Iceland Airwaves ’12: Day 2

Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

My day started incongruously early, with a ‘Rock and Bacon’ session in Prikið. Grúska Babúska had just what I needed. A quartet of Icelandic girls, perched on tables and stools, and delivered a tasty breakfast of vocals, electronics and flute. It was a perfect start to the day, surrounded by Airwavers, old men with their morning coffee and young kids sat on the floor.

I met Ólafur Arnalds for a coffee yesterday. A full interview will be published at a later date, but Ólafur despite being softly spoken, and clearly a gentleman at heart, wastes no time in accusing me of being a spy; reading quotes of his in Icelandic newspapers before twisting them and releasing them to the English speaking media. I protest, on the basis that I can scarcely read Icelandic, but he has me in his sights. He reckons that it was me that broke the news about him and Emma Watson. Anyway, his concert at Kex more than makes up for such a slur. We sit on the floor and listen as Ólafur, accompanied by violin and cello, crafts beautiful classical compositions against gentle electronic beats, whilst the sun shines on a snowy Esja across the bay. It is achingly beautiful, and despite his earlier accusatory tone, I easily forgive him.

Lunch then, is a pleasant serving of Canadian and Icelandic bands. Passwords from Montreal, Canada are at Hressó. They specialise in 80’s style synth pop/rock, and the vocalist is wearing shades for no apparent reason. Lay Low is next up, playing the Inspired by Iceland garden shed in Ingólfsstræti; it’s a ramshackle performance but her songs shine though, until the cold gets too much for me, and I return to Hressó. This time it’s Half Moon Run, and they go down a storm with their danceable, intelligent indie rock. Pascal Pinon are next up in the shed, and despite a shortened set, they impress me so much that I follow them to their next concert in Mánabar, where they play a full set of delightful, slightly kooky Icelandic pop.

The evening (dinner?) is all about Reykjavík Art Museum. Conscious of yesterday’s debacle, I’m first in line, and my bravery in the face of the cold wind is rewarded by a Northern Lights appearance (only my second ever) and some top quality music. Samaris kick things off, and are well received despite some truly awful dancing. The are overshadowed completely though, by New Yorkers Phantogram, who are slick, sophisticated and sexy; Sarah Barthel makes her presence felt by patrolling the stage and a deft flick of her hair. Sóley is excellent but suffers from being in the wrong venue at the wrong time.

Chased away by a shocking Purity Ring, I race to Harpa for local heros, Of Monsters and Men. All eight of them arrive on stage in a blaze of colour and glitter, and here, it all makes much more sense. The lyrics sound less glib than on record and the lacklustre songs on the album spring to life. By the end of the show, it feels like we are all in the band, and I’m sorry to step out into the bitter wind. I’ve gorged myself on Icelandic music.

Iceland Review online.