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Iceland Airwaves: Final day/night with jj, Robyn and more (10/16)

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After a whirlwind of shows and minimal sleep, the annual Blue Lagoon Chill Airwaves party is a welcome respite. It’s not quite the tranquil sanctuary it is sans party as DJs spin tunes and the lagoon is populated with partiers, but the calming hot waters soothe after running around Reykjavík during the fest.

The chilling out doesn’t last long as it’s the final night of Airwaves and many of the big “name” draws of the fest are scheduled. Hercules and Love Affair, The Antlers and Neon Indian are among the American acts to draw crowds on Saturday, but since I’ve either seen or can see these shows Stateside, I decide to run around and try to catch as many international acts as I can squeeze in for the final night.

Sweden’s JJ at NASA had a gentle pop sway that served as a good bridge to finally catching Ólafur Arnalds at Iðnó who is (yay!) playing at the scheduled time and I’m not disappointed. Arnalds was joined by a talented string section and flanked by a video screen showing hand-drawn looking animated film that was perfectly orchestrated to the music. Combining orchestral stylings with light touches of electronica, Arnalds set was transcendent, especially during finale “3055.” The strings swelled as Arnalds’ piano melodies cascaded; it was a crescendo of quiet beginnings building into symphonic proportions that was inspired.

Things grew more boisterous from there, where I ran to catch spurts of Tungg (folk-tinged experimental), Vicky (female hard rockers), Apparat Organ Quartet (prog-rocking four-organ mashup with drums), Bombay Bicycle Club (fresh-faced driving acoustic pop), Robyn (love her, but it wasn’t her best set– a bit sleepy considering her show had the longest queue of the fest), The Joy Formidable (OMG, LOVE, they’re coming to Schubas on 11/9, check ‘em out), Ghostdigital (gotta see the crazy loud electro-beat circus that’s co-helmed by former Sugarcube Einar Örn), We Made God (LOUD-quiet-LOUD rawk!) and The Amplifetes (dance, jump around, dance!) – am I forgetting anyone? Probably – it was a blurred rush of sound, rhythm and genre mashing. Some 45 bands in four days, Iceland Airwaves vs. Althea = win+win.

If you’ve read this far, perhaps you’re considering a trip to Iceland Airwaves. Since the economic collapse in 2008, there have been unprecedented low-priced package offerings to Iceland. This year, for example, packaged air, hotel and festival passes started around $549 - prior to the collapse it was easily double that. I’m told the rate will be similar for next year. 2011 Airwaves package offerings should be available by late winter/early spring 2011.

Stay tuned for a Best of 2010 Iceland Airwaves mixtape podcast, there might even be some free download links for your listening pleasure.

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