Impressions and Photos of Iceland Airwaves 2018

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Impressions and Photos of Iceland Airwaves 2018

We didn’t see much of Iceland, when we visited the island for Iceland Airwaves two years ago. Thick low-hanging clouds and frequent rain were blocking the view of the majestic surroundings of Reykjavík most of the time. Huddled into our winter coats (the wind renders umbrellas impractical), we rushed shivering from venue to venue to see the shows. Why in hell would we want come back?

Turns out, Iceland Airwaves is addictive! Last year already we talked about doing it another time, and this year we made it happen. Weather-wise we were luckier: hardly any rain, relatively gentle temperatures with here and there patches of blue sky. JFDR, one of Iceland brightest musical stars suggested at her show that it was the best Airwaves weather ever. We took it and enjoyed the breathtaking vistas.

Two things make Iceland Airwaves unique: First, its location in the heart of Reykjavík, a small town and a nation’s capital at the same time. It has a population of 300,000, but its city center feels like that of a small town. However, there are world-class bars, restaurants, hotels and of course music venues. This makes for an immediate communal feeling among the festival-goers, even though they are outnumbered by other tourists who are barely aware of the event.
The second reason Airwaves is special, is the unbelievably diverse and high-quality local music scene, which can easily afford that none of its biggest names were on stage in 2018. And the Icelanders love their music: any venue where local bands played was packed, including small children during the day time. That gives an inspiring backdrop for the many international guests from all over the world.

Iceland Airwaves celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, and things changed somewhat under a new management. For once, there were less “off-venues” involved – shops, smaller bars or other places which run official free shows during the daytime. On the other hand, Airwaves introduced a “Clubhouse” at Skuli Craft Bar, which was only accessible to ticket holders, and featured sets of some of the most popular bands in the lineup. It became a bit victim of its own success – at many times it was at capacity, but if you managed to get in, it was a fabulous place to connect with fellow music fans, all while being (semi) live transmitted to radio via Minnesota’s public radio station The Current.

It also seemed that the new management tries to establish Iceland Airwaves as an industry conference: while there were only a handful panels, they featured big names in the industry from both sides of the Atlantic and seemed to be empowered by the density of the Icelandic music scene.

If you are up for a truly immersive music experience, Iceland Airwaves should be your next destination. For sure, we will be back! Tickets for November 6 to 9, 2019 are already on sale.

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