As well as covering festivals in our own backyard, we’ve also been doing a bit of globetrotting at Soundsphere this year – and we’re not done yet. We’re excited heading over to Reykjavik for the annual Iceland Airwaves music festival – here’s a run-down of the reasons why we’re getting hyped for one of the coolest music showcases on earth (and we mean ‘coolest’ both literally and figuratively).
1) Excellent International Artists
Throughout its existence, Iceland Airwaves has managed to pull in some great international artists, and this year is no different. The line-up boasts three Mercury Prize nominees in Savages, Jon Hopkins and Villagers, as well as further UK acts in the form of Gold Panda, AlunaGeorge, Stealing Sheep, Young Fathers and Money. From across the pond, there are big US names such as Midlake, Yo La Tengo, John Grant and Zola Jesus, and a healthy contingent of Canadian artists, lead by Fucked Up and also including up-and-comers such as METZ, No Joy, Moon King and DIANA.
But the festival’s international appeal doesn’t end end there – there’s tropical alt-rock from Australia’s Jagwar Ma, hypnotic, hyperactive middle-eastern dance music from Syria’s Omar Souleyman, and artists from as far and wide as France (Lescop), Estonia (Jakob Juhkam Band), and Luxembourg (Sun Glitters). Scandinavian artists also feature heavily on the bill, with the likes of Goat and Anna Von Hausswolff from Sweden, MØ and Baby In Vain from Denmark, Electric Eye and Young Dreams from Norway amongst those appearing. Even the Faeroe Islands gets a look-in, with Marius Ziska, Eivør Pálsdóttir and Byrta shining a light on a country you might not even have known to have a music scene.
Oh, and a little group from Germany called Kraftwerk are closing out the festival with a concert at Harpa on Sunday 3rd November. This show will be in demand, so if you’ve already got your Airwaves ticket then check out how to get yourself a ticket for the Kraftwerk show here.
2) The Best In Icelandic Talent
You’ve no doubt heard of Björk and Sigur Rós, and you’ve probably noticed the meteoric rise of Of Monsters And Men in recent months, but there’s much more great Icelandic music to be discovered – and Airwaves is probably the best place to do it. From the glacial, Björk-meets Fever Ray electronica of Samaris to six-piece party monster FM Belfast, there’s an incredible variety of bands in Iceland. You may well notice artists performing in more than one band over the weekend – FM Belfast drummer Borko shows a completely different side to his character with his stately, melancholy solo material, while spellbinding singer-songwriter Sóley also plays with Sin Fang, who has been referred to as “the Icelandic Beck.” Other acts you should keep an eye out for include ultra-talented neo-classical composer Ólafur Arnalds, infectious afro-poppers Retro Stefson, up-and-coming electro-folk artist Ásgeir, the fragile, beautiful sounds of Rökkuró, and the epic experimental rock of Múm. And if none of that sounds like your bag, that’s ok, for this festival has plenty more to offer…
3) Something For Everyone
With around 200 acts playing this year’s festival, the prospect of choosing which bands to watch may be a little daunting. Fortunately, Airwaves has a helpful habit of scheduling similar bands throughout the evening in many of its venues – have a look at their schedule and you’ll see what I mean. Into rock and heavy metal? Then check out Harpa Norðurljós on Thursday, Amsterdam on Thursday and Saturday, and Hressó on Friday. Fancy some experimental music? There’s an entire evening of it in Harpa Kaldalón on Wednesday. Kaldalón also hosts an evening of singer-songwriters and poetry on Thursday, and will then continue to showcase artists along the quieter, more thoughtful end of the spectrum throughout the weekend. Dance music fans are also well-provided for, with Harlem pretty much dedicated to all styles of electronic music from Wednesday through to Saturday. There’s even an entire evening of Icelandic hip-hop and rap artists in Gamli Gaukurinn on Thursday – so whatever your preferred genres of music are, Iceland Airwaves has you covered.
4) The Off-Venue Schedule
Perhaps one of the best things about Airwaves is the off-venue program, which sees bands take to bars, cafes, hostels, hotels and more besides to fill the entirety of Reykjavik with music throughout the day and into the night. The schedule has yet to be announced (it should be ready some time in mid-October), but it will feature 30 venues and over 400 performances throughout the 5 days of the festival – it can be the perfect opportunity to see a band you may otherwise have missed, catch your favourite artist in an unusual, intimate setting, or even just an opportunity to stumble upon something new while you’re having lunch or wandering around town. And the best part is that these shows are open to anyone, so even if you don’t have an Airwaves wristband, you can still join in the fun.
5) Reykjavik Itself
It’s also worth pointing out that part of the attraction of Airwaves is visiting the city of Reykjavik as well – it may be cold during the Icelandic winter, but the locals will give you a warm welcome. All the festival venues are within 10-15 minutes walk of each other, meaning you generally won’t have to go far to get your next music fix – and that’s to say nothing of the various restaurants, bars, shops, museums, churches and other landmarks you can spend your time visiting while in the city. It’s also a good base for taking excursions around the wider area – we’d recommend doing the Golden Circle route if you have the time, as it’s a good way to see the wilds of Iceland and some spectacular landmarks, including the stunning Gullfoss waterfall. The famous Blue Lagoon is only a short coach trip out of Reykjavik too – it’s the perfect place to go relax after a long night’s partying, and this year it will actually serve as an off-venue for Airwaves in its own right too.
Tickets for this year’s Iceland Airwaves are sold out, but at the time of writing you can still squeeze in via a package deal from Icelandair. Iceland Airwaves takes place from 30th October to 3rd November – for more information about the festival, visit the official website.