After a somewhat quiet Thursday, the 2022 edition of Iceland Airwaves kicked into high gear on Friday. While this is a smaller edition of the festival, there were still long lines to get in most venues, especially the smaller clubs, like the divey punk/metal-leaning Gaukurinn -- my favorite IA venue -- which only holds 150 or so.

Gaukurinn is where I started my Friday night with an early set from Elias Lombardini, a composer who entranced the crowd (many of whom sat on the floor) with his loop pedal violin pieces. The festival has a pretty diverse range of artists -- everything from rock to hip hop, electronic to metal, jazz, modern composition, most of it being Icelandic -- sometimes even within the same venue. Just a couple sets later in the night, Gaukurinn was hosting GRÓA, a trio whose brand of danceable, angular sound drew from post-punk groups like ESG, The Slits and Kleenex/Liliput. Featuring a great rhythm section,GRÓA were a great way to end Friday night and though I was still zonked and jetlagged and only planning to watch a couple songs of their late set, I stayed -- and danced -- for the whole thing.

Groa @ Gaukurinn (photo: Mummi Lu)
Groa @ Gaukurinn (photo: Mummi Lu)
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In between Lombardini and GRÓA, I hopped around to different venues on Friday night. I went by the Reykjavik Art Museum to catch some of Bríet whose 2020 debut won Pop Album of the Year, Lyricist of the Year and Female Singer of the Year at the Icelandic Music Awards, She's got a powerful set of pipes and lots of style, too, coming out on Friday dressed head-to-toe in deep shag faux fur, including a massive floppy hat Sia might covet. The crowd -- the place holds a thousand or so -- were there for her and very vocal.

briet @ at museum photo: Julie vandenbergh
briet @ at museum photo: Julie vandenbergh
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From there I headed to Iðnó for a showcase of artists from the Faroe Islands which sits between Iceland and Norway. There were five acts on the bill, which for a country that has a population of 54,000, might be a huge percentage of their musical artists. I was there to see Kóboykex, a duo who play an inclusive, gender-fluid brand of lonesome cowboy country with heavy elements of dreamy psych rock. With their powder blue and pink outfits and Everly Brothers harmonies, you could imagine them in a David Lynch film, but they could also share a bill with Spiritualized. For a few songs they were joined by Guðrið Hansdóttir who is capable of some otherworldly yodeling and played a magical folk-rock set of her own right before Koboykek.

After sticking around Iðnó for the start of Faroese rapper Marias DC, I dashed back to the Art Museum for Metronomy. Having seen them many times in NYC over the last 15 years, I was excited to see how a Reykjavik audience reacts. The answer: pretty much the same as NYC -- Metronomy are one of the most reliably entertaining bands around -- though I was surprised when a group of fans near me went bananas for Love Letters' single "Reservoir." Tracks like "The Look" and "The Bay" had the crowd bouncing, too.

From there I headed back to Gaukurinn, and caught a very charming set from Superserious!, who played before GRÓA and were led by brother-and-sister vocalists. Their sound was a slightly more indiepop version of early-'00s garage rock -- imagine if The Cardigans and The Hives were one Icelandic group and that's pretty close.

Superserious @ Gaukurinn
Superserious @ Gaukurinn
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Despite being out very late Friday, my Saturday started early (9 AM) with a press trip that began at the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal wonder not far outside of Reykjavik. If you're got to get up six hours after drinking too much Icelandic beer and local liquor Brennivin, going for a two-hour soak in healing, mineral rich hot springs, complete with Blue Lagoons' facial mask treatments, that's the way to do it. (Though going there straight from the airport is ideal.) From there we were taken on a scenic drive through some of Iceland's many, many other geological wonders before taking a tour of Reykjavik's Greenhouse Studios -- where Bjork, Feist, Ben Frost and more have recorded -- led by founder Valgeir Sigurðsson and featuring Eydís Evensen performing a song and giving us a sneak peak at her next album. From there the tour wrapped up with a visit to the city's very impressive Harpa Center that includes three classical leaning concert venues.

Greenhouse Studios
Greenhouse Studios
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Saturday night, I headed to theatre Gamla Bíó where I was mainly there for Porridge Radio, who I hadn't seen play live yet despite their album Every Bad being my favorite of 2020 and liking their new one a lot too. They were fantastic, and Dana Margolin's magnetic stage presence could be felt from the upper balcony seats I was in. While there, I also caught some of Axel Flóvent's set of widescreen folk rock before Porridge Radio, and stuck around to watch long-running Icelandic band Ensími whose sound falls somewhere between Explosions in the Sky and late-'90s Radiohead.

attachment-Arny Margret @ Frikirkjan byAsgeirHelgi-2
Arny Margret @ Frikirkjan by Asgeir Helgi
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I stopped briefly at Fríkirkjan, a Lutheran Church, to see one song by the very talented Arny Margaret and wished I could've stayed longer but I was heading to Húrra, another divey punk club right next to Gaukurinn, to close out our evening. Skrattar were on stage when we got in, and had the packed room bouncing with their brand of tattoo'd, shouty,  industrial brand of mutant punk. Fun and wild.

Next was what turned out to be my favorite set of Iceland Airwaves 2022: Inspector Spacetime. Formed during the pandemic, the trio combine a variety of electronic styles (house, drum-n-bass, two-step, French Touch, UK garage) into a ridiculously infectious sound. With no light show and not much more than two microphones and a laptop, Inspector Spacetime sent the whole of Húrra into hysterics. Exhaustion, inebriation, and the hour (1 AM or so) may have had something to do with it, but it was one of those festival alchemy moments where the right band at the right moment, made for a perfect, unforgettable set.

Inspector Spacetime @ Hurra
Inspector Spacetime @ Hurra
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Head below for more pictures from Friday and Saturday at Iceland Airwaves -- including a few acts I missed (Arlo Parks, Arooj Aftab, Soley) -- and read my Day 1 recap here.

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