Iceland Airwaves 2015 Day Two: Sóley, John Grant, Sea Change, and Father John Misty | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Sóley can read your mind.

Iceland Airwaves 2015

Iceland Airwaves 2015 Day Two: Sóley, John Grant, Sea Change, and Father John Misty, November 5th, 2015

Nov 13, 2015 Photography by Laura Studarus Iceland Airwaves 2015
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Maybe it was the jetlag. But it took me until Thursday evening, during Sóley’s set of soft-spoken folk at Slippbarinn (a crowded restaurant/cocktail bar), to realize the obvious. All the Icelandic artists were speaking English while they performed. Maybe it’s because Iceland is a small country. Or maybe Airwaves really is the friendliest of all festivals. Either way, hearing the former Sin Fang member’s banter about downing apple cider vinegar and remembering to pick up her child for daycare (“I’m a good mother, I swear!” she cracked) felt like a gift almost as special as her crystalline music.

And then, because extremes are good, there was John Grant. Originally his headlining performance slot in Harpa’s biggest hall was earmarked for Björk. However, the singer pulled out of the festival after performing the material from her new album Vulnicura became too emotionally taxing. The nation’s adopted son proved that he was worthy of the set, performing Grey Tickles, Black Pressure and Pale Green Ghosts with accompaniment from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Impressively, he also spoke fluent Icelandic and English. (An interesting counterpoint to his lyrics, which celebrate self-deprecation with quips such as “I wanted to change the world/but couldn’t even change my underwear.”)

It felt refreshing to be part of a crowd that cheered on a song inspired Woody Allen’s Interiors (“Geraldine”), didn’t bulk at lyrics that include SAT vocab like “obsequious,” and fully embraced the singer/songwriter’s rampant wordplay. Fact: John Grant may be the GMF (Greatest Mother Fucker) you’ll ever meet. But he’s Iceland’s GMF. As a word geek of the highest order, I am giddy and slightly lightheaded. My notes for this set look not unlike the ramblings of a teenage girl.

Just think about it…okay John?

I’ve chased Sea Change across Oslo (three shows in two years, how is that even possible?) so it felt somewhat necessary to see her again. Since we first met, the Norwegian musician (also known as Ellen Sunde) has added two additional players to her crew, fleshing out the layered, haunted electronic songs of her debut Breakage. It also gives her less to do on stage, allowing for eye contact. Instead of mysterious (read: withdrawn) she now comes across as determined—a force ready to claim her place in the musical landscape. (May it happen quickly.)

Already having ascended to his throne as the king of folk/rock trolls is Father John Misty, a.k.a. Josh Tillman. The former Fleet Foxer’s set was surprisingly a subdued affair, save for a quip that he “missed the whale meat at home.” It probably didn’t help that he was fighting some ear-splitting sound issues during I Love You Honeybear track “True Affection” that briefly stopped his set dead in its tracks. Or that he’s on a brutal touring schedule. The songs themselves though were pure theatrics, though—including a moment when he tossed his guitar to a waiting roadie, and grabbed a fan’s phone during “Bored in the US” to better film himself singing the final notes. Tillman is clearly exhausted, but then again, so am I. I limp back to my hotel, singing softly to myself along the way. On the quiet streets of Reykjavik, where music has invaded almost every aspect of the city for the week, I’m right at home.

Tomorrow: A cliché Icelandic day. (In the best way possible.)

Check out photos from day two here.







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