From Iceland — The Grapevine Pre-Waves What-To-Not-Miss Guide To Airwaves 2018

The Grapevine Pre-Waves What-To-Not-Miss Guide To Airwaves 2018

Published November 7, 2018

Photo by
Hörður Sveinnsson

After months of buildup, the Airwaves are finally upon us. Hundreds of bands will perform in Reykjavík over the coming five days, delighting thousands of festivalgoers from all over the world. The Airwaves Grapevine Super Review Team will be at large throughout, flitting in and out of the off-venues and on-venues, catching brand new acts and big-name headliners, and reporting back every morning on what went down the night before.

But before all that: here are the bands our Airwaves Super-Review Team 2018 think you shouldn’t miss.

Grayson Del Faro

As much as we love to support our local faves, Airwaves always draws in at least one act I’ve been waiting a while to see, infusing the scene with some fresh blood – or in this case, Blood Orange, and their warm, retro sound. Aside from them, the artists I’m most excited to see perform are those I’ve already seen but couldn’t get enough of, like the legendary alt-pop siren of the Faroe Islands herself, Eivør. I can also vouch for the dance-worthiness of explosive local sea spirit Milkywhale; the deep, smooth grooves of Norway’s Smerz; and, most especially, Catalan buzzband Mueveloreina. Whether you prefer to party in Berlin or Benidorm, Mueveloreina’s cocktail of tropicana and industrial techno will have something in it for you to dance to. Having all released new music recently, I’m eager to see how locals Hildur, Logi Pedro, Ólafur Arnalds and aYia are tuning up their live acts to match. But all that said, at the end of every Airwaves, it ends up being irrelevant who I was most looking forward to before it started. I always come out of it talking the most about some new artist I’d never even dreamed of. GDF

John Rogers

There’s so much I’m excited to see this year that I’m wondering how I’ll fit it all in. Most recently, I’ve been transfixed by Ingibjörg Turchi’s ‘Wood/Work’—a warm, analogue instrumental record that I can’t wait to see performed live. In the same sphere, I’ve been blown away by the accomplished, restrained post-rock sound of Kjartan Holm, as he emerges from collaborations with Sigur Rós and Jóhann Jóhansson and spreads his wings as a solo musician. Bagdad brothers have been a fresh, welcome presence with their melodic, nostalgic, good-time indie-pop; they’re an effervescent must-see this year. JFDR has some lovely, wistful new material, and goth-pop princess Sólveig Matthildur is phenomenal live, with some exciting English-language material coming down the pipes. I’m keen to see Teitur, aYia and Berndsen play their new material—their 2018 records are album-of-the-year contenders, for me. Milkywhale are perhaps the best party band at the festival, with Estonian rapper Tommy Cash the main incoming challenger; and I’m intrigued to see Kælan Mikla after their recent success and touring. I’ll also brave the queues and try to see the in-demand Ólafur Arnalds and Blood Orange shows. Off-venue, I’m keen to try and catch four great solo artists—MSEA, Slugz (or Áslaug, not sure what she’s going by currently) and IDK IDA, three female solo artists who are getting shit done. JR


As someone who’s new to Iceland—and fresh to Airwaves—I am excited to venture into the music scene. With almost every name being new to my ears, just the few musicians I looked into are exciting. Starting with the northernmost reggae of AmabAdamA, to the folk and pop-esque soundscape of Máni Orrason, I want to explore the A to Z of Airwaves on my quest to discover new music (and the more selfish reason of filling up my iTunes with an awesome playlist for adventures to come). Standouts from my pre-Airwaves prep include Alma, Ari Árelíus, asdfhg, Árný, Aurora, Charles Watson, Natalie Prass and Milkywhale. I’m unequivocally eager to dive into the wilderness and come across the undoubtedly awesome talents making the festival. M

Rex Beckett

Oh man, I didn’t think I was gonna do this this year, but here we are! My usual m.o. at Aiwaves is to catch lots of local friends and bands that I keep missing, and then pad it out with international bands I want to discover or see what all the fucking fuss is about. This year is no different. On the local end, I’ll be catching doom-psych-worlocks Godchilla, coldwave queens Kælan Mikla, goth-rap star Countesse Malaise, party master Allenheimer, and ice-pop synth-alien KRÍA. Internationally, I will have to make my way to the bigger names such as Blood Orange – who is basically our generation’s Prince; Hayley Kiyoko – a modern queer POC pop icon; and Tommy Cash – iconoclastic dystopian Estonian madman. I’ll be also looking forward to discovering more of Lisa Morgenstern’s complex and emotive dreamy music, Stella Donnelly’s millienial feminist fuck-you rock, and ZAAR’s dark and fresh noisy dance music. Lastly, this year will be my ninth Airwaves under its third promotional administration, so I am going to be very interested to observe the logistics and operations of the whole shebang. Hopefully everything goes off without a hitch.

Tara Njála Ingvarsdóttir

This year there’s been an electric wave of creativity blowing through Reykjavík and I can’t wait to see what everyone’s been cooking up. The plan is to focus on catching acts that will leave me feeling empowered and inspired through the dim winter months ahead. I’ll be making a point of seeing Madonna + Child and Kælan Mikla, to form a sweet bond with the darkside; Sólveig Matthildur, to connect to Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry; Special-K, to remind me that I’m not alone in my “millenial” dilemmas; GRÓA, to crack open and move my angst; Mammút to welcome Terpsichore, the muse of dance; JDFR, to send my soul up to the stars; Sigrún, to meet a powerful empress; and Cyber, to dance and scream about my anger at the patriarchal narrative.

Off-venue I’m hoping to see the magical MSEA at her beautifully lined-up event at Loft Hostel and the Post-dreifing curated night at Loft for a good dose of rebellion. Gallery Port is also holding a “quirky” event of all sorts of free-flowing performances on Thursday which will include, amongst others, a performance by the enchanting Samantha Shay and Sóley Stefánsdóttir. The last step in my soul-warming Airwaves trip will be to see at least one act a day I haven’t heard of before to keep me on my toes and ready for the unknown. TNI

Valur Grettisson

Planning is for amateurs and boring people, but I guess it’s vital when it comes to Iceland Airwaves. These are the bands I am keeping an eye on this year.

Most know Árni Vil as the voice in FM Belfast, but he’s gone solo. His new single “Sides” fuses a Western atmosphere onto the “krútt” generation. Those expecting FM Belfast will be disappointed, and probably eaten by trolls. Others will be intrigued, at the very least. Bagdad brothers are the future of indie in Iceland. Almost over-the-top nerdy, but at the same time so adorable that you just want to buy them a hot dog, ruffle their hair in a fatherly way and give them a word of wisdom about the dangers of life. Everyone will be accepting their own inner goofy geek before the end of the show.

Although I have never been a fan of Fufanu, I like bands that evolve. Their latest stuff (Dialogue iii) has shown that they’re on an interesting path in their creation. Horrible Youth is neither particularly young (they’re all pushing 40), nor horrible (I hope). These guys are veterans of the Icelandic rock scene. Their music is heavy metal and keeps true to its 90s/00s rock roots. They don’t pretend to be the new shit in town, but if you want to loosen your dandruff, this is the place to bang it out.

If an acid trip could trip on acid and have a conversation with MDMA about existence, well, the feeling would probably be like a Lord Pusswhip concert. His unapologetic approach to electro is world-class and always incredibly energetic. Finally, Allenheimer is the artist name of Atli Bollason, a well known music expert in Iceland and a poster child for the hipster concept (in a good way). He released a very presentable album in the end of October, full of smart and slow electro composition that has a hypnotic kind of mood. VG

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