The initial vibe of Depeche Mode giving in to their most cabaret-like desires that’s given off by Sometime is off putting, but only for a short while.
If one pauses to assess what’s happening, there’s actually little not to like about the duo; it’s a man called Danni playing pop music that’s equally as influenced by UK garage as it is by Bowie’s Let’s Dance album, and a frightfully forceful singer, Diva de la Rosa, who has such a convincing way with a black feather headdress that it suggests it’s not being worn purely for the evening’s Halloween festivities, but might be an everyday part of her garb. In its heaviest moments it has a curiously enjoyable way of resembling Caribou suffering a headache, dabbling in the sort of bass sound that hits the nose before it registers with the ears.
Towards the back of this grand venue, Sometime find attention harder to come by, but down the front everyone is dancing – which is all a band like this should care about, really.
‘Proper bands’ appear to be something of a dying bread in this Macbook-and-sampler generation we’re in in the midst of but New York’s undying ability to produce guitar bands (for want of a better phrase) strikes again with five-piece Caveman. They’ve just got the live ingredients you go to gigs for: a frontman who punches the air and shouts, “Hello (insert city/venue)!” with gusto like he’s genuinely happy to be there; a rhythm section that look knowingly into each others eyes as they keep immaculate time and regular, wonderfully satisfying jams.
On top of these all-important traits come a host of indie tracks that echo the likes of (early) Band Of Horses, The National and fellow-Big Applers Grizzly Bear. “In The City” – dedicated to the Airwaves-goers of Reykjavik itself – is a stand-out, with a melancholic subtext that encompasses all of the above thought-provoking, lovelorn twangs. Their set is a wonderfully satisfying outing for a genuine band that deserves more attention; cavemen they certainly are not.
Dub reggae outfit Ojba Rasta are one of the evening’s more interesting – and fun – surprises. While they’re ostensibly pushing a sound that will always struggle for relevance in the bigger picture of contemporary music, that’s hardly the point here. The indulgent noodlings of dub are mostly avoided by the ten piece band, along with the other usual cliches.
They draw a intelligent influences from elsewhere too, bringing an epic, fresh and sometimes dark slant to a familiar sound. It might not be enough to break the genre taboos that reggae has these days but it’s enough to force some of the audience here for tonight’s headliner to perhaps think again.
Jagwar Ma fire up the art museum with just the right combination of zeitgeisty upbeat-indie. Drenched in the more carefree pretension-less forms that Australia does so well when it comes to guitar music, they’re anything but unsophisticated. Picking influences from the last ten years of UK and US indie dance, the Sydney trio turn in a set that’s free of the pointless self-importance that blights the bands they’ve been compared to (and let’s not talk about that Noel Gallagher endorsement).
Frontman Gabriel Winterfield got something going on that might just make him the next big indie pin up – unless he goes down the Johnny Borrell route – and it’s more than enough to give the costumed kids something to to lose their shit over. It adds up to the perfect Hallowe’en indie club crescendo but, y’know, in an Art Museum – because this is Reykjavik and you guys do things much better than in London.
Reviewed by Thomas Hannan (Sometime), George O’Brien (Caveman) and Paul Bridgewater (Ojba Rasta, Jagwar Ma)
Thanks to Sebastien Dehesdin for photography.