Daily Blog, Day Three: Iceland Airwaves

Iceland Airwaves: A Trip to Remember, by David Sparacio

My last full day in Iceland began with a trip to the Blue Lagoon.  My friends and I got on the bus from the hotel, and it took about 45 minutes to get the lagoon.  Once we got there, we had to wait in a long line outside to get into the lagoon.  I wasn’t expecting to be outside for long, so this was the only time I didn’t wear my heavy winter coat.  That was a bad decision.  After being outside for some time, I started to feel pretty cold.  On top of that, while we were waiting in line it started to hail these little round bee bees of ice.  It hurt!  However, it was all worth it because what was in store for us behind those doors was spectacular.  As soon as I got in, I went straight to the locker room and then into the lagoon.  I have never experienced anything quite like it before.  There were some spots in the lagoon that were much hotter than others.  Every time I came across those hot pockets, it was a pleasant surprise.  The Blue Lagoon did something to me that made me feel extremely relaxed and tranquil.  On that bus ride back to the hotel, I was in such a peaceful state of mind.

Later in the evening, I went to the Harpa venue to see Ólafur Arnalds once again. After his performance I stayed for the next band, and I’m very glad I did.  The name of the band is Treefight For Sunlight.  According to allmusic.com, the Treefight For Sunlight band is from Copenhagen, Denmark, where childhood friends Mathias Sørensen (drums, vocals), Morten Winther Nielsen (guitar, vocals), Christian Rohde Lindinger (bass, vocals), and Niels Kirk (piano, vocals) formed sunshine pop outfit Treefight for Sunlight in 2007.  The four-piece blends together a rich mixture of lush vocals and twinkling hooks, resulting in a modern baroque pop reincarnation. Amassing no less than three vocalists, the band manages to whip each song into an ecstatic crescendo of jubilation, while at times mirrored MGMT in its almost psychedelic tendencies.  The influences of late-’60s California outfits the Association and the Turtles can be found in the layered harmonies and intrinsic melodies nestling within Treefight for Sunlight’s sunny disposition.

I was completely blown away by the sound of their music.  It was very catchy and easy to dance to.  Personally, I think if a band can do those two things, then that is what classifies them as a great band.  Overall, they were one of the best bands that I have seen at the Iceland Airwaves Festival.

This trip is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.  The people in Iceland are so incredibly nice.  On numerous occasions, when I asked for directions they took the time to explain to me where to go.  In this country, everyone is so much more relaxed.  They really know how to enjoy life.  If the rest of the world were more like Iceland, we would be much better off.

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Ólafur Arnalds @ Harpa review and interview, by Colin Lazorka

So three days of little sleep have begun to take a physical and mental toll on me.  We started the day off by heading out to the otherworldly Blue Lagoon for a bit of “relaxation.” Believe you me, those were the best 20 minutes of relaxation I’ve had in a very, very long time, but while the rest of the group stayed and enjoyed this geothermal wonder, I was back on the bus heading for the beautiful new venue Harpa, in Downtown Reykjavík, for an interview with Composer Ólafur Arnalds after his sound check for that night’s performance.

Sitting down with this mastermind of classical and electronica was exactly what I hoped it

would be. He was very friendly and at points very soft-spoken for someone whose music is powerful and loud in its own unique way. We discussed everything from his start in music; his life as a rock and punk drummer as well as his brand new record “Living Room Songs” released just a week before the Airwaves festival kicked off.

After we concluded the interview, I began to wander the streets of Reykjavík like I had done for the previous two days and made my way back to the hotel to rest up for a few hours before heading back out to the show.

Harpa in itself is a place of immense modern beauty, and to see the performance Ólafur gave in this new building really fit quite well. Arnalds took control of the audience from the very first note by starting his set with “Þú Ert Sólin,” “Þú Ert Jörðin,” and “Tunglið” from his last LP …And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness, moving from one beautiful arrangement to the next in seamless succession, and using stunning light flashes that would sink up with the electronics, and beautiful projected backdrops of birds, fishing ships and a mobile with whales, birds and other things that were uniquely Icelandic. Arnalds fit in songs like “Fok” and “Haust” from his 2008 release Variations of Static, along with closing the show with “3055” from his 2007 debut Eulogy for Evolution.

The only problem I had with the set was it wasn’t long enough. I know, I know, it’s a festival and you need to fit all the artists in. But when you give Ólafur Arnalds more than a 40-minute time frame to show you every trick up his sleeve, he will destroy you – in a good way! Well his music will at least, but you get the idea.

Ólafur Arnalds at Harpa in downtown Reykjavik, Iceland was the highlight of my trip to

Iceland Airwaves. He’s an amazing performer and composer, and an extremely nice human being. You need to experience Iceland and all the amazing music that comes from this tiny island country in the Northern Atlantic because it will change you in more ways than you can count.

Here’s a sneak peek into my interview with Ólafur from Harpa on 10/15/2011. Stay tuned for a produced interview with Ólafur Arnalds.

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Day Three: Berndsen, Glasser reviews, by Emily Harbaugh

With the sun really visiting Reykjavík for the first time since Wednesday, there was a feeling today was going to be different than the rest. After our tiring trip to the Blue Lagoon and dinner at The Noodle Station, it was off to spend my night at NASA. Unlike the U.S. name equivalent, there were no spaceships, astronauts, or scientists hard at work. The performances, however, were the only thing out of this world (every pun is intended).

Described as an ‘80s throwback, Berndsen (real name David Berndsen), arrived on stage with the ultimate swagger as well as with his backing band: The Young Boys. Decked out in a hot pink blazer, black T-shirt, and black pants, he proceeded to channel his inner Michael Jackson complete with pelvic thrusting, twirling, and raunchy moves. This was 100% a show. Heavy on the synth and rhythmic drum beats, Berndsen never let the crowd stop dancing.

Leaving the stage for a minute, Berndsen soon came back out now donning a knee-length fur coat, no shirt, and black pants, causing the crowd to go wild. Most of the show for Berndsen was spent at the edge of the stage with one foot propped on the barrier. Consistently engaging with the crowd, Berndsen made sure the fans were as much part of the set as he was.

Up next was U.S. artist, Glasser, the alias of California- native Cameron Meisrow. After much critical acclaim from publications such as Pitchfork, NME, and Spin, I had to see what exactly

they were talking about. Sauntering slowly on stage in what looked like a sheet wrapped with a karate belt and lime green and black pin-striped pants, Glasser gave no introduction and immediately went into her first song. With her dreamy, layered vocals combined with looping drum beats, and a synthesizer, there is a complementary juxtaposition occurring and drawing the crowd in.

Never staying still, Meisrow moved fluidly around the stage, sometimes almost delicately, as if she were trying to maneuver around invisible cracks in the ground. Even when a photographer in the press pit was flashing their camera in her face, Glasser gracefully strided up to him, shook her finger no, and gave a reaffirming wink. Despite her delicate movements and ethereal voice, Glasser packed a power leaving the crowd entranced and wanting more.

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SBTRKT @ NASA, by Lizette Garza

My trip to Iceland is now complete! After so many days of covering hip-hop and seeing some awesome DJs, never, would I ever think that I would hear some Drake! ButSBTRKT certainly did it and killed it on stage tonight. I had seen him as a lone ranger at North Coast Music Festival this past summer but it definitely wasn’t as lively as it was tonight.

I’ve been listening to the remix version of “Wild Fire” featuring Little Dragon and Drake for weeks now but who would have thought that exact remix version would be played here, tonight, in Reykjavík. Especially after talking to so many hip-hop lovers and artists no one ever mentioned Drizzy so it came to me as a lovely surprise.

The original song has been played in-between sets at NASA every time I was there, so I knew this show was a must-see and I made sure that I was front row to catch every second. But boy, oh boy was that a battle. Hands down, the most packed show I’ve seen and I walked away with bruised knees, and practically a broken rib because of the rowdy crowd. From the first song SBTRKT played, people were knocking each other over to get a peak at the man who hides behind a mask and his DJ set.

His performance and visual style has become a part of his trademark. He performed in his usual tribal mask with his basic setup (acoustic drum kit with extra electronic triggers) and was joined by his striking guest vocalist Sampha, who sang and played keyboard. They worked hand-in-hand to make music made off a computer come to life on stage. SBTRKT bounced back and forth between drumming and his electrical equipment while Sampha handled the singing and energy of the crowd.

Only complaint I had was to the guy in charge of lighting for the show who had one job and one job only: to keep the light down just as Sampha asked. Every other song, Mr. Light Man would raise them, probably to unveil SBTRKT’s alias but by the end all was well and the show carried on with the crazy crowd.

SBTRKT puts the average DJ to shame, taking live performances with a computer to another pinnacle. He combines dub step, R&B, and Chicago house music with deep feeling lyrics, killer rhythms, and impeccable liveliness and instrumentation on stage. If there was one DJ show to see at Iceland Airwaves this year, without a doubt SBTRKT was it.

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Day Three: What You Heard on the Third is the Word, Bird, by Aaron Pylinski

My cohort Andy and I took a ride with Pétur from IKEA SATAN to their practice space creatively named the North Pole. Unnur, the drummer, and their bass player Hannes met us at the space for a practice session.  From there, we took off to Amsterdam to watch Swords of Chaos and Liturgy play.

Swords of Chaos played an intense and erratic set.   SOC killed it much like a predator in the wild.   Though they had to adapt and overcome some power issues, they really didn’t miss a beat and kept the crowd teeming.  The off-stage antics of their lead singer, Úlfur, was more than enough to make up for some technical mishaps.  Ditching the melodic interludes heard on their first full-length LP, The End Is As Near As Your Teeth, they brought a stellar routing of loud metal sodomizing the crowd’s ears.  I spent much of the festival meeting local acts and these cats were definitely in the top three best sounding bands I caught.

News was already spreading about the arm wrestling that was about to take place after my interview with SOC and bands were anxious to see what was going to transpire.  No one wanted to act on anything, though, until Liturgy took the stage.  And who could blame them, getting more loud-ass metal under your belt before an arm wrestling match was the only way to go.

Liturgy fell victim to the crappy wiring and was robbed out of an amazing intro.  They were saved (barely) by bringing their sound as hard and massive as they could.  Once they came off the stage, I made my way to the dingy, smoke-filled basement to conduct my interview.

Momentum was setting up on stage, as my SOC interview was starting, so I hurried through questions before more mayhem would ensue upstairs.  The some-2000 pound collective of leather, denim, beards and flesh that is Wistaria were waiting for the interview to end as they stood watching downstairs, partly because their set was next and also because I was to arm wrestle SOC’s drummer, Raggi, after the interview.  There was a biker bar-like crowd in the room and they were pretty convinced Raggi was going to take home the killer trophy I made for the band.  That was until I took my jacket off and unleashed the awesome power of my 14 1/2 “ pythons (thanks Arms by Arnold).

By far the biggest guy in the band, Raggi was slightly intimidating but I knew in the back of my mind I had to win.  My fiancé alone would kick the crap out of me if I came home beat by the Viking arm slayer.  Raggi’s a bear.  Three songs into their set earlier in the evening he ripped off his shirt and I realized, “This dude is way bigger than the pictures of him on the interweb.”  That’s when I knew I had my work cut out for me.

The band’s bass player told me Raggi has done this quite a few times before and had even broken a couple of his opponent’s arms in the process.  If this was a scare tactic it was almost working, I might have been touching cloth but more so for the fact that I had about eight or nine Viking beers under my belt.  Game was on.  Raggi and I measured out our distance by touching our hands against each other’s forearms and then grasped hands.

On the count of three we were pushing against each other.  Our shoulders were shaking and though I felt a good amount of pressure against me, I had no problems dropping Raggi’s hand to the tabletop in seconds.  That was too quick and I wanted a second round.  So, we measured up again.  This time Raggi started giving it a real go and I kicked it into overdrive.  My bicep grew and the blue Oni mask tattoo on the inner part of my arm, that I lovingly call Ralph was stretched to capacity.  I brought Raggi’s hand over the top and just before I slammed in on the table for a second time, gave it a cute little kiss followed by a loud, resonating boom.  The contest was over, but since the band was kind enough to participate, they got the trophy and we parted ways.

The rest of the night was a complete blur.  I went to Square and watched HaZaR spin some music, pounded a beer and then took off out the door.  I was planning on going to Faktory, but the line was uber long so Andy and I took off on a pub-crawl.  I remember ducking into a joint, pounding some pints of Viking and watching a sparkly black-haired lady dance to ‘80s butt rock before staggering to the hotel.  Being a boozer is fun, so long as you know what you’re doing and the night ended most perfectly.  Good night, Reykjavík. Unfortunately, I have to get on a plane and fly out tomorrow (tear).

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