London record label moshi moshi has been involved with Iceland Airwaves for ten years, hosting a stage and bringing bands like Hot Chip, Dirty Projectors, Florence & The Machine, Metronomy and Fuck Buttons to Reykjavík. We asked label boss Stephen Bass to tell us the story of how it all got started and share some memorable moments from the festival.
I pretty much fell in love with Iceland and Iceland Airwaves the first time I came to the festival in 2002. My memories are scant. In my defence, it was a long time ago, and I must have gotten over-excited at some point, but I do remember seeing Apparat Organ Quartet play a brilliant show and I can also specifically remember the first time I ever tasted Jägermeister in the posh seats under the stairs at Kaffibarinn—ahh, the sweet, sweet nectar.
Two years later, after much email arm-twisting and a further visit to the festival—and, I imagine, a lot more Jäger—we had managed to persuade the festival to have Hot Chip along for the ride. We did a bit more blagging and managed to get them to play a daytime show at 12 Tónar, which turned out to be a total roadblock. It was a steamy-windowed trailer-load of fun and after a mention on the Icelandic news, the official showcase was a triumph. The next year we came back and a picture of a topless Al Doyle seemed to be plastered over most of Reykjavík.
Over the years, we have had an indecent amount of fun at the festival. There was one year when we were hosting a moshi moshi night at the Art Museum and someone at the festival had decided it was a good idea to provide us and the bands with our own cocktail bar in the backstage area… needless to say we were never afforded this luxury again and, to be honest, I was surprised we were ever even allowed back again. Things escalated, and it ended up in an ice-fight which left the dressing rooms looking like a pound shop ice hotel. Sorry—it is belated, but I think we should apologise.
The much missed Sirkus was another highlight each year, with the test of how many of our bands we could get in after the show, and lots of fun dancing like crazy to President Bongo’s legendary DJ sets. One exciting moment was on returning to London post-Airwaves and straight away heading to the rebuilt Sirkus at the Frieze Art Fair, complete with the moshi moshi after-party poster in the window, Ghostigital playing live and Sigga serving behind the bar. This remains one of the more surreal moments of my life.
In the years when we stayed in Iceland until the Sunday night of the festival (on at least one occasion I deliberately missed my plane just so I could do this), the unofficial closing party at Kaffibarinn felt like the best nightclub ever. We mostly had great times with the many bands we brought over, including the first show I ever saw Metronomy play, and memorable sets with TEED, Fuck Buttons, Dirty Projectors, Architecture in Helsinki and tUnE-yArDs. But there was one band who sadly went down like a brick in a swimming pool, which was the at the time hotly-tipped but unrehearsed French band The Teenagers. I think I’m still getting a ribbing from the festival bookers for that to this day.
On top of these memories, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of great shows from Icelandic bands… Jóhann Jóhanssonn in Hallgrímskirkja, Benni Hemm Hemm at the National Theatre of Iceland, The Funerals at a house party, and every single GusGus show ever.
Visit the moshi moshi stage at IÐNÓ on Friday November 9th, when Stephen will DJ after performances by Rhythm Method, Charles Watson, Girl Ray and Flamingods. Tickets are on sale now.