Sunday Airwaves Sunday

I was the first one up in my dorm room at KEX on Sunday morning, which means I was the only one to (barely) make it downstairs before they quit serving breakfast at 10:30. It was already hard to find a seat for KEX’s first show of the day, Ásgeir Trausti. I hung out after breakfast and tried to write. I hadn’t really written anything since Thursday morning, and some things were already blurry (I had completely forgotten the wedding celebration at the Of Monsters and Men show until I read it somewhere else).

I managed to grab a seat on the floor in front to watch my fourth Ásgeir Trausti set of the festival (not a stalker, really!) which was a full band version without the bells and whistles of last night’s Harpa show. I was struck, not for the first time, by how important Julius is to the sound; his voice is a little more solid than Ásgeir’s, and he’s no slouch on the guitar either. By now I’d seen them play enough to be familiar with little tics of their performance, and it was fun to notice little changes – like the ghost of a smile that passed over Ásgeir Trausti’s usually expressionless face in response to extra-long applause.

When a folk band comes recommended by both 1860 and Angist, you make a point to check them out. So immediately after Ásgeir Trausti’s set, I headed to the bookstore to see Ylja. Unfortunately, when I got there, it was too packed to get in. The previous band was still playing, so I joined the throng pushing up the stairs. But when the band finished playing, no one left, so I was stuck with the mezzanine coffee shop between me and the top floor stage. Someone next to me who was actually trying to buy a book asked the girl in front of me who was playing upstairs. “Ásgeir Trausti,” she said.

So I couldn’t get in to see Ylja because the crowd waiting for Ásgeir Trausti to play after them was too big. Earlier in the festival, I might have tried harder to reach the top of the stairs, but the best I could do on Sunday was order a coffee and hope to hear something over the clatter of coffee cups. I couldn’t, so I finished my coffee and left.

On the way back to KEX, I heard electronic beats coming out of the Heart Garden skate park.

An aside: as skate parks go, this one is not amazing; no bowls, only minipipes. But there is a lot of small stuff for skaters to play on, and as a community space it is one of the coolest spots in 101. I always tried to walk through it if it was on my way. I don’t think I’ve seen a nicer pocket of open space in an urban area. It’s also a real community space in the sense that regular folks fixed it up. It’s not even a real city park, so it is endangered (page 8) by hotel development. It just kills me that the need to house tourists like me is destroying one of the things I like best about Reykjavík.

I don’t know how local government works in Reykjavík, or if anyone is even considering it, but this seems to me like one of those defining moments when the character of a city can either be consciously chosen by municipal intervention, or forever altered by letting the real estate market do its thing. The Pike Place Market comes to mind.

I stopped to listen to the music while a few kids messed around on skateboards. There wasn’t really an audience, and I don’t know if the performance was even for Airwaves. Maybe it was a normal Sunday thing for half a dozen people and a dog to set up in the Heart Garden and play angular electronic music. It was really good. I even thought it might be Ghostigital at first, but then it went in a different direction. I never found out who it was, and maybe it’s better that way.

Back at KEX, a show was in progress, and I didn’t know who they were, either. It was another really good band, of the type that seems to dominate the Reykjavík indie-pop scene; tight, angular pop music with unusual instrumentation, including horns, and catchy sing-along choruses. Really, local band standards are incredibly high in Reykjavík. I think they don’t even have sloppy bands here. I found out after the fact that the band was Benni Hemm Hemm.

Back in my room, I met a British girl. “Are you just arriving today?” I asked. “No, I’ve been here for the whole festival.” We chatted a bit and then, uncertain what the line would be like for Sigur Rós, which was GA seating, decided to head out together. It was a good half hour walk to the stadium venue, and as we walked, we met other groups headed there too. When we arrived….well, Sigur Rós probably deserve their own post.

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