Iceland Airwaves 2006: Thursday Night–Mates of State, AEla, The Whitest Boy Alive, and More…

It sure did take long enough, but welcome to Part 2 of my Reykjavik series. Read Part 1.

OCTOBER 19, 2006

After seeing Hot Club de Paris at 12 Tonar, Rachel and I headed back to the hotel to get refreshed and some brief shut-eye.

We headed out to the venues around 8pm. Rachel wanted to go to Gaukurinn because she wanted to see a band called Skakkamanage at 8:45, but when we got there they weren’t letting anyone into the venue. We had no idea how hard it would be to get in and out of venues, but since there was no line outside the Reykjavik Art Museum, just across the street, we decided to head in to try to catch some of Mates of State, who went on at 7:45.

We walked right up to the doors, flashed our festival bracelets, and we were inside. We headed straight into the performance area, which was about half full. I went up to snap a few pictures:

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Mates of State

After a few songs we headed back to Gaukurinn to see a band called The Foghorns that had gotten a good write-up in the official Iceland Airwaves listing: “A collective that’s supposed to feature Dylan-like vocals and intelligent lyrics…” I guess I should pay attention to when reviewers include the words “supposed to” within their band descriptions, because I ended up only staying for a song or two before we decided to head over to NASA to see Lay Low.

After walking around the same few blocks what seemed to be a few hundred times, we finally found the totally-not-hard-to-find-if-you-know-where-it-is-and-it-isn’t-dark-out venue, situated in Austurvollur square. Described as being “Iceland’s Cat Power“, Lay Low does in fact follow the tradition of sad-sounding, soulful, slightly arty solo female artists. Just like Cat Power, Lay Low is the stage moniker of one woman, a Miss Lovisa (no last name I can find), who has a very still, yet interesting on-stage presence like…er…a much bluesier, low-fi Norah Jones.

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Lovisa croons for the swoony crowd.

From what I can tell, Lay Low is a bit ubiquitous in Reykjavik right now. I’ve seen her video for “Please Don’t Hate Me” about a billion and one times on Sirkus, a tv channel in Iceland that played lots of great music videos. (Now you too can watch the vid. Ah YouTube, so global:)

Next up at NASA was a band called AEla, which I was really interested in seeing after reading that they were “the best of the 80s as digested in the Detroit of Iceland.” Seeing as how my love of Detroit rock is very well documented, it should come as no surprise that I was bound by law and duty to see them.

Boy was I glad I did. AEla were absolutely phenomenal, with a powerful raw stage energy that worked the crowd up into a tizzy. Despite the fact that I had absolutely NO idea what they were singing about since they sang in Icelandic, I was really taken by their songs filled with catchy guitar and bass riffs with off-kilter melodies. Lead singer Halli Valli was an absolute spurt of haphazard energy, launching himself onto a cheap plastic folding chair with one foot, with no apparent concern for the eminent force of gravity upon his wiry gigantor frame.

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Halli Valli has one foot on the…er…chair.

I feel compelled to mention here, once again, that Icelandic people are ridiculously tall. Standing in an Icelandic crowd is like standing amidst a blond haired, blue eyed People Forest.

During the course of AEla’s set, Halli Valli leap on top of the speakers, jumped into the photo pit, stood on building structures, ran through the audience to the back of the venue, perch on the sound booth, only to jump down and run through the crowd back up to the front of the stage. Wowee vowee!

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Halli Valli gets to know the crowd better.

Next up was a band caled Skatar, a pretty weird group who’s music was a bizarre mix of disjointed mix of mangled guitar sounds and jumpy, robotic, David Byrne-esque vocals (that is if David Byrne sang in Icelandic). The group looked like Clinic’s slightly disturbed hazmat obsessed brothers, outfitted in all-white Level B bunny suits.

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Rock ‘n’ roll toxic waste cleanup superheroes.

Although I wasn’t so keen on their music, they have impressed the folks over at Smekkleysa (Bad Taste) Records, one of Iceland’s most important record labels run by members of The Sugarcubes.

Reykjavik! was the last band I planned to see at NASA. How could I possibly go to Iceland and not see a band named after the capital city? Over the course of their rambunctious set, I actually was a little frightened for my safety. Singer Boas ran around the stage like a Ritalin-deprived ADD kid, at one point completing somersaults in front of the drumkit.

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Boas lets it out…let’s it ALL out.

They played loud loud LOUD thrash-rock–the type of music that makes you want to grow long hair and wear leather pants. For one of their last songs they brought out…DANCING GIRLS. Yup, an enthusiastic trio of blonde dancing beauties dubbed “The Movettes” wearing white tshirts and black short shorts, rolling out an impressive set of synchronized moves. Even though I wasn’t into most of the band’s music, I have to say, anything that involves dancing girls is kinda awesome.

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Bring in the dancing girls…

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Oh my!

After that aural and visual extravanaza, Rachel and I headed east to the National Theatre Basement where a band called Seabear was playing since I thought one of the dudes in the band looked kinda cute. Hahaha. But since we hadn’t eaten all day long, we made a pit stop at a fish and chips place called Kebabhusid on Laekjargata (which is open until a RIDICULOUS 7am on Fridays and Saturdays). By the time we were done and headed over to the Theatre, Seabear had already come and gone. 🙁

We then ran back to Gaukurinn to catch Erlend Oye‘s band, The Whitest Boy Alive. The crowd was PACKED to the gills, hardly an inch to navigate through the crowd, and so hot and steamy it was hard to breathe, but the audience hardly seemed to care about their own discomfort. As soon as the band took the stage, the venue turned into an all-out dance party, with Erlend Oye as the skinny flame-haired master of ceremonies, orchestrating all the blips and beeps of the bands electronic dance pop.

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Erlend wants to rock ‘n’ roll all night, and party every day

The music didn’t seem to end…and in fact it didn’t–that was until the Reykjavik police had a car outside and prompted everyone to head out–but not before the band had one last jam session, which included a cover version of “Show Me Love” by Robin S. Awww yeah! Play that funky music, white boys.

See how much fun the crowd was having in this video I made:

All in all, it was a good night. I got to learn about a new band I love (AEla) and rock the night away with a great crowd. So far the festival is starting off great!

Author: laura

I run The Modern Age.org

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