Since 2004, April means one thing for the people of the Westfjords: the Aldrei Fór Ég Suður music festival.
Named after the Bubbi Morthens song of the same name, the name translates to “I never went south.” The festival is in Ísafjörður, a picturesque Westfjords town almost as far as one can get from the South Iceland tourist trail. What started off as a one-night concert has grown into a four-day extravaganza with off-venue events and concerts spanning until Sunday, April 22.
Just last month, the festival won the Music Event of the Year prize at the 2018 Icelandic Music Awards. “We’re all really proud of it,” says Kristján Fr. Halldórsson, one of the festival’s organisers. “We love doing what we do—and doing this for fifteen years has been a privilege. We share the award with the almost 350 bands who’ve played the festival, our great sponsors, and the people of the mighty Westfjords.”
Small town awakening
Aldrei Fór Ég Suður festival was founded in 2003 by a ragtag bunch of Ísafjörður locals who thought it would be fun to bring musicians to perform way up north during the winter. Sixteen years later, it has grown into something far greater than a lark.
“It’s a big reward for us to have people visiting from Reykjavík, who’ve maybe never visited other parts of Iceland aside from Kópavogur,” says Kristján.
Indeed, the event proves that you don’t have to stay in the capital to experience a great party. Locals love the event—the town of Ísafjörður is grateful to the festival for putting it on the map, there’s even a street named after it.
Now held each year over the Easter long weekend, Aldrei coincides with the annual Ísafjörður skiing festival. The musical weekend goes hand in hand with a skiing adventure for many Icelandic families, creating a unique and celebratory atmosphere.
“The people here are very generous and good hosts,” says Kristján. “Everybody is so helpful and willing to do stuff for the festival. We aren’t a group of 20 people any more—we’re a group of 3,500 people, all working to build up a good music festival for the whole family.”
When asked which performer he looks forward to the most, Kristján says he’s excited about every act. “I’ve seen them all, and they’re brilliant. But to mention just one—I’d have to say Salóme Katrín. It will be her first stadium concert, with a big band. She is a super talent and we can’t wait to see her perform.”
This year’s musical line-up also includes Jónas Sig—a party brass musician with political lyrical undertones—and JóiPé X Króli, the young hip-hop stars of the moment.
Rap to rock to black metal
The varied line-up also includes Todmobile, a legendary Icelandic pop band that began in 1988, and Auðn, a black metal band that burst onto the scene in 2015. Breakout indie rockers Mammút will also be performing.
“We don’t expect people to know every artist, because it’s a blend of music,” Kristján says. “But every band gets a wonderful reception.”
So if you’re in need of a snowy break from the city, make tracks for Ísafjörður this Easter—and don’t forget your skis.
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