Iceland Airwaves 2013 Day 5: Punk rock in a prom dress

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Kraftwerk at Harpa during Iceland Airwaves 2013 (Photo by Travis Hay)

Kraftwerk at Harpa during Iceland Airwaves 2013 (Photo by Travis Hay)

The below content was originally posted on Life in the Vinyl Lane

The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
– William Blake

On Sunday morning the road to excess, i.e. the sidewalks of Reykjavik 101, hardly resembled the palace of wisdom.  Instead they were strewn with broken bottles and pint glasses, cigarette butts, food wrappers, and frozen puke.  That was the scene as we strolled down the sidewalk outside the Reykjavik Art Museum, an Airwaves on-venue, on Sunday morning.  Such are the weekend mornings in arguably the hardest partying city in Europe.  Reykjavik knows how to have a good time and also makes sure to get the cleaning crews out to get everything back in order.

Though Airwaves runs through Sunday, the last day is generally a pretty quiet one as attendees recover from their hangovers and prep for whatever main event is slated for that night, which this year was Kraftwerk.  We didn’t wait in line for passes to see them so needed to make alternate plans, and with only four on-venues running in the evening it’s not like we had a lot of decisions to make.

In the early afternoon we popped over to KEX Hostel to catch electronic pop genius Berndsen who played a tight 25 minute set of all new material from his just released album Planet Earth.  We had a front row spot on a bench which seemed ideal, until the big redhead climbed out of the performance space, onto the bench (and my camera), and started showing his chest and doing his sexy dance.  Fortunately the only scars that will result from this experience were mental, and I have to admit it was a fun and hilarious ending to his show.  And to the woman who was standing right behind us chatting incessantly with her friends, the reason Chad never calls you back is because of exactly what you were doing with your friends – talking non-stop.  Silence can be golden at times.

But I digress.  Back at Airwaves we had our annual festival-ending nice dinner at Sólon before heading out to the bar Amsterdam to finish out the week.  Amsterdam is small (they may pack in 150 people), but we always see performers in the crowd there.  This year members of Legend, Bellstop, and Halleluwah were the most obvious.  Gang Related offered a decent indie rock set that reminded me a lot of the bands that were playing on American college radio in the yearly 1990s.  Oyama were up next with their own unique blend of shoegaze and punk rock.  They did some stuff with KEXP this trip and I suspect they may be one of the next Icelandic bands to “break” – they’ve been getting some good press and have a great look.

Æla was the last band we saw at the festival, and while we went into their set with absolutely no expectations we left somewhat stunned at what was a great punk rock performance.  The music reminded me a lot of early Icelandic punksPurrkur Pillnikk – much like Cuban cigars have a flavor unique to that island that is difficult to describe but easy to recognize, the same is true for Icelandic punk.  They are obviously well know to the locals based on the back and forth banter between the band and the crowd (“Put your f*cking album out!”).  Despite some equipment difficulties, which they played off with a sense of humor and an instrumental track while their singer/lead guitarist got things sorted out, their set was both solid and unpredictable.  And by unpredictable I mean the lead guitarist went out into the crowd twice during their set – once climbing on top of the bar to play (before riding on a fan’s shoulders and being delivered back to the stage like a conquering hero) and the other time just strolling over there while playing, ordering a shot, and heading back.  They were also the only band we saw all week actually get called out for an encore.  Oh yeah, and did I mention that by the end of the set the singer was wearing the bottom half of a prom dress (just the bottom half, mind you) and pink fishnet stockings?

And that closed out Iceland Airwaves, at least for us.  I still need to count up all the bands we saw, albums we bought, etc, but I’m saving that for when we return to Seattle.  For now I need to get out to Sandhold Bakery for one last pastry and cappuccino.

Vinyl Lane Jeff

About Vinyl Lane Jeff

Jeff is an Icelandic music aficionado and the author of the music blog Life in the Vinyl Lane.