Nowadays I always have to bring a schedule to any festival, so I can pack as many bands in as possible. Years ago this would have been an alien concept to the ‘go with the flow’ mentality of my younger self but it kind of comes with the job.
However sometimes you have to know when to forget the schedule entirely, and that’s what happened on Friday. I decided to meet up with friends and let them lead the way. There was nobody on my schedule I felt was unmissable and it also meant I got to see both Perfume Genius and JME & Skepta, neither of whom were part of my original plan.
Perfume Genius seemed to divide the camp. Some thought he was too pretentious whilst others were literally in tears. I enjoyed the whole show massively, I’m always a sucker for a rule breaker and he seemed to be breaking some rules without going too far from the path, he was totally in the moment and the confidence that came with that during the performance seemed in direct contrast to his shy, humble and really rather endearing chat in between the songs. Full props to the band too, they were with him 100% along the way.
JME & Skepta also divided opinion. After a few songs in the mosh pit with a bunch of crazy Icelandic kids, one my friends picked up on something in the lyrics of a track that enraged her and so I thought it best to leave before she jumped on stage to give them a piece of her mind (it was close).
The rest of the night was spent wandering the streets trying to find somewhere that didn’t involve a massive queue. It was a fairly fruitless search and we eventually ended up in a pub listening to a mix of Icelandic: Pop; Polka; and Trap music.
Originally my Friday plan was to catch some of the must see sights of the island, but the friend I’m staying with couldn’t get the day off work so the closest I got to seeing the sights was a 5 minute trip to the Phallological Museum, or the Penis Museum as it’s perhaps better known. If pickled whales dicks and novelty hen night trinkets are your thing then it’s a must.
So on Saturday we set out to see as much of the land as possible before I was back in the realms of Iceland Airwaves scheduling. It was the perfect start to the day and also gave me a further taste for Iceland that will undoubtedly bring me back again for more. From large spraying geysers to massive thundering waterfalls, volcanic cracks in the earth and hot springs, it’s certainly a land of stunning extreme. Totally born out from the clash of fire and ice. Plus the hot and moist rye bread baked in the steam of a geothermal spring that we bought on the ride back into town, was enough to bring me back in itself.
Back in Reykjavik and my first gig of the day was underwater, in a large art deco swimming pool.
With submarine speakers placed into the pool, I floated around on my back whilst listening to the ambient sounds of Tonik Ensemble. Although you could hear them above water, the full experience really required that you dip your head back and listen underwater. Not many people seemed to be getting this concept but it was magical when done properly. I went from feeling like floating in space to feeling a little like dying but without the fear or pain. Very mediative and that combined with the hot spa baths there, left me feeling properly zenned out.
Next up was Cryptochrome, fronted by Anik from late 90s UK based Hip-hop crew Dark Circle and his wife Una. I’d already been chatting to Anik before I came and he’d been really helpful in the run up to my visit. It was great to finally get to see them play. The beats were seriously dope, electronic and experimental, just the way I like them, whilst the interaction and poetical wordplay with Anik and Una on stage was warming, despite being a far cry from sunshine and flowers.
Reykjavíkurdætur (Daughters Of Reykjavik) are an all female Hip-hop collective who number up to 21 members. I counted 14 at the show I saw next but that was already a powerful presence, and unlike most all male shows with those numbers on stage, there was a cohesiveness and camaraderie on stage that you don’t get from over sized egos battling for attention. All the rhymes were in Icelandic and although there were varying talents and identities, everybody seemed solid in their performances on stage.
Ooops ran out of time, I have to go chase some sheep (no seriously) before heading in to catch the last of the weekend’s shows and head off home. I’ll tell you about the rest of Saturday night later.