Grapevine Airwaves 2013

October 31, 2013

The Gentle Lineup Upset By Rock N Fucking Roll

Dr. Spock by Iona

Music Overview

  • Artists: Ylja, 1860, My Bubba, Dr. Spock, Kaleo, Kiriyama Family, Lára Rúnars
  • Venue:  Gamli Gaukurinn
  • Time:  Wednesday
  • The Good:  Lively diverse set of indie bands inspiring the gentler emotions, and Dr. Spock's unexpected appearance
  • The Bad:  Surprise highlight Dr. Spock seriously deserved a longer set.
  • Reviewed by: Tómas Gabríel Benjamin
  • Photo: Dr. Spock by Iona

You may think Harpa is the shit, with its shiny lights and multi-faceted windows, and it may be the place to see that great big band you idolise, but when it comes to live music from more down to earth bands, there is no place better suited than Gamli Gaukurinn. With its slanted-roof stage, analogue sound system, and single type of beer on tap, it is the roughhouse where newcomers and veterans alike get to show what they are made of. On this inaugural eve of Iceland Airwaves 2013, six bands did just that.

Ylja started the evening with their easy-going take on country music. The band’s two frontwomen filled the venue with their beautiful harmonies and dreamy instrumentals. The crowd reacted favourably from the very beginning of their set, as they nailed the acoustic beat with no fewer than three guitars. One of the guitars was even played lap-slide style to invoke a classic country & western sound, which might confuse the crowd as Ylja’s songs seem focused mostly on the sea and Icelandic nature.

Throughout their all too brief set, Ylja imbued their performance with romanticism, inspiring visions of sleeping under a bare sky, maybe removing oneself from society for a moment of clarity. As their final song lingered, I couldn’t help but wish I had a partner to slow-dance with.

1860 took stage to a packed venue and brought their own brand of  super cheerful folk indie-pop music. With lyrics that speak of staying with someone forever, and gentle-hearted small scale revolution, the band won people over by being completely adorable. When we got to the penultimate song, the band was clearly out to make the crowd dance and boogie, which some attempted in a genuinely awkward Icelandic fashion. The singer’s mandolin then gave way to an electric guitar, and the set closed with an anti-capitalistic song about money not being all there is to life.

Given the chill and easy going vibe established by the previous bands, one might think the Danish My Bubba would be well received by the audience. Unfortunately, for some reason, they were not. The youthful trio played a set designed for an intimate and touching show, but the crowd just wasn’t in the mood. Chatting away with no respect for the band, those interested in hearing My Bubba‘s soft sounds had to practically hug the stage. My Bubba could have tried reading and controlling the crowd better, but I suspected that they would be far better suited playing in a more intimate sit-down venue.

After several short songs and jingles, one even involving a Swedish table harp, the band finished their set with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing,” rearranged in a serene and almost tantric fashion.

Lára Rúnars was supposed to be the fourth act to play at Gamli Gaukurinn, but the singer/songwriter unfortunately fell ill at the last minute and had to cancel her show. In her place, the meagre crowd of 30 got pleasantly surprised by rock legends Dr. Spock. The band wasted no time and started their set about as delicately as a buckshot to the face. There was no sound checking, and heavens know how long it’s been since they last rehearsed, but their existential angst ridden stage presence immediately awed those assembled. There were initially a few disappointed sighs heard from dedicated Lára Rúnars fans, but they were drowned out with ‘fuck yeah’s and head bangs. Once their set ended, they managed to instil the motion that every hardcore band should strive to: to make people want to get up and punch their dad or whatever patriarchal figure available in the gut, giving The Man the finger. Oddly enough Óttarr Proppé, one of Dr. Spock’s vocalists, is a part of the system, voted in as an MP for the Bright Future Party this spring.

It takes a brave band to step onto the stage following such an explosive set, and Kaleo made a decent attempt. They channelled the blues like one imagines a proper southern band would, without making any attempt to reinvent the wheel. All of their notes seemed to be mapped on the jazz scale, and had an air of familiarity to them. So familiar, in fact, that I asked my friends no fewer than three times if we were listening to a cover song. Kaleo then proceeded to cover a more rock ‘n’ roll version of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang (baby shot me down),” immortalised in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill BillKaleo may have yet to come up with a sound of their own, but they made some members of the crowd explode into dance. It will be interesting to hear how the album they are working on comes together.

Kiriyama Family were the crowd’s morphine to Dr. Spock‘s epinephrine, reminding everyone that it was past bedtime and that people should calm down. The crowd was visibly thinned from the previous band, and the seven-piece band struggled to fit onto the small stage of Gamli Gaukurinn, but the band kept things interesting by having its members swapping instruments in between songs and taking on different roles in the band. It made for a very diverse set list, although this arrangement worked better for some songs than others. Their keys-filled synth-solo indie-pop proved to be just the right band to slowly finish one’s pint over.

All in all, the night had its ups and its down and served very well as a welcome to new guests and first timers. The unexpected addition of Dr. Spock definitely stole the show, however.



About the Author

Gabríel Benjamin
An avid fan of all things dark, witty and humorous, Gabríel can frequently be found deep in mosh pits. sitting in a café, or lounging around with his two cats Luke and Leia.




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