Iceland Airwaves might well be the coolest festival of the year. Yes, it takes place in the windswept Reykjavik in November (a daunting prospect for even the locals to brave), but because it’s always thinking several steps ahead. Instead of chucking together a line-up that will simply sell tickets, Airwaves has scaled back this year to curate a devastatingly cutting-edge and expertly curated lineup.
NME was there hopping from bar-to-bar to catch both the established stars and newbies ready to start making serious noise both locally and internationally. Here’s the best sets we saw over the weekend…
Where: Reykjavik Art Museum, Wednesday 6th
What happened: Sporting a glittering hat and face-covering tassels, Peck is the latest cowboy trotting into town wanting to turn the stereotypes on their head. His tender and spectacular songs are love songs about fellow cowboys, bucking the tiresome trend of drink-swilling and pill-swallowing bores.
The best moment: Peck’s voice is truly superb. On ‘Winds Change’, the masked-man’s range is showcased spectacularly, and already they feel like timeless love songs right from the heart.
Where: Reykjavik Art Museum, Thursday 7th
What happened: The UK musician has had a hell of a summer. Lineups across the continent have turned out to see what the multi-instrumentalist and drummer can do live. From this showing, it’s clear the show is getting slicker, the beats darker and more enticing, while Georgia steps more confidently into her role as a new pop hero.
The best moment: Throughout the set, Georgia repeated her affinity with the festival and explained that this show was always going to be a big one. Having performed several years ago as a session drummer, she returned this year on her own merit, and seemed genuinely overwhelmed after the response to huge banger ‘About Work The Dancefloor’.
Where: Gamla Bíó, Thursday 7th
What happened: Despite touring almost constantly since the release of their debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’ in early 2018, the London five-piece remain engaged and humbled during their chaotic and forceful live shows. Their debut appearance in Iceland was no different, pairing new energetic songs with a true respect for their avid fans.
The best moment: Bassist Josh Finnerty’s frontflip that broke his bass strap and resulted in a technician following him like a shadow with gaffa-tape to fix as much as he could as the music kept going. A new inventive way to smash up instruments, we reckon.
Where: Fríkirkjan Church, Friday 8th
What happened: In 2015, Grant moved to Iceland to find peace and tranquillity in what had been an otherwise hectic few years. Now, he’s paid it back with a special slate of performances this weekend in the gorgeous Fríkirkjan church on Friday and Saturday night, accompanied only by a grand piano.
The best moment: Performed seldom in recent years, the emotional ‘Geraldine’ – a beauty about self-acceptance and finding your place in the world – got a rapturous response from the transfixed faitful.
Girl in Red
Where: Gamla Bíó, Friday 8th
What happened: Norweigan pop hero banged on about how she doesn’t fancy an after-party, about rolling out of bed to come play this midnight showing and, oh, played a few big tunes from her limited but razor-sharp catalogue of indie-pop. It was a bit of a party, actually.
The best moment: ‘Bad Idea!’ has barely been out for a couple months, but it’s already a moshpit-inducing favourite.
Joe and Shitboys
Where: Gaukurinn, Saturday 9th
What happened: The Faroe Island gang bring their wicked sense of humour and desire for equality to Gaukurinn, the Vegan-only venue with a modern, welcoming attitude: just like the band themselves.
The best moment: ‘Shitboys Theme’ – which requires every punter to repeat the titular phrase, “shitboys” – was followed by a bruising cover of Rage Against The Machines’ ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’. A back-to-back pair of punk anthems on both ends of the spectrum.