The Ones That Got Away: Shows I Missed at Airwaves

“I can’t believe I’m not seeing Swans. I do that a lot. I just miss bands that I love.” Birgir Thorgeirsson, Kontinuum

I do that a lot, too. In regular life, there are so many obligations that can get in the way of a night out watching bands. Finding a babysitter is not always easy, and paying for one is even less so. So in the case of Iceland Airwaves, where I missed a lot of great shows because I was seeing a lot of other great shows, it hardly makes sense to complain. But as a Reykjavík Boulevard article about Airwaves said, “To see all of it is impossible, you have to make a choice, and believe me, sometimes it is the hardest thing to accept.”

I’m the sort of person who finds these sorts of things hard to accept. So despite adopting as my mantra in Iceland:

{Do not regret what you miss when what you catch is wonderful}

and repeating it to myself as I moved between shows, I find myself full of regret. Extensive research and the high quality of Airwaves programming ensured that what I caught was wonderful. Out of 42 shows, some were better than others, but none of them were flops.

Zadie Smith says that if you want to be a writer, you must,

“Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.”

“That’s you, Harold,” my inner nagging mother says. How can I be satisfied when I missed so many great shows?

Here is my love song to the ones that got away.

FM Belfast: How the hell did I miss FM Belfast!? They were on my list, and they played three shows. Somehow, in the inevitable reshuffling that comes from things not working quite as planned, whichever of these three shows I planned to attend dropped out, and by the time I realized I had missed it, I had missed all three. This is simply unforgivable.

Sudden Weather Change: They weren’t even on my radar until I saw them play KEXP’s Reykjavík Calling show at Neumos in Seattle. My first impression of their music was a strange hybrid of Jay Reatard and Weezer. There was an angularity and awkwardness to it like a cartoon character that’s off-balance and stays up right by running really fast. I couldn’t figure out what to make of them, and couldn’t wait to see them again in Iceland. But when push came to shove, there was always some band I hadn’t already seen, or heavy winds, or something; I don’t even really know how they slipped through the cracks.


At least I got to see Sudden Weather Change in Seattle

Low Roar: Another discovery made studying the Airwaves lineup, I was really excited about Low Roar. A project born out of a tough first winter by an American artist who moved to Reykjavík, the music was melodic and engaging, with a lonesome, achy feel. Add to that a killer backstory like “homesick émigré trapped in months of frozen darkness,” and I was hooked. But the show was opposite Svartidauði, whose guitar player I was interviewing later that night; and it was at Harpa before the winds died down, and I was still a little shaken from the wind picking me up outside of Harpa the night before. And now I’m sorry.

Purity Ring: I was at Harpa for the show before, and the show after was back at Harpa. I knew the lines at Purity Ring would be long, the venue would be crowded, and I would get there too late to get a good spot. I doubted I could get there and back in time for the next show, especially in the wind. My only hope for redemption is that they seem likely to play Seattle sometime.

Atrum: I think these guys might be the only established metal band in Iceland that I missed. I even interviewed their drummer (about another band) a few days before. The editor at my metal outlet is a huge fan. But they were scheduled opposite Valgeir Sigurðsson, so I never really had a choice.

At least I got to see Atrum's drummer.

At least I got to see Atrum’s drummer.

We Made God: I’ve been listening to these guys all summer and really looked forward to seeing them. But they played opposite Gone Postal, who were giving me an interview immediately after their show. Neither band was playing a second set during the festival.

Lay Low: Lay Low opened for Of Monsters and Men in Seattle back in March. Back then, the crowd at Sodo Showbox was pretty big for both bands, but Lay Low was just a girl with a guitar. She’s not, apparently, that kind of performer. She said she usually plays with a full band, but they weren’t on tour with her and she admitted to feeling naked standing up there alone. She presented such a wonderful balance of professional stage banter and open vulnerability that I became really curious about her regular sound. She was playing the bookstore right around the corner from my interview with Solstafir, right about the time it was going to wrap up. Except the interview ran a lot longer than I expected. I wouldn’t have cut it short for anything, but I still wish I had seen Lay Low in her natural habitat.

Of Monsters and Men: Okay, yes, technically, I was there. But since then I’ve read several reviews of the show, and I feel like I missed it. I had completely forgotten the part where the band announced someone’s wedding. I never knew that there had been any jumping into the audience and singing from the floor. From my exhausted state and distant position, I heard the sounds, but I didn’t see the show. And by all accounts, I missed out.

OMAM as shadows on the wall of Plato's Cave

OMAM as shadows on the wall of Plato’s Cave

So that’s my list of greatest Airwaves regrets. It’s not necessarily in the order of greatest regret, just the order in which they occur to me. I’ve probably left a few out. And I’m sure I’m going to regret that.


4 thoughts on “The Ones That Got Away: Shows I Missed at Airwaves

  1. Pingback: Pollyblog: Sudden Weather Change « gemmaDalexander

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