Airwaves is upon us! The off-venues are running, the stages are warming up, and it’s time to download the festival app and start organising your life for the next five days. Grapevine will, of course, be there in force—we have ten writers doing the rounds, and they’ll report back each day on the highlights, low ebbs, crowd surfs, life-changing shows and existential crises they encounter. Here’s where you’ll find them.
John Rogers — goth, drag, surrealism
Airwaves is the time of year when every Icelandic band brings their A-game to the table. I’ll be skipping most of the incoming headliners this year to lap up local bands performing new material at full strength. In particular, I’m excited to see Sólveig Matthildur perform her glimmering, gloomy goth-pop on the big stage at Iðnó; to see the enticing experimental music of SiGRÚN at Húrra, ably backed up by Bára Gísladóttir and Hilma Sveinsdóttir; and to see JFDR play a mixed set of her solo stuff and Pascal Pinon material at the beautiful Fríkirkjan venue. Bizarre art-school industrial-pop trio Hatari and avant garde drag-electronica performer Mighty Bear are must sees, and Gyða Valtýsdóttir, EinarIndra and Högni all released great records recently, so it’ll be a pleasure to hear them play live. I’m also keen to see IDK IDA preview her debut album ‘The Bug’—she’s off-venue only, but there are four chances to catch her. Finally, it wouldn’t be Airwaves without catching a surreal and joyous dj. flugvél og geimskip performance. And, of course, I’ll be following the flow to find some new and unfamiliar acts along the way. Most of all, I’ll be trying to default to “yes” rather than “no” whenever a notification pop ups on the festival app, or when a long walk is suggested to a recommended concert, because, you know—#StrangerThingsCanWait.
Elías Þórsson – punk, perverts and clementines
I first went to Airwaves in 2007, when I was a spry young 19 year old, and in all honesty it changed my life. Before the festival I’d never thought about becoming a journalist, but after one rowdy gig at NASA (fuck I miss you NASA) that all changed. As soon as the concert ended I jumped upon stage and made a beeline for the backstage. Acting like I belonged, I opened up a beer, sat down by Gus Gus’s Daníel Ágúst and his girlfriend, and playing the role of a British journalist conducted my first ever interview. Suspicious of my wobbly accent, they asked me where I was from, I replied that I was half Swedish. “Ahhh, that explains it,” they said. Then, with a taste of free beers, celebrities and bad accents there was no turning back. Thank you Airwaves for giving me a career.
But there is so much shit happening—what should you see? My cool musician friend Árni from Tófa tells me I need to see Ben Clementine. I’ve never listened to him, but if my cool musician friend Árni from Tófa tells met I should see Ben Clementine, then by God I will see Ben Clementine.
I’m definitely going to see the pervy poet laureate of Iceland, Megas. He has written some of the most beautiful lyrics ever to be woven together in our obscure language. You can’t understand them, but don’t worry, we can’t either! His voice is so laced with alcohol there is no way to decipher it, but he’s amazing, so go check him out. Then there’s Mammút, who are among the best live acts in Iceland, Hórmónar, a cool riot grrrl kinda band and of course HAM, which is fronted by our outgoing Minister of Health Óttarr Proppé. He might have lost pitifully in the elections, but looking to the Bright Future there will be more HAM concerts!
Hannah Jane Cohen – poignant punk and poetry
Airwaves is a whirlwind. You might step inside a hip-hop fan, but by the end of festival you’ll have your hair dyed green after witnessing a particularly poignant punk project—at least, that’s what happened for me. Anyway, I hope to do something similar this year. While I am super jazzed to see old favourites like Aron Can, Herra Hnetusmjör and Une Misère, I also plan on seeing at least two bands a day I’m unfamiliar with. I can be pretty rigid with music so I want to spend this Airwaves broadening my eyes (and ears) to new tonal possibilities in order to become a more well-rounded fangirl. On my short list? Mojo Dont Go, DÍSA, Megas and Gyða Valtýsdóttir.
I’m a bit sad that there’s no black metal on the roster, and a distinct lack of metal in general. My favourite show last year was by atmospheric black metal titans Auðn and I was hoping to get another taste but, alas, we can’t always get what we want. That said, eating the same food everyday can get boring, so hopefully the cello stylings of Gyða, classic punk craziness of Megas, and smooth melodies of DÍSA will whet my palate nicely. In terms of Mojo Don’t Go—I’ve actually never heard their music nor have any idea what style it is, but singer Kristbjörg Lára Gunnarsdóttir and I often perform poetry together and she is a fucking genius so I know I will be down with it. See you there!
Valur Grettisson – a fascist orchestra of puke
I haven’t been to Airwaves since it was held in an airport hangar in Reykjavík Airport some twenty years ago. Back then Icelandic kids just got really drunk, puked on themselves, punched the DJ and died in the snowstorm afterwards. Pretty basic stuff when you’re an Icelander, I guess. I’m a little older now, although I do still puke occasionally.
I am very excited to see postmodern Noam Chomsky punks Hatari. Goth is coming back with a vengeance, and it’s apparently dressed as a fascist and talks like Vladimar Mayakovsky this time. I love the vibe.
The only concert at which I aim to puke on myself is, of course, the incredible assembly of classical artists at Harpa’s Eldborg hall on Thursday night. Hildur Guðnadóttir will play her weird electric cello that fills your heart with heavy bass and hijacks your mind and body. Some of you know her music through the horror dystopia of TV show, ‘Handmaid’s Tale.’ Her version of the old icelandic hymn, ‘Heyr Himnasmiður,’ sent some shivers down the spine. Anna Þorvaldsdóttir is also playing at the same concert. The Washington Post recently ranked her as one of top female composers in the world. Her music is best described as atmospheric cloud of sound—I’m expecting an unearthly experience that will change my vision of the whole world. Both will have their work performed by the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra.
I also aim to see Indriði, Gangly and JFDR. I’ve been listening to them for a while now, but haven’t seen them live yet. All of these bands have this dreamy electronic world in common. Finally, I’ll see my personal favorite artist of this year, Án.
Alice Demurtas – Airwaves virginity and the deeper self
Despite having lived here for more than five years, I’m technically an Airwaves virgin. I have seen as many off-venue gigs as I could possibly muster, but I’m new to the hustle and bustle of the official, on-venue festival. I look forward to bouncing on the dance floor to the music of Icelandic artists I‘ve seen over and over again. I can’t wait to stand in line in the cold, shivering in the midst of an over excited crowd. I look forward to the wait, the walking, the getting to know new people. But most of all I look forward to seeing live someone who has delighted my summer evenings and warmed up by winter nights with his rich, melancholic voice: Micheal Kiwanuka.
Kiwanuka’s music doesn’t exist here or there—it’s not bound by time or geography. It might take your mind to the Southern States, dancing to the melancholic sound of love before flying you down to Africa to the sound of afro beats, only to transport you straight to London to dance a little more. Listening to Kiwanuka after an intense day of work relaxes the senses and puts you in touch with your deeper self. However, I have a feeling that his music must be enjoyed in group, in the dim light of a small room, eyes closed, your feet ready to move and your arms free to touch the sky. It’s music you feel right in your soul, and I can’t wait to get lost in every melody and every note.
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