Another year, another Airwaves.
The chaotic, creative, crazy and cool festival in Reykjavík we all love!
I have been attending regularly since the festivals’ birth and can verify that this is indeed a magical time in the capital. The music-loving locals put on their party face, switch off their media content streaming services for a few nights and head downtown for the fun. The experience cup runneth over and ensures an ever-flowing stream of fun memories to help our sunlight starved souls make it through until Christmas.
Yes, it’s definitely a lot of fun.
Photo by Skúli Arason
One of the delights of Airwaves is experiencing the feeling of being your own festival curator. You control the music, you control the venues, you control your level of sleep however you will never control the weather.
The weather is extremely unpredictable so it’s best to be hope for the best but to prepare for the worst. You know the drill. Should you turn out to be underdressed just aim for the nearest venue and cozy up to the other warm people in the cool crowd. Warm your insides with a tiny bottle of Brennivín. The farmers that gather the sheep from the highlands every fall do this to keep both spirits and body temperatures up. They are even doing some meaningful work so you have no excuse not to.
One thing to keep in mind for the festival experience is to remember that there is no need to cram in all the fun on the first day. It can be so easy to forget that it’s a long weekend and it is entirely possible to do one of the following on the first day: earn a second day headache at the bar, twisting an ankle from some furious dancing or agreeing to meet too many new friends for the remainder of the weekend which could prove a logistics nightmare. So just take it easy man!
Photo by Skúli Arason
The festival has gone through many different iterations during its’ history since birth at the turn of the century. From a rough airplane hangar showcase concert to the current extravaganza in the city center. Each venue has it’s own atmosphere; Iðnó is retro and grand, Húrra is hip and rough, The Art Museum is factory like and ….well arty while Gamla Bíó is reminiscent of the standard European theater, complete with extra nice balconies. I recommend the fairly ambitious mission of trying out all the venues for the duration of the festival. You’ll definitely have great fun with other festival goers running around the city center like excited rabbits at a dog race, trying to get to the next show before a line forms outside the venue, that tends to happen about an hour before a show give or take a half an hour. Well, to be honest, really only if it’s one of the handful of “hottest this year” acts that you’re going to see.
All the Icelandic bands work towards this week every year and are usually in top form, this is the time for them to blossom and attract the attention of the foreign press or maybe just broaden the fanbase overseas, the release dates of music and videos are planned with Airwaves in mind. While the visiting musical acts are of course great, some of the up and coming Icelandic bands tend to steal the show – be sure to check with some Icelandic guest what they are excited to see and get with the coolest kids; the local kids.
Notice that a lot of the guests are also performers and you’ll likely spot many of them all around you. Don’t be shy around them, they love the attention and would to hear you express your satisfaction with their show. It’s a small musical family in Iceland and artists usually like to hear what you think. Just please give Björk her space.
Just to give you a general idea of a perfect pre-concert day-to-day itinerary, the following is a recipe for a fun week, this could be you:
Get to know the golden highlights of the southern part of the country, splash around your knowledge of the history of Icelandic parliament at Þingvellir at the festival. Get extra cool and tell the world you got to witness a 25m high Strokkur eruption, Strokkur is the active geyser at Geysir and 25m is well above average, nice. With this under your belt, you will truly have experienced the toppermost of the uppermost. A must to be sure.
Get your bearings in Reykjavík and start a new day fresh; sleep in, have a swim in one of the capitals excellent public pools, walk along the seaside, breathe in the salt, listen to the sounds of nature and get some fuel into the belly. You sure do need it.
Photo by Skúli Arason
Ok, by Friday you might already have done some tasting of your own. That’s why it’s time to get technical. Iceland has ridiculous amounts of local beers per capita (it’s always per capita with these guys!) and there is no better way to finish the weekend conversations than to truly appreciate the small nuances of the Icelandic water used in the local creations or the relevance of using geothermal energy for brewing purposes.
The word of the weekend will get you smiles all around: SKÁL!
Photo by: Skúli Arason
Since you are doing a cross-capital run, not a sprint, I suggest you try to see some of the artists you missed on the previous nights today.
They are playing all over town both on and off-venue shows. SKÁL!
Today you might be feeling just a tiny bit fatigued. Fret not dear friends! Few places rejuvenate like the Secret Lagoon. One of Iceland‘s most famous musicians ever, Bubbi, once did a LP cover shoot at a natural lagoon for his album Frelsi til Sölu (Freedom for sale). The album from 1986 marked his return to the land of the healthy after having gone overboard with the rock’n’roll lifestyle for years and years.
Perhaps, at this moment, you can relate? Who knows?
In any case, you will emerge fresh and clean and with luck the northern lights will cleanse your soul as well, leaving you with all the wonders of our solar system imprinted in your mind along with happy Airwaves memories.
I’ll see you downtown
And also next year
And the year after that…