From Iceland — WTF ICELAND AIRWAVES!?: Advice For Getting Through Your First (Or Fifth!) Festival Experience

WTF ICELAND AIRWAVES!?: Advice For Getting Through Your First (Or Fifth!) Festival Experience

Published September 16, 2012

WTF ICELAND AIRWAVES!?: Advice For Getting Through Your First (Or Fifth!) Festival Experience

Dear Grapevine,

I’ve been looking forward to Airwaves for ages. I got my ticket, a nice package flight, and am trying to get intimate with the bill beyond Sigur Rós and the few local acts I’ve heard of. What’s the best way to do that? Sorting through all those bands is a bit of a task, no?

Almost Festival Ready


Dear AFR,

A bit of a task? You bet it is! Oh man, that is the understatement of the year. I’ll be honest with you darling – the Grapevine staff are nipples deep in this local music stuff 24/7/365 and even WE find it challenging to keep up and get orientated once the full line-up is announced! It can be overwhelming.

Luckily, the good folks at Iceland Airwaves and the Grapevine are here to help! The official festival site has a super-direct artist page where you can quickly browse through everyone playing the festival. Meanwhile from yours truly you’ll get interviews, videos, bios, songs, and all kinds of other goodies. These websites will be your salvation! Go check out the line-up and just scroll through, keeping your eyes focused on bands with no bracketed foreign country initials. I don’t know how you litmus test bands before hearing them; maybe you’ll like their names, or their looks, or the cool photography? Of course, the best thing to do is just to click and listen to the sampler tracks and pick out what you do and don’t like. This would be a really fun thing to do on the plane ride over!

Also, as every year, we will be publishing the official Iceland Airwaves artist guide with handy little descriptions and full schedule listings. That is super helpful too.

The best thing you could do once you’ve landed, gotten settled and ready to get some experience would be to hit the town, talk to some locals and get their suggestions that may match your taste. And most importantly, whatever you do, don’t ever leave a gig because you don’t know the band that’s on next – you just might see or hear the best show of your life!


Dear Grapevine,

Airwaves: wondering what clothes to bring. Is Iceland cold in November?

Northern Exposure


Dear Northern,

Although in many ways, Iceland’s weather is completely inconsistent, unpredictable and ever-changing, there is one certain fact: it is a hideous psycho monster. More often than not you’re wishing you were wearing more or less or different shoes or a better coat. You can try as hard as you like, but most of the time you just can’t win.

The truth is you really have two options, depending on your need for style and your need for comfort and practicality. If the latter is your primary concern, then get yourself some nice weather-proof boots (Docs and Timberlands are always foolproof) and lots of light, warm, waterproof clothing. If the former is on your mind, then bring two or three mix-and-match outfits of your best party wear and fashion finery, suck it up that they may not recover in dry-cleaning and try not to spill that Jager-bomb on yourself.

That being said, you can’t go wrong with the basic principle of layering. No matter what the final result of the look is, that seems to flow through every style and scene and fashion trend around here. Layers. Yes.


Dear Grapevine,

How long do the shows go on? And when do they start? Are there parties after?

Party Animal


Dear Animal,

Triple-whammy WTF! Let’s deal with the shows first.

This is a tough one because there are so many things to depend on to answer each of these: venue, day of the week, number of acts, etc. Also, there is a ridiculously massive schedule of off-venue programming that will mostly take place in the afternoons and evenings in just about every nook and cranny in the city!

For the official programming, a good rule of thumb to follow is that most venues start the gigs at 20:00. On Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday gigs should end by 1:00, and on Friday and Saturday they could last until 3:00 or 4:00. As for individual sets, that also depends on a lot of stuff, but usually no less than 40 solid minutes. Anyway, all these details are now available on the official festival schedule found right here:

As for after-parties… I hesitate to confess or speak too explicitly to any knowledge of after-parties or of my own involvement in them, but I can confirm that yes. People party on and on and on til the break of non-dawn and keep it going all night long. (Sorry, didn’t mean to start rapping. I just realised it’s the anniversary of 2-Pac’s death. RIP.) All I can say is be cool, be social, don’t be too clingy or aggressive about it and people will bring you to where the parties are at. And if you see one that’s spilled out onto the street after hours, just crash it. As long as you’re there to have fun, and if you brought some extra booze, you’ll be more than welcome.


Dear Grapevine,

I’m staying at an Airbnb in a place that’s supposed to be central, in Laugardalur (post code 104). How long of a walk is it from downtown? Are there buses to get back? Or taxis? How much would they be?

A Little Lost


Dear ALL,

I got some lousy news for you: your Airbnb is not really central at all. In fact, it’s a good two post codes east of what is truly considered central, 101 Reykjavík. It’s a lovely neighbourhood, but it’s a bit of a hike.

Bus service is fine in the day, but for getting back at night after shows, don’t even think about it. There are taxis but as you may have presumed, they are quite pricy and actually pretty scarce. Plus, they will be in high demand and hard to catch and then with all the traffic you might end up paying like, 3000 ISK! It’s crazy. If you meet someone who tells you they are a designated driver for the night, befriend them immediately.

Then again, you can just walk it too. Assuming that you’re strapping and healthy and possess far better stamina than the Grapevine’s team of chain-smoking-alcoholic writers, you should have no problem trotting this on foot in about a half hour. If you fall under a lifestyle more similar to ours, then it might be more like an hour (including pee and pass-out breaks) but it’s a very pretty walk. It’s also a very nice neighbourhood that is super close to the biggest pool in Reykjavík and to the concert hall where Sigur Rós will play the big closing event of the festival! Not too shabby!


Are you coming over for Airwaves and looking for some protip guidance? Send your questions to!

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