Now in its 18th year, the annual Iceland Airwaves Music Festival has grown and changed and morphed into a much different event than when it first began. Some youthful exuberance made way for some angsty rebellion, dabbling with different styles and hanging with different crowds. Most of all, over the years it’s moved around the city quite a bit. In 2017, along with slashing the number of tickets for sale, the festival is basically “moving out of mom and dad’s house”—aka the Harpa Concert and Conference Centre.
Harpa has been the central venue of the festival since the concert hall’s opening in 2011, prior to which Airwaves was scattered all over the heart of downtown in smaller venues and concert halls. The presence of Harpa as a focal point over the past few years has met with mixed opinions—overall quite positive—and while it did tend to tempt large amounts of people into staying in the one location (often to avoid the elements), it had the drawback of creating overcrowded, bottleneck lineups for the big name bands scheduled to play there. Festival attendants who were previously accustomed to the smattering of downtown venues felt it drew the feeling of the festival away from the downtown core, which had always been abuzz with a feeling of “anything can happen” (while you freeze your ass off in line).
Along with the reduction of tickets on sale, the overall absence of Harpa in the schedule this year is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser for some, but a rather refreshing return to the run-around-town-between-queues festival model. Its ubiquity in the festival will surely be mourned by some, but if you’ve never experienced an Iceland Airwaves spent pounding the pavement between a dozen small clubs and concert halls whilst chugging a beer out of a plastic cup in the wind and trying to not lose your friends and your phone and your coat and your mind… well, that’s what this festival is all about.
And Airwaves will still have to go home for Hannukah! Two special ticketed concerts will be held there: Ásgeir—with Glowie in support—and Fleet Foxes.
Reykjavík Art Museum
The longtime crown jewel of the festival. Queue up early, and good luck.
A stunning old-school theatre, renovated in 2013, good looking and sounding great.
The party place to be. It doesn’t hold as many people as it looks like it should, so get ready to sweat.
A metal/queer bar for those who like it harder and louder and hate xenophobia.
A fabulous theatre by the pond with acoustics that melt butter and a posh upscale décor.
Hard Rock Café
This is corporate af, but all we can hope is that there’s a Purple Rain display.
A recently re-opened stalwart of the central bar scene with a great new stage and soundsystem.
Casual by day, raucous by night, this restaurant and bar has seen it all and keeps going strong.
The National Theatre of Iceland, a grand majestic hall, did not come to play games.
The sound in this quaint, peaceful, shimmering pondside church is dazzling even to the staunchest atheist.
This lovely old downtown movie theatre will host a single show by amiina, and it will be very much worthwhile.
It’s a sports arena, and it sounds like one. Two gigs will be hosted: GusGus & Icelandic hip hop night, and Mumford & Sons with Axel Flóvent and Árstíðir (an extra ticket is required for the latter).
“Mom and dad’s house,” hosting only the Ásgeir and Fleet Foxes shows.
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