Iceland Airwaves Day 2: Audn, Georgia, Dadi Freyr, JFDR, more
Iceland has been cold and damp the whole time I have been here but it's also unbelievably beautiful, with the sea and the mountains within eyesight pretty much everywhere. Especially when you make a special trip 45 minutes outside Reykjavik to see a couple artists perform inside a lighthouse. Such was my Thursday afternoon, for a special Iceland Airwaves show on the third floor of the Old Akranes Lighthouse featuring sets by Hildur and Daði Freyr. There isn't a whole lot of room in the lighthouse and maybe 30 of us were in close quarters of each other for this very intimate show. Hildur, who normally makes electronic indiepop, played only with a guitarist, giving her songs more of a jazzy feel.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Daði Freyr who, at nearly seven feet, looked of Norse descent and took most of us by surprise by a) playing kitschy throwback electropop (shades of Todd Terje), and b) singing in a baritone you would just not expect with this kind of music. It was the kind of set that instantly charmed the whole lighthouse, had people dancing and generally took the damp chill off the place. I'm definitely going to try and catch him again in a more proper setting. You can check out his album, & Co, below.
After the performances, we got to hit the Arkanes' pool which is, like so many pools and lagoons in Iceland, heated geothermally. Arkanes' pool was basically seaside, so to hang out in 33 degree weather in a hot spring with the sun setting against a lighthouse and the turbulent ocean, was something.
I got a bit of a late start to the evening showcases, first hitting UK artist Georgia's set at the Reykjavik Art Museum. The large room was packed and she sounded great, performing alone behind a stand-up kit of mainly syn-drums. (It was kinda Sheila-E.) The crowd was eating it up, and had the place bouncing for her single "About Work the Dancefloor" and a killer cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill."
Most of the artists I really want to see at Iceland Airwaves seem to be playing Friday, so with no real Thursday agenda, I just winged it. I headed to theatre Gamla Bíó to catch Belgian instrumental duo Glass Museum. Pianist Antoine Flipo and drummer Martin Grégoire faced each other from across the stage and played a cinematic blend of jazz and classical with hip hop and dance music beats. It's not the sort of thing I'd normally listen to or go see, so to happen upon this was refreshing, and a big hit with the crowd who were packed in tight for their set.
I stuck around Gamla Bíó for Icelandic artist JFDR, aka Jófríður Ákadóttir. Formerly of electronic act Samaris, her recorded solo work is also quite beat-driven but at this show, which had her sisters on keyboards and backing vocals, was guitar-oriented, delicate and beautiful.
From there I tried to catch part of Swedish duo Pink Milk's set at Hard Rock Cafe but it was one of those situations where you get in just in time for the final bit of guitar squall and the "Thank you and good night." So it goes, I then headed to Gaukurinn which is known for punk, metal and drag shows, as well as vegan fare (is this the most BrooklynVegan venue ever? Maybe!) First up: Finnish band The Holy who make dark, stirring, high-romance rock that can swing from post-punk to power-chord heartland anthems. They reminded me a little of Montreal's The Dears. They were good.
Following them at Gaukurinn were Season of Mist-signed Iceland band Auðn whose blend of black metal and atmospheric dark folk was pretty awesome. (I am not a heavy music person but this is much more to my taste than Une Misere who I saw Wednesday night). Clad in black and grey suits, Auðn make music that is similarly dramatic, crushing and austere, with a real barker/screamer of a frontman and a guitarist who really knew how to swing his hair. Killer.
I tried to hit one more set before bed, Irish electropop artist Æ MAK at Hard Rock and was slightly more successful at the venue than I was earlier in the night, catching two songs. With a drummer and a second percussionist, those two songs were pretty bangin', effervescent, with looped harmonies and her ethereal voice really elevating things. I wish I'd seen more, but a nice finish to the night.
Friday night has many of the artists we included in our 12 Artists to See at Iceland Airwaves post, including HATARI, Hachiko, Just Mustard, GDRN, Grisalappalisa, and Snapped Ankles, not to mention Icelandic vets Mammut, John Grant, Tiny Ruins, Madame Gandhi, Girl in Red, and lots more.
Head here for Iceland Airwaves Day 1 recap/pics. Stay tuned for Friday and Saturday coverage. Album streams and videos from artists I saw Thursday are below.