Tag Archives: pointers

8 Tips for Iceland Airwaves

It’s that time again, time for my favorite festival Iceland Airwaves.  This year they’ve brought back the original feel and are using more independent venues throughout the city.  It means more movement and walking, but also means you get to see a lot of bands in unique spots.  You can learn more about those venues at the Reykjavik Grapevine.

5 days of music spread all over the city can sound intimidating, but if you go in with a game plan and you’re prepared you’ll be amazed at how smooth things will go for you.

I highly suggest you follow these three pages on Social Media.  Iceland Airwaves page will give you the quickest updates and information on bands.  IMX is an awesome source for finding out the history of bands, and they also shoot out information on tours and new music to look for.  And the Reykjavik Grapevine is an English language newspaper, in an informal sometimes snarky manner they discuss the happenings around Iceland and you can gain more knowledge on things to do while you’re visiting.  They typically put out a special Iceland Airwaves edition, as well as run a blog during the festival dedicated to Airwaves.

Iceland Airwaves Iceland Music Reykjavik Grapevine
IA17 imxfacebook grapevinelogo

And with that, here are some pointers on prepping and enjoying the festival:

  • Follow the three social media sites above for quick access to changing info
  • Be relaxed, flexible, and social
  • Be prepared
  • Be a tourist, in and outside the city
  • Respect the land, yourself, the people, and your fellow festival folks
  • Support the artists, buy their music
  • Food, alcohol and favorite people & places
  • Have fun

Be Relaxed, Be Social

Combining the normal tourist activity with over 7500 festival folks makes Reykjavik a busy busy city.  Relaxation is key to enjoying yourself.  You may have to wait a little longer for drinks/coffee/food/entrance into a venue, so just relax and breath in the fresh air.  Be social, if you’re stuck in a line chances are you’re stuck with people of like mind, so don’t be afraid to ask your queue cohorts why they are there, what bands they’ve seen, who they are going to see and why.  There are quite a few unannounced gigs that will be going on around the city, and being social is the only way you’re going to find out about them.

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dj. flugvél og geimskip surprising the audience by performing with Dr. Gunni at Airwaves 2015

There is a lot of music, a good deal you may have never heard of.  Listening to the Spotify link  and/or checking out the page I’ve created of Icelandic bands playing are both extremely easy ways to begin prepping for the festival, and most likely you’ll find bands you never knew you couldn’t live without hearing live.

The Airwaves crew have done an ace job of making it easy for you to plan ahead and navigate these different venues with an app which is available now.  Make sure you download it so you can start putting together a game plan.  You should always have a plan A and plan B, so if the venue you’re trying to see a gig at is full you can quickly move on to your second choice.  The app will save you a lot of time with maps, time schedules, alerts and reminders of upcoming gigs.  It really will keep you on schedule, or help you alter your schedule in seconds.

Be a tourist, in and out of the city

touring

Nobody needs to tell you, but Iceland is gorgeous, so make sure you take some time to enjoy it. whether it’s just walking around Reykjavik looking at all the murals and art, or taking daytrips, get out and experience Iceland, there are plenty of options.  Here are a few of my favorites:

IHR

I Heart RVK

I heart Reykjavik is a fantastic walking tour company that will take you around Reykjavik discussing it’s history and unique attributes.

They book up quickly, so I would suggest trying to reserve a spot now.  It’s especially nice during Airwaves as there will be more music in the streets than usual while you walk around learning about old famous hangouts, and the history of the capital city.

otwiOn tour with Ívar is a new walking tour I’m really hoping to make it to this year.  Ívar Pétur is in the legendary party band FM Belfast, and this tour is his way of sharing a local’s perspective.  You’ll see the not well known side of Reykjavik, eat some food, drink some drinks, and hang out with Ívar and friends.  Reviews that I’ve read make it seem more like a day out with your very knowledgeable friends.

icelandicpunk

The Icelandic Punk Museum opened last year during Iceland Airwaves with Johnny Rotten in attendance.  Located in an abandoned Women’s public toilet in the center of downtown, the history of punk music is written on the wall in both Iceland and English.  Once entering, you can stroll through the toilet stalls reading a chronological account of the advancement of punk in Iceland.  Written by Dr. Gunni of legendary bands Bless, S.H. Draumer, Unun, and author of Iceland’s most comprehensive English music history book, Blue eyed pop.  Across from the historical toilets are instruments, clothing and other interactive exhibits.  It’s well worth a visit

Also check with your hotels, or the tourist office located in the city center.   there are plenty of day trips to take you to see waterfalls, geysers, and the gorgeous landscapes of Iceland outside of the city.

Respect the island and it will respect you Built on multiple volcanoes with lava in its veins, The island may try to kill you if you give it the chance.  Just be aware of your surroundings, footing, and the weather.  Common sense goes a long way, and Icelanders fully believe folks should use said common sense.  Have a good time not an out of control painful time. There’s a lot to do and even the half day you spend recovering from the night before will result in you missing a lot.

Pay attention to warnings about weather and areas not to tread in.  Unlike the East coast where we cancel school over the mere hint of snow, the Icelanders rarely give out warnings unless they need to.

Lucky

Lucky Records

Support the artists, purchase their music while you’re there.  There is a lot of music you won’t find off the island, or if you do it’ll cost crazy shipping.  So purchase it while you’re visiting.  Iceland has some amazing record shops, Lucky Records, 12 Tónar, and Reykjavik Record shop are the ones I’m most familiar with.  All ran by folks who love music, and love talking about music, you’ll also find a lot of off-venue gigs will be at these places.

Food and favorite places.  There are a lot of solid places for quick bites or sit down meals.  And there is the Bónus grocery store in the event you want to grab your own stockpile of munchies.  I tend to go for the lighter side of things such as the Noodle Station or Núðluskálin.  Noodle Station is your quick simple three option noodle place, good for warming you up and filling yer gullet quickly and cheaply.

Núðluskálin gives you more options, including spice level.  “Noodles in a fen number 6” just so happens to be my favorite noodle dish in Iceland and required at least once when I’m visiting.  

Vegetarians and vegans also have quite a few places to check out.  Gló and Kaffi Vinyl are my two favorite places.

For a very quick simple fix, there is also the famous Pylsurs (hot dog).   the famous “Clinton” stand down by the Reykjavik art museum.  Cheap, and they are good. 

Bars are plentiful in the city, and the prices only slightly vary.  There will be bands or DJ’s playing in most of them.  During the week the bars close at 1 or 2am, but on the weekend the bars will be open until 4.   Find a bar with the atmosphere you dig and have at it.  Alcohol purchased at the liquor store is taxed pretty heavily.   I suggest picking up a bottle of wine or spirits at the duty free shop while you wait for your baggage, It will be considerably cheaper that way.

And finally, the most important factor, have fun.  Don’t get too wrapped up in details, maps, or must sees.  You are going to experience one of the most unique festivals in the world, and you’re going to do it with northern lights above your head.  If you have any specific questions, don’t hesitate to comment below, or send me a Facebook message at Ragnaarbastiaan. Follow me on Facebook for photos of the festival, as I’ll be up there snapping away.

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Tips for Iceland Airwaves 2015

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.

Wall Poetry:

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

socialmedia

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!

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

touring

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.

IHRIf 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.

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!