Monthly Archives: October 2014

Iceland Affair 2014


There are times in life when the elements align themselves just right, and the blood sweat and tears of someone creating their dream shines through the end product in such a way that one can’t help but be moved.  That is what happened this past weekend in a beautifully autumn colored town in middle-of-nowhere Connecticut.

This was the 5th year for Iceland Affair, an all day festival consisting of daytime lectures, Icelandic horses, goats, falcons, A lot of Icelandic food, and coffee mugs, let’s not forget the coffee mugs. All of this followed by an Icelandic concert at the very homey and cozy Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT.


Gerri Griswald is the lady behind Iceland affair, and once you’ve come within 50 feet of her, you can’t help but get swept up with her charming personality, glacier-sized determination and outpouring of love to everyone and everything that helps her put this on year over year. Speaking with her can’t be done without 90% of what’s audible being laughs.  And the sincere love she has for what she’s doing is beyond impressive.

Arriving at the festival I was greeted by people riding Icelandic horses, Lopopeysas (Icelandic sweaters) and other Icelandic merchandise for sale out on the front lawn.  Downstairs from the lectures there were free pylsurs (Icelandic hotdogs), dried fish, and very tasty cakes.  Upstairs from the dining hall, and merch tables was the lecture hall.

Unfortunately due to scheduling and life, I arrived at the festival later in the afternoon, and was only able to hear the last half of Dr. Gunni’s lecture on the history of pop music. Along with other tidbits of Music life in Iceland, Dr. Gunni’s presentation followed his book, Blue Eyed pop, with audio/visual aids and a Q&A with the audience directly afterwards.  A browse around the merchandise, fantastic cake, and a few pylsurs later and off to the concert I went.

flags The concert was at the Infinity hall in Norfolk, CT.  It’s a cozy ornamental building, and the concert hall’s warm woodwork really played into what would be a cozy, intimate gathering.  On their way to their seats, the crowd was given Icelandic flags, and told to wave it during applause as a surprise to the musicians on stage.

I’ve spoken about the ability Icelanders have of including the crowd in their performance.  And Agnes ErnaSnorri Helgason, Svavar Knútur, Lay LowMyrra Rós, Kristjana Stefánsdóttir,  and Bjorn Thoroddsen. fulfilled and exceeded any expectations in that regard as they chatted, joked with, and shared laughs with everyone on or off the stage.  It was a collaborative effort as the musicians took turns at front stage while being supported by the others, all ending with Dr. Gunni’s fart song and a special two-toned tutu wearing host belting out an old classic with the rest of the band.  I also should mention that drums were mostly handled by Myrra’s husband Júlíus, I unfortunately did not catch his last name.

By the end of the concert, the crowd was completely on their feet singing loudly and waving flags furiously, and it seemed that neither the musicians nor the audience wanted it to end, so the party headed downstairs where the musicians talked with and autographed Icelandic flags for people. the lingering about and business of the downstairs made it evident, nobody was in a hurry to leave.

Plans are in the works for next years event, and I would highly suggest you check it out by following the Iceland Affair facebook page throughout the year.  She tends to post videos or updates on the bands that have played, as well as updates on the festival itself.

I have to say that I am glad me and my label got to do our small part to help out on this festival, it’s truly a labor of love for Gerri, and the quality, attitude, and atmosphere created a charming night I won’t soon forget.  I’m already looking forward to seeing what she comes up with for next year.


Tips for Iceland Airwaves 2014

Entire Harpa audience on the ground

Entire Harpa audience on their knees at FM Belfast

Another year, another Iceland Airwaves.  It’s time again for one of my favorite music festivals of the year.   Me, you, and approximately 9,000 other festival ticket holders will be invading the city of Reykjavik for 5 days of non-stop music, art and beauty surrounded by amazing scenery and  unique culture.  I’ve revised my list of pointers I’ve gathered over the years, and here they be:

The first and probably best tip I can give you is that Positivity and awareness of the people around you goes a long way.  Iceland can be quite laid back, and while there typically is no rush, its people will do their best to help you in most any situation. It’s a small island, and there really isn’t room for ego’s or entitlements so do your best not to be rude or condescending.  if something is taking longer than usual or needs a little tinkering to be just right, just breathe and remember that 9,000+ of us just landed on the island and the folks helping us out are most likely doing their best. Getting cross or yelling at people will get you absolutely nowhere.

Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!, there are over 200 bands playing in a matter of 5 days. Learn you stuff before you even land, make primary plans as well as back up plans in the event you can’t get into the primary gigs you want to see. Spotify has an Airwaves playlist, the Iceland Airwaves website has details on all the bands with links to their music, as well as an app where you can browse bands, create schedules, and let your friends know where you are.

I have a page dedicated to the Iceland Artists loosely sorted by genres. There is going to be a lot of new music you haven’t heard, and getting a head start on previewing it will make for a broader, more musically expanding experience.   There is a free English newspaper in Iceland called the Grapevine.  They always put out a detailed Airwaves issue, and I suggest you get that as well.

Pétur Ben at an off-venue gig at Kex Hostel

Pétur Ben at an off-venue gig at Kex Hostel

There are a lot of Off-venue gigs as well, over 600 of them this year at 44 different spots around the city. Off-venues are shorter daytime gigs the bands put on in coffee houses, hostels, and other gathering places around the city. You don’t need a festival wristband to get into them, so if you are planning on seeing someone, it’s always a good idea to get there early as it’s first come first serve for the whole city.


Be Social, chances are you will find yourself waiting in a queue for a gig, or standing around waiting for a band to begin. Use that 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. It took me a few years to get used to this, and a few of my Icelandic friends are always commenting that I need to be more social. The key advantage to being social is that there are quite a few after-parties and unplanned sets that happen around Reykjavik, being social will make attending these much easier for you.

If you really like a band, buy their merch at the festival. A lot of times you won’t be able to purchase it, or have to pay huge shipping costs otherwise.  Reykjavik is home to two of my favorite record shops, 12 Tónar and Lucky Records.  So make sure to include browsing these shops in your itinerary for the festival.  And be on the lookout for small-ish merch booths at the different gigs you attend.

It looks like a wabbit

It looks like a wabbit

Be a tourist, at least for a day. Iceland is gorgeous, there is a reason everyone freaks out about the volcanic valleys and waterfalls. Make sure to take some time to tour around. The Golden circle tour may seem to be too “touristy” but it’s not. It spans a great deal of distance, and the guides are chock-full of information.  It can all be done during the day so you can return in time for the night festivities no problem. One of my favorite new Icelandic travel blogs is I heart Reykjavik.  She has a very sweet and informative online presence, her Facebook page is entertaining and informative, and she offers daily walking tours around Reykjavik.  Be quick to reserve as she sells out rather quickly, I’ve yet to work one of her tours into my schedule when I’m there, but I’ve had plenty of people tell me how much they loved her.

And finally, It’s possible you may run into some of your favorite mythical Icelandic band members.  While telling the band thank you is typically appreciated, or casually chatting about this or that while in a queue, nobody likes a stalker.  Chasing them down the street screaming, or camping out waiting to catch a glimpse of avocados being peeled or coffee being consumed is just creepy and not the norm in Iceland.  It will make for really awkward situations, 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, show up relaxed and ready to mingle, do your homework on what you want to see, and explore, this is the gist of it. It’s a fantastic festival put on by awesome folks.  I’ve yet to hear anyone ever say they won’t be trying their hardest to return the next year.

You can read about my previous re-caps of Iceland Airwaves here.  And you can see my photos from Last year’s festival here.  See you there!