From Iceland — The Airwaves, They Are A-Changin’

The Airwaves, They Are A-Changin’

Published October 18, 2017

Jenna Mohammed
Photo by
Art Bicnick

The Iceland Airwaves Music Festival is here once again. From November 1-5, this classic downtown event has much to offer, with a dynamic lineup and big changes in venues for 2017.

Iceland Airwaves is known for showcasing new music from Iceland and around the globe, booking different artists of all sorts. But the festival doesn’t overlook what the public is after. “We have a lot of cutting edge artists this year,” says program manager Egill Tómasson. “Like Shame and Kelly Lee Owens, both from the UK. We have Flamingods as well—they’ve been around for a while and are going to be interesting to see. There’s a lot of stuff that’s way under the radar. If a band today has like 50,000 views on YouTube—yes, that’s a lot, but not even close to being considered mainstream. The lineup reflects many up-and-coming artists in that range.”

Noise and rap

When it comes to the Icelandic music scene, this year’s lineup remains current. “The local scene is healthy as well, there’s a lot of interesting stuff coming up,” explains Egill. “I would say rock and hardcore rock is having a bit of a hard time now, but still we have amazing rock and punk bands like Une Misère, Godchilla and Tófa playing this year. Our main headliners in the Icelandic department are the young up-and-comers in the hip-hop scene. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of fun; we’re super happy with the lineup.”

With shows being held at 13 different venues across downtown Reykjavík, Iceland Airwaves decided to switch things up a bit this year by removing Harpa as one of its main stages. The only shows that will be held at Harpa this year will be Ásgeir and Fleet Foxes, who will perform in the Eldborg hall, since these are expected to be large concerts. As for other shows, Egill says they are adding venues that want to be more amenable to Reykjavík’s live scene.

Sweaty and punk

“The Hard Rock Café was an off-venue last year, and worked very well,” he says. “We have no doubts about bringing them on board. We also have Hressó; it’s a smaller venue, but great for up-and-coming hip-hop and electronic artists.”

Also new this year is Hverfisbarinn on Hverfisgata. “They have put great effort into becoming a live venue, so we have a great line-up there,” says Egill. He goes on to explain that moving out of Harpa is a huge change for the festival. “It’s more street,” he smiles. “More standing out on a wet pavement in Reykjavík, trying to get your way into a sweaty club. In a way, we’ve always been about that, but with Harpa coming into the picture you got more of an establishment feeling. We love Harpa, for sure, but for us to go back to our roots, making it more sweaty and more punk, is challenging, but fun.”

Ticket and lineup info can be found at

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