Grapevine Airwaves 2012

November 3, 2012

A Tapestry Of Odd Ends. A Mosaic Of Unlikely Line-Up Mates. A Night Of Yawns And Yeahs

Endless Dark by Skari

Music Overview

When looking at the line-up I could have sworn someone with a split personality put it together. One is sweet, the other bitter. One is light, the other dark. One is odd, the other pedestrian. Then I decided this was a good thing. I like diverse line-ups. I want to be taken by surprise. I want to be shook up. I’m not a big fan of  ‘meh’ but a seeker of ‘yeah!’ With that in mind, I buckled up, showed up early and hoped for something to write home about.

This was my first time seeing the unassuming Just Another Snake Cult were close to getting their gear ready and I figured – by the looks of it – they would come and go without me noticing much, as often is the case. On the right side a cosy looking violinist that could pass as a greenhorn middle school teacher. On the left side, a delightful looking cellist lady, sitting in a chair. In the middle, a table full of gadgets, plugs, effects, instruments, wires, cables, and… things. In front of it, a drowsy looking young man with the case of mad scientist. Yeah, that can be a flu. It’s airborne. I decided the three of them would put me to sleep. A few seconds into their first song, I had witnessed the coolest opening of a show at the Airwaves 2012. The guy in the middle, singer/guitarist/things-master/ringleader, runs across the stage, jumps over the barricade and breaks into singing and dancing. The sincere kind might I add. No shenanigans. I’m swooned. And there’s hardly anybody here. The crowd is glued to the sides, leaving a gaping floor to this one-man love dance. That kid has got some balls. He obviously doesn’t give a fuck. Right there, I’m on Just Another Snake Cult’s side.

In matter of three or four songs the guy’s gone through a few instruments I’ve never seen before, he’s using a drumstick on his acoustic guitar, effects come in play liberally and no song sounds the same. Some are tender, others sombre. One song makes you drift off, the next gets one all pensive. Most importantly, Just Another Snake Cult made us wonder. My friend tells me he’s not sure if the band’s making fun of him. I see where he’s coming from. He then tells me this is the best thing he’s seen this year. Far from being in your face, Just Another Snake Cult is up close and personal. The Cult manages to make people feel slightly uneasy. It’s a sight to see. The band  aptly emits haphazard vibes but never feeling unrehearsed. This is original music comparable to hardly anything. I’ll be thinking about these guys the morning after.

Saytan‘s up next. Having seen them recently, my level of curiosity and anticipation dwindled a bit, what with stimulating opener. See, Saytan have got the right idea but excitement is amiss. According to their Facebook profile, the band is influenced by an assortment of pioneering acts and wildly creative artists. If those are indeed the ingredients, the finishing product – the salad if you will – is hardly anything to write home about. It is surprisingly streamlined. The band’s formidable guitarists know their chops but never let loose musically. Performance wise, one is stiff as a statue while the other seems unsure of his own want for expressive gestures. So that when he loosens up, he seemed to withdraw just as quickly. The same can be said about the bands synth guy. There’s no bass player, but this guy keys-in thundering bass lines and additional sounds. Thankfully the drummer got down and dirty. He was fun to watch as his face and limbs contorted via rather unorthodox drum accentuations. Saytan does rock, in that  instrumental Trans Am way, and not unlike Mogwai during their more sped up and spritely moments. Unlike those bands, Saytan does not arrest. And without that quality, a live show with no teeth leaves a lot to be desired.

Kool Thing by Ómar Smith

The mildly mannered quarter picked up some steam during a metal infused number who’s name I did not catch because the band never uttered a word. The tremolo picking, hurried tempo and nifty lead riff resulted in  good energy. But it was all for naught. During Saytan’s set the crowd had grown considerably and many seemed to be enjoying the band. So, there. At this juncture I had, as some sort survival mechanism, invested high expectations for a band I’d never heard before. Maybe my psychic powers come out the other side because Kool Thing started a bit later than scheduled. This did not matter, for the Berlin based international trio wasted no time and crammed all they had into a short and often impressive set.

The trio, drums, guitars, synths, two voices and playback, hypnotized with a soft but ghoulish opening  chants. This set opener quickly switched gears and I found myself in an underground electro club in a Dresden basement, immersed in thundering bass waves and spacious industrial goth. You got my attention. The slower and calmer moments evoked Blade Runner and Lost Highway images whilst the more energetic and rocking ones saw the crowd getting their groove on and I told myself that yes, Kool Thing can certainly run with the new wave resurgence  that’s going on. At this stage in our relationship I wont say Kool Thing are original, but the tempo variations, cascading build ups and subtle yet different dynamics between songs kept me on their side. My only gripe is one dimensional vocal harmonies. Other than that, this set got tumbs up.

Moss by Sveinbi

The most agreeable looking bunch was the Netherlands’s Moss. They look like well kept and polite psychology post graduates. And the music followed suit, polished and carefully fashioned. Jarring and confrontational it was not. It was akin to being caressed by a motherly figure in a soft, warm sweater. Honestly. But Moss is a rock band, eh? Surely! Yes they are. Did they rock hard? Absolutely not. But that is irrelevant. Indie with pop-like readiness – everyone’s invited. No need to be afraid. dEUS meets Beach House with Yokon Blonde’esque juice injection. Put that in your Kindle and smoke it.

This four piece had the best sound of the night. Easily. With their own sound guy and amps, vintage guitars and bass, oozing professionalism and control, it was hard not be impressed with the bands dedication. It did not end there. A friend was in tow, the kind that casts backdrop visuals on the wall. I noticed the crowd looking more mature and old than usual, befitting the harmless performance on stage. With clockwork-like tightness, Moss got through their set unscathed. For me, this sort of stuff is better enjoyed at home, headphones and all because there’s little going on. Things livened up a bit when the singer accidentally dropped his tambourine into the crowd and two merry drunks…ahem… fans, proceeded to tambourine their own and everyone else’s asses until the last song ended. The only proper crowd participation of the night thus far. – Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson

 

Vintage Caravan by Birta Rán

The Vintage Caravan has been called the best classic rock revival band in Iceland, and they were working hard to keep that title. They play cruising down the highway (or I guess Hringbraut) in a souped up Camaro with a six pack in the back seat kind of rock, with a dash of metal band drumming. Live, they bring head banging, sweat, guitar sex and more guitar and bass solos than you can count. From the music, to their outfits to the way the lead singer would demand the crowd go absolutely fucking crazy, they were bleeding rock ‘n roll onto the stage.

No, literally. After the third song their bassist held up his bloody fingertips.

While most of their songs explore well traveled rock territory (minus any love songs), they managed to throw a bit of misogyny into the mix. The lead singer warned the crowd that “Know Your Place (Woman)” was controversial, but it’s hard to say whether the song – which more or less recommended women keep themselves occupied in the kitchen – male posturing (“look at us, we’re too cool to promote modern gender roles”) or if they’re just being ironic. One would think that, in the best country in the world for women, it wouldn’t be clever either way, but their crowd was such a boy’s club it’s hard to imagine anyone really caring.

 

Thee Attacks by Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson

Thee Attacks, on the other hand, is all about the ladies. And judging by the mass exodus of testosterone  and corresponding influx of estrogen near the stage area, I’d say the ladies are into then too.

If the Vintage Caravan are head banging, bullet-like drum beats and gratuitous guitar sex, then Thee Attacks are hair flipping, crooning vocals and actual sex. The songs themselves are  more or less forgettable. It’s not that each song sounds the same—they alternate between fast and slow, wild and seductive—but each song is meant to be enjoyed in that moment. Thee Attacks is fun and no one knows that more than Jimmy Attacks (there’s also a Terry, Richie and Johnny). At one point he was hanging upside down from the ceiling. Later he moaning into the microphone. In between just about every song he took the time to flirt with the audience. Ex: “I thought Denmark had the most beautiful girls, but you guys are at least equal,” “We just hope you guys feel good.”

And we did feel good. There are stale performances, there are energetic performance and then there are wild performances that add something to your enjoyment of the music. Their set last night was nothing if not wild.

The last pair of bands that night were of the screaming and emotional variety. The six guys of Endless Dark crowded the stage and got loud and angsty. The band has both a singer and a screamer (though everyone contributes on this front) and the combination is good for the songs. It breaks things up and the lead singer has the sort of distinct, pitch perfect and slightly whiny voice that works for songs about cold Decembers, failed romance and the general overwhelmingness of being alive. Endless Dark’s greatest strength, however, might just be the maturity of their songs. These aren’t the same screamo songs thirteen years olds were listening to in 2005 and even now, it wasn’t surprising to see that most of the audience members were grizzly dudes in their 30s and 40s.

We Made God by Sveinbi

Last and only second to least of this latter half of the night was We Made God is the sort of band you’d introduce to your friend with “No, I swear, it’s not just loud screaming.” And it’s not. The lead singer has a pretty decent voice and there’s more of an electronic theme running through their songs. There are moments of quiet and near the end of the set a sound similar to a knife clinking against a glass and being distorted in a massive echo chamber. It would have been nice if the bands would have interacted more with the English speakers. Yes, it was after midnight and there aren’t an overwhelming number of foreigners here for dramatic guitars and heart-ripped-out-of-my-chest-place-on-my-sleeve emotion, but you never know. — Arit John



About the Author

Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson
Birkir Fjalar Viðarsson
Musician, writer, youth worker and a Reyðarfjörður native. Been writing off-an-on for The Reykjavík Grapevine for several years. Runs the Halifax Collect (@halifaxcollect) music/culture blog. Did a brief stint with Exclaim! magazine (Canada). Musli/granola enthusiast.




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