Where the hell did the last three days go? Where indeed did the last three hours go as it really doesn’t seem that long ago since we went to bed. One of our favourite parts of Airwaves was the Blue Lagoon hangover party on the Saturday but alas this rave in the lagoon may have had its day. In place of it there are bands playing the Lava restaurant at the lagoon daily. It does mean you can team up a trip to the famous thermal spa with a bit of music but it is in no way as fun as a collective dance-off to Gus Gus waist deep in those warm milky waters. We organise our own crew outing and enjoy a very sedate (and mentally required) soak. Two of us have tickets to see Retro Stefson in the restaurant so we dry off, re-dress and grab a plate of sushi while watching this most energetic of local acts tempered by playing to a restaurant. It does seem a shame to divorce the soaking from the music but this five-star spa may have suffered aesthetically from the partying fall-out in previous years and this is very contained.
Dropped back in the city we have of coursed missed somewhere near 100 off-venue gigs including the repeat Irish Showcase but every decision to do something is always countered by what you’ll miss. State’s idea is to run the festival identically over two weekends, like Coachella, so you could placate the FOMO, but countless medical professionals would probably veto that. As we pass the Eymundsson bookstore we notice a crowd and pushing in on the second floor we find Pascal Pinon, two sisters, one of whom is in Samaris. Delicate and warm, piano and softly led by subtle electronics it’s stamped of the DNA of this country’s music but it makes it nonetheless beautiful.
After another lamb dinner (even cheap Iceandic lamb kebabs are the best meat you’ve ever had) it’s it time to steel ourselves for the night. Mac Demarco are the touchpaper for the evening. Dipping in and out of covers and encorporating a stage dive, they warm everything up nicely. Next door, Manchester’s Money may or may not be on stage but a drunk young man in a football scarf is alone up there singing a Northern English a cappella folk song. It could be another stage invasion and if it is, it’s amazing. It is Jamie Lee and soon he is joined by the rest of the band after this moment of theatre. Not sounding like the rock band they look like, the rounded and soft ethereal corners contain a diamond heart at the core. Drunk (as he is) Lee is mesmerising, even climbing into the crown with his bottle of wine to watch the band play through some instrumental minutes. Immersed in this scene, we are a little in awe.
Back from Harpa to the city via some needed fresh air, we dig in to the most pleasurable of grimy venues – Harlem – for some Slow Magic. A highlight of an Irish-organised party here last year, the neo-tribal mask has become electrified and the in-crowd drumming to his one-man electro beats is a defibrillator for Saturday. We watch slots to catch On An On and Diana’s on-venue show slip by, catch a moment of calm at Midlake but we need something more rousing before the one gig no-one had any argument in meeting at. Seated at a table outside Harpa’s Silfurberg we sip cold cans of Gull and wait for the Midlake crowd to empty so we can get up close for Jon Hopkins. A certain crew of Irish are at the barrier in the front but we opt for a more passive spot a small way back. He brings one of the albums of the year to the table, as well as an epic set at the Body & Soul festival in June, so no pressure, like. Girlswoony good-looking, he is alone at a table of pads and triggers, while thankfully a laptop is put to the side and there’s no screen staring (I’m looking at you Kieran Hebdon). Every beat and pulse from Hopkins is coming through his fingers. It’s the most analogue looking electronic show. He works mostly through album tracks which are rebuilt live before us, and are a sidestep from the recorded version. Visibly punching-in beats and drops, even the deaf would be dancing at the sight of him work. Girls are rising on shoulders, the air is bruised from punching and someone could be mixing MDMA with the oxygen in here.
It’s hard to leave a gig like that without reaching for convoluted descriptions but in simple terms, it seems like the most progressive of live moments. Everything fresh and good in the hands of one man, in one room on this one island.
It seems nature knows just what we witnessed and so the northern lights are slowdancing across the city sky as we leave. Bar hopping from Dolly to Kaffinbarrin, some Irish musicians on the bill don’t want to miss a moment of the Reykjavik night and refuse to leave until 10 minutes before their airport bus leaves in the not-even-that-early A.M., rolling over into tomorrow and gigs in other countries. In the early hours there’s a promise of an after-party but in the cold morning the waiting becomes too much and State, accompanied on the walk by Daithi, head for the one burger joint still open, the hotel and our blackout curtains.
Jon Hopkins photographed for State by Jakon Bekker-Hansen.