This used to be my favorite season, but the past couple years, I’ve found myself getting a little blue in early November. No matter what wonderful things may be going on in my life, a part of me is wishing I was in Reykjavik, attending Iceland Airwaves again. Fortunately, this year there have been a couple of chances to see some favorite Icelandic bands and discover others here in Seattle. I’ve already written about Reykjavik Calling.
There was also a curatorial exchange between Bumbershoot and Iceland Airwaves that resulted in some of the most painful scheduling conflicts of my festival, pitting local rockers against Icelandic electronica. Of course you know how the story ends.
Electronic artist Hermigervill was the first artist in the Icelandic showcase. In the wide realm of electronica, his music falls pretty squarely in the DJ/dance party neighborhood. I rarely hang out there, and only extreme Icelandophilia drove me to his set. But I’m glad I went. There’s always something incongruous about a bearded guy in a sweater encouraging people to get down in the middle of the day, but Hermigervill pulled it off. First of all, it wasn’t a DJ set, but a genuine live performance. Here in the states this kind of club music is for the cool kids; in Iceland, it’s still a small scene populated by misfits. As a result, Hermigervill’s presentation was funny and enthusiastic instead of detached and cool. He made comments and told stories without letting the energy of the music drop. But the coolest and quirkiest thing about the set was the theremin. Hermigervill’s EDM includes live theremin. How can you resist that?
I was already familiar with two thirds of the emerging act, Young Karin. I think that they record with a drum machine, but at Bumbershoot they had Agent Fresco’s drummer, Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson. A very good sign.
Retro Stefson’s bass player, Logi Pedro on keyboards was another good sign. I never really got into Retro Stefson until I saw them at Eistnaflug. Their glossy dance music was sandpapered for that live performance and the rougher version of their songs won me over.
The band’s namesake, Karin, was new to me, and seemed a bit new to the stage as well. She was actually quite young, and when a technical problem resulted in a long gap between songs, she seemed completely at a loss. But she also seemed so sweet (extremely pretty helped, too) that the audience helped out, and started shouting questions. That was all it took for her to recover, and she chatted pleasantly with the crowd until the problem was fixed.
I think that the hype may have outrun the project’s development a little bit. Young Karin’s music didn’t quite grab me in the way that either of the related bands have. But it veers to the artier side of pop, and Karin is certainly working with the right people to grow into an artist to reckon with. Plus, I love their video. I will be following their progress closely.
Thanks to KEXP, I was able to see both of these bands again at Airwaves by watching the livestream of their KEX Hostel sets while I scrambled eggs in the morning.
If, like I did in 2012, you are coming home from Airwaves and just can’t get enough Icelandic music, you can jump down the rabbit hole of my Airwaves stories here.
Of course there are a lot of bands I loved at Iceland Airwaves 12 that I haven’t heard from much lately. If you were at Airwaves this year and saw 1860, Lockerbie, Tilbury, or anyone else you think I should know about, please tell me about them in the comments. How was your festival?