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Iceland Airwaves 2010: Females impress on first night (10/13)

At Airwaves, Reykjav­k pulsates with music seeping from every corner all day through the wee hours of the morning. Its normal music venues house official showcases, but there are a host of off-venue parties and shows, and businesses like hair salons, bookstores, art galleries and non-live music restaurants turn into makeshift venues throughout the week. There are also several geothermally heated pools throughout the city's neighborhoods, and Vesturb¦jarlaugin hosted off venue pool party shows each night. I tried to catch German band Hundreds at the pool, but got there as they were breaking down their set. They're scheduled again for another night, so resolve to try and catch them then. So it's off to NASA, one of the city's larger venues to catch L¡ra Rºnars, who becomes the first of a long list of impressive female acts I catch that populate Airwaves 2010.

Rºnars is no stranger to Airwaves, having three albums under her belt, but this was the first time I caught her whimsical poppish confections, which included a Prince "Kiss" cover and her quirky, catchy "In Between." Electro-tipped trio Sykur followed, featuring cameos by štidºr's Rakel Mj¶ll. She added sass to "Rocketship," a dancy, synth-driven tune. While Sykur has also played Airwaves previously, the young group just released its debut album, Fr¡b¦rt e°a fr¡b¦rt, this year.

As one can imagine on an island with a small population and loads of musical talent, cross collaboration happens often and Benny Crespo's Gang comprised respected vocalist Helgi Rºnar, keyboardist Lov­sa El­sabet Sigrºnard³ttir (who performs solo as Lay Low). Their driving indie rock beginnings gave way to noisy, strutty rock before receding into more melodic territory.

One of my favorite Icelandic artists is composer/pianist “lafur Arnalds who was scheduled to play S³d³ma, so I headed there only to find the time schedule had changed and Autodrone from the States was playing. As I was on an Iceland kick for the night I headed to another one of my favorites, Benni Hemm Hemm at Venue.

Unfortunately the group's brass section, which gives the band its majestic appeal, was not present at this gig and it was a bit of a sleepy set. I planned to camp out at Venue to catch Swords of Chaos and Sin Fang (Seabear frontman Sindri M¡r Sigfºsson experimental project), however it was so unbearably packed (I suppose there's no need for capacity laws when there's only 300K people) that I headed back to NASA in time for Mammºt, and it was a deliciously raucous way to end the night. The three female/two male member band formed as teens back in '03, and while they've maintained their youthful energy, they've grown sonically as well. This is the best I've seen them.

Frontwoman Kata's big voice (which can caterwaul at one moment then become melodic the next) and exuberance betrayed her diminutive stature and coupled with the urgent, post-punked-up sounds of her bandmates, it was among the best performances at Airwaves 2010.

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