Category Archives: Gigs

Icewaves 2013

Veerle & Katie at Hraunfoss

Veerle & Katie horsing around at Hraunfoss

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.

Grundarfjörður

Grundarfjörður

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.

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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.

Bloodgroup in a Box

Bloodgroup in a Box

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.

By the Throat at Hallgrimskirkja

By the Throat at Hallgrimskirkja

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.

Shop WIndow Gigs are also Good

Shop Window Gigs are also Good

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!

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Filed under Europe, Festivals, Gigs, Iceland, Music, Reviews, Travel

Yunioshi // Bloodgroup // Nottingham Contemporary

Yunioshi // Worms

With the drudgery of January beginning to seem more like a distant memory than an excuse to curl up on the sofa with a DVD and wine/pizza/cat, I have a rather nice week musically to look forward to, culminating in a minor adventure to the old motherland of Nottingham (which has changed beyond all recognition since I was a student there 15 years ago). But it’s not nostalgia for revision-related sorrow drowning (any nostalgia for that is long gone) – it’s Iceland, and an EP launch at the Nottingham Contemporary, a wonderful looking venue surely perfect for hosting such cosmopolitan sounds. (And it’s free entry, get it in your diaries!)

The EP in question is from the delicious Yunioshi, who despite being quirkily English, clearly have an ongoing love affair with Iceland (the EP is entitled Reykjavik). First single from this release is Worms, setting the scene for an indulgent romp into their fuzzy lo-fi spacefunk world where girl/boy vocals drift over what could easily be 1983. The EP Reykjavik amalgamates waves of synthfunk and 8-bit-dreamy, with just the right amount of unnervingly sinister, to make you concerned about your imminent kidnapping by a gang of deranged Harajuku girls.

Bloodgroup // My Arms // Live

And joining Yunioshi are Icelandic masters of fiery, glacial electro Bloodgroup, on the last night of their European tour. This makes me doubly excited. It’s not often an Icelandic band outside the obvious Sigur Ros pigeonhole ventures to the UK, much less do they make it outside London. Bloodgroup were also one of the first Icelandic bands whose music I was introduced to, and it was their album Dry Land, with its uniquely dramatic electric purity that first inspired me to give music reviewing a go (the album review is here).

Also joining the line-up are Nottingham’s fuzz folk outfit We Show Up on Radar,  who promise crunchy, Beck-influenced vibes, which sounds thoroughly appropriate given the company of the evening. It’s free in to the whole launch night, so I hope like me you’ll be dusting off appropriate footwear in which to throw shapes, and heading for The Contemporary this Saturday.

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The Future is the Symphony

The Icelandic Symphony Orchestra

Thursday’s Airwaves sums up for me just how diverse the music scene is here in Iceland, and just how bloody good it is. Our first stop of the evening was at Harpa for the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra playing Draumalandið by Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurðsson. I’m not normally one to take more than a passing interest in classical music, but when I stumbled across Valgeir’s work on recommendation to see him and his Bedroom Community labelmates on the Whale Watching Tour, I couldn’t stop streaming it on repeat – the next thing I knew I’d reached for my credit card and a hard copy was in the post to me.

I’ve seen the Whale Watching Tour twice and narrowly missed a third performance of it along with the Icelandic Symphony in the Icelandic Opera House in Reykjavik, so I didn’t want to miss this one. The weight of a full orchestra behind the powerful and evocative score brought the drama of the Icelandic landscape and climate to life way over and beyond what you’d hear on record or on a smaller scale – and even then the lights and shades and tones and shapes and colours of Valgeir’s home are the most expressive I’ve ever heard. Wonderful.

Futuregrapher

But, there was another act I really really wanted to see here, and that was Futuregrapher. Futuregrapher is a founding member of Reykjavik’s weirdcore movement and I stumbled across him at last year’s Airwaves playing to a sparsely filled bar. He’s an electronic musician – I’d say DJ but apparently there’s an old connotation that DJs only play other people’s music, pressing a button then putting their feet up with a fag and a coffee till the next tune’s ready. But Futuregrapher is entirely original, and has more than a set of CDJs at his disposal. Normally I don’t particularly differentiate between people who look like they’re fiddling with knobs on mixer boards too easily – if I can dance to what they’re playing (which I probably will do most of the time) then great, and if not I’ll probably just wander off. Such folk aren’t often that visually interesting to watch anyway and one of Jamie’s favourite complaints about photographing them is that they all just look like they’re checking their emails on stage.

But Futuregrapher is a guy you have to watch as well as dance to – he dances, he gesticulates, he grimaces, his eyes pop, and if you’re lucky he’ll jump up on his desk and wave his mixer about – quite simply he breathes the music he’s making just as much as he knows you will. Definitely not an email checker, and definitely one of Jamie’s favourites this festival. And mine too – I was really pleased to see him headlining Faktory with the entire upper floor jumping around just as maniacally as Futuregrapher himself.  And I don’t know anywhere else where you can see such breathtaking performances by such hugely different artists and be blown away by both.

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Filed under Europe, Festivals, Gigs, Iceland, Music, Travel

The Joy of Text

So today of course I had to ask everyone who had been to Björk how she was. Words such as “magical”, “amazing”, and “FIND A WAY TO GET A TICKET” fired back at me. Mark Iceblah’s blog on her Wednesday show fired even more words of enthusiasm (the title alone sold it to me to be honest, you should read it). Damn! The queue for the remaining free tickets for her second sold-out Sunday show would surely be bigger? And possibly colder! Oh no! It was sounding more & more like it would be worth it and that I’d regret not taking this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Joachim & Bjork

But then I got a text from my friend Katie who had just seen a tweet – more tickets had been released for the sold-out show. Ooh! Now they weren’t cheap (9900 isk), which was why I’d not bought one in the first place but.. this would surely be worth it. And.. that’s what credit cards were invented for right? It took me about another 30 seconds to reach for my laptop and the Harpa.is website to book my ticket – and I’m now the proud owner of a confirmation email to see Björk on Sunday! Word about how good the show was had obviously got out, as when I texted my Björk queue buddy Joachim to tell him tickets were available he ran straight to the box office to get one, and you can see his Björk-related glee above! Till Sunday on the Björk front then!

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The Music – The Last Dance

I’ve had this weekend off from Festivals but I’ve not been able to keep away from live music (oops)…

Leeds-born The Music have called it a day after 10 years together doing high-octane dancerock both here and in far flung reaches like Japan. I’ve never got to see them live before, but their 2004 album Welcome to the North was the soundtrack to my daily commute for nigh on 6 months, with it belting out of my car and me screaming along at full volume as a whizzed over the East Lancashire moors. When they showcased their 3rd album with a series of small shows at The Cockpit in Leeds 3 or 4 years ago, there was an awful lot of respectful buzz about it from those that did go. Their live reputation it seems was a force to be reckoned with.

So with their 2 last-ever shows in their hometown, how could I resist? I’m incredibly glad I went, it was one hell of a fast-paced party, there was not one person who didn’t know the words, and an electrifying buzz I’ve not felt at a gig for a long time, let alone one in a venue as big as the Academy.

My review will (all being well) be up on Clash soon & I’ll post the link when I have it. In the meantime, this awesome video of Welcome to The North has been doing the rounds on Youtube, courtesy of JoJoMac2010. Enjoy.

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Filed under Gigs, Leeds, Music

Farmyard Fun and other gigs

Strictly speaking the “farmyard” in title has come from an evening I spent at the Cow & Calf rocks in Ilkley, watching a performance by Jez Colborne and the Mind the Gap entitled Irresistible. Mind the Gap are a theatre company based in Bradford comprising tutors and professional actors, and provide theatre studies courses for people with learning difficulties. My brother (who has Asperger’s, so he has more of an issue with “getting” certain social contexts rather than the media-peddled stereotype of a person with low IQ and “special learning needs”) has just started at the company and is loving it. He and his fellow coursemates were also taking part in the performance.

Jez is inspired by sirens and the setting for the performance of music inspired by sirens (air-raid and indeed the Greek variety), inside the quarried out centre of the Cow, was breathtaking, especially as the rain misted in and was caught by the lights. Animated projections backlit the performance, and although there were fewer siren sounds than I’d been led to expect, it was still an enjoyable and very different night. You can read Jez’s blog and see photos from the evening on the Mind the Gap website.

Foals - (c) Danny Payne

Animal related fun continued as we dashed back to Leeds for Foals at the O2 Academy, which I was reviewing for Clash Mag. I do really love Foals’ latest album (Mercury nominated Total Life Forever) and I’d only seen a couple of their songs live before, so I was looking forward to it. The sound where we stood wasn’t amazing unfortunately (the grapevine informs me there may have been some over-zealous amp cranking from the band), but the atmosphere was pretty electric, which made a nice change from the all-too-commonly disinterested hoards that seem to be attracted the the Leeds O2. You can read what I thought on the Clash website, with photos from Danny Payne.

Delphic - (c) Jamie Boynton

Not content with two events in one evening, nor a quick 8 hours at work, next stop was Manchester’s the Warehouse Project (not forgetting a quick stop for pizza obviously). It was Delphic‘s turn to curate the Warehouse Project,  and if it wasn’t for the over-boisterous crowd I would have enjoyed them immensely playing their hearts out to their home fans. Do peruse the reasons for my unconvincedness at the concept of crossover clubbing/gig nights on Counterfeit. Pictures are from FictionalFuture.

A quick stop at a Halloween Burlesque night (and I hope what was a suitable fishnet, hotpant and basque related outfit), I had a day off then was back at the Academy to review Ellie Goulding, again for Clash with Danny taking the photos. Much girlier than my usual choice of musical entertainment, I was pleasantly surprised. She really does do a nice line in catchy arm waving numbers. Read the review at Clash online.

Ellie Goulding - (c) Danny Payne

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Filed under Counterfeit Mag, Gigs, Leeds, Music, Photography, Writing

Everyone Loves The Brudenell

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Places I Love on theculturevulture.co.uk

It’s true. Everyone does. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. I even wore my Brudenell t-shirt to Iceland Airwaves and used the happy fact to bump into a fellow Leeds-er.

To cut a long story short, The Brudenell Social Club is simply one of, if not the best gig venue ever. To not cut the long story at all, I spoke to Nathan who runs the place, with dedication and passion, about why he thinks it’s so special, and I think between us we’ve managed to put our fingers on what makes so many people get excited about the Brud. I wrote the piece for Culture Vultures, so please head over there to have a read.

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