Finally! The biggest party before the winter comedown is less than a
month away. They have weathered the storm like everyone else and have
come out kicking. Now the 11th annual Iceland Airwaves festival,
running October 14th to 18th, is poised to deliver five of the wildest,
most fun, music-filled days of your life. Since its inception in 1999,
the festival has steadily grown, each year featuring a bigger, more
notorious party than the one that preceded it.
The group behind the festival, Mr. Destiny, has always had a rather
modest budget in terms of booking international acts, and even moreso
when it comes to international marketing. According to Egill Tómasson,
artistic director and booker for the festival, their campaign with
Icelandair has been very successful, but their biggest marketing asset
has always been the word of mouth spread by pleased festivalgoers.
Suffering quite a sting from the currency drop over the course of the
last year, Mr. Destiny were never deterred them from their plans.
“There was never any doubt that it would happen,” says Egill. “Last
year, we stood in the eye of the storm and we knew it couldn’t get any
worse. We made it through that, so we can make it through anything.”
As for booking, their situation is tighter than previous festivals, and
they have had to display a lot of pragmatism. Egill tells me they had
no intention of compromising the quality of the music, however there
was a slight shift in focus to go with the local flow, booking
international acts that fit into the current vibe in the city. This was
not the hardest task, since the festival has never gone for the biggest
names or most obvious acts. Thus, festivalgoers should notice that
visiting acts have been selected to fit into what the good people of
Mr. Destiny believe the current Reykjavík music scene to be about.
Don’t fear the unknown
Last year’s Airwaves saw the likes of Crystal Castles, The Mae Shi,
Simian Mobile Disco and Fuck Buttons gracing the headliner list. While
you may not have heard about any of this year’s internationals acts,
you’ll likely be writing home about them. With regards to the sceptics
who fear the festival is less exciting than years past, Egill has one
word for them: research. “Once we have announced the line up, just
check it out,” he says. “There are always sceptics, but there are
always hidden treasures within the line up. Just do your research and
you will find your own gem.” This year’s festival will thus likely
please active blog-diggers with all the buzzworthy bands set to play.
After all, the festival’s focus has always been the Icelandic scene and
Egill says he currently feels it is stronger than ever. There are
between 130 and 150 local acts booked to play this year’s festival and
they feel that even if they had no internationals, the festival would
feel different, but the Icelandic bands would pull it off on their own
easily. “It’s their home turf, and this weekend they go full on,” says
Egill about the local talent. “Those groups make up around 600 people,
which is a good base to start the party. Then you have all these crazy
foreigners coming in, looking for some good music, and it just
The festival draws in a large number of international attendants,
making the crowd a somewhat even mix of locals and foreigners. Kerstin
Ganzemueller, travel and artist relations manager at Mr. Destiny, says
that festival attendants often become infatuated with the event, coming
time and time again. They describe their audiences as fun loving,
thinking music fans—folks who are more proactive with their music and
involved in discovering new artists. For this reason, Egill sees music
piracy as a positive thing, especially with regards to younger people.
What truly sets the festival apart, according to Egill and Kerstin, is
how compact the whole event is. Apart from their legendary Blue Lagoon
hangover party, the entire thing takes places smack dab in 101, with
venues barely steps away from each other, so one never has to move far
to cover a lot of ground and see all the shows.
But Wait, There’s More
The weathered Airwaves vet can expect a few new things on the menu this
year, such as the comeback of some old venues that haven’t been used in
a while, and a bunch of altogether new ones. These new venues may not
have very large capacity, but they will certainly give the overall
festival more grounded surface. Festivalgoers will also be happy to
know that Prikið’s Rock & Bacon breakfast, ongoing throughout the
event, will be starting at 7:00am this year. Definitely eat a yummy,
greasy breakfast and kill your hangover after partying on Saturday
night, because this year is going to close with a big bang. On Sunday
night, which has been fairly low key in the past, they plan to throw
the party to end all parties. See you there.
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