Madness. This is what you’re in for here at Iceland Airwaves, which has become a yearly pilgrimage for many music enthusiasts, press and industry. Once you’ve been, the chances are that sooner or later you’ll be coming back. Late-night mash-ups, hip crowd, a cryptic language and most importantly an overdose of pretty damn good local and international bands. My recollections are scarce and a crushing hangover is imminent…
There is no better way to kick-start Iceland Airwaves than with local heroes Reykjavík! who deliver a ludicrous yet extremely addictive concoction of screams, stage-diving and overdriven guitars. Highly entertaining.
Unfortunately Juvelen, the Swedish follow-up, didn’t have the same effect. Jonas Pettersson’s voice sounds like Prince (or, perhaps even more accurately, Justin Timberlake) and his electropop is packed with a fair bit of cheese. To their credit, they did manage to pack out Nasa, (one of the biggest festival venues) with screaming teenagers.
Fugazi/Tortoise-influenced Kimono have been something of a secret weapon of the local music scene since 2003. Very technical, without losing passion, I really enjoyed their show.
Very gutted I missed Sudden Weather Change at Nasa on Thursday night, probably one of the most hyped alternative Icelandic bands at the moment. But God Thor is great! The morning after, and that’s the beauty of Iceland Airwaves, I walked obliviously into this little record shop in the centre of town and there they were, Sudden Weather Change playing in front of just the shopkeeper and me. Bliss! Their music is honest and straightforward and reminds me of Sonic Youth and Pavement.
Later on, folk outfit Rökkuró open the night at the prestigious Reykjavík Arts Museum. Hildur’s delicate lullabies are sung in Icelandic and are backed up with a cello but the venue is too big for them, at least for the moment.
An undisputed highlight are the Danish Choir Of Young Believers, who proved on stage that they are much more than another folk pop band who sound like the Fleet Foxes. Solid, and at times much heavier than expected.
Fellow Danes, When Saints Go Machine's quirky dance pop fails to keep my attention for long. It's just not that innovative and rather dull apart from a couple of witty exceptions.
I race across to the other side of town to see chamber-pop Hjaltalín in Fríkirkjan church along with (what else?) a chamber orchestra. Impressive setting and great acoustics. The new single 'Stay By You' sounds miles better than their (at times) tiresome debut album Sleepdrunk Seasons. Let’s see…
Despite trying to steal the whistling song idea from Peter Bjorn and John with 'Let’s Go Surfing', Brooklyn band-of-the-moment The Drums seemed to be quite popular with the Icelandic youngsters. But seriously, they might have some good tunes, but they’re not that life-changing.
On the other hand, Norwegian mentalists Casiokids slowly but steadily have been improving their onstage craft. They come complete with a giant teddy bear, a demonic keyboardist and a large palette of dance moves and electro sequences. 'Fot I Hose' is one of these tunes that, even though you might think you’re done with, certainly isn’t done with you!
At first Micachu & The Shapes come across as utterly peculiar. Without any obvious rhythm structure and some detuned notes, I struggled to find something to cling on. And yet tiny Mica Levi’s PJ-Harvey-like attitude wins me over. Very promising!
20-year-old post-rock hopefuls, For A Minor Reflection (the guys who were supporting Sigur Rós for their European tour) showcased their much awaited follow-up to last year’s Reistu Þig Við, Sólin Er Komin Á Loft... in a rammed Iðnó. Powerful stuff. Looking forward to getting my hands on the new album.
I head over to Sódóma to see Cliff Clavin. I really do sympathise with their Placebo-influenced alt-rock and their single 'Midnight Getaways' is brilliant. Originality, though, still seems an alien concept to them.
Bergen offspirngs The Megaphonic Thrift, whom I followed around to three different venues, are admittedly my biggest surprise at this year’s Iceland Airwaves. Seriously, I just couldn’t get enough of their highly energetic and melodic Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr.-influenced alternative rock.
Moving back to Nasa, FM Belfast took the stage along with Örvar Þóreyjarson Smárason from múm. The Icelandic Scissor Sisters threw a crazy party onstage in front of an ecstatic audience, obviously very familiar with their material, which was followed-up by the of glacial beats Danish prime-time DJ/producer Trentemøller, finishing just in time for me to catch my 7am flight. Not pretty. And definitely not in a state of mind to face the joys of Gatwick airport.