Many people, when I wrote that I’d been herding sheep, thought it was some kind of Welsh joke. It wasn’t. On Sunday morning, the lovely Icelandic lady I’d been staying with asked if I was up for chasing some sheep, as it was time for her sister to move her flock elsewhere. It was either that or a trip to the Blue Lagoon for some hot springs, massaging and general self pampering, so of course I chose running round in the rain herding sheep. I have to admit, even though it was satisfying (eventually) rounding them up, and even though they were obviously well looked after, and I’m only newly vegan, mostly for reasons of human survival. (or you could say a Cowspiracy convert) I still felt a little guilty knowing they were soon to be someone’s Sunday lunch. Sorry sheep.
Speaking of Sunday lunch, I’d worked up an appetite so headed back to my favourite food spot, Glo for a vegan wrap, a tasty triple selection of salads and a badass raw chocolate dairy free strawberry cake. I forgot to give a mention to Cafe Babalu the day before too, where I had a bean stew, a carrot cake and an apple pie (I couldn’t choose between the two) washed down with a soy chai latte. Reykjavik is certainly an easy option for us vegans. Mandi and their next door neighbour Ali Baba are also great nighttime spots for a falafel, but don’t forget to ask for them without mayonnaise (Ali Baba) or yoghurt sauce (Mandi). Both are happy to give you an alternative.
Sunday was spent mostly in one big venue next to the local football ground. I got there early and spent the first couple of hours upstairs in the chill out room, drifting away to the sounds of Arni Vector and Brilliantinus.
It was just the rest & revitalisation I needed for the rest of the evening, which started with Vök. I have to give them credit because I went from pretty much hating every little thing about them, the clothes, the hair, the beats and especially the wishy washy Dream Pop / Indie-Electro music they played, to actually rather liking them and enjoying the tunes. They must have been doing something right and I really have to learn not to be so judgemental, because often it probably just means I’m missing something.
Over the course of the weekend I grew a real fondness for Icelandic Rap. Most of it is very Trap influenced, especially with the beats, but even if the lyrics did share the misogyny, materialism and violent tendencies that many Trapstars seem to have (I’m pretty sure they didn’t), then I’ve no idea what they were saying anyway, which made it actually easier to listen to for the most part. Plus the raps were often delivered with a better flow than their US counterparts it has to be said.
Plenty of people I met weren’t so sure and didn’t share my enthusiasm. One lady I was talking to couldn’t understand how I was looking forwards to Úlfur Úlfur and was very pleased when it seemed like Emmsje Gauti wouldn’t be playing after all. Her pleasure was misplaced, Emmsje came on with the most unlikely looking of Rap bands and proceeded to take the crowd from a confused and unimpressed batch of Indie kids and Industry folk, to a throw your hands in the air bunch of Icelandic rap converts. Except for the lady I’d been speaking to that is, she was still unimpressed, but you can’t win them all. I could definitely see Emmsje working with audiences outside of Iceland if the scene ever managed to spread, which I hope it does because there’s definitely some talent.
I’m not quite sure how to describe dj flugvél og geimskip (translates as DJ Airplane & Spaceship) but I absolutely loved her. The video above probably gives you a better insight than I ever could, but she looked half Icelandic children’s TV presenter and half Nickelodeon cartoon space explorer and her music was childlike sing song meets tuneful wailing over beats created by a selection of electronic equipment that could only have belonged to the most colourful of tech nerds. It was honest and truly experimental (I realise that I’ve perhaps bastardised that word over the years) and I’d imagine her parents encouraged total creative freedom growing up. If that’s the case then full respects to them, she’s a winner.
Úlfur Úlfur seem to be the most established of Iceland’s new breed of rap stars and it was certainly obvious that the Icelandic people around me all knew the words to their songs. They were also the first rappers I came across and their video for Brennum Allt is one of my favourite videos of the year, thanks in part to director Magnús Leifsson, but taking nothing from the tune which is a total hit. I heard it a lot while in the city and it was great to see it performed live, even if guest rapper Kött Grá Pje couldn’t join them for this show. I’ve posted that video a couple of times so I opted for another brilliant track above. I’m a little confused by it though as one of the rappers doesn’t seem to be in it and somebody else is in his place. Can any Icelandic people explain who the other dude is?
If you’re feeling Icelandic Rap then I have a whole YouTube playlist here.
I’d given up trying to see Sleaford Mods at UK Festivals. The tents were always rammed and I wasn’t sure I was quite willing to make the investment of turning up early and queuing to get in. So I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I loved their set at Airwaves and glad to have a bit of breathing space, even though there were a good couple of thousand there to see them.
It’s interesting to see an international audience react to Sleaford Mods, I’m not sure you could get any more British than them. Sounding like an angry northern Ian Dury, vocalist Jason Williamson seemed unaware or maybe uncaring of anything or anyone around him, just ranting away like a furious market stall trader into the mic. Then half way through the set after Jolly Fucker, he starts to actually look up and shuffle around the stage. It’s a surprisingly cathartic release to watch, it feels like Jason is letting out the anger of every crowd member in there and the two of them look utterly magnificent on stage together.
They are followed by Hot Chip, and although it’s hard for me to get over how much I dislike Alexis Taylor‘s singing live (something I discovered during the Who Is William Onyeabor shows and which is solidified here), I loved the show. The band are powerful, the songs are great and you should never underestimate the power of 3000 people all reminiscing about dancing to Ready For The Floor at their student union, whilst spunking their loan on cheap alcopops.
I finished the festival at a different venue, watching another Icelandic rapper called Cell7, a veteran of the Hip-hop scene there, having been around since the late 90s. She seemed to keep away from the Trap beats favoured by the younger performers, opting for a mix of traditional jazzy Hip-hop flavours and heavier Electro beats. She also rapped in english which was noticeable as most of the Icelandic rappers I saw chose to rap in their mother tongue. She definitely had skills and a tight flow, but I wish I’d caught her earlier as it was getting late and I was starting to flag, even though it would be a good few hours til I managed to get any rest, having booked myself on an early flight which meant staying up for the duration. There’s little to tell of those few hours though and that was the end of Iceland Airwaves. I might well be back again next year.