Iðnó was certainly not the most crowded venue during the latter half of Saturday night, and there were probably several reasons for this. Bigger names were playing at other venues, people were busy getting shit-faced and breaking bottles on the streets, and the bands performing at Iðnó turned out to be not the most interesting ones in the lineup on this penultimate night of Airwaves. Those that did show up seemed pretty enthusiastic about the music, but I’m not sure I understand why.
Leaves are clearly a well-rehearsed and road-tested band, to a fault. These guys have been around for some time now, but sometimes when a group is polished to such a perfect shine the result isn’t so desirable. Rough-hewn edges reveal little cracks and flaws, but that’s often what makes the music interesting. The band even looked a little bored as they ploughed their way through a set of Coldplay-inspired dad-rock. Early on in their performance, they revealed that their keyboard player wouldn’t be joining them and instead they’d be joined by a “sexy-phone” player. Out marched a young lad who actually played a mean sax, but it only served to further the band’s problems by adding unnecessary smooth-jazz flourishes. I was bored to tears, and the end couldn’t come soon enough. Sometimes all the right chord changes, all the right notes, and all the right dynamics just aren’t the answer.
Diana is a Canadian band that’s a bit hard to pin down. They play a modern version of ‘80s-influenced electro synth-rock that is as dramatic as it is complicated. Their music is super-nerdy and technical, based on lots of programming, electronic drums, and washes of synthetic sound with some guitars thrown in just for good measure. Their singer has a superb voice, and her sporadic guitar playing is spastic and appealing, but her stage presence is both awkward and a bit cocksure. No, you don’t need hand gestures to accompany each vocal flourish, and no, you don’t need to tell the crowd to move closer to the stage (pet peeve of mine, that one). And you might want to consider spitting your gum out before you start singing, it’s kind of distracting. As Diana’s set proceeded, a serious sax solo entered the mix – the second time tonight – which veered the ‘80s vibe that much closer to cheesy. This was intentional, I guess, but it didn’t help matters much. Despite these flaws, Diana are definitely doing some interesting and unique things with their music, but if they loosened up and had some more fun onstage it would greatly enhance their performance.
Dikta is a band with one mind-set and two methods of expressing it. They perform sincere, bright-eyed power-pop, sometimes based around a pounding piano, sometimes around thrashing guitars. The themes seem to revolve around subject matter of a personal nature like heartache, relationships, love and loss, and the band’s singer vocalises with intense energy and sensitivity. Not really my cup of tea, but Dikta does what it does well. At times they slowed down the pace – once for a “make-out” song, another time for a ballad sans drums, and near the end for a tune dedicated to the lead singer’s wedding party (which if I understood correctly was held at Iðnó).
Maybe my heart is hard, or my ears clogged, but Dikta’s overwrought style just seems to get bogged down in musical self-reflection that I do not find that interesting. Musically, all the right dynamics are shifted and emotions elicited, resulting in appropriately tugged heartstrings and couples in the crowd sway-dancing, but I’m not sure how often you’d want to blast this at home on your stereo.
I may have been alone in my opinion, however, because the crowd embraced it, rapturously singing along and shouting for more before pouring back out into the cold, alcohol-soaked streets.