After nearly 20 hours of travel, we finally made it to Reykjavík. Exhausted, we spent our first hours in the city becoming acquainted with the geography of Iceland’s capital city. Truly running on fumes by early evening, I found my second wind while seeing my first band of the festival, Snorri Helgason. The three piece band performed at Restaurant Reykjavík, a fine dining establishment in the heart of the city. The restaurant was swarming with children, as well as the insanely attractive Icelandic men I’d been warned about. Snorri Helgason were the epitome of careless chic, appearing to be dressed for a Sunday morning band practice instead of a well-attended performance during Iceland’s premier music showcase event. The trio played jazzy folk music reminiscent of Neil Young or Paul Simon with lead vocals similar to those of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The female backing vocalist hit notes near those that only dogs can hear, likening her to singers like Mariah Carey or Amber Coffman of Dirty Projectors. The children at this show ate it up and sometimes had to be restrained from joining the band on stage.
The next band I saw was Love & Fog. A friend described them to me as “The Cure meets Depeche Mode”. That’s quite a promise. Believe it or not, the band delivered on both counts. With just guitar, bass and a drum machine, they filled the space at Amsterdam with a dark and melancholy kraut-pop. Bassist, Axel’s deep baritone voice was the complement to Jón Þór’s tenor as their melodies ran together an octave apart.
Love & Fog
Following Love & Fog was the band I’ve been most anticipating: Gang Related. I’ve described them to friends as the Icelandic Surfer Blood with sprinkles of Black Lips and Wavves in the mix. This band of Icelandic heart throbs look more like J. Crew models than the lo-fi rockers that they are, which somehow just adds to the appeal for me. Gang Related took advantage of their first Iceland Airwaves 2012 gig to try out a new song, “One in a Million.” The song was a beach rock anthem that was incredibly well received by the crowd inspiring more than one raucous fan to vigorously wave their beer around, moistening fellow audience members.
The last band I saw on day one was difficult to nail down. The list of influences I heard in the music of Demark’s The Foreign Resort seemed to be endless. They sound like a vaguely kraut rock U2 (I promise that’s not an insult,) but more dancey and with the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis sometimes creeping into the vocals.
The first day of Iceland Airwaves was somehow both exhausting and exhilarating. I’m thrilled to begin day two, but first, a good night’s sleep is in order.