It must be all the Airwaves blogs from you lot. Or maybe it’s just that I have lots of space to think in my new house (which I bought this summer). Or it even could be – just could be – the hit from the 10 days I spent in Iceland starting to run through my veins properly. Whatever it is, I have the urge to write. So settle down dear readers, and I shall begin. It’s my day off today, and having just finished wading through ALL my holiday photos from this year to get them printed up, I have a lot of memories whizzing round my head. My facebook feed is also full of blogs and articles about Airwaves and Iceland in general – check these out from Ben, Carmel, Auður at IHeartReykjavik, and of course The Grapevine. And to top it off, in my search for aural accompaniments to today I have unearthed a Honningbarna CD, who I had the privilege of seeing in a hostel reception at Airwaves 2011. Their sheer explosive energy is doing something to my insides I tell you.
So – I would like to tell you about my trip to Iceland, and more specifically this year’s Airwaves Festival. My friends and I usually make a bit of an adventure of our annual pilgrimage, starting off with a 3 or 4 day roadtrip somewhere full of moss, lava, mountainy bits and waterfalls (not forgetting sheep, new-romantic horses, elves, and, debuting this year, beserkers) before heading into Reykjavik for a bit of hipster-spotting.
My good friend Veerle and lovely cousin Helen came with myself and Katie this year, and we had a brilliant time poking around lakes and lava fields and cliffs and beaches and taking a shedload of photos. But I wanted to take a more laid-back approach to the Airwaves festival this year. I always feel like there’s too much pressure to be somewhere or see something or go to that party, and take in the overwhelming variety of events and cool things to see and do over Airwaves in Reykjavik, and stress and festivals are never things that should go together.
So I ignored the gigs I knew there would be massive queues for, or that chances were I could see in the UK, pencilled in loads of things that sounded a bit interesting, and took my time, did a bit of shopping, drank far too much hot chocolate (I still maintain the hot chocolates in Reykjavik are THE best, despite the demise of Hemmi og Valdi), ate nice food, drank nice beer and nice gin, met up with old friends, made some new ones, and generally had a pretty ace time. First on my list – one of my absolute favourite Icelandic bands Bloodgroup, followed by Ultra Mega Technobandið Stefán, playing in a box and what can only be described as a minimalist shelf, at Hressó for a live web-cast on newspaper Morgunblaðið’s website.
The boxes were designed to be the same proportions as a web-banner so that the gig could filmed and broadcast directly onto where the banner would be on the site. A visually fantastic idea from the live audience’s point of view (I thought so anyway), but I’m not so sure what the bands thought about having to squeeze into such tight spaces – although Sunna seemed to take it all in her kitten-like stride, and Bloodgroup’s set seemed even more full of energy than their “official” Harpa gig was later in the week.
So onto my second day of taking-it-easy festivalling. I had a few things on my pencilled-in list, including the Bedroom Community evening at Hallgrimskirkja, (which was magnificent – hearing Ben Frost’s By The Throat on a cathedral pipe organ was menacingly breathtaking and the acoustics just added to the sense of enveloping doom) - and a mysterious band called Camp Keighley just beforehand. I say mysterious because there was no information about them on the festival programme/app, not even what genre they dabbled in. The band are Icelandic, yet Keighley is not a remotely Icelandic word. Keighley is a town in Yorkshire where I grew up, and where my mum still lives.
I’d been ambling about Reykjavik’s craft shops looking for some lopi wool and a needle with which to mend my favourite but ever-more decrepit denim skirt, pretty chuffed with myself that I think I managed to pass for Icelandic in the haberdashers (probably because only locals go in there but I’m going to go with it…) and just made it back to my hostel to dump my stash of craft-tat when I twigged that what I assumed to be the Brontë-obsessed Icelandic band were about to play in the shop window next to where I was staying.
Of course I had to ask where they got their name from, and Hilmar, their guitarist, explained that Camp Keighley was the former name of one of the old-US airbases in Iceland, back from when the base was British for a couple of years in the ’40s. Still none- the-wiser as to why the Brits picked Keighley of all places to name their camp after, it was turning out that the band were more fascinated by my pronunciation of their name than I was in why they chose it. Keighley is one of those bizarrely-spelt British town names that (understandably) catches people out, and alternative attempts at saying the name (Kylie [as in Minogue], Ceilidh, and so on) are a source of amusement to its natives. That said, I wasn’t expecting that the correct way (“Kee-th-lee”) would be such a surprise as I’m so used to hearing it myself. But to their credit Camp Keighley took it upon themselves to learn the proper Yorkshire way of saying it, and then had a story to tell their audience for the rest of the festival… sorry about that!
I stayed to hear what their music sounded like and it didn’t take much to persuade me to stay till the end (and catch them twice more during Airwaves). Their pop is ridiculously catchy, with generous percussion, synths, and falsetto melodies shared joyously between male & female lead singers Þorvarður & Ólöf. I videoed them playing their song “Necessity for Consistency” in the Cintamani off-venue store, take a look and then don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and badger them to record some more!