Iceland Airwaves is, by and large, located in downtown Reykjavík. For first-timers, part of the fun whirlwind of the festival comes from discovering the variety of venues on offer, whether it’s wandering into a quaint wooden-floored music hall, marvelling at a high-ceilinged cinema with long spotlights and a huge backdrop, going dizzy looking up at Harpa’s mirrored lobby ceiling, or finding yourself jumping up and down in a cramped and dingy club.
Also, you might occasionally find that a concert you were planning on seeing is full. It’s no fun queueing in nasty weather, and if there’s nothing circled on your schedule or starred in your app, it can be worth taking a punt on a venue you haven’t been to yet, just to check it out. So here’s a handy guide to some of the places you might find yourself drinking, dancing and hangover-haunting over Airwaves week.
Warming Up With An Early Show
Different venues have staggered starting times this year. Whilst some might be pacing themselves at home until a strategic moment, there’ll also be plenty who are raring to go. On Wednesday night, NASA opens proceedings with Tómas Jónsson at 19:10. Thursday, EinarIndra starts the ball rolling at Kaldalón at 19:20. Everything starts at 20:00 on Friday, but we recommend seeing KRELD at Reykjavík Art Museum. On Saturday, unless you have a Björk ticket, both rooms of Valhöllin start at 19:30, and there’s music there from 19:10 on Sunday.
Hide From The Weather In Harpa
Harpa is the glittering jewel in the crown of Reykjavík’s music venues. All four of its spaces will be used for Airwaves: the grand seated concert hall of Eldborg, the multi-purpose concert room of Norðurljós, the massive Silfurberg, and the dark and cosy Kaldalón theatre. You can wander between the rooms pretty easily, checking out different bands and bumping into others doing just the same thing. If it’s shitting down with rain, it could be a smart choice.
Catch An Icelandic Headliner At Gamla Bíó
One of the things that makes Airwaves is unusual is the degree to which it draws on local acts. As such, Airwaves celebrates Iceland’s grassroots scene as much as the big-name headliners. The cavernous theatre venue Gamla Bíó has a stellar range of closing acts each night, all of them Icelandic. On Wednesday, it’s the brand new all-star choir Kórus; on Thursday it’s alt-pop maestro Sin Fang; on Friday you get the 80s-retro double-header of Berndsen and Hermigervill, and on Saturday it’s the turn of explosive electro-pop band SYKUR.
Stop For A Pick-Me-Up At Gaukurinn
Gaukurinn is a classic grimy Reykjavík rock venue. While it hosts many fine bands year-in, year-out, there’s rarely a queue to get in. So if you’re running between venues or find yourself stuck in the queue at popular party spot Húrra, you could drop by for a beer from their selection of Icelandic brews, or see which Icelandic liquorice shot you prefer from rival brands Opal and Tópas. And who knows, you might get converted to a new band, too.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All: Fríkirkjan, Mengi, NASA and Eldborg
Many of the most popular festival venues, such as the beautiful wooden concert hall Iðnó, Reykjavík Art Museum and the Húrra party bar, are open every night. But with others, you only get one chance. MENGI is a tiny, tucked-away concert space that’s in the official programme for the first time, and will host two intimate performances by sóley on Thursday evening. Fríkirkjan is a beautiful church venue that’s only open on Saturday night, for a blockbuster bill of Árstaðir, Mugison and Ólafur Arnalds. Harpa’s Eldborg hall is an impressive space that’ll host three shows for which you’ll need a extra ticket, by múm, Björk and Bedroom Community. Finally, classic Reykjavík concert hall NASA has a full programme—but it’s scheduled to be torn down in the near future. So see it while you can.
Posted October 26, 2016