Iceland Airwaves 2013 – Day 1

Wow – what a day!

Iceland Airwaves 2013 officially kicked off today with a full slate of on and off venue shows, and we made an effort to catch as many of them as possible. After starting off with some cappuccinos and pastries at Sandholt Bakery, it was back to Lucky Records to spend some quality time digging through the Icelandic sections – new and used, vinyl and CDs. I added more stuff to my growing pile of music and plan on picking it all up tomorrow – so look for some details in an upcoming post (plus reviews of tons of Icelandic music over the next few months!).

That wasn’t all we did at Lucky. We also ran into fellow Seattle music blogger Travis from Guerrilla Candy and caught five different off-venue shows:

  • Bellstop play a sort of blues based, edgy rock that reminded me a lot of The Kills; picked up their new CD
  • Saytan is all hard rock, all instrumental, all the time
  • Fura is a new project featuring two members of the awesome Icelandic band Bloodgroup, with the addition of a female singer (not the same one from Bloodgroup). This was their first ever live show, and their sound was a little like the Tracing Echoes album, but with sort of Western (as in Western movie…) and surf sounding guitar. Pretty solid and definitely a group to keep an eye on.
  • Bruno Batova is a talented Italian pianist who plays a fairly classical style of his own compositions; I’m going to try to track down his CD tomorrow
  • Epic Rain have their own unique hip hop sound – I’d almost call it “ragtime hip hop,” with a sort of 1930s speakeasy kind of feel to it; caught them last year as well, and the improvement in their performance is noticeable

After that the on-venue schedule kicked off, and our first stop was the Reykjavik Art Museum to see hard rock/punks Grisalappalisa, followed by none other than my favorite Icelandic band Agent Fresco, who were fantastic as usual. Agent Fresco treated the crowd to one new song and filled out the rest of the set with classics from A Long Time Listening, much to the crowds delight as was evidenced by how many of them were singing along. Listening to their emotionally powerful rock never gets old.

After that we popped across the street to Harlem to catch Legend, though they weren’t scheduled until midnight which gave us the opportunity to hear three other bands while we waited. Tonik is a great techno duo who we caught at Faktory in 2011, and they still sound solid. Love & Fog looks like a “normal” band, but they’ve got a much more electronic sound that really pushes the vocals down in the mix to focus on the music. Nolo was my “best new-to-me band of the night,” with a great set with solid beats and modulated vocals that had a lot of the ladies dancing.

And that brought us to Legend. Who flat out killed it. Killed. It. My friend Tristen and I talked about this show a few weeks ago and both wondered if seeing Legend now that I’m familiar with their sound and songs off of Fearless would be as good as the shock of seeing and hearing them totally cold at Airwaves last year, an experience he and I did a joint blog post about. Well, it turns out they’re awesome, even more so if you know (and love) their songs. It was a high energy assault with the smoke machine working overtime and some aggressive head-bobbing and dancing in the crowd. Harlem is a pretty tiny venue – the signs indicate the maximum capacity at 150, and I promise you there were considerably more than that there for the bands prior to Legend. But I think Legend’s style isn’t as easy to swallow for a lot of Airwaves attendees, so it was a more sparse crowd, but one that was way the hell into what Legend brought to the table. Absolutely the show of the trip so far. Legend has a joint-7″ single coming out along with Sólstafir in December, a release limited to 300 copies (and I already have one on order, thank you), and I believe some new songs in the works.

 Wrap up the night with a 1:00 AM hot dog, and you’ve got a near perfect night. I can’t wait to see what Airwaves and Reykjavik have in store for us on Day 2!