From Iceland — Airwaves 2022: Pre-Opening Night Review

Airwaves 2022: Pre-Opening Night Review

Published November 3, 2022

Photo by
Baldur Kristjáns

Iceland Airwaves is here baby! Chances are high you’ll live off energy drinks and ginger shots to survive the next few days and manage to see your favourites on the schedule. While everyone’s ready for the official programme to kick off, Grapevine went out last night to check out a few of the pre-festival events.

A moving opening gig by Önnu Jónu Son

First on our schedule was the opening gig of the festival, a free concert at the Airwaves Center. The hero of the evening: Haraldur Thorleifsson, performing on stage for the first time as Önnu Jónu Son (ÖJS).

Haraldur is certainly a man who wears many hats: entrepreneur, accessible urban design innovator, owner of a cafe/bar/cinema about to open in Reykjavík, and a musician. Read our feature with Haraldur to learn more about his life and work.

The name Önnu Jónu Son refers to Halli’s mum, whom he lost early in childhood. This loss had a profound impact on his life and career.

“It will be one one of the most vulnerable experiences in my life,” Haraldur wrote on Twitter ahead of the concert, and boy was he right. Don’t know if it’s lack of sleep or inexperience of going to concerts after an almost 3-year pandemic-induced break, but I shed a tear.

Half of the songs performed by ÖJS were written over 20 years ago, and the other half were a brand new material. You can feel that ÖJS sings about matters that are close to his heart: love, loss, loneliness, and the struggles of finding happiness. The track that stuck with me most was “Take These Bones”—Halli has a muscular dystrophy and over the years he started to lose strength in his fingers, which means he can’t play the guitar anymore. “It’s weird to live in a body that keeps failing you,” he said, before continuing to perform a real rock banger.

In the end, ÖJS did a cover of ‘​”True Love Will Find You in the End” and it was another emotional moment for people in the audience—certainly a moment of inspiration.

Önnu Jónu Son promises an album coming up next year, and we really hope more live shows will follow. A rugged-looking man being vulnerable on stage: raw and real. The world needs more of this. “It’s the best day of my life,” said Halli and thanked everyone for coming. For us, it was the best way to start the Airwaves. Iryna Zubenko

INNI, an experience of many scents

With the line up tonight at Iðno, the beautiful culture house next to Tjörnin, there was no doubt that it would be packed. Having lived in Iceland for several years now, I know that if Colm O’ Herlihy, founder of publisher & label INNI, were throwing its 3rd birthday celebration party, it means half the Icelandic music scene will be there, lots of international managers and speakers, plus the first Airwaves visitors all scrambled together. Colm is one of those people who is the glue at the heart of the music scene here and this was gonna be a night of beautiful music, friends and new connections. The night was beyond promising, with a lineup that showcases exactly how diverse and warmhearted the Icelandic music scene is at this cold start-of-winter’s night.

Unfortunately with a packed venue, the moment you go get a drink or say hi to a friend it’s impossible to get back in, leading us to miss several of the wonderful acts on offer. That being said, here are the performances that we did manage to see:

Walking into Iðno, we were immediately welcomed by Fischersund, the scent laboratory of Jónsi and his sisters, and given a tiny bottle of their brand new 101 perfume. A little nice surprise, and we LOVE surprises, especially if they are from our favourite perfumery! Sin Fang, Francesco Fabris and Kjartan Holm were already on stage setting the vibe.

It’s still relatively calm when Kliður starts filling up the whole stage. This choir only sings songs written by its members and while they warm our hearts with their elevating voices, the venue is slowly filling up to full capacity.

Salka Valsdóttir of Daughters of Reykjavík fame is next up with her new solo project Neonme. The performance mixed sax and electric guitar with her charming voice and upbeat electronics to sway us into her mystical world in a stunning green dress with great visuals.

While I unfortunately missed composer Herdís Stefánsdóttir’s Kónguló, with non other than Mr. Silla, Neonme, Úlfur and Baldur Hjörleifsson by her side… we already know this can only be good, so go check her out first chance you get.

I only caught a glimpse of Kaktus Einarsson, after missing Rose Riebl, Sóley and Atli Örvarsson. Airwaves really is a FOMO event of making harsh choices…but luckily I managed to get in for the crown jewels of the night, JFDR who finished her set with Sandrayati and their “Song for Berta” which they wrote with Damien Rice last year as a tribute for Berta Cáceres, an environmental activist who was killed for her work. This tragic beauty left our hearts filled with angelic joy and an our ears deafened by the ecstatic clapping crowd. Iceland Airwaves 2022 is bound to be the warm bath we all have been waiting for! Ylona Supèr

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