Iceland Airwaves Day One (11/4): Caterpillarmen, Mafama, Æla (REVIEW)

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We hit the ground running….literally! Day one in Reykjavík was a day packed with adventure and experience. Who could say they jumped straight into an Icelandic geothermal pool coming from the airport? Our day began with a walking tour of Iceland’s capital, seeing sights from the well-known IÐNÓ to Parliament Square. We made sure to stop at Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic church built in the 1960s in the heart of downtown Reykjavík before heading to Sundhöllin Public Baths, the oldest public pool in Reykjavík,  for a quick and rejuvenating soak.

The thing most surprising about Reykjavík so far is how TINY the city really is. Not just overall area of the metro area, but all around you, you are surrounded by tiny, narrow, and colorful houses. Reading travelers descriptions of Reykjavík online, they often describe the city as being a “toy-town,” filled with quaint, colorful, and warm homes and it truly is. Your first time getting out of a taxi in the middle of downtown will feel like you are walking into a dollhouse movie set. Cobblestone streets are mostly one way, weaving throughout the city, making wet, gurgled crunchy noises as car tires travel over them. There’s freshness of the air, the brisk cold wind, the sound of the sea, and snow covered peaks in the distance. From a Southern California girl born and raised, I could call this home.

Here’s my band reviews for the day

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Band #1: Caterpillarmen @ IÐNÓ 7:10pm

The four member “prog/clown/rock” band from Reykjavík, Iceland started off the show in impressive manner. Throughout Caterpillarmen’s 30 min set, band members passed different instruments off to one another and swapped vocals, rapidly switching between Icelandic and English lyrics. But in terms of sound and style, it felt like watching three separate shows in one. Throughout the gig, the band fluctuated between a harsher, skate punk rock, a deeper, slower punk, and a upbeat and energetic alternative punk. Once Catepillarmen’s flamboyant bassist/vocalist Zakarías Herman Gunnarsson hit the stage, the gig lit up. Dueling organ synths playing guitars solos filled IÐNÓ and made every living soul within earring distance want to dance. Gunnarsson charmed the crowd as he sang “I’ll rock your [expletive] face off” and sported dances moves to the likes of Robyn, Elvis, and Cindy Wilson from the B-52’s. The group’s musicality proved to be impressive. Every note was executed well, including the drums.

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Mafama @ IÐNÓ 8:50pm
Mafama ‘s unique opening came as frontman and lead singer Victor Ocares playing a sampler as an instrument. The band continued throughout their performance with high energy levels, never once diminishing between songs. They had a creative set up complete with a percussion rack, a DJ set up, tambourines, and a sampler. They kept the crowd constantly dancing with the switches between rock and dance that are featured on their new album Dog. The second half of their gig shifted into a set complete with tracks featuring loud crash symbols, jagged guitar riffs, thick bass and 808 beats. The unique mix fueled fans to beg the band for an encore.

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Band #3: Æla @ Gamla Bíó 11:20pm
The group hailing from Keflavík, lived up to their past reviews as they took to the stage Wednesday night at Gamla Bíó. Æla’s eccentric frontman Halli Valli sported a tuxedo and was covered head to toe in glitter as was the rest of the band (onesies and a diaper were the costumes picked out for the rest of the band). There was no rest for the band as Valli and the group never dropped energy levels. They were consistent in their erratic dance moves they put out without sacrificing the quality of their sound, even with songs with slower tempos. As the show progressed, clothes starting coming off. Valli tore off his tux and revealed a glittery snow white dress underneath. Æla’s set at Gamla Bíó was amazing. Production values such as lighting and background videos were in stock and of good quality, enhancing the performance even further. As the band shifted into playing their recent songs off their new album, Vettlingatök, the show started picking up in intensity. The character from Vettlingatök’s cover art came to life with a man wearing a horse mask in a matching snow white dress as Valli’s jumped on stage and started dancing. Valli was handing out beers to all the people in the front row, while stage diving at the same time. That wasn’t the pinnacle of their performance though. At the end of the show, the album cover art character had stripped down to reveal his fully naked body. Intense is an understatement.

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