The night starts like this: I am manhandled by the door man (looking for weapons? What the fuck?). I get in and it’s crowded and I’m tired. I fell off my bike earlier and my knee hurts. Basically, sorry to say it, I am not in the mood. The question which now remains is whether Nasa can work the magic it has worked in previous years; curing hangovers, restoring faith, a veritable Jesus of Airwaves experiences.
The room is buzzing, the air alive with the collective experiences of the last few days. I wander aimlessly around, hearing snippets of conversations. Laughter. Three beers-in wisdom.
Hjaltalín are up. I wait for the crowds of people hovering around the bars, upstairs and in corners, to come forward and take to the dance floor in their usual droves, but it doesn’t happen. They are in full swing, and there are a fair few people there, but still considerable gaps, so for once the ‘pit’ of Nasa seems like the best place to be to actually see the band.
Hjaltalín play but attention is scattered. I find it really strange that people have waited and are currently still waiting outside in line, in the shitty weather, to come inside and chat like they are in the school cafeteria. That’s what the atmosphere is like. A school in lunch break. With a crazy soundtrack.
The music is intense, the room awash in swirling symphonic melodies. Conversations continue unabated by the waves of sound. Högni, the lead singer, attempts to banter between songs, but there is not much interest. Those on the dance floor watch, and a few even dance, but the other 80% of people in the building are in another realm and this is just their background music. It seems a shame because it’s not like they aren’t putting on a good show, it’s just obviously not getting everyone in the mood. They introduce one song as a ‘ballad’. While this might be stretching the definition of the word ballad somewhat, it is well fitted to the feeling of the last night of a festival. Slow and searching, somewhat reflective.
They finish their set and I wander off. I sit in a corner, listening to foreigners speak a language I can’t identify. English words pepper their sentences. I hear the word ‘n****r’ three times, and then words ‘Aryan nation’. Wonder if they are messing with me, but decide not to sit there anymore anyway. Don’t wanna get their Nazi germs. There is a ridiculously long break between the sets. Nazis aside, the crowd is convivial.
I am anticipating Rich Aucoin’s set. He describes himself as ‘motivational crowd karoke’. I have heard he might outdo Dan Deacon’s legendary set from last year. This makes things interesting.
He starts with words on a screen which I can’t see. Everyone is laughing and screaming, but the yaaaaaaay kind of screaming, so it seems all good. The upstairs bar has been shut and all at once the dance floor is packed with sweaty bodies, a heaving mass of heads, the air heavy around us. There is a high sense eagerness and he starts by winding the crowd up, getting them to scream into his microphone etc. Then he lets loose with his set. The music, though fun, is only half of it. I can see where the comparison to Dan Deacon comes from, though personally I prefer the way Deacon does his stuff. Aucoin is a great performer though, no doubt about that. Maybe one of the best I have seen this Airwaves. He includes the audience on almost every song, with their lyrics, mostly poetic home truths and platitudes, shown on a big screen, along with some tailored videos. He spends his time all over the place. Literally crowd surfing (with a surf board) and running into the middle of the group. He is engaging and sweaty and very very live.
My bad mood is fading as the concert takes the tiredness from my shoulders. My body moves without control. The music lifts us and from here we can see where we have been, where we are going. This is a NASA Sunday night moment. What I, and all these other people come here for. I dance like I won’t get to dance again for another year.
As the set ends, and I leave to beat the crush of people who will soon be squeezing their way out the door and into the night, quickly cooling in the wicked wind. Airwaves over for another year. We wait in anticipation for the next one.