I’m not so sure about dj. flugvél og geimskip. Maybe her quirky, discordant lo-fi dance complete with stories of monsters and aliens and squealing elephants sounds better after a few drinks and late at night, because in the cold light of day it all feels a little childish.
Svavar Knutúr on the other hand is a delight. An old fashioned troubadour with a sense of humor. He plays smart acoustic songs, but the stories are his real appeal. Take the story of his grandmother really liking one of his songs. The one about having sex on mountains. Or the announcement that singing is better than sports—“I’m a public health troubadour,” he proclaims , “I’m in it for you.”
Högni Egilsson, usually with Icelandic giants GusGus or Hjaltalín, played a laid back and surprisingly late night jazz feeling set at Alda. Just him and a keyboard, it’s an unashamed display of talent and style. And hair. So much hair. He finishes with ‘Obnoxiously Sexual,’ which always raises a few smiles.
Milkywhale. Photo: Florian Trykowski/Iceland Airwaves.
Jófríður Ákadóttir, aka Jófríður, one half of Pascal Pinon, one third of Samaris, gave us a beautiful, wonderful set, also at Alda. I’ve seen a few shows at Airwaves over the years, but I’ve never seen anyone make tea on stage before. She tells us that it’s an afternoon tea party, but it’s unlike any tea party I’ve been to. No cucumber sandwiches here, but the music is so sweet, with gentle and hushed vocals that it would be easy to fall deeply, deeply in love.
Harpa Fönn, without her Grúska Babúska bandmates, but with her ukulele, performed innocent, almost childlike songs such as ‘Jumping in Puddles’ in the annex to Tjarnarbió. It’s a rather lovely venue, but clearly a well kept secret as the audience is sparse. She finished with a rather lovely Icelandic hymn then sends us on our way for the weekend.
This is in sharp contrast to Tófa who play quick and dirty Icelandic punk, that itself is strangely at odds with its setting—a usually reserved bookshop on Laugavegur. They are brimming with energy and a crowd starts to grow. The female vocalist gives it her all, as a red face and a lost voice will attest. The band contains members of both For A Minor Reflection and Rökkurró, but this project is nothing like either band. I suggest it’s a project of release for all, but it’s damn good fun.
When 'Airy Met Fairy. Photo: Birta Rán/Iceland Airwaves.
But I hit a problem tonight. I can’t find anything that grabs my attention suitably. I’m worried I’ve overdosed on music. Justman in Iðnó is unremarkable, William Tyler in the gorgeous Fríkirkjan is a talented guitarist but I can’t listen to his solo guitar noodling, Milkywhale in Harpa is a dance/pop act that reminds me of The Mighty Boosh’s Electro Sailors and Braids are pleasant enough electro rock trio from Canada. There is nothing to get my teeth into.
I’m wondering whether I’m struggling because there is a Björk-sized hole in the scheduling tonight, after she dropped out. I note that she still managed to appear at a press conference earlier in the day and wearing a very bizarre looking mask too. My contemplation is not helped by the awfully named When 'Airy Met Fairy, who have all the ingredients to be great, but somehow misfire. The vocalist has been compared to Kate Bush and Roisin Murphy, and I can see why. She has a fragile yet versatile voice that is all too frequently, and sadly drowned, out by the drums and bass. No amount of fairy lights—of which there are plenty—can make up for this missed opportunity.
The day is saved by a lad from the Westman Islands. Unnar Gísli Sigurmundsson, better known by his pseudonym Júníus Meyvant, is a rising star around these parts and playing with his band in Iðnó, it’s easy to see why. He plays a blend of folk pop, and has a rich voice. Songs such as ‘Colour Decay’ sound accomplished, and judging by the size of the crowd, it won’t be long before he outgrows such venues.
Edward Hancox - edhancox(at)live.co.uk
Edward Hancox lives in in the United Kingdom with his wife and two small, noisy children but spends as much time as he can in Iceland. Music—especially contemporary Icelandic music—is his other passion. He writes about both subjects for Iceland Review and in his debut book, Iceland, Defrosted. He does not consider himself an expert on anything.