Day two started off with a cold, wet, and dark morning as the Icelandic sun gradually started to rise shortly after 9:00am. Like Chicago, Reykjavík has powerful wind — the kind of wind that turns your umbrellas inside out permanently, makes your bones ache, wrestles you to the ground, and causes chaos. As a local explained, “not only does it rain vertically in Reykjavík, it also rains horizontally.” Believe it.
I also spent the first half of the day interviewing various designers and architects who were more than happy to explain Iceland’s unique style of living for my final radio documentary story. Halla Helgadóttir, Managing Director of the Iceland Design Centre, had a lot to say about the new Icelandic Design Policy, which aims to involve design in every aspect of government and infrastructure, set to take action in the next coming of years. I also spoke to Bjarki Halldórsson about Iceland’s ever evolving architecture and the future for the country as it continues to thrive in the industry. Then I headed off to hear more amazingly talented bands into the dark and rainy night, the city pulsing with music in between my sloshing footprints.
Here are the bands I checked out on day two!
Band #1: AUÐUR @ The Laundromat Café 6:00pm
The Weeknd fans beware: An Icelandic rival has arrived and his name is Auður. Auður is the brainchild and solo project of Reykjavík native, Audunn Luthersson. The Laundromat Café on Austurstræti proved to be an interesting setting as Auður took to the stage in middle of the café, which served to entertain festival goers and diners alike.
Chill out tunes floated amongst countless books that lined the walls and counters of the café came from a setup of various synths, samplers, and a guitar player. Audunn and his guitarist relaxed the crowd as blends of trip-hop, R&B and electronica were executed perfectly as Audunn danced along the music with sensual presence. His music is dark, slow, melodic, sensual and just simply pretty. A self-proclaimed “collector of bad memories,” Audunn seemed to know just when a song needs to transition from a slow burn to a scorch, setting his listeners on fire.
Band #2: russian.girls @ Gaukurinn 7:50pm
A hardcore rock bar like Gaukurinn, which is located in the heart of downtown Reykjavík, seemed to be an unusual environment to listen to another band well versed in trip-hop and psychedelic music. Reykjavík native, russian.girls, started off their show missing their frontman. After all three band members were present and into the mood, that was when things kicked off for the audience. russian.girls had a similar set that of Auður with one synth and a laptop set up with the standard DJ and looping settings. Production values were apparent as lighting and atmosphere were a key element to their performance.
Russian.girls is a solo project of Guðlaugur Halldór Einarsson, a member of the band Captain Fufanu. The group’s material was heavier and esoteric. It could be described as a mixture of sauerLounge, psychedelic and experimental music with thick bass and a groove.
Band #3: Úlfur Úlfur @ Harpa Kadalón 11:30pm
The rap trio Úlfur Úlfur (english translation: “Wolf Wolf”) performed at the beautiful Harpa Kadalón late Wednesday night inside the multi-colored glass castle. Úlfur Úlfur is a rap/melodic pop trio from Reykjavík, Iceland. The group debuted in 2011, with their first EP, Föstudagurinn lanai. The members are: Arnar Freyr (vocals), Helgi Sæmundur (vocals), and Þorbjörn Einar (DJ).
Kadalón is one of the very few venues of the festival that offers seats. The place was packed, practically bursting from its steams. Not a single person ever sat down, every other person was on their feet dancing. It was so crowded in fact, that people started to line the stairways, overflowing onto the stage and out the door. Úlfur Úlfur’s sound is a unique mix of mainomai, rap, hip-hop, and electronic. Every rhyme hit perfectly and the thumping bass and rhythmic beats are so heavy you felt it in your chest.
Úlfur Úlfur’s set was not what you would expect from a typical rap group. They performed with more of a traditional band with guitar, bass, drums, etc. They blended organic drums, guitar, electronic textures and piano, syncopated dance beats, and insanely quick lyrics.
You might be saying to yourself, “Icelandic rap?” If you haven’t realized by now, Icelandic musicians can play pretty much any kind of music. There are no limitations for many Icelandic musicians. They were barely through their first song when the realization came that these guys are insanely talented. Of course, trouble understanding a word they were saying is normal unless you speak Icelandic yourself. Good rap and hip-hop is all about the production and delivery of the words themselves, if not more so, as Úlfur Úlfur delivered live. The rap trio ended their explosive show with a surprising appearance by Kött Grá Pjé, a fellow Icelandic rapper.