Iceland Airwaves ’16 is starting. Everyone at What’s On is so excited and we wanted to share the excitement so we’re going to tell you about last night’s show. We’re giving you two different perspectives on Airwaves opening night this time.Gréta will give you the local’s view and Ian is representing fresher eyes because as the Icelandic proverb goes: “Keen is the guests eye.” For reviews of the other nights and more, click here!
Last night was Iceland Airwaves ‘16’s first night of the official schedule. For a Wednesday night, the schedule looked pretty good, so after a brief disco nap, I headed out for the first show of the night, Cryptochrome at Húrra. I knew nothing about the band or their music beforehand, only that my brother-in-law kind of wanted to see them. When they first started, I was even pretty sure I wasn’t going to like this but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong! Not only was the music of this Icelandic/English/German collaboration strangely hypnotising, pulling you into a slow groove as it went along, but their energetic stage presence also got you going. All in all, Cryptochrome was great as the first band of the night. Next up at Húrra was EinarIndra slowing it down again with his set of smooth indie electronic. After Cryptochrome’s energy, EinarIndra was a bit too smooth for us so we moved on to Pétur Ben in Gamla Bíó.
We caught the last half of Pétur’s set, which is of the dark and stormy rock variety. He was playing with a band this time, filling out his sound, although I must admit I think I prefer it when it’s just him and his guitar. My favourite was the last song when he brought out a whole choir to back him up. After Pétur we headed over to the Harpa concert hall to try to catch the last part of the Reykjavíkurdætur show. Reykjavíkurdætur is part hip-hop group, part performance art, and they’re always really fun to see live. They’re a group of sixteen women performing unapologetically feminist lyrics, ending and breaking most of society’s rules as they go along. Unfortunately, they were almost done by the time we got to Harpa, although we did catch the last song of their show.
Next up was Emmsjé Gauti and if non-Icelandic festival-goers weren’t already perplexed by Reykjavíkurdætur, I’m pretty sure Gauti was the last straw. As usual, he was dressed all in white and played some of his recent hits, all the while keeping the crowd dancing. His version of hip hop is definitely on the pop music end of the spectrum but he has some decent party hits and his live shows are always fun. Icelandic hip hop is a tight-knit group and some famous faces guest-starred in Gauti’s show. The guy love reached its zenith when Gauti closed his set with his hit, Strákarnir, an ode to “The Boys”, some of whom joined him onstage. The positive energy was shared by the crowd, which was dancing enthusiastically enough towards the end to make the floor sway.
Last but definitely not least was Dizzee Rascal! This was the grime legend’s first time in Iceland as he kept reminding the audience but I think both he and the audience were pretty satisfied. It definitely didn’t feel like a Wednesday night anymore as Dizzee kept the crowd going through all of his set before closing with the crowd pleasers, Hype and Bonkers.
Iceland Airwaves definitely opened with a bang this year!
This being my first time attending Iceland Airwaves, I had absolutely no expectations and really no idea what I was in for. I started my night by heading to an off-venue show at Loft Hostel, one of my favourite places to drink during the week, figuring it would be a nice warm up for the evening ahead. I was there to see the band Kælan Mikla, an all-female synth punk band that started getting attention after winning the City Library`s poetry slam competition in Reykjavík. With heavy bass and a sparseness in their music that allowed the gaps in between sounds to become a mood of their own, I found myself drawn into the dark atmosphere being created by this extremely talented group.
I made my way over to Harpa next to see one of my favourite Icelandic rappers, Kött Grá Pje. It was a different setting than I am used to seeing him in and the large stage at Harpa seemed slightly unfitting at first as I am used to cramming myself into a bar to watch him perform. As always he brought a lot of energy and has a way of connecting with the audience. This was actually the first time I have heard him speak to the crowd in English so it was great to finally be able to laugh at his jokes in between each song. Mid-set he took off his shirt to reveal a rather crude drawing of male genitals covering his entire back, he sure knows how to make a show just that much more interesting. It’s not all jokes with Kött Grá Pje though, I give him credit for introducing me to the Icelandic rap scene and allowing me to discover just how amazing it is.
After Kött Grá Pje the next act on the same stage was GKR, an Icelandic rapper/hip-hop artist. I had heard good things and knew nothing about him but I figured I would stick around being as I had some time to kill before Reykjavíkurdætur`s performance, the rap collective I was most excited to see. GKR turned out to be a really great show. As the venue slowly began to fill up more and more as the night progressed, you could feel the energy in the room. Partly due to the number of people now filling up the floor, the retro-inspired visuals playing behind the stage, and GKR himself running around the stage and into the audience. I must say, for such a young artist, the enthusiasm he displays for his music seems genuinely honest and I believe that is the main reason why it is so infectious for everybody who gets the chance to see him perform. I could tell that my decision to ride out this stage was a very good choice indeed!
I don’t know if it was the change from all the rap and hip-hop or my love of reggae music, but when I entered the other stage and found the Icelandic reggae trio AmabAdamA, I felt a wave of chill energy embrace me. The whole room had that vibe, everyone was bobbing around in a slow rhythmic way to the beat, and despite the large audience I felt connected with everyone there, even the band way up on stage. The performance was filled with dancing, trumpets, and a ton of positive energy. It was not just the type of music causing this feeling of peacefulness, you could tell that the band really embraced the attitude behind their songs, always smiling and telling jokes and talking to the audience with such a laid-back demeanor that one could easily feel as if they were friends from way back, and for that moment in time we all were friends. I could not believe how quickly my mood could change by just walking one room over, the power of airwaves is its diversity; if one set doesn’t suit your mood just go to another, there is a little bit of everything to please everyone.
Being totally chilled out I headed back over to the other stage just in time to be pumped back up by the 16 members all female rap collective Reykjavíkurdætur. I have seen them once before and had high expectations, and in no way did they disappoint. It was impossible not to be completely captivated by the show, with so many members there is always something visual going on onstage to keep you involved. One might think with so many members it would be difficult to give everyone a part or keep everyone busy, but with a seamless transition of rapping from one woman to the next, and with all others dancing and rapping along, the whole performance comes together and really seems like one single entity. Their rapping is tough and their looks are sharp and they put on one hell of a show!
The final performance I saw that night was the headlining rapper Dizzee Rascal from the UK. I had heard of him before but never heard his songs. His stage presence was powerful and with the entire venue full he had everyone under his control. He wanted everyone moving and that is what everyone did, the entire room was moving as one connected by the music. The performance continued like this on a fast incline of building energy with a momentum that wouldn’t stop. All in all, it was the perfect way to wrap up the night on day 01 of airwaves.