Iceland Airwaves ’13 – Wednesday

So after going to bed much too late last night – and staying in bed equally late in the morning – I finished my write-up for Tuesday and dragged my lazy ass outside and down to the lovely C Is For Cookie to have breakfast. Ok, – technically – it was after three but hey, breakfast is breakfast!

mij=Door: Andrew. Foto’s: Dennis en Reinier
Today is the first day of Airwaves and the anticipation is running high. Unfortunately, the transition to Iceland and the 15-degree temperature drop is catching up to us and we’re not exactly super fit. And while the coffee in Iceland is generally above par (in CIFC above par even for Iceland) it does not magically make me ten years younger. So I’m kind of tired and cranky: if I had a blanket I’d sleep like a log! Returning home I walk past 12 Tonar record store as I’m drawn to the music of the lovely Rökkurró playing. Sadly, the little store and off-venue location is literally packed to the rafters. The overflow of people spills over onto the street, standing around chatting in the sweet atmosphere that somehow permeates all things Airwaves. It’s cold though, so I hurry on home where our lovely travelmates cook a yummy veggie meal. After that, it was off to Harpa for perhaps just a couple bands and an early night. Not!
The first exposure to on-venue Airwaves of the festival was a bit of a shock. A couple of days of quietness and simply killing time in Reykjavík didn’t exactly prepare me for the overload of people at this festival. Just the sheer amount people who can fit in this awesome concert hall remains a mystery – let’s just call it a lot. Still, this is why I am here: on stage, the mighty Mammút is gearing up to blow me away. They make a kind of music…I don’t know. While standing in Harpa’s Norðurljós the idea comes to me that Mammút and Samaris, my favourite Icelandic band, are related. While Samaris is dark and kinky (and kind of scary), Mammút is actually the more fearsome of the two. The band manages to capture the awesome energy that lies trapped inside them like a massive glacier, and carefully shows it to the packed audience. Carefully and slowly, because it’s too easy to lose control. Even when Mammút’s songs build up to tremendous crescendos, they’re always in control. Always.
Next band up is Retro Stefson. Party-party-everybody-dancing awesomeness! Literally what I wrote by the way, because I was dancing too! I’ve seen the brothers Stefánsson and band several times now (even when Pedro was about the same size as his bass) but every concert I see marks yet another spurt of growth for both the musicians and the band itself. Retro Stefson is a well-oiled stage machine now, bringing a heavy influence of Latin and afro-beat, blended with their unique Icelandicness. The audience’s response is immediate and energetic. Everyone seems to know the songs, from giant Vikings to tiny blonde pixies, and they all dance like there’s no tomorrow.
FM Belfast
This of course makes the bridge to the next band, FM Belfast, all the more easy: after four Airwaves I have seen FM Belfast exactly once. And if I recall correctly, that was in an off-venue location in 2008: the Smekkleysa-store (Smekkleysa being Icelandic for bad taste, they’re a record label you may have heard of) to be precise, which was packed with about twenty people per square meter while FM Belfast performed their -then- new album How To Make Friends. So, Harpa is taken over and a super party is launched. Homages to Prodigy, Beasties and several house music pioneers (and perhaps a few others that I didn’t catch) are performed, along with some banging tracks from old and new albums. This is underlined by mad crazy frantic dancing, confetti cannons, everybody in the place jumping and screaming , colorful streamers flying through the air everywhere. The only thing left out was glow-sticks, wow! This was exactly what I had hoped for in an on-venue FM Belfast-gig: take over like a boss, create a mad party, everybody happy, awesome music. This band delivers like no other. And even though it’s the first day I don’t believe it will be better than this.
As I was walking out of Harpa, all hot and sweaty from the dancing, something magical happened: the clouds rolled away, the stars came out and green curtains of magnetic fire were painted across the sky. I’d never seen this aurora before. Although the person with whom I would most like to share it with isn’t here, a smiling, bristly chinned, big and friendly giant FileUnder-photographer really is the next best thing.

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