We’ve got less than 2 weeks to go!! The week of November 4th will bring approximately 9000 festival go-ers to the city of Reykjavik to enjoy 5 days of music and entertainment. It’s a crazy time, and the city definitely gets filled to the brim. It can get hectic, but if you go prepared you can’t help but have fun.
This will be my 8th year attending the festival. A friend and I will be blogging about the festival throughout with photos and highlights, but for now here are some tips I’ve learned that will make your experience better, and help you get the most out of Iceland and the festival.
Before the tips I want to bring up something new and cool Iceland Airwaves has this year. It is the “Wall Poetry” installations located all over the city.
Urban Nation Berlin and Iceland Airwaves matched artists with musicians to create “Wall Poetry” around the city. 10 gigantic murals placed all over the city, each one an artist’s interpretation of a band’s song. You can check out the artist/musician combos and learn more about the project, including a map of where they are, here.
Now for the tips:
Research Research Research: Show up prepared
This is probably the most important tip I can give you, and that’s why it’s the longest. There is nothing wrong with winging it, and if you are there for the adventure and have no agenda then I suppose doing research isn’t all that necessary, but if you have a plan at all, then a little research will go a long way in making things more enjoyable.
There are over 230 bands performing at Airwaves with slightly over 9000 attendees this year. Chances are a lot of folks are going to want to see the same bands that you want to see, and it’s possible that you may not get into your favorite acts. This is why I always say you need to do research, listen to the Spotify playlist Iceland Airwaves created, check out my loosely categorized list of the 155 Icelandic bands playing, and check out the line-up page to discover the bands you don’t know much about. Late night plan changes will go so much smoother if you have a few bands in your back pocket in the event you’re not feeling a gig, or can’t get into one.
There are a lot of social media outlets to get information from as well. Reykjavik Grapevine is an English speaking newspaper online and in print located in Reykjavik. They run a pretty solid Airwaves blog that I suggest you follow. Iceland Music Export (IMX) is another great resource, they will be doing live interviews throughout the festival on their website. and have many biographies of Icelandic bands that will be performing. KEXP always has something going on at Kex Hostel, and you can typically find live performances and interviews with the bands on their website as well. And of course, the Iceland Airwaves website and Facebook page will have loads of information to help you prepare for the musical week.
I highly suggest you start following some of these informational hubs now on Facebook and twitter as they will be highlighting bands, giving suggestions, and informing the masses of the different things going on during the festival.
Get the App!
The Iceland Airwaves App is now available for Download. It has maps with all the venues, customizable schedules, friend locators, off-venue and official schedule times, reminders of upcoming shows, and a whole slew of other things to make your life easy. This app is necessary for having a beneficial experience at the festival, I can’t recommend it enough.
Be social, no really, be really social
Iceland is a friendly place, and there are going to be a lot of folks from a lot of different countries so make some new friends and be social. Before or after a band plays, while in line waiting to get into a show, or out and about touring around, take a moment to meet the folks around you.
You’ve got at least two things in common, you’re all there to listen to music, and you’re all on an incredibly unique island with things to see. There’s no better way to find out new stuff to listen to or see than by asking the person next to you who they are digging. I’ve met some rather cool folks over the years at Airwaves, so be as social as you can.
Be patient, be kind
Keep in mind that there are 9000 of us that will devour Reykjavik for the week. Businesses, restaurants and services in general will be well over normal capacity. So be patient and be a decent human being. Huffing and puffing because something isn’t going as quickly or as smoothly as you like is just not needed and will never get you the results you’re looking for. Icelanders take pride in what they do, and while they will go to great lengths to help you, they’ll have no qualms in calling you out for rude or asshole-ish behavior. Your attitude will have a direct result in how you are treated around town, so civility and decency will make your trip a much better one.
Do your music shopping there, or you may miss out
This took me a few times to learn. A lot of the Icelandic bands you’ll see and hear will only have their product available in Iceland, which means if you don’t pick it up at one of the music stores or booths at the shows you’ll miss out.
There are some pretty fantastic music shops in Iceland, they’ll serve you coffee, and answer any questions you have about the music up there. Smekkleysa, Lucky Records, and 12 Tónar are traditional visits for me, and this year I’m excited to check out Reykjavik Record Shop.
Lucky Records and 12 Tónar both will have off-venue gigs going on as well, so find them on Facebook to follow along with who is playing when or look them up in the app.
Get out and tour a bit
With the off-venue schedule and the official schedule you can get overwhelmed, but you are in one hell of a naturally majestic land so I highly recommend you get out and tour a bit. Hotels or the Information center located downtown will have all the tour outfits to take you outside of Reykjavik for a half day or so, and the scenery makes it well worth it. A few simple things to remember as you’re touring around will keep you out of trouble and in good favor with the tourist gods:
- Do not litter, a lot of areas you go to will be free, and that is because they don’t have regular cleaning crews. Help keep it free for everyone and put your trash in garbage cans.
- While the city is full of art and graffiti, the countryside is not. Icelanders have been known to feed tourists to the sharks that live in the volcano for marking up their nature. At the very least you’ll pay a lot of money and get kicked off the island.
- Iceland’s moss takes a very very long time to grow. So if you’re around it and you want to pick it off the ground please don’t, it’s very damaging.
If getting out of town seems like too much effort, I would suggest going over to I heart Reykjavik’s website and checking out their tours. They do tours around the city focusing on multiple things from the Northern Lights to the history of Reykjavik. I would suggest booking the tours sooner than later because they are smaller tours and they fill up quickly. As of this posting, there were limited slots left and they do fill up quickly.
Most important tip, have fun!
Relax and enjoy yourself, treat folks the way you like to be treated and just open yourself up for good music, a great Island, and a good time.
It’s time again for another Iceland Affair. This charming Icelandic festival celebrates it’s sixth year on Saturday October 17th. Nestled in the picturesque towns of Winchester and Norfolk CT, Iceland affair will take over the Winchester center and Infinity Hall for cultural presentations, unique items for sale, food, and a night of music.
During the day Winchester center will play host to multiple presentations, Icelandic horses, food and merchandise. there will be a silent auction table as well as a slew of products from Lopapeysas (Icelandic sweaters), cakes, soaps and other Icelandic items for sale throughout the event. There will be Pylsur (Icelandic Hot-dogs) on site, and their free! They are the best hot dogs you will ever have, in my opinion.
The presenters will lecture on topics such as the science and beauty of the Aurora Borealis, geology of Iceland, Viking lore, ICESAR (Iceland’s search and rescue teams,) Arctic foxes, and there will be a Gyrfalcon, Iceland’s national bird giving a show. The day festivities are free, and you can learn more about the schedule here
Nighttime will bring the Fire and Ice concert. A cozy evening with 5 fantastic Icelandic artists at the Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT. The artists tend to play together and interact with the crowd making it a rather unique and intimate night of great music, laughter and fun for both the artists and audience.
Kristjana Stefánsdóttir, Svavar Knútur, Sóley, Björn Thoroddsen and Myrra Rós will be gracing the stage this year, all of them veterans of the festival. Most everyone playing has new material or albums that have been released recently, so I’m envisioning a lot of fresh material will be performed.
The festival typically sells out, and with less than half tickets left I would suggest getting them sooner than later. Along with the the bands, there are always surprises that pop up during the concert.
Kristjana Stefánsdóttir has been a vocal coach to many Icelandic singers over the years. her command of Jazz is rivaled only by her smooth and strong voice. No matter what or how she’s singing it’s rare not to be completely sucked in to her songs.
Svavar Knútur is a riot, he not only entertains with great music, but his personality and ability to naturally engage the audience makes for a good time for everyone. He has a new album out, and so there will be plenty of new material to enjoy.
Sóley has been touring all over, but this will be only one of the few times we on the East coast get to see her this year. Her new album was so impressive I actually attempted a review on it. And I can’t wait to hear the new stuff live.
Björn Thoroddsen is a magic man with a guitar, and always puts on a good show with original or highly improvised versions of classic tracks. Not only does he command complete attention when he’s center stage, but he has this amazing ability to play back up for anyone at any time and not miss a beat. He never disappoints.
And Myrra Rós, with her haunting vocals and up-beat melodies are just right for an autumn concert. her new album, “One amongst others” was just released and I really enjoy it. I can’t wait to hear some of the new material live.
So come get a hot dog, learn about Icelandic culture, and spend the night being entertained by an extremely engaging group of musicians.
It’s finally time to announce the next release on Theory of Whatever records, Iceland Whatever Vol. 1. A 14 track compilation of bands I really enjoy and think you should as well. Spanning multiple genres all brought to you for as cheap as I could get away with. The liner notes will be available on the Theory of Whatever website, and will include a bio of the band and links where you can hear and purchase more of these bands music.
Much like the old independent compilations I grew up with, the point of this album is to help these bands get a bit more exposure and hopefully increase your music library. So, here’s presenting “Iceland Whatever Vol. 1“ it will be released on October 20th, and you can pre-order here. pre-orders get a dollar off, making the physical CD $5.50 and the digital download $5. If you would like to purchase the physical CD and are out of the United States, please contact us and we will arrange it
The compilation cover is by the incredibly talented Lóa Hjálmtýsdóttir, a musician (FM Belfast), illustrator, and cartoonist (Lóaboratorium) She frequently contributes to the Reykjavik Grapevine. The cat on the album cover is Roxy A.K.A. Doom. She was the only cat I’ve ever gotten along with, ornery as hell but a sweetheart. She passed away earlier this year, and so I felt compelled to put her photo on the album cover.
There are new and classic tracks from the artists, if the song isn’t available online to listen to yet, I’ve selected another song from the band I enjoy. Click the band name to go to their Facebook pages.
Knife fights is a refreshing nod to the Northwest United states in the 90’s. Consisting of Sigurður Angantýsson, Helgi Pétur Hannesson, Gunnar Petur Hauksson, and Þórir Bogason. They are energetic, slightly noisy and well composed. They were one of my favorite new bands from last year. I am pleased to open the compilation with their track “Panic later”
You can read an interview I did with them at the release of their first album here. Very energetic, slightly noisy and well composed the compilation opens with their new track, “Panic later::
Þórir Georg comes in many flavors. I first was introduced to his music from his band, My Summer as a Salvation Soldier, and have enjoyed every project he’s come up with since, from folk to crazy to goth. The track on the compilation is a new song from an upcoming album of his solo stuff. and so I have put a track from his previous album, Ræfill “The idiot song” here for you to listen.
Árni Rúnar Hlöðversson is Plúseinn. He is one of the founding members of FM Belfast, the energetic party band that typically leaves folks pantless by the end of their sets. While Plúseinn and the track “Empire” can be safely listened to without fear of losing clothing, it is one of the best earworms you’ll experience for quite a while and you’ll be on repeat for quite a while, electro-pop heavy on the synth.
Kristjana Stefánsdóttir is Bambaló. Kristjana has helped Icelanders with their singing for years. Her past projects and albums have been Christmas hymns, Jazz and she frequently performs at Iceland Affair in Connecticut every October. Her very rich and full voice dominates this song about Impressing a boy.
Vigri is the creation of two brothers, Hans and Bjarki Pjetursson. I heard them first at Airwaves years ago and if they are playing I make sure to attend. Their music floats effortlessly between atmospheric moments and heavy beats and I’m pleased to offer a new track from their upcoming album. The song above, “Animal” is one of my favorites from their first album, “Sinking ships”
KVÖL is Þórir Georg and Júlía. It’s Goth punk with dark, strong beats and moody synths. Dropar is a new track from them not available yet. So I present, “Get Away” from their first E.P.
Kælan Mikla is an all female poetic punk band. Consisting of Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir Margrét Rósa Dóru- Harrysdóttir Laufey Soffía, they blast away with raw vocals and hard rhythms. They’ve quickly become one of my favorites over last couple of years.
kimono are 15 year veteran rockers consisting of Alison, Gylfi, and Kjartan. post rock and heavy rock have been used to describe them over the ages. We released their first single off the new album last year, and are pleased to introduce the new track, “Lee Harvey Oswald” on the album. The track above is “Specters” which you can still purchase the 7″ for here.
Atmospheric, lightly feathered with darkness but with equal dashes of heavy drums and haunting vocals is a good way to describe var. The project of Myrra Rós and her husband Júlíus. This track is a new track from the upcoming album.
Of course I couldn’t do a compilation without some hard hardcore on their. Brött Brekka was a 2015 discovery for me, consisting of Sturla Sigurðarson, Sigurður Ingi Einarsson, and Hallvaður Jón Guðmundsson they wildly swing from heavy rock to Hardcore. They’re working on a new album as we speak, and I can’t wait for it.
Energetic, emotionally organized choatic musical noise. Aðalsteinn Jörundsson has been at it a long time. Part of the Falk label in Iceland, he is a veteran to performing and creation. One of the first blog posts I did was on AMFJ. He warned me that this new song wasn’t his usual sort of song, I really dig it and hope you do as well.
Her live shows are ethereal environments full of color, spiraling lights and dancing disco balls. It’s her own style of music and difficult to classify. She’s recently been touring all over and I was pleased she could add to the comp knowing just how crazy her schedule was. One of my favorite live acts to see when I’m in Iceland.
The second Goth band on the compilation. Consisting of RX, Biggi, and Siggi, Antimony are goth pop done in their own unique way. They’re newly formed and have been extremely active around Reykjavik. They are the perfect band to powerfully begin the compilation wrap up.
And to wrap up the compilation I bring you one of my favorite classic tracks from Ghostigital’s album Antimatter Boutique. Ghostigital is Einar Orn and Curver Thorodsson. Two of the longest working musicians in the Icelandic scene, their music has the ability to pump you up. People go crazy at their shows, almost as crazy as Einar. Simply put, I love this band.
As this is the first compilation I’ve put together, it’s filled with the bands I have always dug. The genres are all over the place I know, but I believe I’ve ordered the CD in a manner that makes it listenable from start to finish. I really do love all of these bands, and I am pleased they contributed to the cause.
You can pre-order either the CD or the Digital download here. Please give them all a listen and share what you dig with your friends, regardless if you purchase the album.
And, the final announcement is out. Almost 230 bands will be at Iceland Airwaves 2015, and while we’ll definitely miss Björk and Mammút, The Airwaves staff have outdone themselves with the roster this year. This is the most bands I have seen yet, 155 of the 230 bands are Icelandic, and they span the spectrum of every genre. Here is the new announcement, Directed, edited and created by the wonderful Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir, Sin Fang once again is credited with the music, and… Now we all know who Gangly is.
Also announced for this year is a festival within a festival. On Sunday, the final night of the festival,the mini-festival called Extreme Chill will happen at the Vodafone Hall. One last hurrah and “laid back” night of music, featuring Hot Chip, Introbeats, dj. flugvél og geimskip, Agent Fresco, Emmsjé Gauti, Sleaford Mods, Úlfur Úlfur and FM Belfast. You can learn more about it here. It’s a fantastic idea, because if you have done Airwaves right, nothing will sound better than only having to go to one place to finish off in musical bliss.
As I did for 2014 and 2013, I’ve listed all of the Icelandic bands playing into loosely divided into genres on this page. Clicking on their name will open a new tab with the Iceland Airwaves info page for that artist, which includes Soundcloud, Social media links, and a short bio.
This list is just the Icelandic bands playing, if you want to see the full line-up go to the Iceland Airwaves Line-up page.
|Singer/Songwriter – Folk – Blues/Jazz – Composers – Classical|
|Árstíðir||Aurora||Axel Flóvent||Beebee and the Bluebirds|
|Helgi Valur||Hymnalaya||Jónas Sen||Júníus Meyvant|
|Justman||Lucy in Blue||Magnús Leifur||Máni Orrason|
|Markús & The Diversion Sessions||Mógil||My Bubba||Nordic Affect|
|Þórunn Antonía og Bjarni||Ylja|
|All things Electronica – Dance / DJs / Composers / ambient / ElectroPop / noise|
|Agzilla||Arni Vector||Arnljótur||Art is Dead|
|Brilliantinus||Daveeth||dj. Flugvél og geimskip||DÖPUR|
|Ghostigital||Good Moon Deer||Gunnar Jónsson Collider||Gus Gus|
|H.dór||Hekla||HimBrim||Jack Magnet Quintet|
|Jóhann Eiriksson||Jón Ólafsson & Futuregrapher||Kiasmos||Kippi Kaninus|
|Mike Hunt||Mr. Signout||Odinn||OHM|
|Royal||Ruxpin||Serengeti by President Bongo||Skurken|
|Punk – Hardcore|
|In the Company of Men||Kælan Mikla||Muck||Pink Street Boys|
|Skelkur í bringu|
|All Shades of Metal|
|Beneath||Bubbi Og Dimma||Endless Dark||Kontinuum|
|Hip-Hop – Rap – Reggae|
|AmbAdama||B-Ruff||Cell 7||Cheddy Carter|
|Emmsjé Gauti||Epic Rain||Gísli Pálmi||Herra Hnetusmjör|
|Kut Grapje||Ojba Rasta||Reykjavíkurdætur||Shades of Reykjavik|
|Sturla Atlas||Úlfur Úlfur|
You can listen to all the bands playing this year via Iceland Airwaves Spotify playlist here:
And here are the previous video announcements:
Video four was Directed, produced, and shot by Máni M Sigfússon, starring Kælan Mikla, with music by Sin Fang:
Video three was produced by Les Frères Stefson, directed and written by, Unnsteinn Manuel Stefánsson And the banker was Haraldur Ari Stefánsson:
Video two with Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson drumming away as band names float across the screen:
First announcement with Dj. Flugvél og Geimski:
I would suggest getting your tickets sooner than later, especially if you are planning on doing a package you’ll have more hotel options in the beginning now than you will in a month. Typically the festival sells out, but with the line up looking as good as it does this year, I would imagine it will sell out sooner than later. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong end of “you snooze, you lose”
If you want to see what the past has been like, here is a link to all my Iceland Airwaves related posts. And here is the link to the Iceland Airwaves Flickr page if you want to see just how fun this festival really is.
Hope to see you there.
It’s been 4 years since Sóley’s last full-length album, and as they say good things come to those who wait. Sóley Stefánsdóttir, of Seabear and her own fame has delivered one hell of a finely crafted piece of art with the new album Ask the Deep.
While We sink‘ was dark, Ask the Deep goes further down the rabbit hole. An internal argument of staying with or leaving devils. Multiple layers of tribal-like percussion, floating synth, and cascading keys weave a sophisticated and emotional dance creating the perfect background to Sóley’s haunting and rhythmic vocals. I honestly feel you’d be hard pressed to find such sweet serenades about devils, darkness, and despair anywhere else.
Each listen I give this album brings out a new emphasis in both the instrumental and wording in the songs. I’ve given it enough listens to safely say it’s far from getting old, this is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.
The album starts off with the track, ‘Devil’ where Sóley asks if she’s danced with devil, and does he still love her? A person realizing a personal struggle, or perhaps someone they care about, may be harming them but they’re afraid to live without them. As the album progresses, it becomes less about how the devil feels and more how the chanteuse realizes her own power and self-worth.
By ‘I will never’ we realize she’s made it through the muck and mire and has come out stronger and standing tall leading into an almost euphoric, cloud clearing/sun shining ‘dreamers’, the most upbeat song on the album. The album ends with ‘Lost ship’, a final contemplation and realization that letting go will make her responsible for her own life, and is she willing to let the devil go to do so.
The first music video from the album, ‘Halloween’ is surreal and beautiflly done, you can see here:
I first heard Börn when I was up in Iceland last year. After hearing a track or two I was excited to get the chance to hear them in person at Iceland Airwaves ’14. Alas, their time slots never seemed to work, and when I did finally get to see them, I had to split the time as I really wanted to see another of Iceland’s punk bands, Kælan mikla, who were playing directly below Börn at the same time. So I got to see a half show but really wanted more.
Laika’s Orbit was a pleasant pop-punk band, more punk than pop, but their melodies and rhythms worked well in being the first band of the night. Leather Daddy, an all female band, growled and thumped causing the crowd in this tiny basement to move around to the absolute limit they could.
Börn, up next, is comprised of 4 members; Alexandra on vocals, Anna Guðný on Guitar, Júlíana on bass, and Fannar on drums. Their riffs remind me of Christian Death and their hard-edged vocals amplify the complex and somewhat forcefully dark energy that erupted from their playing area. There is a lot of energy, Fannar almost knocked the bass drum over twice, Alexandra had to put two cinder blocks in front just to keep it still. There may or may not have been a kick pedal casualty during the set. When they were finished, the crowd politely asked for more, and the they obliged with one more song.
From what I’ve been told, and what I’ve Google translated, their lyrics cry out against the horrible way we treat folks over body image and stereotypes. And they are living proof that no matter what folks think, you can do whatever it is your mind is set to do, and you can do it well.
They still have a few weeks left. I highly suggest you go see them, rock out, and pick up their merch. They have their 7″ single, and a cassette of their long sold out full length album, as well as T-shirts and buttons. I’ve included their U.S. tour poster here; they still have gigs spread out over the U.S.
There will be two different Icelandic acts performing this weekend in Boston. On Saturday the 11th, Ólöf Arnalds will be at the Paradise Rock Club for the sold out Jose Gonzalez / Ólöf Arnalds gig, and GusGus will be performing at the Sinclair on Sunday the 12th. Two completely different genres of Icelandic music in one weekend.
Ólöf Arnalds has one of those voices that translates well over many different types of music. She’s a former member of múm and has collaborated with a good deal of the Icelandic musician populace while finding the time to release 3 of her own albums. This video is from her newest album, Palme:
Við og Við is the album that I was introduced to her by, and it’s a sweet traditional album of what I have always felt were folktales. Her newer albums have taken that sweet traditional style and incorporated unique beats and modern sounds creating an individual style of troubadour-ism, and she’s started to sing in English which is good for us poor souls that, try as we might, can’t seem to get the Icelandic language down. I’ve had the opportunity to see her a few times around Iceland and each time felt as if this was a personal gig for friends hanging out, as if she had just shown up with a guitar and wanted to play, catering to the atmosphere of the individual venue she was at.
She’s playing with another talented singer-songwriter named Jose Gonzalez. Of Argentinian descent, Jose was born and grew up in Sweden. There’s a great cross culture of pop, latin, and northern found in his songs.
Ólöf Arnalds comes from a diversely musical family. She’s the cousin of Ólafur Arnalds, and she’s the sister of Klara Arnalds of Boogie Trouble. And as you know, I am a massive fan of Boogie Trouble. Lucky you if you are going to the gig, it’s going to be a great way to spend a Saturday evening.
GusGus have been around for 20 years now and have 10 albums under their belt, 9 studio albums and one live. It’s an ever evolving beast that has been home for many musicians, including Emilíana Torrini, and Magnús Guðmundsson. It now consists of 3 members, Birgir Þórarinsson, Daniel Ágúst Haraldsson, and Högni Egilsson.
Their albums are all in the wide spectrum of electronic, sometimes moody but mostly energetic tracks that come across well both on album and live. Forever will always hold a special place in my collection, as during the time I lost 200lbs, Forever was one of the most frequently used albums as the beat just happened to run parallel to mine at the gym. While they do have a darker feel occasionally, there’s a high energetic wave-band that flows out of them.
I promise no one will be just standing around Sunday night. I’ve seen them play massive gigs with many people on stage in Iceland as well as dj sets in bar-like atmospheres with only a few of them, and they always put on a fantastic show.
It’s going to be a fantastic weekend of music around Beantown so I suggest you get up and out and do something. There has been a great deal more of Icelandic bands visiting our city, and I hope it continues as it’s been great seeing these folks off the island.