Airwaves ’14 – Day 2. Flying Dragons.

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Árstíðir are as serious and melodramatic as ever over at Kex, so I head to Lucky Records for Ingunn Huld, who is in fine form. Just her and an acoustic guitar, she plays one song after another, each more pretty than the last, ending with the sweet ‘Splendid.’

I love discovering new artists at Airwaves. At IÐA Zimsen, the schedule has gone out of the window, meaning I catch a set by Munster somewhat unexpectedly. Four Icelandic lads—they are acoustic, save for the bass. They play superbly catchy folk with a bit of reggae thrown in. Munster play in their socks, one has dressed like a farmer, but they are energetic and I look forward to hearing more from them.

Hinemoa are up next. They produce a more traditional guitar-based sound and have vocal harmonies based around the core of Ásta and Rakel. It’s gentle, pleasant stuff to go with the first beer of the day. I have to say that I’m sure Airwaves has been oversold this year; there seems to be way more people around, with venues often full to capacity, or just uncomfortable to be in. Harpa in particular is struggling to cope with the slim passages being hard work to get through before and after shows, and the downtown venues of Gamla Bíó and Húrra are simply not big enough for the crowds they are rightly attracting. I’m not sure if it’s a case of too many people, or poor scheduling but it means planning ahead is essential, and don’t expect to move venues too often. At least here, I can sit in a bookshop whilst sipping a beer. The bonus is that Hinemoa are actually pretty good.

Óbó is playing at Kaffibarinn. It’s smaller than I remember and—surprise—it’s full. People are sitting on the stairs, and the equipment, and any available space. I manage to squeeze in too—I’ve learnt the Icelandic balance of being polite yet assertive—and it’s worth it. Óbó plays keyboard whilst speaking/singing in his deep baritone voice, whilst his band produce soft warmth using a violin and guitar.

FURA are bass heavy in Iðnó, but we don’t care. I love this old theater by the city pond, it’s one of my favourite venues. FURA are out to impress. They have the beats, the tunes and the vocals. It’s a heady combination, especially when you barely have room to breathe, let alone dance. Björt patrols the stage looking with presence, whilst at the same time singing her heart out. Her colleagues work laptop and guitars with passion, in a defined and honed performance.

Rökkurró have been around for a while; they’re mainstays of the Icelandic music scene. They have just released their third album, Innra, this week. The band has seen some success, but there is a worry that they have reached their limit; that this is the end of the line for them. Within minutes, those worries were blown away. The band filled Iðnó with their clever, intricate pop. The songs from Innra have a fuller, often more complex sound compared to their earlier albums, and the band have translated this into a thrilling live performance, assisted, no doubt, by talented percussionist Doddi.

Hildur has a truly unique voice and puts it to good use on ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘The Backbone,’ with her soaring vocals cutting through the texture around her. “This song is called Flugdrekar,” says Hildur “which means kites, but in Icelandic it means [literally translates to] ‘flying dragons,’ which is way cooler.” I think that a band who sing about flying dragons is fine with me. I leave with a smile on my face.

Originally published on Iceland Review online.

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