Iceland Airwaves 2014 Day One (11/5): Börn, Amaba Dama, Mammút

Day one of our trip to Iceland began at about 6 am Wednesday, or 5:30 am Tuesday if we’re talking uninterrupted streams of consciousness. By the time we had left Duty Free in Reykjavík, the cab ride to Midway Airport the previous morning felt like a lifetime ago. It also didn’t help that the sun this time of year in Reykjavík doesn’t begin to rise until about 9:30 am, making the hour-long bus ride to our hotel feel like it was in the middle of the night as opposed to the start of a new day. We arrived at the beautiful Fosshotel Baron blurry-eyed from lack of sleep and anxious about how any of us were going to be able to stay awake long enough to get to see our scheduled shows that night.

After checking in and getting a quick injection of energy via instant coffee, we were ready to begin what seemed to be a long and demanding day. I should mention that Iceland is the one place I’ve always said I’ve wanted to visit, and the walking tour of Reykjavík did nothing but confirm that idea in my mind. The city is gorgeous, and it felt almost surreal as we walked down Laugavegur learning where all of the venues for the shows we’d be attending during the week were.

View from the Marina during our walking tour
View from the Marina during our walking tour

The tour ended with a trip to the swimming pool, Sundhöllin. I have to say that the idea of going swimming didn’t sit quite right in my sleep-deprived mind, and what we would learn about swimming pool standard procedure in Iceland did nothing to help that notion. You see, in Iceland going to the pool is the hip thing to do, similar to meeting your friends at your favorite bar back in Chicago. It evokes a certain sense of community. However, to be a part of that community you first have to strip down to your birthday suit and take a communal shower, the idea of privacy here was a pipe dream. We all quickly got over the shyness, frankly too tired to really care and found ourselves swimming in the bath-like pool water shortly thereafter. The real star of the show though was the “Hot Pots,” small jacuzzi-like pools located in the open Icelandic air. I don’t know what I was expecting when I opened the door to get to the hot pots in nothing but my swim trunks, but I was quickly brought back to reality with a frigid 40 degree gust of wind. The elements left me uttering a string of less-than-favorable language, and the the looks from the quietly bathing Icelanders were almost as cold as the rain, which was steadily drizzling down. The pools of geothermally-heated water though, were worth the embarrassment. We sat in them for what seemed like an hour, but in reality it was no more than 15 minutes, letting the hot water wash away our anxieties and exhaustion. Renewed, refreshed and ready to go on with our day we broke shortly thereafter to begin our first night of the Iceland Airwaves festival.

Börn at Hùrra

Börn is an Icelandic feminist post-punk group. If you weren’t aware of that fact before stepping into the intimate bar venue Húrra, then that fact would make itself known as soon as lead singer Alexandra Ingsvardóttir took the stage. Alexandra, with her dyed blue pixie cut hair and the word “Feminist” tattooed across her chest, began the show with one of Börn’s more conservative songs of the evening. The crowd’s applause seemed hesitant at first, but as the band built up momentum with half-sung and half-belted numbers, the excitement from the onlookers was palpable.They put on a show that was hard not to become invested in, keeping folks waiting for guitarist Anna Guðný to speed up her strumming, which meant that an intensely sang chorus couldn’t be too far off.  Börn closed out their 20 minute set with cheers from the audience and smiles on their punk rock faces.

Amaba Dama at Gamla Bío

Iceland and Reggae, not a combination that you would imagine going together very well. You’d imagine wrong in that case, because the band Amaba Dama weave the cultures together flawlessly, the line that stretched around the block will attest to that. The crowd went wild during each and every song the group played, especially Hossa Hossa, the song that put Amaba Dama on the map. The 10 member band worked together perfectly on stage, with every song played being better than the last, all while dancing along to the Caribbean beat.  At the end of the show, they announced that their first full length album was finished today, pushing the crowd over the edge of excitement.

Mammút at Gamla Bío

Mammút played a perfect show tonight, with a great mixture of songs from past albums while still incorporating tracks from their latest album Komdu til mín Svarta Systir. The crowd was entranced throughout, singing along to favorites such as Rauðilækur. They ultimately finished the show on a high note, playing “Salt,: the song that won them “Song of the Year” at the Iceland Music Awards last year.

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