October 31st, in most parts of the world, is Halloween. Not so much in Iceland, although parties have been known and the American customs are gradually gaining a foothold. Carved Pumpkins, children dressed as witches, gory fake blood, and trick or treat may seem out of place. Instead, in Iceland, October 31st is the first day of the annual Iceland Airwaves festival. I’m hoping for more treat than trick.
I’m given a mixed bag. In terms of tricks, the weather is less than pleasant, providing a wind that slices through clothing and squalls of sleet that latch on to the wind and sting your face. A further trick is provided in the sheer length of lines outside venues. Iðnó ,in particular was atrocious, with lines tailing back into the darkness. My whole evening was essential planned around this venue, and alternatives had to be found fast.
This leads to a brief period of venue finding, line measuring, beverage consumption and being blown around by the ferocious wind. I dip into this and that; I feel restless and nothing really suits. Perhaps it’s the excitement and anticipation of whats to come,
Lockerbie were the first treat of the evening. Playing a small triangular stage in Gamli gaukurinn this group of twenty something’s played with a tightness and authority. They played new songs and old, and each sounded anthemic and bright, added to neatly by a superb brass section.
Back to the tricks; Harpa was suffering from lines too, although I did get to see Jack Magnet Quintet, which isn’t his real name, and who was full of smug, music-teacher-who-is trying-to-hard jazz, complete with knowing winks and ridiculous outfits.
In the end though, I’m treated to something really special. In the confines of one of Harpa’s smaller yet beautiful halls, I find local boy Snorri Helgason, replete with band and grand piano. Snorri really shines, debuting new songs and playing some of his gorgeous ‘Winter Sun’ album. His band also shine through, although ukulele player and vocalist Silla very nearly steals the show. In fact, one the last number, she does just that. Snorri treats us to ‘River’ and ‘Caroline Knows’ with hushed appreciation from the crowd, and delicious harmonisation from Silla. Last year, Snorri and crew played 14 shows at Airwaves and the practice clearly paid off.
‘Happy Halloween’ says Snorri, ‘I’m wearing a Snorri Helgason mask’; which, as it turns out, is a treat for us all.
Read the full version at Iceland Review Online.