KEXP at Iceland Airwaves, Day 3: La Luz

Iceland Airwaves
Isaac Kaplan-Woolner
photos by Jim Bennett

Our first live act of the day at Kex Hostel from Iceland Airwaves is fresh off a plane from Amsterdam. But you'll surely recognize them as Seattle's own garage surf outfit La Luz. We've been spinning this all female quartet's 2013 Hardly Art/Sub Pop album It's Alive and done several in studio sessions with them. They've played big shows at Bumbershoot and just wrapped a European tour. But they were kind enough to stop by our intimate stage here in downtown Reykjavik to kick off today's broadcast.

La Luz means "the light" in Spanish, and that was exactly what this overcast, hungover town needed to shake off the cobwebs. The wind was blowing stronger than it has all week, forming white caps on the sea outside the windows. But it was plenty warm inside Kex. Drummer Alice Sandahl  did a quick drumstick count off and with that we were off, swept away on waves of Shana Cleveland's twangy surf guitar lines, Lena Simon's bouncing bass, and Alice Sandahl's fat organ. This instrumental opener, "Phantom Feelings", was short and sweet, and highlighted the group's tight dynamic. The crowd immediately began to press forward and bob their heads along with the infectious retro pop sounds. The second song, "Big Big Blood", sped up the tempo with Cleveland's dreamy, sunny lyrics, "Girl of mine, waste my time. You're like me, nowhere to be." With some doo wop inspired ooh ooh backing vocals, this lead single from the album is a definite toe tapper.

The band was impressively fresh and energetic for having come directly from the airport. And lucky for them, as they announced they have two additional shows today. Cleveland was gracious, saying, "it's good to be here, at Kex and in the country in general." The third song, "TV Dream", was led by a slinkier, slower guitar line with lovely whammy bar note bending. She bent her head over her instrument and her pulled back hair danced along in time. Their early 60s sound would be perfectly at home on a Quentin Tarantino sound track. The fourth tune, "Call Me In The Day", kicked up the smokey, sexy, yet grooving sounds another notch with bright bass and snappy snares, and an organ solo adding to the mix. The crowd really seemed to like this one.

Cleveland introduced the fifth song, "Easy Baby", by saying, "this one's a slow dance, for anyone who feels the need." This wasn't a love song, per say, but more of a slow burning ache. "I wasn't lonely, I was OK. It's not like my heart stopped soon as you turned away," she sang. These songs are deceptively simple, but with great swinging syncopation. Cleveland sings with a pretty, clear, unadorned voice. The sixth song, "Brainwash", bumped the energy and rock up a notch with more aggressive guitar breakdowns, causing the audience to bob a bit harder. These poppy tunes are fairly short, so La Luz managed to fit in eight songs into their 25 minute set. "I Wanna Be Alone" had Sandahl come out from behind her keyboard to dance alone with the band. There were apparently some unexpected key changes and moments in this song, but the band kept up just fine. They joked afterward that it was a version to remember. They closed with their latest single, "Sure As Spring",  another rocking number with tight momentary pauses before popping right back into the groove. Cleveland sang with a slightly sardonic sneer, "When you were mine, I didn't have the time." But we were so glad La Luz took the time to play for us today.

Stay tuned for Young Karin live on KEXP at 90.3FM in Seattle, and streaming audio and video live all over the world at KEXP.ORG.

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