So you’re browsing through the Airwaves schedule trying to get a feel for your evening and while you know some of the bands at each place you’re really thinking, “Hey, what’s the vibe like in this place? Is this a venue I can get into?” Well we can’t tell you if you’ll physically access them (hello lineups!) but we can try to mentally prep you with some insight on the insides.
This place used to be called Amsterdam and was long known for basically only attracting anything remotely fun or cool over Airwaves. Otherwise it was very much a dive bar. Not faux-dive–actual dive. Think VLT machines, recycled beer plus a shot of JD for a scarily low price, a secret smoking lounge in the basement, few locks on the bathroom doors. It was magnificent. It also had a fantastic stage. It’s now gotten not just a facelift but a whole new attitude, going from grunge-drunk-pukefest shows to maybe a bit more class and composure. We’re way into it.
You may have deduced that this is an actual church. You probably don’t need any filling in on judeo-christian practices. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise then that it is here that Airwaves stations some of the most highest praised and honoured acts each year, musicians so transcendent and transporting that experiencing them elevates the spirit.
Formerly Iceland’s opera house and before that a cinema, this place has also held some of Airwaves’s more prestigious gigs in the past. Unfortunately it has had the unfortunate defect of fixed and pitched seating with the narrowest aisles ever that routinely got crammed full of people sitting down in them, breaking every fire-hazard law known to humankind and just begging for an eventual trampling. Luckily, they just ripped all that shit out and renovated the crap out of the place while beautifying its original art-deco interior so no more trampling threats! Just fancy stuff.
It has gone by so many names over the years–Gaukur á Stöng, Sódóma, Gamli Gaukurinn–but whatever the name, it is the elder venue of the Airwaves circuit now. Ask anyone who has attended or played Airwaves at any point and they are likely to have a story involving this place. It is the röckhaus. The metal machine station. It is dark and loud and tailored to be grungy and it welcomes your moshpits and kickflips.
Harpa (Eldborg, Kaldalón, Norðurljós, Silfurberg)
Four in one! Four in one! They say this place was built to be the forever-home of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and the opera and stuff but come on… let’s get real: they built this conference hall on rock’n’roll. It caught on fire a couple of times during construction, that’s how hardcore it is. But it really is a great place to have now, especially when Iceland decides to be the windiest place ever, you can literally just spend all day here: off-venue shows, eats, coffee, shopping, huge mainstage events, dancing, beautiful views. Harpa’s great.
Hip hipster Húrra! It is very hip in here, but not so hip it hurts. That might be relative, actually. You might get hurt if you tend to be intimidated by a lot of Cheap Mondays jeans and vintage jackets but trust us, it is nothing to fear. It is lovely and warm and fun in here. It is right downstairs from Gaukurinn and actually used to be one-and-the-same with it, so in a way, it is also the oldest venue in the circuit. Come in and party!
On the edge of the pond, surrounded by swans, this 117-year-old theatre is the avant-garde jewel in the Airwaves crown, where all the heavily technical and high-concept performers are placed. It is rather small but very majestic. In short, yes there are absolutely ghosts in here whether you believe in such things or not! So of course this is where the weird stuff goes.
Reykjavík Art Museum (Hafnarhús)
During the festival, the harbourside house of the city’s largest art museum turns into a massive sweaty pile of dancing screaming flash-photography snapping revelers who wait hours upon hours to maybe not even get in. Everyone wants to get in and once you’re in you will never want to leave. The lights and the sound that fill the huge, psychiatric prison-looking courtyard are the kind of sensory overload we should all be so lucky to receive.
To our knowledge this is the very first time this place will be an Airwaves venue. It’s actually a football arena located in a weird spot between the domestic airport and a bunch of car rentals and dealerships. Sports arenas are fairly self-explanatory.
Our fine publication once fashioned FM Belfast and GusGus as the cast of Twin Peaks and shot a cover photo here, the basement of the National Theatre, due to its eerie resemblance to the Black Lodge. Low ceilings, red curtains, a small dancing man… okay we made that last one up. But it really is a wonderfully gloomy, sexy, lush and Lynchian space. TWIN PEAKS 2016 WOO!!!
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