Iceland Airwaves I 10.14-18 I Reykjavik

Saturday, 10.17

Brasstronaut :: Iceland Airwaves 2009
With the festival crowd refreshed and raring to go from an extended soak at the "Blue Lagoon Hangover Party," it was back to where the previous night's events concluded at the Art Museum. Upon arrival, we managed to catch Vancouver-based quartet Brasstronaut. Playing the grandest venue at the festival, they appeared confident as their hypnotic, indie-jazz-rock fusion wooed the crowd. Having a stab at the local dialect is never easy, and many international acts have failed miserably at it during previous Airwaves. Local singer Hildur (who had kindly translated one of their songs via MySpace) did it justice as he added a sweet exchange of ideas to their soulful and successful performance.

More screaming and sweat was upon us as we pushed through the Sódóma crowd to enjoy We Made God. This strong group of metal musicians made themselves at home at the Kerrang! endorsed night, demonstrating their talents through a noisy set of well constructed rock songs and a thrilling display of heavy and delicate soundscapes.

As we moved back out into the cold, the weather forced us to dart inside as we ended up at Batteriði. By no means was this a bad move as we were welcomed by platinum selling Icelandic hip hop act XXX Rottweiler. The giant leap in genre was quite the experience, especially with a shed-load of adoring fans screaming what sounded like lyrics (I have been told the lyrics ARE good). We found our attention was focused on the energetic group's cohesion and instrumental qualities, which resulted in a drunken hip hop sway amongst the crowd.

Dr Spock :: Iceland Airwaves 2009
Over at Sódóma it was the turn of Músíktilraunir winning (the Icelandic version of a Battle of the Bands) Agent Fresco, who shook the audience up with a lung testing set of madness. The spotlight shone heavily on frontman Arnór, whose excessive screaming and ape hanging athleticism became tiresome. Their primary merit was solid musicianship, and no wonder given Agent Fresco has been awarded best guitarist, drummer, and bassist prizes.

As we vacated Sódóma, we were welcomed by the spectacle of a glam rock hillbilly cowboy, Viking strength fire-eaters, and four huge wheels. It was festival favorites Dr Spock let loose in the back of an open truck roaming through the streets. The totally extravagant rock & roll street party was in full flare and a rapidly growing audience pursued the vehicle as it aimlessly taxied around the city. Even though this was one of the most obvious secret "shows," the experience was one of Airwaves' most outrageous and enjoyable ideas to date.

Sunday, 10.18

Following four days of partying, Sunday morning in Reykjavik resembled a ghost or zombie town, with people who have hit the seven a.m. club curfew still strolling the streets. With a limited number of venues open for service on the final day of Airwaves, our choice was diverted elsewhere as we faced yet another snaking queue. The lengthy line at NASA was justified as home favorites GusGus were scheduled to close the festival in true patriotic style. For us, it was left to Sódóma to cap the festival off. With the beer still flowing and the festival squeezing the remaining life out of its attendees, we came in from the cold to experience Icelandic hip hop act Fallegir Menn (translates to "Beautiful Men"). It was difficult to establish if this was a serious act or not, but their performance did at least raise the spirits of the venue for one last celebration.

Dubbed "the first troubadour rapper in the world," we were curious to see what indie-folk-rap artist Helgi Valur & Shemales had to offer. With no real expectations, we found the indie-rap fusion worked surprisingly well as both the lack of connection with the previous act and familiarity of a reworked cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" and a carbon copy of Rage's "Bombtrack" had the audience moving. Helgi Valur & Shemales was an adequate act to sustain the party atmosphere as the festival came to a close.

In a city where news and information spreads at the speed of light, it did not take a mastermind to uncover the festival's final special surprise guests Crystal Antlers. Pushing the festival into the early hours with a therapeutic set full of strange psychedelic sounds and fierce energy, the band confirmed that there was still life at the tail end of Airwaves.

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[Published on: 11/9/09]

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