I was dreading Reykjavíkurdætur ('daughters of Reykjavík') to be honest. Their reviews have been mixed, and I’m not a huge fan of rap with its posturing, but actually I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed myself. Essentially seven girls rapping in Icelandic, it’s huge fun and a good start to the day.
Reykjavíkurdætur. Photo: Sigurður Ástgeirsson/Iceland Airwaves.
It’s impossible to not to mention Árstíðir, without also mentioning their performance of a 13th century Icelandic hymn in a train station in Germany—a performance that took the internet by storm and the band on to bigger things. Árstíðir are a folk band, albeit one with leanings to rock and classical. Their stock in trade is vocal harmonies and maudlin strings. We get a polished performance of just that at Bryggan Brugghús, a brand new brewery tap house by the harbor. It’s a new venue for Airwaves and I like it. It’s big enough to hold a decent crowd and even serves a Session Airwaves beer called IPAirwaves.
Photo: Sigurður Ástgeirsson/Iceland Airwaves.
The hotly anticipated Gangly are next, plus I like the brewery so much I have decided to stay for another, and move to a spot next to the huge mash tanks. Gangly are a sneaky bunch, but now this electro producing trio have now been unmasked to be Sindri from Sing Fang, Jófríður from Samaris/Pascal Pinon and Úlfur from Oyama. How could they go wrong? Turns out, they can’t. This is clever, scintillating stuff. All three provide vocals, but with the draw here being Jófríður. Úlfur makes good use of a vocoder, whilst Sindri provides the samples. It’s gentle, but insistent. The highlight is a smooth ‘Someone Else’ (as I’ll call it here) which sounds just wonderful. I note members of other Icelandic bands in the audience, who nod appreciatively but must be slightly worried as this is a clear contender for act of the festival.
Futuregrapher is at Laundromat. He’s doing his usual thing, not the Royal project or the John Carpenter themes. It’s fun, but there’s no room to dance, and who would want to anyway in front of people eating burgers and fries?
Later on I see East India Youth. East India Youth is really just William Doyle, who has named himself after a set of London docks. He was due to play Airwaves last year, but was forced to cancel due to a passport mix up. He promised to play this year and is a man of his word. Dressed in a dapper suit and tie, there is only him on stage at NASA, but he more than holds his own, behind a bank of electronics and wielding a guitar. He’s like a modern one man band, but it’s great, especially anything from Total Strife Forever.
GusGus. Photo: Florian Trykowski/Iceland Airwaves.
Kero Kero Bonito are from London too, and have an enigmatic singer/rapper who uses both English and Japanese over what sounds a lot like video game themes. The mainly Icelandic crowd like it a lot, and Húrra is shouting ‘“Kero Kero Bonito” long after the band have left the stage.
Back in Harpa, GusGus are doing their thing, and quite rightly so. Now the grandfathers of the Icelandic music scene, they also have enough skills and experience to pull off what is essentially a headline slot for them. Högni starts with a slow burner, but by the time Daníel Águst arrives on stage, things are heating up. GusGus headlining Iceland Airwaves is right and proper.
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.