Sunday, November 11, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Day Four

The final day of airwaves has come and gone. It was a day of subtle joys and major disappointments. We spent the afternoon with DJ Cousin Mary and her husband Ken at the Hitt Husið, a community center for teens in downtown Reykjavík. The first performer was Hekla, not the thereminist as I had hoped for, but rather an unassuming young woman singing songs of those things important to her. It was a very sweet, albeit shaky performance:

Jóhanna Elísa led a six piece band with her fine playing and singing. The string arrangements were superb:

We saw Between Mountains again, this was a much better venue for their emotional songs of the heart:

And we just had to stay to see Ateria again. They were in their element here, surrounded by friends and family. There are some very weird currents running through their music, who knows what darkness lurks in the mind of an Icelandic teen-age girl:

After a break for dinner (monkfish, yum!), we went over to Floí,  a large multi-purpose room in the Harpa complex. The first act was the Faroese performer Eivør, an experienced veteran who sang, played guitar, and wielded a Celtic drum, all to great effect:

Not so great was the next act, Team Dreams: Sin Fang, Sóley & Örvar Smárason. In fact it was a disaster; quite possibly the worst musical performance of any kind I have ever endured. They announced that it would be their last gig. It sounded as if the band had already broken up a while ago. An atrocious sound mix turned it into torture:

Finally, JFDR, who I've been wanting yearning to see perform again since 2012:

The sound problems continued, almost destroying her set. She did fine when she was on her own—singing and playing guitar—but the other instruments were way out of balance. Various mid-bass and low-mid resonances made for a very unpleasant experience. Others told me that it wasn't as bad in the rear of the room, perhaps I was in a bad spot, although reviews in the Grapevine also mentioned the bad sound in Floí.

My Airwaves Experience is over, I'll be back later in the week with a wrap-up.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 3 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Day Three

Not quite so hectic today. After a brief stroll around town we spent a couple of hours in afternoon in the Nordic House; first up was the fine Danish singer/songwriter Liva Mo:

She had played with Nini Julia Bang the day before. Her song “Bad Blood” (about missing her period) was actually quite tasteful. The next act, Bláskjár, we had seen before as well, drumming for Gruska Babuska. Her very personal songs, including one dedicated to her mother who was sitting next to us were heartfelt and sincere; her piano chops were excellent:

We started off the evening’s festivities with the duo Between Mountains, their presentation was accomplished and effective:

Almost all of the acts we’ve seen so far have been women or girls, so to counteract this we took in the hyper-masculine Sólstafir:

They are supposed to be the top Metal Band in Iceland. I believe it.

For the evening’s finale we saw Sóley perform with a bassist and percussionist. She was still battling a cold, but gamely put on an exhibition of experimental music full of weird energy. At times it sounded like a David Lynch soundtrack:

She won the prize for the best outfit of the festival.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Friday, November 09, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Day Two

Residence window display, Bergtaðastræti

We spent the day walking about; we spotted my old blog-pal Auður on the street, giving a tour. We didn’t interrupt her when she was working. The Weaver bought some wool and I went into 12 Tónar, picking up some CDs and the EP/Chocolate bar of JFDR’s:

I’d say that you’ve really made it when they make a chocolate bar in your name.

A mix of acts today we saw Petúr Ben and Nini Julia Bang at the Nordic House off-venue. Petúr was accomplished but Nina was supernatural, singing her spooky folk songs with help from JFDR and Sóley:

Petúr Ben

Nini Julia Bang

Nina’s performance was the highlight of the festival so far; I'll have more about that show at a later date.

The evening was a bit of a blur, but here are some pix to give you an idea. The first act we saw was Vicky, I had seen them in 2009, they were a little older, but could rock just as hard now as they did then. The SiriusXM personality, Rolling Stone and Mojo journalist David Fricke was in attendance:


We went over to Iðno to see Ateria end their set, they were just as spooky as they were the night before:


We then bopped over to Fríkirkjan, a  nineteenth-century church that was featuring a young chamber orchestra playing divinely:

Gabriel Ólafs

Back to Iðno, where Gyða was playing with a string section, with the great Shahzad Ismaily on percussion:

Gyða with Shahzad Ismaily

Over at the National Theatre, the duo Hugni was doing some trippy things with guitar, synths and trombone:


The highlight of the evening was Högni. I had seen him play with Hjaltalin in 2009, this was a whole ’nother thing. A string quartet was, at times, “directed” by Högni from one of the boxes at the side of the auditorium. This gave way to a wild hipster-ish rant about life and time. Very theatrical and musical:


At midnight Ólafur Arnalds, neoclassical composer and conceptual artist, performed a series of ambitious pieces that somehow lacked focus for me. Pretty, though:

Ólafur Arnalds

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Airwaves: Wonderful Women of Wednesday

We started the day with a charming performance by Sóley at the Grund senior home:

Singing to a diverse crowd of hipsters, seniors and preschoolers, Sóley, fighting the flu played a varied set (traditional, and new, and even some children’s music. The highlight was a duet she played with her father (on trombone) of a song her grandmother used to sing about Hawaii. The solo her pabbi took on it was simply gorgeous:

After the concert it was off to a local bakery for sustenance and then to city hall to pick up our wristbands:

We missed the cut in getting into seeing Ólafur Arnalds at the KEXP off-venue show, but that’s alright—its already on YouTube. After a short break we caught the great young trio Gróa at 12 Tónar:

After a break for supper we hit The Hard Rock Café Reykjavík to see Árný, a pop-oriented chanteuse:

Although it was polished, I didn’t care for her style. While sitting down at a booth, I met Peter L Evans, a UK based Icelandic Music enthusiast. I soon figured out that he was the man behind the Radio Croydon broadcasts of Icelandic music a decade ago. He was most surprised when I told him that I had listened to it regularly. The night was still young so we bopped into Gamla Bio where THE VERY LOUD KIRIYAMA FAMILY was playing, the lead singer was very good, but it was just TOO DAMN LOUD:

We escaped with our hearing intact (what?) in time to catch a bit of Hildur’s Adele-wannabe-act:

That wasn’t what we were looking for either; we found it across the street at Húrra:

Grúska Babúska is a hard-rock-gypsy-witch band that was fantastic, inventive accomplished musicians. I wished they had played at my wedding. After their set the very young trio Ateria performed. I think the drummer was thirteen years old:

They were a great find: mysterious, haunting, almost spooky at times. Their original material suggests a bright (or is that a "dark") future for this Folk-Goth band. Due to a scheduling glitch, the 10-woman hard-core feminist rap group Reykjavíkurdætur was just wrapping up their set when we went got in to see them. They did not disappoint:

More Iceland Airwaves coverage tomorrow…

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

KEXP Live Broadcast 6 November, 2018

Kevin Cole

Skúli Sverrisson og Bára Gísladóttir

Bára Gísladóttir

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Iceland Airwaves Countdown #8

1 day until Airwaves!

Queue, 2009 Iceland Airwaves Festival

Where do I begin?

The 12+ official venues offer a wide range of capacities (200-1100), ambiance (seedy, historic, ultramodern), and seating (chairs, pews, floors.) Stir in 230+ acts (in almost as many genres) over 4+ days and this simple professor finds himself faced with nearly infinite choices. One way to make it easier is simply to avoid non-Icelandic acts. Not that the foreign ones are bad, but if they are any good I’d probably be able to see them in Minnesota someday. They generally tend toward more commercial genres anyway and most modern pop music doesn’t do much for me. My previous Airwaves experiences have found that the more off-beat acts are more fulfilling.

Here, in where-and-when order, is a rundown of the acts I’m intending to see; alternate choices are indicated with an asterisk:


19:30  Árný—evocative Icelandic singer/songwriter -Hard Rock Café
20:50  Ingibjörg Turchi—I’ve see her with Rökkurró, beautiful -Bryggjan
21:30  Hildur Vala—Moody, atmospheric, a great singer -Gamla Bíó
21:20* Ateria—a very young “Folk-Goth” trio playing the wrong venue -Húrra
22:30  Moses HightowerVery quirky pop in a multiple of styles -Gamla Bíó
23:00  Reykjavíkurdætur—No-compromise Feminist rap posse -Reykjavík Art Museum
00:20  Une Misére—“An Experience, a movement, a plague” -Iðno


19:50  Vicky—hard-rock riotgrrls, a favorite of mine from 2009 -Gaukurinn
20:00  Ateria—a very young “Folk-Goth” trio playing the right venue -Iðno
20:20  Mr. Silla—Adventurous pop from Sigurlaug Gísladóttir -Gamla Bíó
21:30  Gróa—very young “riot punk” trio -Gaukurinn
22:20  Ylja—traditional Icelandic Folk –Fríkirkjan

22:40* Högni—veteran of Hjaltalín, stalwart of Icelandic music -Þjóðleikhúsið
00:00* Ólafur Arnalds—neoclassical composer, MONSTER TALENT -Þjóðleikhúsið


Special Þjóðleikhúsið Night: The whole night is very strong:
19:00  Eivør—from the Faroes, wonderful singer
20:00  Sólstafir—best Metal Icelandic group
21:10  Sóley—just wonderful
22:40  Högni—veteran of Hjaltalín, stalwart of Icelandic music
00:00  Ólafur Arnalds—neoclassical composer, MONSTER TALENT

Other* acts:
19:00  Bára Gisladóttir—experimental classical composer -Fríkirkjan
19:40  Heiðrik—fine emo singer from the Faroes -Silfursalir
20:00  Fufanu—great techno-rockers -Gamla Bíó
20:00  Unnsteinn—charismatic front man late of Retro Stefson -Harpa Flói
21:00  Mammút—long-standing Icelandic music collective -Gamla Bíó
22:00  Agent Fresco—the pre-eminent Icelandic art-rock band -Fríkirkjan
23:00  Nanook—pop rock band from Greenland -Gaukurinn


Special Flói Night: three great acts in a row:
20:00  Eivør—from the Faroes, a wonderful singer
21:10  Team Dreams—Icelandic supergroup
22:20  JFDR—say no more

Other* acts:
20:00  Eydís Evensen—post-classical composer -Iðno
21:00  Ásgeir—Icelandic pop heavyweight -Fríkirkjan
22:00  Júníus Mayvantmodern R&B stylist -Gamla Bíó
22:50  Dr. Spock—the wildest. Still rocking after 20 Airwaves -Gaukurinn

Dr. Spock, Iceland Airwaves, 2009

For a comprehensive look at Airwaves, check out this Acast interview with Siggi of the Sugarcubes and the great KEXP DJ Kevin Cole (@38:00). Siggi shares information about how the Airwaves Festival works and Kevin really gives us a heartfelt look at what it means to be involved with the musicians and the people of Iceland.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, November 05, 2018

Back on the Rock

The Weaver and I have been enjoying our forays into the Icelandic countryside; there will be in-depth posts about these day-tips at a later date. What I will share with you now are these NSFW clips from the Rocky Horror Show production that we saw Friday night:

There will be one final Iceland Airwaves Countdown tomorrow followed by
Daily Airwaves Re-caps on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2