A night at the opera: Gamla Bió

Actually, it’s more like a cinema – theatre.

This particular Iceland Airwaves venue in the very city center looks spectacular from the outside, and you can feel something really meaningful happened in the past on the inside.

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Despite that, we feel like watching Airwaves shows sitting (with no chance of moving at all) can be a limit. Moreover, there were some blatantly evident technical issues and the sounds technicians were unable to solve them. Add to this the fact that photographers in the pit (wait, there was no pit! They were just standing the whole time in front of the people sitting in the first row, so even if those festivalgoers queued for a very long time, they couldn’t enjoy the concerts because the only view they could get was the back of those uneducated media pass holders), were completely rude and shot the artists with high flashes turning them blind after the first song… And you can get the feeling of what didn’t work in there.

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We tried to enjoy three bands, anyway: Samaris, Anna Von Hausswolff and Sóley, being the firsts a rising band in the icelandic, the second a rising star in the international and the third an established star in the hipster music scene. Well, maybe not only hipster, but anyway there’s still much to be discovered.

Samaris (we went to their personal shows at the once-very-famous-and-cool-now-destroyed-to-build-a-hotel Faktory in Reykjavik twice before this Airwaves), were a great disappointment. Yes, we do like them in general. Yes, we do love their new album and especially their artwork for the vinyl edition. But this show was a complete suicide. I spotted several entire rows of the theatre (upstairs) sleepingand even snoring – after a while. As we said before the DJ (let’s call him like that) had some technical trouble and the sound technician was not able to solve it. They started to talk in the middle of the show right on the stage, whilst the singer didn’t really know what to say and the other member of the band being like a dark ghost hiding in her black dress (actually we did not hear from her a lot more even when the songs were performed). What we realized after awhile was the fact that probably all the songs have the same tune, or with little differences. The voice of the singer is pretty much the same for all songs, with any variation at all… Maybe we kind of overestimated them before?

Despite the band’s attitude to dress in a very particular way, using a dark make-up – they also tried to convince the audience they put on the best dresses for that particular night being a great honor to play at Gamla Bió – there was no mystery in their performance. The electronic gears and laptops were placed on a makeshift table with a wooden plank resting on the instruments’ containers with a semi-transparent curtain lying on it: this is not lo-fi, just ugly looking. The place was full of people, the people was empty of emotions, they only came back to life when Samaris played their only well-known single Goda Tungl, and that’s it. Unfortunately, that was one of the worst performances of the whole Airwaves in our experience.

Anna Von Hausswolff deserves a special mention. The swedish talent really took Airwaves to another level. Mystical, powerful, elegant. Everything was stunning in her performance and the band was just delivering the best show we could desire. At some point, a girl (some said the singer of Kimono band) jumped on stage, lying down face-up with her arms stretched to feel the music close to Anna and the speakers! Mesmerizing visuals were projected on the screen behind the band, the drums sounded like heart-beats touching parts of us we didn’t even know to have. Their sound was a complete success, and we gotta say that Anna’s voice is so wicked we wanted to hear more. And more. We couldn’t get it out of our heads. And hearts. Her organ-sound is extreme, could be something like a perfect soundtrack for a movie, or for our lives. 

The tracklist was interesting, not boring, always giving new shivers to our souls. Anna deserves much more international attention and a good promotion: we are sure she’s going to rise and shine everywhere pretty soon. Unfortunately, we were not able to take any picture, being the photographers so rude and disgusting that we just decided we wanted to take the very best from the show, without fighting with them for a picture of (beautiful) Anna. Believe us, that was a completely positive decision, people should just leave their camera, smartphones and tablets at home when enjoying a concert: that would be a better world for us all. 

Sóley was the last artist we followed at Gamla Bió. Usually, when we enjoyed other live shows of the former Seabear pianist, we had the feeling people didn’t really care about the artist at all: they were all talking louder than the music and Sóley was a bit embittered by this behavior. And we were too. If you don’t care about a show, why should you go there? Questions with no answers. Anyway, this time the show was completely different. People was there on purpose, they were all fans of the icelandic singer and you could feel it from the fact they all laughed to every little joke the artist addressed them. Even if it was not so funny, but they were all happy and that means a lot.

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Sóley music benefited from the hype generated on the web, where she’s a star on the social networks and on YouTube. She actually is very talented. It is not the music you want to dance with, so the venue was pretty cool for her. Everybody was finally quiet and silent during her performance and we could notice how appreciated this thing was. Her melodies and loops were the best part of it (check the following video to understand better what she does), and we can say at the end of the show we went out in the cold breeze with a warm sensation. And that’s what music does when you fall in love with it.

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Our official sponsor for Airwaves 2013Geysir.is Car Rental Iceland