The Monday after Iceland Airwaves is always a tough day. Today is no different. It is a tough day because you are exhausted having just spent every waken moment for a week making the most of the Airwaves experience and it’s tough because you know you have to wait a whole year to do it all over again. There’s a void in your heart and you don’t know how to fill it. Ok, not quite but you know where I’m going with this. Below you will find the short version of my take on Iceland Airwaves 2011.
Wednesday was the first day of the off-venue program at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel where I would spend my days during the festival. Low Roar was up first and played a really good first set. I am rather fond of this song of his.
The highlight of Wednesday for me was seeing Sóley in Kaldalón in Harpa. I had never seen her before and she didn’t disappoint.
On Thursday I got an opportunity to sit in on a filming for The Line of Best Fit at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel with Active Child. It was a semi-secret show and there were only about 10 people watching, most of them staff or guests at the hostel. When the filming was over, Active Child played a couple of more songs for an eager audience. It was in one word beautiful. Look out for the video The Line of Best Fit guys made as it will without a doubt be much better than mine.
During the off-venue show at the hostel I was intrigued by the Manu Delago set (who I wrongfully dubbed Manu Delgado on at least 3 social media platforms that day), mainly because of the unconventional instruments he uses.
The highlight of the day was Retro Stefsons’s set at the Reykjavík Art Museum. They blew me away with great energy and amazing stage presence. I’ve always liked them but I guess I never took them that seriously as performers. I sure will not make that mistake again.
I also saw Beach House but I was just so spent after the day that I didn’t finish their set.
Friday was a slow day at the hostel compared to the rest of the days. Either the other off-venues had a really stellar line-up that day or the artists we had were just less known. Either way, I discovered a new favorite when the first act of the day started playing. Matthew Hemerlein probably didn’t wow everyone, even though I’ve heard many good things about both his shows, but I just really enjoyed his set. So much in fact that I ended up seeing his actual set at Harpa on Saturday as well.
That evening I went to see Mugison play at the Norðurljós Hall in Harpa. He played a great set like always, I sometimes worry about the love I have for Mugison and his band, but I didn’t feel that Norðurljós was the venue for him. It was lacking some grit and it wasn’t as loud and sweaty as I had liked it to be. Normally when you are at a Mugison show you can feel the music in every fiber of you body. The sound was way too muted for me. This was of no fault of the artists though and nothing more could have been asked of them.
I also saw Klara who works at the Downtown Hostel play with her sister Ólöf Arnalds. They were great, despite some technical difficulties (namely the fact that Klara doesn’t actually play the instrument she was playing), and their set was very endearing.
Later that night I saw Owen Pallett at Iðnó and a very weird act called Oy. Weird doesn’t have to mean bad though.
On Saturday I saw Samaris play at the hostel and thought they did a pretty good job. Especially since they are basically just kids.
Young Magic, one of the bands that won the Reyka Breakthrough at Airwaves competition, closed the night and the off-venue program at the hostel with a great set. They were kind of amazing.
As I couldn’t be bothered with the lines on Saturday night I decided to stay at in Harpa all night. It was a good decision as I had a full night of all kinds of music while some of my friends, who decided to brave it, never actually saw a single show.
I think Airwaves ’11 is not the best Airwaves I’ve been to and I think there are mainly two reasons for that: I am no longer a 20 year old party queen with a lust for shaking the booty and I think the festival may be on the verge of getting too big. However, because it was so big and with a wide range of acts, I managed to thoroughly enjoy myself despite my parting with the party animal within. I’m just not sure that seated concerts in Kaldalón is what Airwaves is really about. The lines were also ridiculous – not cool at all. I was aware of the fact that this could happen and always had a plan B and C, as I suggested, but not everyone may have thought of that.
Despite all that, Airwaves is always Airwaves and it was for sure the musical highlight of the year. I just hope that the Airwaves people really listen to what the people who bought the tickets have to say, because they are who make this festival possible, and hopefully learn from their mistakes.
Airwaves 2012 here I come.