From Iceland — Catharine's Saturday Iceland Airwaves Diary: Honestly, F#%k Mugison Fans

Catharine’s Saturday Iceland Airwaves Diary: Honestly, F#%k Mugison Fans

Published November 6, 2023

Photo by
Magnús Sigurbjörnsson
Joana Fontinha
Hafsteinn Snær Þorsteinsson

It’s Saturday night, I scored a babysitter. Let’s Airwaves yet again.

My first stop of the night was Fríkirkjan and a gig I was really looking forward to. I arrived about 10 minutes into Kónguló‘s set, to find a full church — at least the aisle-adjacent parts of the pews, since you can’t see shit from the sides of the room. Herdís Stefánsdóttir was manning the piano, and while the songs were beautiful, it wasn’t feeling “festival” enough to me. I was excited when  the composer announced that she would be picking things up with some more electronic songs next — accompanied on vocals by Salka Valsdóttir (a.k.a. neonme), but it sounded like a lot more of the same with a few beep boops in the background.

Kónguló perform at Fríkirkjan on Nov. 4, 2023, as part of the Iceland Airwaves festival. Photo: Magnús Sigurbjörnsson

I needed more energy. And I found it at IÐNÓ, where Norwegian electronic musician Niilas had the beat thumping. I swear I could see the entire building pulsing as I approached. The young man on stage with his laptop and MIDI keyboard controller swung his hair along to his creations as the crowd danced and bounced. The beat sometimes dropped so low you could feel it in your sternum. Everyone loved it and cheered with the end of each song, eliciting smiles and heart hands from the blushing young composer.

It was when Niilas was wrapping his set with one last long-held heart hands that I conferred with my IA schedule and it only then dawned on my that I would have to choose between Celebs and Daði Freyr. What is Iceland Airwaves trying to do to Eurovision fans!?

That’ll be a decision for (slightly) later. Now it is time to head to Hafnarhús for Mugison. I’ve seen Mugison twice before, both in very stripped-down and intimate settings. So seeing him at the far end of the hall of the art museum, with a big backing band of instrumentalists and singers was something different.

Mugison was fine. He was Mugison. His set was tight. Every member of his 10-piece band knew just when to hit their notes and Mugison made the crowd go crazy.

Herein comes my critique: the crowd. Within five minutes of being in the hall, I had been aggressively body-checked by at least five middle-age women a few drinks deep and clambering to the front of the room. To be clear, I was two-thirds of the way back. I wasn’t their competition. Every man there thought they were Mugison, screaming out their best impression of the singer they could muster. Their drunk wives were impressed. At least the couple grinding next to me was into the dynamic.

It was a crowd of suburban tala bara íslensku, best í heimi Icelanders that seem to have come to the big city for this one concert and all ate very garlic-heavy meals right before sidling over the Hafnarhús.

Mugison was fine. His audience attends concerts about as well as the average Icelander drives.

Tired of being knocked into and burped on, I returned to the Grapevine office to regroup.

The biggest decision of the night was made while fleeing Mugison. The line outside Hafnarhús was massive and I didn’t anticipating it getting under control before Daði Freyr’s set. Celebs it is!

And boy am I happy with that choice. They were AMAZING! They had confetti, they threw beachballs into the crowd, one dude crowd-surfed on a red inflatable sofa. But more importantly: they sounded great.

Even one of those beachballs landing on my glass early into the set, sending bad Prosecco splashing all over my chest didn’t dampen my enjoyment of this show. Everyone was in a good mood, dancing and enjoying the moment.

A high point on which to end my Airwaves 2023.

Follow along with the all the Grapevine’s Iceland Airwaves 2023 coverage here.

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