Iceland Airwaves (Nov 3-5, 2017) – Review

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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I’ve worn plenty of wristbands in my day, but this one I wear with MOST PRIDE. Having been accepted to my second Iceland Airwaves Music Festival as a media pass holder is an opportunity that I do NOT take lightly, and I tried my best to capture the highlights of this magical, musical mystery tour.  Not only does this “land of Ice” know know to shatter glass ceilings and defy the odds of artistic potential and possibility, but it does so in a way that is warm (“land of fire”) and welcoming, and so in the least bit pretentious. The sky is definitely the limit for this innovative, ingenious, impressive Island. The music, people, and scenery is uncharacteristic of anywhere else.  ❤ 

Here are some of the bands that left a lasting impression in my mind and made me question the boundaries of human creativity (click on names or links below to see the full reviews): Hatari, Hogni, Hormonar, Kiriyama Family, We Made God, Omotrack, Rythmatik, Captain Syrup, Arstidir, Between Mountains, Axel Flovent, Mani Orrason, One Week Wonder, GDJYB (non-Icelandic), and Mammut (a personal favorite).  Since my review for Mammut was taking a very long to write (I often find it most difficult to write about bands that move me the most), I decided to write a combined review on their 2017 & 2018 Airwaves shows. Other Icelandic bands I have written about in the past are Asgeir, VAR, Vok, Kaleo, For a Minor Reflection, Sin Fang, Agent Fresco, Lay Low, Rokvva, Samaris, etc. See my reviews on Asgeir and Low Roar. See videos below from Airwaves 2017 when Mammut performed ‘Kinder Versions,’ ‘Pray for Air in the Water,’ ‘The Moon Will Never Turn on Me,’ ‘Walls,’ and ‘What’s Your Secret(these absolutely SLAY):

 

Hogni: “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere” – Live at Secret Solstice and Iceland Airwaves (June/Nov 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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“I’m in love I’m in love I’m in love can’t you tell?”… I’M IN LOVE with this song ‘Moon pitcher‘ that Hogni wrote for his fiance in his debut album, Two Trains, released Oct 2017 by Erased Tapes record label.  Hogni quotes: “I feel I tried my best to create an honest and passionate piece of musical work and I hope you will find the time and space to enjoy it as well as finding that connection. As a musician you aspire to create that other world, that sense of hypnosis.”  I def entered that other world, “CAN’T YOU TELL.” 🙂 ❤

Hogni was one of my top new discoveries at Secret Solstice 2017, and I could not wait to see him again at Iceland Airwaves 6 months later. His deep vocals and ethereal, experimental electronic arrangements simply SLAY, and I was so happy to hear the new gems from Two Trains, an album that he describes in the following words:

“The music on Two Trains is a blue-print of a period in my life where I collided with my own self, and at that point I felt the indifference between the personal and the universal, the absolute consciousness of life’s unconsciousness. Perhaps it’s a feeling that cannot be conveyed, like watercolours that just seem to wash off into the sea. But also a flashing mirage that you can enjoy before you arrive at your last destination.”

Hogni also alludes to this album as a personal expression of the tugging dichotomies he faces while living with bipolar disorder: “I’m bipolar. I got very sick and it has affected my life drastically. This album bears witness to it… (In) the last few years, the swings have decreased in size. When I was the most ill a few years ago, I felt terrible, even if you couldn’t see it. There was just so much going on, lots of fun, and even excitement about going to the psych ward for the first time. Like I was going down a new path for myself. But I haven’t seen it as exciting since then.”

Maybe this phenomena is what he was describing in his song (video below) where he sings:  “Wonderful dreams that were uncomfortable scenes out of nowhere… Wonderful scenes that were uncomfortable schemes out of nowhere.”

Previously known as frontman of the well-known indie rock band Hjaltalin and former member of ambient-techno group GusGus), Hogni proves that “Two Trains”, “change and metamorphosis” are his preferred method of transportation in this journey we call life. His “I can do whatever I dream” (lyrics in one of the videos below) is infectious and his tenacity for movement and exploration are an inspiration to us all: “My life is untethered, in many ways,” Högni says. “I try to focus on making good music and seeking inspiration, chasing experiences, travelling and finding adventures.

Aside from fronting two touring bands, Hogni has made time to score numerous theatre pieces, most notably The Heart of Robin Hood (dir. Gísli Gardarsson), staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011 and Angels of the Universe (dir. Thorleifur Örn Arnarsson), the Icelandic National Theatre’s 2013 adaptation of a well-known and loved novel and film of the same title.mHe has also written music for film and television, including a well-received score for short film Víkingar (dir. Magali Magistry, 2013) which won the Golden Rail award and was nominated for the Discovery award, both at the Cannes Film Festival. There really is no telling where his “Two Trains” will take us next. I don’t know about you , but I am surely ALL ABOARD. ❤

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We Made God: Hail to this Higher Power – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 4, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

 

I remember nearly suffering a mild stroke the first time I saw Iceland’s own We Made God at Iceland Airwaves Music Festival back in 2014. At one point the lead guitarist Arnór Jónasson jumped off stage and started swinging his guitar back and forth in front of my friend Jensyn Lynn Hallett and I as he furiously strummed the strings, smirking a bit as we began squealing with joy. It was as if We Made God (Arnór – Guitar, Biggi – Drums, Maggi – Vox/ Guitar, Stúni – Bass) were all about making violent, cathartic, adrenaline-ridden performances and that spin you into another orbit. I’m just glad this epic encore didn’t spin me face-first into the table of guys below me! We Made God’s brain-bending live performances of math/progressive rock have been recognized by both domestic and foreign media, and their devout fans orbiting around the world can’t wait for the release of their third album next year. As of late 2018, Arnór decided to leave We Made God to focus more time on his role as lead guitarist in VAR (love their sound, see videos below) as well as supporting Maggi’s solo project, Mighty Bear.  With his talent, creativity, and breadth of experience, I’m pretty stoked to see what new direction Arnór is pointing his compass. 🙂  Be sure to check out We Made God, VAR, and Mighty Bear at this year’s Airwaves 2018!

Arstíðir: “I’ve been waiting for someone to say, That my patience was worth all the way” – Live at Iceland Airwaves (Nov 3, 2017)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

ArstíðirDaníel Auðunsson (Guitar, vocals), Gunnar Már Jakobsson (Guitar, baritone guitar, vocals), Karl James Pestka (violin, viola, electronics, vocals), and Ragnar Ólafsson (piano, baritone guitar, vocals) are well-established in the Icelandic music community, having had two #1 hits in 2008 that put them on the map. After the release of their debut album in 2009, Árstíðir released a second album that was produced/mastered by the super talented Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. The band has already toured 30 countries and it set to tour again once they release their third album (on the way!). With influence of Beck, Paul McCartney, Philip Glass, Neil Young, Takashi Tateishi, Árstíðir finds a home in everyone. I love the violin in the last video that I captured (see below). Feels like it should be in a chase scene in a movie! Make sure to check out their new album ‘Nivalas‘ release just this year!

 

Lauren Ruth Ward: “‘Love is not loving’ mama, that’s what Bowie said… Think I’m aggressive? I’m just obsessive. Maybe I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” – Live at The Chapel in SF (May 25, 2018)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

If you haven’t yet seen the volatile, voracious VOCAL VIXEN that is Lauren Ruth Ward​, you best MAKE IT HAPPEN. Many of my favorite LA bands had described her as “truly something else” and a “MUST SEE,” and only NOW (after seeing her last night for the first time at The Chapel​) do I understand why she deserves to be up on that pedestal. With the (1) bluesy rasp and feverish headbanging of Janis Joplin, (2) sultry, seductive sounds of Sia, (3) heavy howls and fairy-like movement of Florence Welch (of Florence and the Machine), and (4) lyrical cadence of Courtney Barnett, Lauren is the EPITOME of a TRUE ENTERTAINER. Her killer combination of good looks, memorizing vocals, and “come-hither” demeanor will stop you DEAD IN YOUR TRACKS, and you’ll find yourself swooning more than once throughout the set. She uses her impressive vocal control to deliver salacious, racy lines in songs like ‘Make Love to Myself‘ and ‘Blue Collar Sex Kitten‘ with crackling/panting/heaving undertones (as if on the brink of climax) and a gritty vibrato that provokes the sexual appetite in us all, especially the cougars who shouted out to Lauren with pride: “Mom’s are out TONIGHT!” I’m so glad this provocative powerhouse decided to crawl onto the speaker RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME and allow to to capture some bewitching footage (def not camera shy) of her holding us under her spell. She even offered to shake my hand (along with others in the front row) which I found really endearing, and waved attentively at everyone in the crowd who was starring up at her in awe.

One of my favorite moments was when Lauren kicked off ‘Blue Collar Sex Kitten‘ howling “Thought you found Jesus in me while I lied there Fa-Fa-Fa-FAKING” and then later shouts (while looking in the direction of the drummer) “You should let me cut your hair to make you look a little BETTER!” (which is very fitting considering that she is a professional hair stylist). She also opens up about her sexuality: “I’m a dyke, dated guys, ain’t a crime, won’t apologize for my tribe.” Another favorite moment was her delivery of these two lines in ‘Well, Hell,’ the title track of her debut album: “Love is not loving” mama, that’s what Bowie said” and “Think I’m aggressive? I’m just obsessive. Maybe I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” LOVE LOVE LOVE. Her lyric cadence in this one reminds me of Courtney Barnett, which is ALWAYS A GOOD THING. ‘Staff Only,’ ‘Sheet Stains,’ and ‘Sideways‘ are my other favorites, along her her BRAND NEW siiiiiiiick song, ‘Valhalla‘ that has a super catchy chorus and a killer ending: “How did she do it, how did she do it, how did she do it? They all will ASK.” Yaaas. Can’t wait for this bad boy to be released! She also sang a song called ‘Scorpio Season‘ (not on her EP) which made me grin ear-to-ear as I thought to myself “OF  Of COURSE Lauren is a SCORPIO… The most passionate and sexual of all the signs.” I can definitely can SPOT MY OWN. 😛

A true knack for audience allure, Lauren Ruth Ward is building an intense fan base with her 60’s Rock n’ Role revival and this attention is only going to spread like wildfire over the next year. She makes it known in her title track (‘Well, Hell‘) that she is grateful for being heard (“I didn’t mean to make your head spin, I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say. I have a lot to say. Thank you for listening to what we have to say“), but WE are grateful for her voice, and her message. She is a MUST SEE, and I urge you to see her whenever she comes through your town. Just look for the gorgeous “Flower Child” in rainbow vintage pants and a rad, rainbow fringe.  ❤

Not only was I stoked to have met Lauren after the show (pic above) and to have learned that she was also a fellow East Coaster who moved out here about 3 years ago, but I was EVEN MORE STOKED to later learn that Lauren’s sister (Sarah) went to University of Maryland with my good friend Tony Awojoodu and is married to one of his close friends, Sasha. CRAZY SMALL WORLD!

Videos from the show:

“You’ve got a sign on your heart that says “Staff Only”. A Band-Aid life, you’re just staying high and lonely. Go on and treat me bad. Go on and treat yourself bad.” HELL YAAAAAAS. Such a fucking siiiick track. I love when she laugh “HA HA HA!” right after belting “The devil on your shoulders got a chip on his shoulder – ain’t that funny?”

“Got me a job and planned real good. But all the planning didn’t go as it should. I was distracted by the people walking faster than me. I’m going sideways. I’m going sideways.”

“Buddy, I don’t need you I can make love to myself. If you think I’m lonesome then you’re lying to yourself… I am not your honey. I don’t need nobody for nothing. I’ve got myself for loving. I’ve got myself for loving. I am not your honey and I don’t need nobody for nothing, no. I’ve got myself for loving and I don’t need nobody.”

Lauren’s siiiiiiiiick new song, ‘Valhalla.’ I love the enigmatic ending: “How did she do it, how did she do it, how did she do it? They all will ASK.” Yaaas. Can’t wait for this bad boy to be released!

“You were appointed the master of control. It won’t give you self control, you’re only getting older.”

“Thought you found Jesus in me while I lied there faking… Contemplation, admiration, salivation, masturbation : four – step Friday night. I’m a dyke, dated guys, ain’t a crime, won’t apologize for my tribe.” WOW.

Of COURSE Lauren is a SCORPIO! The most passionate and sexual of all the signs… Glad to also be one. xx

“Love is not loving” mama, that’s what Bowie said… Think I’m aggressive? I’m just obsessive. Maybe I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” OMG I LOVE THIS. Her lyric cadence in this one reminds me of Courtney Barnett, which is ALWAYS A GOOD THING.

 

 

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The Oh Hellos: “Nothing lasts forever, Some things aren’t meant to be, But you’ll never find the answer, Until you set your old heart free” – The Fillmore in SF (March 29, 2018)

Compiled by Erica Andreozzi

The Oh Hello’s surely HAD US AT HELLO last night at their headline show in San Francisco back in March. This high-octane, Texas-bred folk-rock octet delivered an explosive, high-energy performance that SHOOK The Fillmore like a level five earthquake. Their energy was BEYOND INFECTIOUS, and watching ALL 8 members go APE SHIT on their instruments just had you instantly flailing your arms and stomping your feet to join the madness. I remember from first seeing The Oh Hellos back in 2015 at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and being BLOWN AWAY by extra-expressive fiddle, banjo, and bass players who were jumping around stage like pogo sticks while still managing to shred their strings in mid-air. This band first stole my heart back in 2010 when I came across ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ a song that would pretty much revived my pulse an had me staying calm during very, VERY trying times: “Nothing lasts forever Some things aren’t meant to be But you’ll never find the answer Until you set your old heart free.” Other songs like The Truth is a Cave, Eat You Alive, I Was Wrong, I Have Made Mistakes, Trees, Constellations, Grow, and On the Mountain Tall, Eurus, and Hieroglyphs, have also hammered on my heartstrings and instilled timeless messages that I continue to revisit (especially this one): “The sun, it does not cause us, The sun, it does not cause us to grow… It is the rain that will strengthen, The rain that will strengthen your soul. It will make you whole.” I was so happy they played this song (‘I Have Made Mistakes’) last night, cause Tyler and Maggie Heaths’ brother-sister harmonies absolutely SLAY, and you will be lathered in chills by the end. I would have LOVED if they played ‘Hello My Old Heart,’ but their set was chock full of string-saturated songs (YES) from their new EP, Eurus (a nice EP follow up to ‘Notos‘ released just last year), and this band would not have had time unless they played for 3 hours straight (an actually request by someone in the audience to which Tyler facetiously said would “lead to their demise”). Playing for 3 hours at their pace and their intensity would definitely require serious endurance, but I have no doubt they will get there someday. Even the bango player/percussionist had enough energy at the end to leap onto a high-rise speaker and bang on his drum from 6 feet in the air. EPIC ENCORE. You had me at hello, and you had me at goodbye. COME BACK SOON!  ❤

Climbing Trees‘ is one of my FAVORITES from this incredible folk rock ensemble. Coincidentally enough, yesterday (the first time I saw this song played live) was the birthday of my good friend Hillary who ALSO loves this song and loved CLIMBING TREES and other things (mountain, walls, etc.) Wish she could have been here with me!

LOVE THIS ONE. This timeless track (‘I Have Made Mistakes‘) will forever hammer on my heartstrings with lyrics that bring light even in the darkest of times.
“I have made mistakes, I continue to make them. The promises I’ve made, I continue to break them. And all the doubts I’ve faced, I continue to face them. But nothing is a waste if you learn from it… And the sun, it does not cause us to grow It is the rain that will strengthen your soul (OMG YAAAS)… And it will make you whole.” TRUTH BE TOLD.

I love the honestly and life wake-up-call element to this one. SO FREAKING GOOD:
“I’ve seen the true face of the things you call life
The voice of the siren that holds your desires
But death, she is cunning, and clever as hell
And she’ll eat you alive

Oh, she’ll EAT YOU ALIVE.”    YAAAAAAS>

The lyrics to this ‘This Will End’ just absolutely SLAY. Wow. So heart-wrenchingly beautiful:

“Heartache, I’ve heard, is part of life   ❤
And I have broken more and more

But I can hope how this will end
With every line a comedy
That we could learn to love without demand   (if only it were so easy)
But unreserved honesty

***

Previous videos from their 2015 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass performance:

Magic Bronson- “Say something, say it real quick, I’ll throw it at the wall and see if it sticks… I’m erratic, I need a fix, I’m brushing off the dirt of my fresh white kicks” – Empire Control Room at SXSW (March 16, 2018)

Written by Erica Andreozzi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABSOLUTELY ECSTATIC to CATCH THE MAGIC once again after catching it last year at SXSW (see review here). Magic Bronson was my FAVORITE NEW DISCOVERY OF SXSW 2017 and were the only band (aside from Caught a Ghost) that I saw twice. The magic behind Magic Bronson lies in their ability to unleash the rebellious, primal, theatrical beast that lives inside us all. It only takes a few minutes of watching Michael Nicastro beat his chest, smack his face, stomp the stage, and pierce his lungs (roaring with chest out, arms up), for you join in this disturbed, erratic behavior and feed your inner beast. I’ve been to THOUSANDS of shows, and Mike still remains to be one of the most ENTERTAINING FRONT MEN I’ve ever seen. Again and again he delivers a performance comparable to Heather Leger as the Joker in Dark Night, and is even known to BREAK A FEW STAGES with his mighty “I am Mountain,” aggressive stomping.  I don’t think many bands can say they’ve buckled the first stage they set foot (Maggie Mae’s) on as part of their SXSW showcase. HAHA. When Magic Bronson makes an appearance, they LEAVE A MARK. The combination of Mike’s joker performance and captivating vocal delivery and Matt Lieberman‘s killer bass translates into an infectious dance experience of pop, rock, hip-hop, and electronic that I find difficult to compare to any other band (and I’ve seen thousands). I cannot WAIT until the next SXSW to see them again, and I hope they will spread their magic up the west coast very soon! After all, LA is not too far from SF. No excuses! 😛
(see below for full videos of the entire set)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Night Owl‘ is one of my Magic Bronson FAVORITES and I’m waiting with baited breath for them to finally release it. I love the intro line (“Say something, say it real quick, I’ll throw it at the wall and see if it sticks… I’m erratic, I need a fix, I’m brushing off the dirt of my fresh white kicks”), and I can’t help laugh/shout (simultaneously) when Mike puts his hands over his head and widens his eyes (impersonating an owl) as he devilishly shouts, “I can’t take MY EYES off of you… I’m just trying to to GET A RISE out of you.” Oh YES. A RISE has certainly been had. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I can feel your energy, running your your hands, makes the hair on the back of my neck just stand.. oh yeah, i Like to act tough, when I’m in your arms it’ll always be enough… ELECTRIFY!!” Yaaaaaaaas. I was highly entertained by the stomping around and shaking out of the hand for ‘Electrify.’ I also was dying at the part when Mike said “It was making me feel… LIKE A MAN” (dramatic impersonation). So much primal male emotion in this one.

 

 

 

 

 

“Good enough just doesn’t make it, kid you gotta take it into your own hands, OH MY GOD, it’s making sense, with all this time we’re sitting on the fences.” YAAAAAAAS. Freaking STALK THIS ONE: ‘Fences.’ I absolutely love roaring along to the chorus (not giving a shit about how loud I am) and joining in the rebellious rally of doing what you want and OWNING IT. I also love when Mike shouts “We finally made it” and follows with a villainous “HA HA” laugh like he Joker. Right after this song, Mike says, “so that one’s about you guys being so nice to each other all this time. We really appreciate that. We fucking LOVE that,” and then asked us all to hug the person next to us. We fucking love YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

“These are the days We get stuck in our ways Solving mysteries.. And these are the nights That we stay inside Making history (history, yeah, yeah)… Yea, what about that All the things that make you nervous Crooked cops and guilty verdicts Fires, floods, parking permits!” YAAAAAS! Another super catchy track (‘Nervous‘) that makes you want to go APE SHIT and scream at the top of your lungs. Makes me NERVOUS for the other people around met. SO FREAKING GOOD.

 

 

 

 

I like to think of this one (‘Knock it Off‘) as the anthem for rebels: “Go up to the bar and make some small talk, raise our glasses up high until we can’t walk, best friends fist fighting in the parking lot, cowboys dressed as cops telling us to ‘Knock it Off'” after which Mike and Matt point fingers at each other (mimicking cops) and then unexpectedly belt out “BUT WE WOOOOOON’T.” Yaaaaas. Raging like a rebel has never been so fun.

 

 

Parking tickets in SF are more than 65 bucks! Try 76…. I’m pretty sure we can all relate to driving chaos in LA, and I’m pretty sure we’ve all responded in the same way: “What the FUUUUUUUCK.” ‘Drive‘ is the newest addition to their set.

 

If this song (‘Wake Up‘) doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know WHAT will. There’s a reason they save this one for the anchor, cause it’s definitely going to anchor you as a Magic Bronson fan for life. The buildup and impeccable timing of Mike’s explosive “WAKE UP” outburst are definitely going to have your carotids bulging from you neck (at least I know mine were).

“I am a man
I am a mountain
I’ve lost track
But hey who’s counting?

Hey Scott Fitz Gerald
You got nothing on me
And hey Bob Dylan
I’ll give you something to read     (siiiiiick line)

So we sit around
Playing truth or dare
And for once the truth is all I want to hear
You’ll dig through my records
It’s all I really want
And when you do I know you’ll pick my favorite song… and it goes..”  (CHEEKY!)

Meeting the 6'6"  "Mountain" that is Michael Nicastro! One of the most entertaining front men to watch.

Meeting the 6’6″ “Mountain” that is Michael Nicastro! One of the most entertaining front men to watch!