Grapevine Airwaves 2012

November 4, 2012

Fucking The Pain Away, Surf Punk And Nice Guys

DIIV by Birta Rán

Music Overview

On Saturday night, the salt was no longer thick in the air. Thank God. We had stopped fearing for our lives and the wind had calmed to a mere breeze. We could freely walk the streets without fear of decapitation by a loose piece of roofing iron. This was going to be a good night. Iðnó, the not so little house on the edge of the pond, was scattered with people, chatting and collecting their wits for the impending evening.

My Bubba and Mi started things off. Their voices were sweet, resonating with an image of the lost purity of the countryside, and they had the bluegrass twee down to a fine art, what with their pretty dresses and shy, soft spoken onstage demeanor. The twist to them is the somehow wry way they manage this old-timey genre by, for example, opening their set with a cover of Peaches ‘Fuck the Pain Away’. Irony anyone?

Their set was sugary, almost saccharine, even including jingles, but this almost too sweetness was saved by that very dry humour from becoming too much of a good thing. There were moments when it was almost difficult to tell if it was humour at all, but uncertainty is cool so it all fell together well in the end.The only quibble was where the tempo was concerned. I understand that they are pretty low key, but this sort of needed shaking up a bit towards the end. They played one song (the title escapes me) where it felt like if they pulled up the tempo or upped the ante just a little bit, a hoe-down could have broken out, which would have drastically improved their show. In fact, there are few things in life which a hoe-down doesn’t improve. That aside, it was, all things considered a feel-good start to the evening in Iðnó and made way nicely for the musical stylings of Mo Kenney, who took to the stage next.

She continued the soft/sweet/accoustic style of things with her folksy ways. Her androgynous elegance offset the tender style of her music in a positive way by giving her a contrast of sorts, which worked well to set her apart from every other singer/songwriter out there strumming and oohing like there is no tomorrow.

The room slowly filled up, though the atmosphere was still very subdued. No party-party. A few heads nodding, but barely. Kenney has a beautiful voice, which played centre stage against the backdrop of her skillful plucking. She played a fairly restrained set which was in some ways a shame as the moments where she really shone were when her pretty voice strained, and stretched against the bars of her flowery music. Though she played well, it felt as though there was a lack at times, and when she started to push her sound to a more uncomfortable place an interesting tension emerged.

She finished up with a cover of Five Years by David Bowie, which she did well and differently and the room emptied out while the stage was set for the next act. It refilled and then some more for the set of Skúli Sverrisson who changed the tone with his experimental ways, bless his socks.

The lights were dimmed and people sat on the floor as the first waves of reverberating bass washed over us like waves from a sea of bubbling sound. I have long been of the opinion that on the floor, in the dark, great things happen, and his set proved to be no exception. There is not a single element of it that I would have changed. The room was quiet, but for the music and we were captive as a seemingly destinationless journey took place. The circumstances were no longer performer and crowd, but roles shifted and a master, head shining (holy?) under stage lights, led students to a place not musical but experiential, sound throbbing together as he twanged and rumbled and took us somewhere new.

Big shoes to fill, following this act, and were it anyone else, I would pity the fool. Ólöf Arnalds, however, is no stranger to this game and took the stage to play a set of her inimitable music. Cunningly, she even borrowed the man himself to back her up on bass.

I have seen her play about a million times before (or, well, a couple) and never grow tired of her natural and easy performance style. She wins me over with her friendly ways each time, not to mention that her delicate, ethereal folk-style music is awesome. This set was no exception and she earned a whoop from me with her description of her song ‘Vinkonur’ as being about ‘raising up sisterhood’. Right on!

Here in the story I met Thomas, who took over the observation of events at Iðnó on Friday night, while I wandered off to forget about being observant and just be.

By Bergrún Anna

Leaving Bergrún sitting upstairs scrawling on the back of some bits of scrap paper, I Break off downstairs to see I Break Horses.

The Swedish four-piece managed to sound loud without sounding noisy. Incorporating a Jesus & Mary chain slow-beat (to which I Break out the air drums), shoegazey guitar textures layered over some pretty contagious synth arpeggios (I Break out the dance moves) all beautifully complemented by lead singer Maria Lindén’s gorgeous voice, alternating between soaring Zola Jesus mode and more considered chanteuse (at points I Break down crying!), even though the sound was a bit off (if I was them I’d Break the sound guy’s leg!). So much so I still don’t know if she was singing in Swedish or English (I should Break out the dictionary).

The set came to a close (hit the Breaks? Ok, I’ll stop) with each band member verbing their hardware before departing the stage one by one until finally it was just the drummer pounding out the stadium sized rythyms alone for the closing minutes. I wish he went for longer.

In high spirits, I Break for a beer (last one, I promise) before returning for Diiv.

Whether it’s pronounced deev or dive I’m still unsure. What I am sure of is listening to the Brooklynites’ brilliant debut album ‘Oshin‘ in anticipation for tonight couldn’t prepare me for what they had planned: A punk rock set from a band who on record make head-nodding jangle pop songs that you dig and your girlfriend can dance to. Last night these songs were replaced by jams you’d sooner thrash around the room to, while your girlfriend looks on, concerned.

Where I expected a bookish stage presence- perhaps four shy guys in dirty sweaters and Talking Heads t-shirts- the four writhed about the stage, throttling every last noise from their guitars, their Cousin It haircuts swinging across their faces. The rickety melodies of ‘Oshin’ became raw blasts of surf punk, the tempos had doubled, the drawly vocals were footnoted by infant-with-too-much-cordial-esque squeals.

All this shone a light on an element of the band’s musical vocabulary and palette of influences I was yet to find on ‘Oshin’. The best part about it all though is that not one iota of their record’s chill, summer-y atmosphere was compromised. Your girlfriend could still do the twist if she wanted, you could still finger-click along, if, you know, that’s your thing.

I’m not sure what was behind the programming decision to schedule Valdimar after Diiv, but whatever it was, it made the locals sound decidedly whitebread in comparison.

Where Diiv’s lead singer indifferently informed us “Yeah, I made this shirt”, Valdimar donned clean-cut Sunday bests. Where Diiv spat track names into the microphone half a second before exploding into them, Valdimar announced matter-of-factly, “We have just played two songs for you, now we will play some more.” Diiv had almost a third of the members of Valdimar yet managed to generate three times as much sound. If the two bands were in a bar, both vying for the same babe, I know which one would be getting laid, hands down.

Despite the contrast, Valdimar played through a steady collection of songs to an adoring, predominantly Icelandic crowd. The horn section in particular gave some serious body to the performance, and overall all elements hung impressively tightly together in the mix. Lead singer Valdimar Guðmundsson’s soothing voice was especially well complemented by the lively interplay between the guitarists.

As they left the stage after their last song, a furious chant started up. “Valdimar, Valdimar.” It didn’t take the gang long to decide an encore was in order. Returning to the stage for a one song encore, you couldn’t help but notice how much fun the group seemed to be having up there on stage, swigging beers, chatting amongst themselves. It didn’t come across as rude at all, more celebratory than anything. As they came together for a group bow, before orderly filing offstage, one couldn’t help but sense the pride these guys feel playing at home at this festival.

Maybe being a nice guy isn’t so bad after all.

By Thomas L. Moir



About the Author

thomas
thomas
Thomas is an Australian male who has been living in the UK for the last two years. When he's not out watching live music, he enjoys traveling, trivia nights and swimming. He has recently been trying a new bolognese recipe, the results of which are improving steadily with each attempt.




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