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.