A Windy Weekend and Iceland Airwaves
Describing the Iceland Airwaves music festival is not something that can be done simply in terms of the enormous supply of quality music, as it represents a complete departure from the ordinary, where community, culture, people, partying, networking, freedom, fashion & music are fused into one incredible long weekend in the heart of Reykjavik city.
The concerts are held in various venues around Reykjavik and despite the especially harsh winds this weekend it always seemed as exciting to move around and see what was going on in the other side of the centre. The supply of music is staggering, bands and artists of almost every conceivable genre are counted in the hundreds. Some of the concert venues were centered around loosely based themes, so you could go to see gentle acoustic music in an old church, experimental neo-classical music in an old theatre, hard rock in a smoky bar, artsy bands in a museum or DJ sets in downtown clubs. The main venue, however, was the striking new Harpa concert complex, where hundreds of bands played by the harbour.
But amazingly enough, the festival is not all about the official concert schedule—although it is a big part of it—as there are literally hundreds of off-venue concerts held in the most unimaginable places, including the smallest concert hall in Iceland—a single tiny room located in the middle of a square.
The festival officially started on a Wednesday and, walking down Reykjavik’s main street of Laugavegur, music could be heard from most cafés, bars and shops and by the time you reached the centre you would have seen or heard about a dozen shows. One other thing you’ll notice is that the people on the streets are in a special festival mode—everyone is wearing highly fashionable clothes, in high spirits and seems to be connecting with each other much more than on an average Reykjavik night on the town.
It almost never fails that the people you meet have just come from an ‘amazing’ show in some obscure, weird venue with a similarly obscure artist—and they can’t wait to tell you about it. After a few hours in the festival, you’ll soon see why and get caught up in the mood. After stumbling in on a folksy band in the backyard of a downtown café, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about the concert, so that fellow festivalgoers would have a chance to see them later during the weekend.
The festivalgoers are a strange mixture of people from all over the world and each one comes to Iceland for a different reason—some come to see specific artist (this time around, Sigur Rós & Of Monsters and Men seem to be in the highest demand), some come to find something new and others come for the nightlife. But they all seem to unite around a singular theme—to have a good time.
Sett í box:
“We had known about Iceland Airwaves for as long as we can remember and finally decided to come this year. So far it has been fabulous, the atmosphere is great and we are having a lot of fun. This building, Harpa, is phenomenal, but we also love going to the smaller venues. Yesterday we saw ‘Of Monsters and Men’ in a bar with about 200 people which was pretty amazing. The range of bands playing is quite staggering—this afternoon we hadn’t quite decided what we wanted to see and we counted around 20 shows we wanted to go to.”
—Jennifer & David Parmenter, Boston.
“I’ve known about the festival for at least 10 years and have always wanted to come. I’ve been a fan of Icelandic music for a long time and have found there is a certain joyfulness that is contrasted by a certain quietness, almost like the contrasts between spring and winter. The festival is great, it reminds me of a colder South by Southwest, a music festival held in Texas. The atmosphere is really enjoyable, I’ve been going around town to these smaller venues and talking with the people and I feel as if I could move to Reykjavik and be part of the community instantly.”
—Mai Le, Photographer, San Francisco
“Iceland Airwaves is out of this world. You meet all these weird and wonderful people; you meet old friends and make new friends. I’ve been talking to people from places that I haven’t really paid much attention to before but they know our music, which is amazing. We also enjoy the off-venue programme as it gives us an opportunity to play to a different crowd and the people who didn’t get tickets get a chance to experience the festival. We played in a small bar yesterday which was a lot of fun, almost like a giant house party.”
—Kristján Páll Kristjánsson, bassist, Of Monsters and Men