Iceland Airwaves Day Two (11/5): Father John Misty, Ottoman, Berndsen (REVIEW)

Reykjavík greeted Iceland Airwaves’ day two with a rainbow over the city. Taking it as my own personal good luck charm, the interviews I spent the day in mirrored the same warm welcome. Ranging from professors at the University of Iceland to the viking descendants of tattoo artists in downtown Reykjavík, the foundation for both radio stories I’m working on, paganism and magical staves, have been in the works. The interviewees and rainbow weren’t the only friendly faces I happened upon, but also found a friend in a cat that adventured with me a mile from the Reykjavík strip. Nothing sets the mood for a band that sings about witch burning like a day spent exploring the spellbinding rituals of magical runes and being followed by your own personal black cat on the way to the venue.


The audiences eyes were immediately distracted away from the art filled walls of Gallerí Fold from the presence of lead singer, Fróði Ploder. His electric energy brought all eyes to the front of the room from his captivating personality and passionate display of each lyric. Ottoman‘s contagious strum of guitar led the band into a noteworthy start to a late show. The band followed the rhythmically charged drum progression of Atli Steinn, as they melded the four person group into a cohesive unit of Icelandic Rock n’ Roll. While the amp volume could have matched better to his bandmates, Helgi Durhuus’ bass flowed as he laid the canvas for the others of Ottoman. Even lost throughout some of the songs, Durhuus was able to show his potential through his own riffs and solos. The band’s universal connection produced enthusiasm on stage that brought to life their recent EP, HereticAs a team, the band of Ottoman is a must see for Iceland Airwaves attendees. Through new vocal twists and sweat generated energy, Ploder created uprising high notes that complement the addictively jagged work of Stefán Laxdal’s guitar. The live rendition of “Burn the Witch” was enough to lure any fan of rock to music to one of their shows.

This year is the 6th year of Iceland Airwaves since David Berndsen is no stranger to the Iceland Airwaves stages. With similar beats to the United States’ Boy George, allusive Berndsen played Gamla Bíó. The more that Berndsen would perform, his character soon opened up and expanded to the audience. The eyes of his fans followed every move as they danced their way through his set list. His powerful tenor voice worked surprisingly well with the backup tracks that followed the instrumentals to a few of his albums. The raw tone of his voice created a perfect opportunity for Berndsen to flourish in his live performances. Towards the end of the night, he managed to get a tad crazy with the concertgoers. After he pulled his belt and shirt off, Berndsen danced across the stage wildly, from falling to the floor to thrust kicks into the air. When fans begged for one more song, he provided with his upbeat melody that brought everyone to their feet as he bonded with his community of fans. Besides his voice being perfectly trained to his popular contemporary sound, Berndsen’s crowd interactions only contributed to personality. At the end of the show, he leaped down in his own shirtless glory as he hoped to interact more with fans.


The folklore lyricism of Father John Misty hit the city of  Reykjavík for the first time when he played in Iceland at Harpa Silfurberg. As a preacher passionate on the satirical truth, he preached to his eager congregation through tongue-and-cheek style verses. He opened with “I Love You, Honeybear,” the flirtatious yet estranged artist spoke the cynical approach to love, life and everything in between. His heavily satirized lyrics were accompanied by not only his own folksy guitar melodies, but by the full folk rock band
that followed his lead. Perfectly in time and tune, they were well-driven.

Between heart-wrenching realities and humorous aspects, his performance bordered on the feeling of whether to cry or to laugh at humanity. Through expressive hand gestures, he conveyed the message behind each lyric. He found his own passions in storytelling through drops to the floor as he dangled the mic stand before the audience. His conviction of each song felt personalized, as if heplayed tonight for a small group of his friends in a living room. It was rare for him to connect with the musicians onstage, too entranced by his own thoughts in each song’s performance. When he reached into caressing love songs on his guitar, he was surrounded by red lights and a small haze of smoke that contrasted the bright blues when a more comedic song would be played. The colors to each song painted the imagery of his artistic visions.

While Father John Misty’s cynicism dropped the curtain to many of the lies in adulthood, there were also humorous lessons. When he explained his luck and gratefulness for finally getting to play in Iceland for the first time, he mentioned that his trip in music has become him “wearing cheap suits all over the world.” Icelandic natives and other cultures alike all blended together in Father John Misty’s world and the glass ceiling that he strives to continually break.

As the night came to an end, the audience sang along to “Bored in the USA.” This wasn’t the only thing nabbed at Harpa. Father John Misty approached the first row, took a phone and recorded closely to his face as he performed. Soon fans laughed with his satirical views towards technology and remembering a moment, he took the stage in a much more intense approach. He put his guitar to the side, and clung tightly to the mic stand. The lyrics he sang through his own folklore tone echoed across the room as though he was preaching the word of his own personal religion. In the land where folklore legends run through the history, Father John Misty performed his own piece of folk to contribute to the Iceland Airwaves story.


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