One of the best things about getting wasted on Friday night at Airwaves, is Saturday mornings Chill party at the Blue Lagoon. It’s big, outdoor geothermal pool of blue, sulphiric water – off-flow from a thermal powerplant in a lava field about 40 mins outside town. Busses pick up shadows of people from the hotels around town and whisk them out and it has got to be the best cure EVER. In case you need some help with the cure there’s a bar in the water and for this event there’s a DJ who despite the irony of the power going down about five times, manages to make the last part of the few hours there into a water party and it’s a fresher punter that climbs back on the busses for the trip back – ready for another endless night.
Before the music officially starts, there’s time to wander the town again and we land into the legendary 12 Tónar record shop where we are given a handful of local recommendations, a seat in the lounge area with headphones and a stereo for ourselves, and as many espressos as we can take. An awesome independent record shop, they were an early supporter of many local artists including Sigur Rós. They are also a record label supporting some consistently good local talent. Most notable out of the bag we left with was Jóhann Jóhannsson’s gorgeous soundtrack to the animated movie Varmints and a new release from a band called Rökkurró.
So off to Nasa to see Factory Floor who were dark and bloody, pounding drums and a drum pad layering noise over distant mantra-type vocals as the songs dipped in and out of moments of relief. An awesome assault on our day-three cadavers.
We could hang about for JJ but instead we can’t resist going off-schedule to see the beginning of The Vandelles again in the small Bar 11. The stage is so small they have to have a discussion about where the guitars will point and again go from a standing start to a lather of sweat and flying hair and drumsticks in about five chords. Too much fun. Tunng are on stage when we get back to the museum and visually come across way too folky. With a twee, felt hat, some kind of improvised half-turban and their barefoot dancing you might immediately throw yourself back into the arms of Hurts again, but we stuck it out and they were a cheery bunch all told, ending on the best song in their bag – ‘Bullets’.
Now the choices on offer are an embarrassment of riches. We look in on Apparat Organ Quartet. A local group founded by the afore-mentioned Jóhann Jóhannsson 11 years ago, the members are a pot pourri of Icelandic musicians and they use only analogue, electrical organs and a vocoder to land somewhere in Kraftwerk territory but with a lot more rocking out. Fun to a point but it was more of a curiosity to us while the locals were clearly delighted with seeing a rare live show.
Back to the museum which was, of course, running late, for Bombay Bicycle Club who were particularly lively and had a big sound compared to some of the folkier sounds on recorded songs such as ‘Ivy & Gold’. Reykjavik was in love with the London foursome and the hall was packed, and bouncing along. Not anything massively fresh from our end, so we left them to in and made a quick trot to one of the four excellent little sweaty venues that line up next door to each other opposite the museum, where the four curly heads of Neon Indian are buried in the back of another full house. The cheery synth sounds are the mark of summer, and “ahh ahh ahh”’s, squelchy chords and a theremin solo make it the feel-good gig of the night in the Venue club. Leg it next door to Sódóma to catch The Joy Formidable but the stage is running way late and we have the happy accident of catching half The Antlers set. Sweet North American east coast sounds, letting in parts of sadness and parts of hope it was a melancholic pause and set us right up for a night that was definitely on a roll.
That distinctive, curly headed guy we kept seeing all weekend turned out to be from Reptile and Retard and he was standing, bare-chested, on a plinth to our left and we came up the stairs into the venue, while the band rocked out some fuzzy, filthy synth-lead rock on the stage to the right. He spend most of the gig hanging from the roof and it was such a punch to the senses that it felt like a cold shower and a bottle of whiskey at the same time. The sort of event you dream of walking in on – everyone is on it, and the whole room is moving.
We made a quick run back to the museum to see Robyn for the fifth time (!) this year, and all at festivals. Still in stratospheric-pop form (but still wearing the ugly shoes from Roskilde) we caught two songs and ‘Dancing On My Own’ never left our heads for the night. Tip back in across the road and this time we do catch north Wales’ The Joy Formidable. Ritzy Bryan’s shock of blonde, bobbed hair and black eyebrows frame her frightening thousand-yard stare. She is a magnetic frontwoman and seems to take up 90% of the stage, moving around for every second she’s not on the mic. The two guys who are the rhythm section do a great job of keeping a dark and frenetic pulse under her sometimes poppy sounding voice. Smitten. As one wag had it online, maybe it’s time for Lush to reform.
Too late to go home early, we made it back to Kaffibarinn till we were kicked out and have suprisingly pleasant memories of a pizza in the rain at 6.30am. While many partied on through Sunday with Dan Deacon and FM Belfast, we were homeward bound. Nothing to do with sun or grass, Iceland Airwaves is still one of the most enjoyable festivals in Europe, consistently casting up new discoveries and providing the perfect cap to the festival season. Missing you already.
Photos by Jakob Bekker Hansen