-blowing. Look, our local hard-rock stars called Dimma play at Gaukurinn, that will be something! And I wasn’t disappointment. In their natural environment of Gaukurinn’s darkness they turned on stage into real beasts and unrelentingly stole the show. On one side – fever and synchronised head-banging. On the other – a huge stage experience and a spectacular crazy performance. We were left speechless, breathless and with wild smiles. In darkness. And because of the darkness.
Friday was the most windy moment of the festival. But it was worth struggling against the wind to get to KEX Hostel that regaled us generously with… HAM. In my honest opinion this legendary Icelandic band simply destroyed the universe. That was an overwhelming experience – a concert room was so full that it was impossible to stick a finger in between people. They stood on tables, chairs and anything that was possible to climb on just to see the band that presented on stage a pure battle of the heavy pulping sound. What a crazy scenery of synchronised and rapid waving sea of heads that spread around vibes of real joy! All eyes were on Ham. They are like a mighty machine consisted of a wild rhytm section, guitars sharp like a razor and such harsh and powerful voices that were joined by throats of the audience. The band had at its disposal only limited time due to the KEXP broadcast but it really didn‘t matter to us, listeners. They mustn‘t just go off stage, without an encore. After almost 10 minutes of an absolute craziness, a volley of applause and a tireless chanting band‘s name, the return of the king called Ham did truly happen. What a blast was that!
Saturday, wait! I started this day full of emotions at Dillon where I experienced probably the only one Icelandic band that does not go unnoticed thanks to skilful stirring doom metal and surf rock while offering at the same time a brand fresh perspective. This is Godchilla, remember this name. An impressive power of drums, dirty basslines, a deep vocal and a hypnotising guitar. They are so good live and have already released a debut album recently called Cosmatos. The atmosphere totally changed when I stopped by again at KEX Hostel to check out Jaakko Eino Kalevi. I have heard it through the grapevine that he is incredible. Indeed. He is able to enchant listeners with his shyly presented fusions of pop, electronic and dream disco with live drums. That was fun especially that he was supported on the stage by Icelandic musicians. I got drowned deeper into the darkness when Fufanu went on stage. They make an immense impression exploring and composing within dark cold wave genre while on stage they seem to be crazy wild and kind of schizophrenic. Listeners are appealed to Fufanu, their charismatic singer, walls of guitars‘ sound, strong drums‘ paths. Am I still in the same time and space dimension…? Next stop turned out ot be at Harpa Concert Hall. I let myself drift on a wave of atmosphere created by Irish singer called Hozier. It was a pleasant indie rock with a pinch of cello. This owner of a specific Irish deep, touching, strong voice gathered a quite big audience that reacted lively to almost everything he said, and I need to admit, he is able to catch a really good contact with listeners. There were both charming and cute moments, but sometimes the concert room was blossoming also with stronger blues guitar riffs. Was there anyone who didn‘t sing along Take me to the church? Another foreign worth to be seen artist was Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Many said they should change now their name to Known Mortal Orchestra. I agree. The band consists of only three musicians but they deliver such a big amount of joy like almost entire orchestra would do. Their lovely melodies sound even better live when they are extended and varied. A bit careless vocals were decorated with insane drums actions using spectrum from psych rock, hard funk to soul, stirring it a bit with garage dirt and lo-fi elements. It‘s impossible not to smile after such a gig.
Is it really Sunday? Is that how everything will end? Time to bear with it. At least the last sounds were satisfying. Instead of drifting somewhere in the universe with Flaming Lips I chose to see how VAR was doing after this intensive festival. They were pretty tired. But it didn‘t have an impact on quality of the show. VAR is actually a freshman at Iceland Airwaves but it doesn‘t mean the musicians are brand new in this business. They enchanted us with haunting ethereal vocals on the background of sonic landscapes and heavy rhytm section that doesn‘t allow you to be bored even for a while. Post-rock was definitely created to teach people how to fly.
So my mind flew then away from Iceland Airwaves and calm down after experiencing such a crazy time full of beautiful sounds that were bombarding you from each direction. New discoveries and plenty of surprises – that‘s how festivals are about. It was worth, in the end Iceland Airwaves is like sonic Christmas here in Iceland. So… what are you gonna do in November next year? I know I‘m gonna be here again. And you?