Airwaves Wednesday Night
I won’t say I’m more excited for the Iceland Airwaves festival than Christmas but it’s a close call. A harvest festival of Icelandic music, Iceland Airwaves showcase a cross section of the Reykjavík music scene, so whether you’re at the festival to see your favourite band in action or get to know the next big thing, You’ll come away satisfied. If you can’t be here for the festival, the What’s on writers are at your service, ready to inform you of what you’re missing!
Eager to get the festival started, I headed to an off-venue show at Lucky Records straight from work. Well, straight from post-work happy hour, to be honest. Miss Naivety was playing at Lucky Records by the Hlemmur food hall. The Russian musician instantly got me in the airwaves mood, playing a tiny keyboard set on an even tinier flower-decorated desk, surrounded by record covers and musically inspired graffiti.
Next up at Lucky Records were Tófa, a relatively new group that has been generating quite the buzz in Iceland. They play actual instruments, loudly, making them one of a handful of interesting new bands heralding a shift from the hyperfocus on the Icelandic hiphop in the past few years. Their set also opened with a spoken-word song, which was immediately intriguing. Although I was curious to hear more, I was getting hungry at this point and with the Hlemmur food hall so tantalizingly close it was getting hard to stave off the hunger. Since this wasn’t going to be Tófa’s last gig at the festival, I decided to sacrifice the rest of their show for a Bahn Mi sandwich.
By the time I finished my sandwich, the official program was getting started, so I headed to the Reykjavík Art Museum to catch the first show of the night, Alvia Islandia, the bubblegum bitch. She had the unenvious task of opening the show at one of the largest venues at the festival, the main hall of the Reykjavík Arts Museum, formerly an industrial building for the fishing industry. Undaunted at the prospect, Alvia came on stage along with a hypewoman, dressed in a set of pyjamalike clothes with a lollipop print. Her show featured the appearance of pink My Little Pony horses, a pink inflatable chair and graphics with more lollipops and bubblegum. It’s not exactly my cup of tea but she was having fun with it and Bubblegum Bitch is always a fun song.
Next up were Cyber. I have no idea how Cyber ended up as the second act on Wednesday night when the crowd was barely getting warmed up because they’re show was awesome. Fresh off the release of their first full-length album, HORROR, Cyber are making some seriously cool experimental hip-hop and they’re live shows are amazing. They entered the stage in a coffin carried by queens in full drag, wearing black latex and crowns, and onstage were burning white candles and some attention-grabbing graphics. If you have a chance to see Cyber, at Akureyri or an off-venue show, go check them out, seriously.
I hadn’t even heard of the next act at the Art museum so we decided to check out some smaller venues. We headed over to Gaukurinn where we caught the last few songs of Holy Hrafn. To be fair, his official description is pretty weird – a space cowboy that makes that weirdcore-hiphop and speaks cool gibberish or sumerian or something – but it didn’t really speak to me.
GUNNAR JÓNSSON COLLIDER
Gunnar Jónsson Collider however, the next act at Gaukurinn, brought my hopes up again. I saw Gunnar Jónsson perform at last Airwaves when GJC was a solo project but this time he brought a full band. Playing a patented blend of electro, prog and experimental rock, at times going full dream pop/shoegaze, Gunnar’s musical turn was a pleasant surprise.
It’s a Wednesday night and unlike vacationing visitors I had work in the morning. After Gunnar’s show we were ready to head home. Before we left, however, we decided to check out Halldór Eldjárn at Húrra. According to the Iceland Airwaves website, “his live show consists of live performing robotic instruments which he has built, his brother Úlfur Eldjárn on the MIDI-based saxophone, synthesizers and all nicely tied together with Halldór’s live drumming.” That’s pretty cool, but to be honest, standing at the back of the packed venue was probably not the best spot to appreciate the instruments from. I did enjoy the music, though.
The crowd at the Reykjavík Art museum was more than ready for Birnir when he set on stage. Accompanied by low-key visuals of fangs, he started churning out his hits. His sort-of-shy stage persona was actually quite charming, as he got the audience on his side quickly. Fellow rapper Herra Hnetusmjör (Mr. Peanut Butter. Yes.) proved to be the spark that the chilled, laid-back show needed as his energy brought everything up a whole level. The duo killed it with their newly-released single ‘Já ég veit’ (Yeah I Know). All in all, a solid set by one of the darlings of the hip-hop scene.
JÓI PÉ AND KRÓLI
As soon ar Jói Pé and Króli stepped on stage, it was obvious who the crowd was here to see. The duo proved that if you are good enough – age doesn’t matter, as the young rappers were the stars of the Wednesday night. The rappers complemented each other perfectly as Króli led the show and got the crowd going, while Jói Pé was more like a musical hitman – silent throughout the show yet bombarding the crowd confidently with bars and hooks. They performed like seasoned veterans of Airwaves. In a refreshing move, they went old-school with no visuals, letting their music do the talking. Festival-goers were only reminded of their age when everyone gathered to sing a birthday song for Króli, who just turned eighteen. Good times all around!
The hall at the Reykjavík Art Museum cleared out after Jói Pé and Króli. I feel for Joey as his set was ambitious, lyric-matching visuals and all, and he performed well, despite the lack of audience. This proves, to some extent, that a Wednesday night for Airwaves might be an overextension. Joey stepped on stage at the late hour of 00:20. Some people have work in the morning? Who would have thought! Joey went for it, though, as he came decked out in a Cam’ron-style furry pink outfit and had a constant stream of guests accompanying him on stage (Final guest count: 11!). Jóhanna of Cyber and Joey had great chemistry on the stage but Herra Hnetusmjör was the spark again, as he went all-in on ‘Joey Cypher, the finale. Joey’s set would have been a perfect end to the night an hour earlier.
A seemingly endless amount of exciting Icelandic artists will hit the stage at this year’s edition. Check out this playlist featuring some of the hottest talent we have on show this year. Aron Can, Sturla Atlas, FM Belfast and Young Karin are some of the names you have to check out. 50 artists, 50 songs. Enjoy!