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):
HATARI was BY FAR my favorite, unexpected discovery of Iceland Airwaves 2017. Their name, which translates to “hater” in Icelandic, suits the venomous vibe of their “experimental bondage dark ambient darkwave goth punk synth” (check out their Bandcamp). Formed back in 2015, this transfixing trio — Klemens Hannigan (vocals), Matthías Tryggvi Haraldson (vocals), and Einar Stéfansson (drums, also the drummer for the amazing band Vok!) — have already earned themselves Reykjavik’s Grapvine‘s “Best Live Band” pick of 2016 and 2017 (check out their comical interview). Their BDSM garb and bizarre masks (worn mainly by Einar) perfectly compliment the cult-like atmosphere that they create with their dark, enigmatic electronicbeats and their eccentric, bizarre behavior (crawling on the bar, swinging around poles, and screaming like the devil). What’s most compelling about Hatari is their discerning dichotomies: devilish, primal screams delivered with a stolid, poker face… disturbing, suicide lyrics shouted to happy techno beats… fearful, yet amused. They exude a mystery and allure that is truly magnetic, and I had such a hard time pulling myself away. Mad props to Hatari for helping the crowd unleash our inner demons and making us “haters” against all the rampant hypocrisy that exists in this world. AND, I later learned that Bjork was one of the unexpected crowd members that Matthías locked eyes when he swung down from the pole that show. ONLY IN ICELAND. ❤️ Can’t WAIT to see them again at Airwaves this year!
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.
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”
That time you meet one of the most talented folk/Americana artists out there (Langhorne Slim) after his show at the Swedish American Hall (as part of NoisePop festival) and nerd out with him about (1) effects of music on the brain (why music holds such strong memory), (2) playing music to old people (he loved playing to his Grandpa Sid and I encouraged him to play at nursing homes), (3) our perception of time (why time seems longer when we are in unfamiliar environments like when we are kids and everything is new), and (4) Langhorne (the town where he grew up but the one that I always remember my soccer team never being able to beat!). Never did I think I would have such a heart-to-heart with someone whose music had my heart when I first I heard it. Langhorne Slim is a true wordsmith whose way with words makes you feel so warm and welcome in his company, as if he was a long-lost friend that you have known for years. I couldn’t stop smiling when he was spouting off his deluge of stories (he’s certainly got plenty!) and providing context for how his various songs came to be (some in a dream). Aside from being one of the kindest, funniest, most humble human beings I know, he is one of the most AUTHENTIC, and you will never doubt that every word, whisper, belt, chuckle, howl coming out of his mouth is HIS OWN. He is not like the rest — just like Kurt Cobain (“I’m not like them / But I can pretend”) whose birthday he honored on Monday — but he does not pretend. You can certainly count on Slim NOT being slim with his self, his FULL SELF. ❤
Some of my favorite songs that he played tonight: Changes (“I’m going through changes, rattlin’ cages, I’m going through changes now”), Song For Sid (“Tell me where do all the good ones go, when they’re gone”), Back to the Wild, Coffee Cup, Again tonight and Be Set Free. It was also awesome to hear him cover Leonard Cohen‘s Tonight Will Be Fine” and Jackie DeShannon’s What the World Needs Now. Just also wish he played The Way We Move!
SO STOKED to have met the TREMENDOUSLY TALENTED TRIO (John Pita, Avi Snow, Zach Para) that is City of the Sun after their MIND-NUMBING SHOW at the Cornerstone Brewery in Berkeley. I may have been tired and jet-lagged from Iceland Airwaves music festival (for which I only just returned the day before), but that surely did NOT keep me from SEEING THE SUN, City of the Sun. This EXPLOSIVE, GENRE-BENDING band blends post-rock and flamenco style guitar with unique percussion (learned in Peru) to create soundscapes that SWEEP YOU TO THE SKY. I first discovered City of the Sun at BottleRock Napa back in May and remember my knees getting weak (yes, THAT GOOD) as I ran to the stage half-way into their first SONG. They reminded me a bit of both Explosions in the Sky and Rodrigo y Gabriela, two of my ALL TIME FAVORITE bands (but with very different styles). They also had a bit of a Vancouver Sleep Clinic vibe, which (oddly enough), they told me they met a few months back at a music festival in Vegas and considered Tim Bettinsons‘ vocals a great fit for their music. 🙂
Having honed their craft as buskers in NYC, their stage presence was pretty phenomenal for a band new to the festival circuit, and you could tell they were thirsty for a rowdy crowd. It’s pretty cool that they wrote a song (‘You and I… And New York‘) about the city that provided much of their influence and inspiration, as well as a platform to play to a world full of strangers. NYC pedestrians are def a tough crowd!
I smiled SO FREAKING WIDE when John Pita (lead guitar) stuck his head over the crowd and shouted “LET ME SEE ALL YOUR FUCKING EYES!” Haha. YAAAAAS. You better believe I took that command to heart and waved my big-eyed puppet face his way the entire set. Whelp, he must have liked the puppet participation, cause during the encore (‘Everything‘), he launched toward me at 2 min in and yelled “HEY!” as if to raise the roof of the joint! That song is EVERYTHING I could ever want and need! So FREAKING SICK; a true TIMELESS, UNIVERSAL TRACK that will have EVERYONE and EVERYTHING moving their bodies in ways they never knew how! It’s only a matter of time before these guys shine their vibrant tunes ‘To the Sun and All the Cites In Between.’ (name of their debut album).
Another standout track (but let’s get real they are all amazing) is ‘Explosions.’ (video below) If this song does not make you FEEL EXPLOSIONS all over, I am concerned for you. It’s seriously one of the most beautiful instrumental tracks I’ve heard in a long, long time. ‘Brothers‘ (video below) is another track that has my heart, for when is hits, I simply “feel no pain” (and I’m pretty sure Bob Marley would agree). It’s probably not a coincidence then that they kick off their album with this one. The build-up is so damn gorgeous. What a slayer.
Lucky for us they happened to perform two amazing covers: (1) Santana‘s ‘Jingo‘ and (2) The xx‘s ‘Intro.’ WHAT A TREAT to hear City of the Sun brand this XX masterpiece with heir own unique flamenco guitar/post-rock signature. SOOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.
They also treated us to a new song called ‘Firefly‘ (which def flew right into my heart and lit it up) as well as an unreleased song with no title (video below).
I will never forget John Pita’s last words to the crowd: “If you can here for a chill acoustic show, this ain’t it.” DAMN STRAIGHT. You came for something that words simply cannot describe. You just gotta show up and see for yourself. ❤
I find it SO FREAKING EERIE that I immediately compared Courtney Barnett to Kurt Vilenearly 4 years ago when I first saw her at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton and NOW, they are TOURING TOGETHER after the recent release of their collaborative album, Lotta Sea Lice. Kurt Vile was someone that I had been following since his ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’ days thanks you his brother Paul Vile who directed me to his set at Sasquatch 2012 (arguably the best lineup of any US festival I’ve been to yet). Courtney and Kurt reminded me of one another in so many ways – stitching songs together with threads of rock, grunge, and folk, and doing so with a carefree, nonchalant charisma that plagues all who listen. I am in awe of their ability to whip up to witty narratives about obscure observations of the mundane. Their collaborative albums is a testament to the beauty of a creative, comfortable companionship between two eclectic music makers that complement each other’s chords finished each other’s sentences (literally). Their charming ‘Continental Breakfast‘ track has Courtney and Kurt singing back and forth about the frustration of maintaining their long-distance friendship (“I cherish my intercontinental friendships; We talk it over continental breakfast”) and the monotony of life on the road (“In a hotel in East Bumble-wherever; Somewhere on the sphere, around here.”) I also really loved their song, ‘Fear is Like a Forest’ (“Fear is like a forest, The dark of the unknown; Love is like a promise, That you’ll never be alone”), which was actually written by Courtney’s wife, Jen Cloher (talented musician who opened the show). I also enjoyed the manifestation of Courtney and Kurt covering each other’s songs, with Courtney’s version of Kurt’s ‘Peepin Tomboy’ (‘Peepin’ Tom’ on this album) paralyzing me with the arresting apathy of her delivery. I also really enjoyed Kurt’s take on Courtney’s ‘Out of the Woodwork.’ But, the MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF THE NIGHT were when Courtney and Kurt covered Belly’s ‘Untogether’ (“You can’t save the unsavably untogether”) and Gillian Welch’s ‘Elvis Presley Blues’ (“I was thinking that night about Elvis, Day that he died, day that he died”). Courtney’s vocals absolutely SHINE on this on, and the bread and range of the vocals are more apparent than ever. My heart was gushing a bit with the beautiful harmonies between her and Kurt. I’m sure Mr. ELVIS PRESLEY himself would have definitely approve. It was so refreshing to watch the playful banter between such seasoned musicians and I kept smiling when I saw Kurt’s classic yelps (“Whoop!”) making Courtney laugh throughout the set. He then had the entire audience laugh when he said that “Lotta Sea Lice” is the “only sea lice you want to have.” A powerhouse performance by a powerhouse pair of proper pals.:D ❤
Stoked to have FINALLY caught Local Natives on local land after last seeing them in Edinburgh (Electric Circus), Wales (Green Man Festival), and London (Brixton Academy) back in 2013. That year spoiled me silly, and the memories I have from those shows almost (almost) make up for the 3 ½ year hiatus. Seeing them in that tiny 250, venue in Edinburgh had me on cloud nine for WEEKS, and the fact that I bumped into Taylor (lead vocals/guitar), Ryan (guitar/vocals), and Nik (bass, keys, vocals) that same night for a “wee chat” was also pretty freaking amazing. Then they were announced to play Green Man, a super casual festival where it’s not too uncommon to spot bands hanging out in the crowd watching other bands (and yes, I was indeed lucky enough to find myself dancing next to them during one of the sets). A few months later was their London show at Brixton Academy, and although it was not nearly as intimate as the Edinburgh one, I was happy to have met Kelcey after the show with my best friend Amanda (who was visiting from Philly). Pics below.
Fast forward to last Friday (7/28) at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, and I am grinning ear-to-ear as I wait to bask myself in the beauty of their Sunlit Youth (2016 album). I nearly DIED when they opened with ‘Past Lives,’ a song that slayed me from the start with it’s opening line, “Save me from the prime of my life” (which I am considering as a text tattoo). I love the capricious cadence to this song and the piercing percussion after the chorus of “Then you wake up.” YAAAAAS. 😀
Taylor had us smiling wide when he dedicated the next song (‘Villiany’) to his 1 ½ year old niece Emma, it being her first ever show – he said this one was her favorite! He even posted a clip of her shaking her booty to it in the crowd on Instagram the day after.
Kelcey then asks the audience if anyone is from SF state, and then laughs as he admits wanting to go to Berkeley but only getting into SF state. He then introduced their next song, ‘Airplanes,’ as one he wrote after leaving SF state and heading back to Los Angeles. He followed up with a special version of the hauntingly beautiful, somber tune, ‘Columbia’ (“Am I loving enough?”), that he said the SF Bay Area has never heard before. Tears def welled up in my eyes.
They then surprised us with a new song called ‘I Saw You Close Your Eyes,’ which is KILLER and one I connected with right away. Their new song, ‘The New Heirs’ is also pretty siiiiick too. Next came ‘Jellyfish’, ‘Heavy Feet’, ‘Dark Days’ (with Ryan filling in for the female vocal part and turning heads with his perfect pitch) and ‘Who Knows, Who Cares,’ a song that references “going down to Colorado” — pretty eerie considering that the band recently visited the Colorado river in Arizona to advocate water conservation in Episode 103 of the nature series, Earthworks. This was a project they felt very strongly about, considering that the Colorado river is the main sources of water for California, a state near in dear to their heart and one that is in the 6th year of the worst, most epic drought in modern history (compounded further by climate change and population increases). Aside from showing activism on the water conservation and green energy front, Local Natives have made it a point to show activism on the political front. In fact, Taylor was involved in a panel called the “Politicon” at the Pasadena Convention (July 28/29). That night, Taylor reminds us (during his intro to ‘Fountain of Youth’) that the power is in the hands of the future generation:
“This next song has the idea that it’s the new generation every single time that gets to decide where the world is going to go. It’s the new generation that can see it for what it is an i think pushes it where we want it to be and for us, we just wanted to say, especially being here where, that idea idea was birthed a lot for America, that we have a choice to choose unity and to choose love and respect and respect for everybody. And we would just like to push that forward, no matter what you can do, your influence on the world, we would just like to push for that. “
“We can do whatever we want… We can say whatever we mean…
And if we don’t change, Then who’ll change?
We’ve been dreaming of you, Drinking from fountains of youth.”
(Hell YES. Power to the people)
Cheers to a band that uses the stage to motivate change for the greater good. I have so much respect and adoration for these local natives Cali pride). Stay humble, stay hungry. Stay thirsty for that “Fountain of Youth.” Taylor, quenched by this fountain of youth, dives into the crowd for a bit of surf and then lies on his back, projecting peace and love to all like a prophet.
In true Local Natives fashion, they end the night leaving us in good hands – ‘Sun Hands.’ The energy and aura of this epic encore never fails to disappoint.
All Local Natives fans must check out Kelcey’s new solo project called Jaws of Love. His debut album, Tasha Sits Close To The Piano, named by his wife after their dog Tasha, is coming in the fall, and earlier this month. The lead single, ‘Jaws Of Love,’ is simply stunning — Kelcey’s falsetto vocals elevating over deep, brooding piano ballads. “The whole project is me trying to embrace my nuances and indulge in it,” Ayer explains. “It was such an awesome release making these songs, and that let me embrace who I feel like I am. It was wonderful to not have to explain myself to anyone. I have dark piano music in my heart and soul, and Jaws Of Love. is me at my truest self.” We certainly approve. ❤