The entrance was timid—firstly just the one, soon followed by the rest of the pack. Greeting the cloth ears on Raised Among Wolves’s hooded sweaters were lone woo hoos from the crowd, which—fragmentary as they were—sounded like appropriately decorous howls. Thus the night began like an adolescent dalliance, the experience of watching Wolves’s set being somewhat akin to being made love to—and I mean this strictly in the Victorian sense—by an overzealous and abstractly romantic teenage boy.
Not that that’s a bad thing, really. Completely without airs, the set was—if unsophisticated—at the very least charming in its guilelessness. Eagerly they sang lines like, “let’s go dancing in the quiet streets.” Between songs, the gangly singer told the girls in the audience, “you are extremely beautiful.” The flipping of half-bangs created a ripple across the stage. One of them even had a pervy moustache. And as much as I thought I would, at the end of the set I didn’t hate them one bit. How could I? I think we grew up in the same suburb of the woods.
My grandfather—who has seen a piece of art or two in his life—says that if you place a painting too perfectly on a wall, you won’t be able to see it; perhaps, unconsciously, it will register as an enhancement of your general aesthetic pleasure, but you won’t notice it. Thorunn Antonia is that painting. It’s hard to criticize her, because it’s hard to focus on her: she has quite a pleasant voice, is indisputably attractive, and is coupled with a great partner in crime—namely the electro-prodigy Berndsen. Technically good, but without much personality, this is the kind of music that would go great—in fact needs—a gimmick. It’s pleasant, but not pleasantly so.
Canadian five-piece Karkwa were not much more tangible, or comprehensible. Their set was the musical equivalent of falling in and out of consciousness, with all the accompanying fear and confusion and disorientation. It began as a shit-show—I don’t mean technically so, for they were all very expertly doing whatever it was they were trying to do—but effectively, it was madness. It was the kind of music that might play in your head as you’re falling asleep in class, your hand still taking notes and your head spinning a narrative in which you are actually awake and coherent but to anyone watching you you are clearly making no sense at all. Without any abstract narrative, and a severe case of over-drummerdum, Karkwa was like a mad scientist baking a cake; they measured all the ingredients very precisely, but when the cake came out of the oven in the end, it still just tasted like crazy cake.
At this moment on the Airwaves calendar last year, I was also at Tjarnarbíó, and it was also raining. This year, however, there were no leaves falling on wet pavement in the cold twilight. The rain was angry, enabled by the wind. Yet I’m still convinced that Tjarnarbíó is the most beguiling—shall we say, romantic?—venue on the lineup, and the renovations have done a lot for the practical aspect of the place, attendance being at all times at least double what it had been at the same time last year.
22-Pistepirkko I found fascinating mostly for anthropological reasons. They sing songs about “girls” and have their hair in their eyes while at the same time being older than my dad. They were honestly fascinating, though. I’ve been wondering what today’s hipsters will look like a few generations from now, and now I know. In them I saw the future and the past converge. Heady, man.
In the audience, a few members of Raised by Wolves were also looking into their future. Several people in the crowd knew the lyrics to all the songs. People began to shout things, not requests, but random things. Things like, “Frankenstein time!” Meanwhile the music was pleasant. Nothing was sharp about it, nor gripping, much like the movements onstage which were somewhat languorous. Was it the apathy of hipsterdom? Was it drugs? Was it old age?
One of the singers asked what time it was. “Shall we stop?” The screen saver went awry and the lights went out. A question for the ages.