From Iceland — The Insider's Guide To Iceland Airwaves

The Insider’s Guide To Iceland Airwaves

Published September 18, 2012

The Insider’s Guide To Iceland Airwaves

We ask the people in the know on the inside track of Iceland Airwaves, so now you know too!


So you’ve decided to take the plunge and book your ticket for this year’s Airwaves. You’ve been stocking up on your Icelandic phrasebooks and re-listening to your Sigur Rós records to prepare. So far so good. But how do you know the right places to be seen? How will you know the perfect bar to have some shots with the Retro Stefson kids (who are out suspiciously much)? Where is the best place to get some cheap food? And who do you turn to if you have the need to acquire guns, drugs, midgets, or cat urine?

Well fear no more, because while we at the Grapevine are way too uncool and straight edge to know these things, we do know some people who can give you the skinny on what you should do to have the Airwaves of your life.

We got UK music management maestro, magazine maven (and not at all scary dude judging by his photo), NICK KNOWLES to tell y’all all about what to take with you to Iceland, getting a feel for the city, and how to make friends with a bunch of inebriated Nordic folks (it ain’t hard).

If this is you first Iceland Airwaves: Airwaves is a very hip festival, reflecting its ludicrously fashionable and good looking local population. Airwaves is also city festival, so leave your sensible clothes at home—although a little chilly it’s not as cold as you think it’ll be. Bring your most stylish threads and dress impressively. Also, don’t forget those swimming togs. Even if you’ve missed out on tickets for the legendary Blue Lagoon party, you should check out one of the outdoor pools that have geothermal heated hot pots. The perfect and very natural hangover cure.

On what to get at Keflavík Airport: I’m not saying you need to have alcohol to have a good time, BUT it would be a very good idea to stock up on an assortment of alcoholic beverages. Although drinks prices are not as much as they were pre-2007, the Duty Free will definitely help save some krónas. To keep it local, try the winter warmers Opal, Topas or Dave Grohl favourite Brennivín.

Do you go fast or go slow?: Normal weekends in Reykjavik are legendary. Airwaves weekends are ridiculous. If you’re getting to Airwaves on Wednesday, you’ll definitely need to pace yourself. The first couple of days are perfect for acquainting yourself with this fine city, its wonderful musical produce, restaurants and hip fashion boutiques. In the evening watch some awesome new music, hang out, meet new people and get your head down before  two am. If you’ve followed my advice, by Friday you’ll still have the energy to don your party hat for the greatest weekend of your life.


On blagging your way into those fancy hip/cool/VIP parties you keep hearing about:  Despite their intimidating demeanour and fearsome reputation, Icelanders are actually a pretty friendly bunch. What’s a good way to break the ice? Learn some Icelandic. If nothing else, your pitiful efforts will amuse and earn enough sympathy to gain entry to at least some vaguely hip parties. Try starting with ‘Já maður!’ (to be said after everything) and ‘Hvar er bjórinn minn maður?’ (Note: this is not an effective Kaffibarinn queue-jumping technique. Something more special is required for that).

On what to do if a member of a well known band starts to hit on you (or if they’re actually hitting you!): Bring out your inner Viking. This will deal with both scenarios effectively.

On the secret places to go: I will not be giving away any secret spots… but no trip to Reykjavík would be complete without a Viking at Kaffibarinn, a puffin at Tapas Barinn, a fine brew at Café Haiti, and a soak at Laugardalslaug. You might also want a shot at Dolly, I’ve heard that’s fun.

The final word: “Have… a good time… all the time” Viv Savage

Nick has had a long fascination with Iceland, which began on first hearing The Sugarcubes and Björk while a teenager. His first time at Airwaves and indeed Iceland was in 2003 while representing Kerrang! Magazine—a time when company expenses (when they still existed) was a sensible solution to coping with Iceland’s crippling bar bills. Attending every year since then, Nick found himself working for Airwaves in 2010 while spending a year living in Reykjavík. He now manages three Icelandic artistsSykur, Lára Rúnars and Sóley—alongside legendary UK manager and fellow Iceland aficionado Chris Morrison.


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