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.
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.
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.