This will be my fifth year at Iceland Airwaves, and every year about this time the excitement sets in. Iceland Airwaves is a unique festival and to a newbie the days of non-stop music, art, and beauty that surrounds them may be intimidating. So here are a few pointers that I find make the experience more enjoyable.
The most important thing to remember is that you are going to enjoy yourself. Iceland is a very laid back place and it’s people most likely will take care of you no matter the situation. Positivity and awareness of the people around you goes a long way, so leave any ego of importance at home. Do your best not to be rude or condescending and remember; thousands of us have just accosted a small island to listen to music so show a smile, be respectful and be grateful to our hosts.
The Icelandic musicians that are performing at Airwaves do so mostly for exposure and to entertain. If you dig something don’t be afraid to tell them after a gig. Also, keep in mind that a lot of the music you hear from the local scene will only be available for purchase in Iceland, don’t hesitate to buy it as you may not get another chance once leaving the island. For me, I like to buy my merchandise at the off-venue gigs during the day so that I don’t have to carry it along with me for the major night performances. Kex hostile will also have a pop-up music market set up where you can find a lot of the music exclusive to Iceland.
While telling the band thank you is always appreciated, nobody likes a stalker. If by some chance you find out where the members of Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men, or The Sugarcubes happen to reside, don’t camp out waiting to catch a glimpse of them peeling an avocado through their kitchen window. Chances are if these guys are around, they want to listen and see the bands playing as well. It’s an island, not a zoo; and they are your concert going peers, not monkeys. So let them enjoy the show as well.
Be Social, chances are you will find yourself waiting in line for a gig, or standing around waiting for a set to begin. Use this time to talk to the people around you. We all have our love for music in common, and talking with someone near you may lead to discoveries of bands you would have never thought to go and hear. Also, there are quite a few after parties and unplanned sets that happen around Reykjavik, being social will make attending these much easier.
Speaking of lines, there will be plenty of them. Make sure to plan your night accordingly and if it is a really popular band I suggest seeing the band scheduled before them at the venue to secure your spot. Also, there is a lot of music going on, if it looks like you’re not going to make it into the show go find another show to attend. With over 200 bands playing there is always something you’ll dig, usually right around the corner.
Explore Reykjavik and Iceland, there are many unique things about Iceland and the city of Reykjavik. For uniqueness, there is the The Icelandic Phallological Museum. I also suggest taking random walks down the side streets as there are a plethora of random murals covering unsuspecting walls around the city, as well as statues, art pieces, and um… bikes with sweaters.
I would suggest picking up the book “Top 10 Reykjavik and Iceland”. The book is authored by one of the most knowledgeable individuals I know in regards to music and the Icelandic culture, Dr. Gunni. It is chock-full of witty advice in regards to things to do and look out for around Reykjavik and Iceland.
Most hotels have access to day trip services and the information center is right next to where you pick up your festival wrist band. One of the most simple trips is the Golden Circle, you will get to see green houses, a geothermal plant, Geyser and the rest of the geysers, fields, horses, the continental divide, Alþingi, and of course, Gullfoss, a gorgeous waterfall that you are able to walk right up to, and sometimes on top of.
Be informed and prepared. The Iceland Airwaves website has everything from the schedule, to a complete list of bands performing. I have loosely sorted, and listed all Icelandic bands that will be at the festival with links to their playlists or websites, and the Reykjavik Grapevine has a blogging site dedicated to Iceland AIrwaves. Also, it’s always a good idea to follow Iceland Airwaves on some type of social media as changes, new information, or updates on things such as the Airwaves App will be coming in the next month.
There is a lot packed into such a little amount of time. Be prepared, be kind, relax and be ready to explore and I promise you the festival will be a lot more enjoyable than you expected. If it’s your first time coming, welcome and have fun. If you have any other questions ask them in the comments and I will do my best to find you an answer.
And for God’s sake, don’t pee on peoples’ lawns, even if the locals are doing it.
That’s what back alleys and the sides of buildings are for, I mean bathrooms