Hurricane Sandy could not keep the WCRX team away from Iceland Airwaves. After frantically rearranging flights and experiencing strenuously long layovers, we landed in Reykjavík this morning. Reykjavík’s pristine landscape peppered by cute town homes and shops is very charming. I was amazed by the number of talented musicians. The weather blew me away (literally), Chicago has nothing on Iceland’s 60-mile per hour winds. I was also surprised by the wide variety of street art and the friendly natives who are always willing to lend a helping hand to a lost tourist.
I arrived at Gamli Gaukurin just in time to see Leaves, an opening act. Formed in October of 2001 by guitarist Arnar and former drummer Bjarni, they have been playing Iceland Airwaves ever since. The hushed the packed bar with lullabies of synchronized keyboard melodies. Although the band has lost and added members throughout the years, they still manage to reach number 71 in the UK album charts and have three albums out.
Iza Freund walked out on stage with teased hair, black lips, and black fur sleeves accompanied by James Brook in all black attire, cat eye makeup and a white guitar. She is Danish and he is British and together they are known as The Echo Vamper. Their shock wave of pure, electrifying energy has brought them obsessive fans. Their set began with emergency sirens blasting out of a reel-to-reel tape machine. The vibrations of Brook’s guitar guided Freund’s hips through a ritual of dark screams of passion and seduction. Freund’s screams were dramatized with elaborate delays. Later, Freund operated a theremin, which took the performance to another level.
Sudden Weather Change is a five piece collective of art students. In 2010, they won the Icelandic Music Awards. Their sound vibrated the whole bar like a pulsating, psychedelic stroke to the ear. They sing of love and deep moral dilemmas with lyrics that raise questions of intent and character. My favorite song was “Blues,” a song about the current Icelandic economic crisis. The two vocalists, Bergur Thomas Anderson and Loji Höskuldssonin, sang in unison with an intense, driving beat. The hook: “It’s not who you are/But who you want to be.”
Nova Heart is Beijing-born Helen Feng. Heart is her first solo project after founding Chinese groups Pet Conspiracy and Ziyo. She also has held numerous jobs in the industry such as hosting the Creators Project, hosting the Rockshow, and VJing for MTV. Tonight Heart appeared on stage with a guitarist and female drummer, bringing an ethereal, interplanetary energy with serene howls that echoed through the bar. The bar was suddenly transformed into an intricate light show as the audience was hypnotized by her alternative disco beats.