Icelanders do this thing on Sundays. They disappear. Saturday night they are everywhere, but on Sunday you’ll do well to find one. Reykjavík 101 was bustling with tourists but not a single Icelander at least before 3pm, when Dunkin Donuts or ice cream shops seem to be the main place to head for. As a consequence, the Sunday of Airwaves is a strange, muted affair with little of interest in the way of off-venue and a reduced on-venue schedule. Harpa isn’t in use, as the organizers have pressed the Vodafone Hall into service instead for the likes of Hot Chip and Sleaford Mods. I have no idea why.
In any case, I’m not sure I can handle another full night of concert watching—it will be my sixth consecutive night and I have blisters on both feet. I drank too much jólabjór (‘Christmas beer’) last night and the pedometer on my phone tells me that I am averaging 30,000 steps per day. I feel like I could go to sleep standing up, and for a moment yesterday, during Kero Kero Bonito, I think I might have. I’m not moaning, honestly, I just need to take it easy tonight.
The crowd. Photos: Alexander MatukhnoIceland Airwaves.
I decide to limit myself to Icelandic acts only, preferably acoustic ones (still feeling last night!) and just downtown. I don’t need to see British bands in arenas, I could do that anytime. Besides, it’s too far to walk. Maybe I’ll discover the ghost of Airwaves past.
So it’s Hjaltalín to start with in Karribarinn. It’s the third time I’ve seen Högni this week, but he still has some tricks up his sleeve, aside from that voice. Tonight, he’s roaming all over the room, including up on the bar itself. Hjaltalín sound a lot more raw live, which is no bad thing.
Snorri Helgason is at Dillon. It’s his only show of Airwaves, which is unusual as he usually plays several times each day of the festival. He’s trying new material—a phrase which concert goers the world over hate to hear. It’s is based on Icelandic folklore and is actually sounding pretty good, but it’s the old stuff which shines, particularly the beautiful ‘Butchers Boy’ performed with Silla. It’s only a shame we didn’t see more of Snorri this year.
I find it hard to resist the charms of Soffía Björg at Gaukurinn, but before she comes on stage we are “treated” to three comedians, who are presumably trying to drum up business for their regular comedy night. It’s an uneasy few minutes, as comedy is rarely funny when foisted on an audience who are clearly there for something else. Soffía Björg and crew eventually arrive though, admitting she is as “tired and hungover as everyone else.” I’m tempted to show her my blisters, but don’t. Soffía is the perfect salve to the weary though, with her soft and sensitive vocals becoming more and more confident. The band have improved even in the past few days, and it’s a tight and impressive set. I think Soffía might just be my favorite act of Airwaves this year, and I can’t wait to hear her album. She is a real talent, and that is no joke.
I leave Gaukurinn to get a pylsur, and I’m heartened to see that the northern lights have showed up again. I haven’t seen them since at least Tuesday, which feels like a long time ago. Tonight they are magnificent, arching over Reykjavík in shivering green and through racing clouds. They really are a headline act. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must tend to my feet.
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.