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2015 Iceland Airwaves

Nov 09/2015
PHOTOS Ian Young

What started in an airplane hanger has now become something of an annual pilgrimage for music lovers seeking one of most diverse festivals in the world. Iceland Airwaves 2015 served up an array of both established and emerging hip-hop, rock, indie and electronic music.

Even larger than last year, the festivities were stretched over five days, November 4th-8th with over 240 acts appearing in over 50 official/unofficial-venue sites across the long weekend. From hostels and record stores to the Reykjavík Art Museum, the majority of public spaces were transformed into a stage.

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The opening night was something of an Icelandic showcase, as Reykjavíkurdaetur (translation Reykjavík’s Daughter) unleashed it’s 13 piece all girl hip-hop collective earning rousing responses with an explosive set at NASA. Dressed in nude body suit’s the girls took turns passing the mics to trade verses and deliver hard choruses shouted in Icelandic.

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Much kike SXSW, bands take the opportunity to play several shows over the course of the festival. Milkywhale (formed by choreographer Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir and musician Árni Hlöðversson of FM Belfast) had a string of sets including the festival’s opening at the very packed Laundromat Cafe. The post-pop duo are Iceland’s equivalent of a slightly more avant-garde version of a Ellie Goulding/Calvin Harris collab – not as commercial, but surrounded by that same air of mesmerizing pop musicianship.

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The musicial highlights included back to back transcendent performances by Soak and Beach House, king of grime Skepta delivering his verses in double time at the Reykjavík Art Museum, the hypnotic pulsating set of East India Youth at NASA and getting lost in the digital bouncy mosh pit while Sophie blasted his effervescent dizzy sugar pop arrangements.

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The grande finale found its feet with closing sets from Hot Chip and FM Belfast. Hot Chip was one of the last bands added to the weekend as a replacement for Björk who canceled her closing-night concert which didn’t seem to effect the luster from the festival. The palpable on-stage idiosyncratic energy of Hot Chip, a band that’s been together for ten years, turned the atmosphere of Vodafone Hall into a synth filled warehouse rave unpacking classics like Ready for the Floor & One Life Stand, closing the night with renewed versions of Dancer in Dark/All My Friends.

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There was no greater way to bid farewell to this year’s Airwaves than with a celebratory set from Iceland’s hottest electro-poppers, FM Belfast. A band who started as a duo in 2005 and remained as such until the 2006’s Airwaves festival opened an opportunity to perform live as a full band for the first time. The venue was crowded in to watch the dance spectacle blast ribbons into the air and command the spectators to kneel down and jump which they obliged, emphatically. FM left the stage to a very satisfied crowd of 2015 festival goers and a venue floor showered in local beer and confetti.

Listen to our official playlist selects from this year’s festival:

 

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers – the line of rainbow coloured, collared bears dancing along the back of some asthmatic old car on its way to a festival. Beyond the bears, we’ve delighted in the genius ice cream flavour that is “Cherry Garcia,” or thought that wearing a wreath of red roses would be the perfect accessory to a rock show. The almost cult-like status of The Grateful Dead is so prevalent, so omnipresent, so engrained into our society that many people don’t even realize what the tie-dyed, trippy references harken back to. Which is a shame. Their music was innovative and spoke for a generation of young souls who couldn’t explain what escape they needed until they heard it booming out of a speaker during an acid trip. The idea of the Grateful Dead has somewhat taken over the music of the Grateful Dead for subsequent generations. Director Mike Fleiss has successfully managed to bring it back to the music with his new documentary The Other One. He lets the story of the band be told first-hand through the oft-overshadowed Bob Weir (lead singer, rhythm guitarist and writer) as well as 30 years worth of archive and interviews.

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