Iceland Airwaves Day Two: Sudden Weather Change, 1860, Oyama, Sin Fang, Hjálmar & Jimi Tenor, FM Belfast

Sudden Weather Change @ Sirkús Port

The tight, intimate setting of Sirkús Port really added to the experience; I could literally lean on the guitarist’s amp. The tiny bar had great acoustics and the band took advantage, their interwoven guitar lines coming through cleanly in the confined space. By the third song, the band really hit their groove, with driving drums powering the simple guitar melodies. The band debuted a new tune that blended lush, flowing chords with sharp, staccato drumming. It may have been because a monitor was about six inches from my right ear, but the vocals really made my eardrum hurt at times; something about the frequency of the vocalist’s voice just vibrated my eardrum in a painful way. Despite that, their set was excellent.

1860 @ Eymundsson

1860 played a stripped down set at Eymundsson Book Store. Normally a loud and raucous group, they broke out acoustic guitars and returned to their more folksy roots. Nevertheless, they filled the four-story bookstore with sound, with clear vocal harmonies soaring over traipsing guitar melodies and a solid, driving bass line. The audience sat through a couple songs before the band encouraged everyone to stand and dance. It was a unique contrast; bookstores are typically quiet, but not tonight. The band made good-natured fun of their surroundings, with the guitarist noting that “these porno books they have back here are distracting us!”

Oyama @ Bió Paradís

It was nice to see some familiar faces for Oyama’s show; their bassist plays in Sudden Weather Change and I met Júlía and Kári, the band’s keyboardist and guitarist, respectively, in line for Purity Ring Thursday night. After some some audio troubles – mostly microphone feedback – Oyama started slow, but Dinosaur, their second song, kicked ass. They continued to rock out throughout their set, with downtempo numbers featuring big guitar chords, excellent bass lines, and superb drumming. At one point, they accidentally started a song without their lead guitarist, which lent a great element of humanity to an already intimate show. They took the sound issues and occasional mistakes in stride and were very appreciative to the audience, who cheered and laughed along with the band. For a self-proclaimed shoegaze band, these guys knew how to rock. They mixed up tempos and dynamics and genuinely looked like they were having fun.

Sin Fang @ Kex Hostel

This was one of my most anticipated shows at Airwaves and Sin Fang did not disappoint. The Kex Hostel was absolutely packed for KEXP’s last live broadcast of the festival and they could not have picked a better act to close. The brainchild of Sindri Már Sigfússon, who also started Seabear, Sin Fang also includes Sóley Stefánsdóttir, who performs on her own as Sóley. The band alternatively handled slower tunes with grace or kicked faster tracks right in the teeth.

Sóley’s virtuosic keyboarding nearly upstaged Sindri, but the consummate frontman carried the band easily, smiling throughout the set and both playing guitar and managing effects on his computer and keyboard. Like nearly every other band today, Sin Fang debuted a new tune, one definitively in the teeth-kicking category. Ever the gracious performers, Sindri and Sóley both paused from tearing down their instruments to talk to and take pictures with fans in the audience.

Hjálmar and Jimi Tenor @ Harpa Silfurberg

Seeing bands one knows literally nothing about can be risky, but at Airwaves, it’s more than likely going to turn out to be a great show. Never was this more evident than when Icelandic reggae group Hjálmar took the stage with multi-instrumentalist Jimi Tenor, all draped with capes and looking ready to rock. Jimi held his tenor saxophone (get it?) proudly and made it growl and scream and moan, accompanied by a banging horn section that included two trumpets, two trombones, and a baritone saxophone, along with some wicked guitar and bass. Self-described as “doom reggae,” the label was fitting, as the group utilized chunky, deep guitars; thumping,  pounding drums; and wailing, thundering horns to power through songs with names like “Doom” and “Messenger of Bad News.” Additionally, the performance featured the best closing song I have ever heard: an uptempo, reggae version of the Harry Potter theme song, complete with Jimi Tenor exclaiming “Expelliarmus!”

FM Belfast @ Harpa Silfurberg

Labeled by the Reykjavík Grapevine as one of the best live bands at Airwaves, FM Belfast absolutely owned the stage from the first bombastic drum beat to the last call of “I don’t want to go to sleep either!” To say the audience was enthusiastic would be a massive understatement; many of the photographers took more pictures of the insanity happening in the crowd than the insanity happening on stage. The band played a great selection of new tracks like “DeLorean” and “Stripes” as well as older classics like “Tropical” and “Underwear.” Constant energy emanated from all six members of the band, who played joyously to the crowd and danced with nearly as much vigor as the audience. Any semblance of normalcy ceased with the band’s encore, when singer Örvar Smárason came out dressed in this:

By the end of the first encore song, all the other male members of the band had lost their pants. After the end of their second encore song, all the band members gave each other knowing grins before each singing the beginning of their final song, “I Don’t Want To Go To Sleep Either!” Even the photo pit dissolved into frenetic dancing throughout the show and especially for the encore.

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