Iceland Airwaves – Reykjavík; November 2nd – 5th, 2022
It had been three years since the last Airwaves festival and everyone was more than ready to be back. For the past two Novembers I had longingly stared at my early bird ticket, bought in 2019, that I could finally use again. The musical selection looked nice and I was sure I’d discover some wonderful artists as well as being able to see old favorites.
I flew in to Reykjavík on a Tuesday and despite the festival being shortened to 3 days, there was more than enough on offer to warm up for the real event. The first evening was spent relaxing though.
The festival was great fun, I saw amazing music, had good times with friends and it felt a bit like back in the older days, because there was no app this time, so one had to go with old school lists of artists to see. It workd out anyway and was definitely a success.
4 days, 31 artists, 12 venues, 33 concerts, around 3000 pictures, 51140 steps, 4 kilometers of swimming, surprisingly many hours of sleep, two drunk nights, great times with friends, dancing and lots of hugs.
DAY ZERO (NOVEMBER 2ND)
First order of business was picking up my wristbands. I bought a Plus ticket again, just to support the festival, fully knowing it would not do much for me. They sold out either way, so maybe I’ll skip next year. Pickup went quickly though and I was ready to go. Started with some afternoon gigs, then changed my evening plans and had a great first night.
VENUE: 12 TÓNAR
First up were Dr. Gunni at 12 Tónar which can be summed up as “older dudes playing punk”. They were obviously well known and love, because not only was the place packed, people sang along to every word. They were fun for sure and joked around wehn the singer had trouble tuning his guitar and joked about being “so professional”. They spoke mostly Icelandic, but as far as I understood they played a tribute to Prins Polo who had recently passed away.
VENUE: LUCKY RECORDS
At Lucky Records I checked out celist Cecile Lacharme. It was only her, her instrument and a loop station and it was amazing. She played two of her own compositions for us and the sounds that came forth made me think “cello of wonder”. The first composition, ‘Mirage’ icluded some great finger picking and the second one, ‘Rain’ sounded a lot like a rainstorm in the beginning. If I recall correctly she had not yet released any music, but I hope she does.
For the rest of the evening, Iðno was my destination and it turned out to be a good choice. As I walked in, choir Klidur was singing beautiful songs in different languages. They mentioned that they sang in the languages of the different members, but never said which languages these actually were. Either way, I really liked it.
Slowly, I had made my way closer to the front and was only a few rows back when Neonme started. I’d describe her music as electropop andfound it very listenable. she was definitely fascinating, dropping her shoes right at the start to dance across the stage, ith her arms raised high. She told us her dress as especially made for this day and asked if we liked it. We did, even though I suspect for some that was only because she was naked underneath and it was revealing at times.
I remeber her throwing flowers and speaking about Peter Pan the queer icon, which may have had something to do with her dress (it was green). Mr. Silla was her musical guest for one song. It was great having them sig together. It also made me laugh, because it took me forever to recognize Mr.Silla.
The people on stage didn’t really change much, when the next band, Kónguló, was announced. As so often in the Icelandic Music szene, members of Neonme’s band, including herself, were part of this one too. Kónguló was on the piano and had gathered friends in the band. I can’t recall much, but they played a song called ‘Everything is a countdown to a heartbreak’ that I liked. There was also some interruption form backstage with a bell that was a bit confusing to me, because I could not figure out why it was ringing.
In the schedule for the evening secret surprise guests were mentioned and one of them was Sóley. It was an interesting set up with her on accordion and her sister on the piano. she joked about the accordion being her “pet instrument”, “because I am not really good at it.” It all sounded just fine to me though. Some of he songs I enjoyed more than others, but overall I like dthe set. The best part wa sone called ‘Death Spell’, about which she said, that it had ever worked, but she wanted to dedicate it to Putin anyway. She played it twice for good measure. 😀
Kaktus Einarsson played three songs only. After announcing they were gonna play some “experimental music” I was surprised that I rather liked it. I gathered that these were duo versions of the song (just him and a keyboarder) and that he usually has a bigger band. It was nice stuff.
I had been looking forward to seeing JFDR and was not disappointed. She brought her siste to play piano and they delievered beautiul songs. One of the songs was ‘Song for Berta’ for environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who would have been 50 in 2021, but was killed in 2016. She sang it together with Sandrayat, who also wrote the song with her and Damien Rice. It was the finale of a great set.
From Icland we moved on to Autralia with Rose Riebl. She played piano and had brought three cellos. I loved her music, it was bautifully dramatic.
Last artist of the night was Atli Örvarsson, who had brought Sin Fang, Francesco Fabris and Kjartan Holm. Ólafur Arnalds joined them as well. All that meant it was getting very electro and I soon realized this music was not for me. Thus, I left with a happy heart and looked forward to the next day.
DAY ONE (NOVEMBER 3RD)
The first time I went to the Airwaves opening ceremony at Grund I wasn’t sure it was worth getting up so early, but I learned that it is something special. It’s the venue where generations truly come together with elderly people who live there and children from the kindergarten in the same building making up a large portion of the audience plus the regular Airwaves crowd.
So there I was, at 9:30 in the morning, finding myself a place on the side with a good view. Sycamore Tree were just soundchecking and Unnur was playing with them so I chatted with her for a bit when they were done. She told me she was doing four shows in one day. It seemed less packed than at previous festivals. Maybe it was because a wristband was needed to enter this time around, but nobody checked for those.
The director of Grund said a few words and then the festival organizers told us we had reasons to celebrate, because it was officially sold out. Finally the president of Iceland welcomed us all and the festival was officially opened. Sycamore Tree played a lovely show for us. The best word for me to describe their songs is “dreamy” and I enjoyed their set a lot.
Next up was Júníus Meyant, who quietly had been playing guitar in a corner earlier. He joked that his set would be 55 minutes long with 50 minutes of silence. I remembered first seeing him at Airwaves in 2014 when he had just started out and still liked the music. He was talking to the kids at the front a lot and lead us all in a nice sing along.
After a long break for lunch and a swim, I found myself at Yeoman store, waiting for JFDR. She was late and when she finally arrived it took forever to set up so I saw only about half of her show in the end. that half was great though and she apparently had fun, joking about having people in her face inside the store (it was packed) and the ones who chose to watch throuh the window getting a nice view of her butt. 😀 I must say that she not only played great songs, but also looked fabulous doing it.
VENUE: AIRWAVES CENTER
Onwards to the Airwaves center they had set up at Kolaportið for the duration of the festival. It seemed pretty empty when Krummi hit the stage, but people came closer as soon as the band started. It was fun watching them and felt like country was alive and well. Everyone had the right cowboy outfits too. I enjoyed watching them for a while.
For the most of he evening I spent my time at Fríkirkjan, starting with pianist Magnús Jóhann. Unnur and Ásta were playing with him, on cello and violin respectively. I enjoyed the music and especially like dhe cool visuals projected on a screen in the background. One of the songs sounded like a storm or at least tha is what it made me think of. I can’t remember if I especially listened for Storm sounds because he said something about it or I thought of it on my own. Either way, I liked it.
Systur, known for representing Iceland at Eurovision this year, were the next band on stage and I liked them immediately. We did not only see the three sisters on stage, but they had brought their brother and their parents as well. For a a capella version of ‘Heyr, hymna smiður’ the entire family was singing together. It was lovely hearing that song from a different band for a change. They covered Radiohead’s ‘Karma Police’, Leonhard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ and played heir eurovision song as well. I loved their beautiful voices and it made me especially happy that they had written a song for the trans community. I can’t remember the title, but it contained the line “Although your smile can light up this room, I sense you’re no stranger to the darkness.” It was beautiful.
I had already seen Atli Örvarsson the previous night and was pleasantly surprised that I really enhjoyed his piano music. He had brought strings as well so I saw Unnur play once again. At the start he let us know that it was terrifying to play in front of a full church after sittng at the studio alone for so long and gave us songs from a pre pandemic album that had never been performed live. The song ‘Flying’ was dedicated to composer Jóhan Jóhansson. He also played a song from the “Defending Jacob” soundtrack.
The amazing Laufey ended the night at the church. She playd great tunes on guitar and piano and told some nice stories in between. Living in the US she was hapy to retun to her native Iceland for Airwaves and shared hwo all the cool kids had been oing to Iceland Airwaves when she was younger and she wasn’t one of them. In passing she joked that she might just be too honest and made us all laugh. One of her songs was a jazz standard that she wrote abou life in LA and another one came to life after a particular bad date with a guy called James. After the song she apologized “If your name is James, I am sorry.” 😀 I really loved her set and definitely want to see her again.
VENUE: REYKJAVÍK ART MUSEUM
The night was not over yet, because I still needed to see Daughters of Reykjavik at he Art Museum. They were just starting as I arrived and slowly but surely I made my way closer to the front while they played. I love this band and whenever they play Airwaves I make sure to go and see them. Everythig about their set was great from teh songs to the colorful clothes.
They sang songs about MILFs and Daddys and made us all do a call and response “I say thirsty – you say Ho”, but they alos covered more serious topics. Along with their song ‘Drusla’ they spoke about women being oppressed all over he world and how governments needed to stop taking ownership of our bodies. They made a statement of solidarity with the women of Iran and the revolution that started after the murder of Mahsa Amini. It was as powerful as it was sad and drove me to tears.
Soon after, we were having fun again. The band looked for a male volunteer from the audience and asked a guy from belgium on stage with them. He was lead backstage to prepare and with the next song tehy made it look like dthey were ripping out his innards. 😀 The show ended with one of the Daughters stage diving and being carried to the back and again to the front. At the same time two otheres sprayed sparkling wime over the crowd. It was an awesome show and if they’d been allowed and encore we sure would have gotten one.
I had spotted Jean-Samuel in the crowd and made my way over there to find him with Marta, Ragnar and some other friends. hugs happened and we all went to Lemmy for final drinks. It was the perfect endig to a great evening.
DAY TWO (November 4TH)
VENUE: LUCKY RECORDS
The second day didn’t start quite so early, which suited me well, considering I had been out late the previous night. When I arrived at Lucky Records, there was still another band playing and I even had time to go back to the hotel for my camera. Daníel Hjálmtýsson and band were around 30 minutes late in the end. They were great and I really enjoyed the music, but I did not want to miss the first main act of the night so I only got to see two songs before I had to leave.
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
I arrived at Gamla Bíó in time for Francis of Delirium and their music was much harder than expected. I had been looking forward to seeing them, but ended up a bit disappointed. The voice was mostly drowned out by the drums and after a while I wished I had stayed at Lucky Records. I liked only one song and left early, heading over to Iðno instead.
Guðrið Hansdóttir had not been on my list of important people to see, but once I got there I realized she should have been. It was absolutely brilliant and I loved every song. I remember ‘Husið’ was about grief and ‘T-Shirt’ about teen love. Definitely an artists to look out for. I was said she only played a short show.
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
When I got back to Gamla Bíó Bsi were still on stage and I saw their last two songs. From what I saw it was a wild show and not fully my style, but alright. With the music they brought us a political message about refugees being deported by the government back to countries where they are not safe and how Iceland should do better.
I had really come to see FLOTT and absolutely loved them. They are an all female band that only sings in Icelandic, but I saw foreigners at the front singing along. It was amazing. Their stage outfits were nightwear and I loved that too. For two songs they had special guest with them. Matthildur joined them for ‘… en það væri ekki ég’ and Unnsteinn sang with them for ‘Ef þú hugsar eins og ég’. Towards the end of the show they played a cool video for their latest single and they threw facial masks from Blue Lagoon into the crowd. What a fun band.
Over at Húrra, Greyskies were my next stop. A two man band with a guitarist and a drummer which again were not as good as I had expected. It was listenable, but I found them a bit boring, so I left early and used the toilets before I did. Sadly, the sound was much better down there than it had been in front of the stage.
Back at Iðno I managed to get to the front for Brimheim. She was one of the artists I had really looked forward to and delivered one hell of a show. Her voice was great and she brought so much energy to the stage. It was loads of fun just watching her perform. She leaned back and shredded the guitar, ending up on the floor in the end. The other guitarist in the band did the same and the rest of the musicians were great too. Everything about the show was brilliant.
Gaukirinn is not my favorite venue, because they always turn up the sound too loud and they alway insist on mostly using red light. I guess they need that to be recognized as a rock club. 😉 They usually have greta bands though and my love for gróa brought me there at the end of the night. The girls are always awesome, but I felt a little sad about the terrible lighting. They had colorful hair and make-up which could not be seen, because everything was red. Their show was awesome though, full of energy and power with the bassist and singer in the crowd at times. They were playing and singing their hearts out, had a fourth member for some of the songs and especially the song ‘Granny Pants’ was a bunch of fun, because their guest showed off her granny pants. 🙂 It was an awesome show.
DAY THREE (NOVEMBER 5TH)
Already we had arrived at the final day of the festival when it felt like it had just started. This time the off-venue of choice was Landsbankinn and I got there in time to see Superserious. They played fun music and I really liked them. They even managed to have all of the crowd dance together. During their set I slowly managed to get closer to the front and in the end I was just standing behind a bunch of kids. That’s where C. found me just in time for the next artists.
Una Torfa was absolutely brilliant. She was the first highlight of the day and I loved all of her songs. She had a great voice, a great band and brought great energy to the room. I wanted to buy a CD, but as far as I could tell she was not selling any. She immediately went on my list of people to see again.
Next up was Bríet and I had a great time at her show as well. She was especially popular with all the children in the room who sang along to each and every one of her songs. She was really lovely to everyone, went into the crowd to sing and in the end asked all the kids if they wanted to sing with her. They did, so she invited them to join her on stage. They knew every word to her songs and some sang exceptionally well. It was really wonderful to see.
VENUE: GAMLA BÍÓ
After a dinner break, I went to Gamla Bíó too early, ran into Marta and Ragnar and stayed there after we had said hello. C. joined me soon and we got the perfect front row spots for Árstíðir. I knew they were not going to have a cello that night, because Guillaume could not make it and wondered how that would feel. I was about to find out.
As soon as the band had taken their places on stage they started with ‘Friðþægingin’.That was not the first song I had expected, but it worked perfectly and left the audience cheering. Not only Ragnar had keys, but Gunnar and Daníel had keyboards as well that night and they overall concentrated on beat-heavy songs with Jean-Samuel doing all the string work and moving all across the stage in the process.
“The next song is about love gone wrong,” Ragnar told us and it was ‘Sanity’ from their upcoming album “Blik”. It’s very prog and sounded amazing. It made me so happy to hear songs that have not been released yet. Next up was ‘Kirin’, another brand new song. I loved everything about the show already, including the lights and could not take my eyes off of the band, looking from one to the other as I watched. There was also a two person film crew moving around them, capturing the show, but they mostly kept out of my way.
They told us to pretend that it was 2019 and how good it felt to be back. I could only agree. ‘Þar sem enginn fer’ and ‘Lover’ followed, great as always. I loved everything about the show and never even noticed the cello was missing. The mood lightened with ‘Bringing back the Feel’ and the smile on my face grew even bigger.
‘Mute’ was a good addition to the set and I remembered how much it had loved it when I first heard it a few Airwaves ago. It still hasn’t lost any of its power. Gunnar even told us a little about writing it in Japan and what it feels like when you lose your language, because nobody speaks yours. ‘The Wave’, my favorite song from “Blik” album followed and was just as beautiful as I had hoped for. <3 We even got a clap along going.
Before it was over they gave us ‘While this Way’, one of my all tie favorites. By then I had a few tears of joy in my eyes. What an amazing show this was. They all introduced each other, thanked us for coming and ended the concert with ‘A new tomorrow’, yet another brand new song. It was definitely one to dance to and I was moving about in my place.
Overall they had played 5 songs from the yet unreleased album and picked the perfect setlist for a four man show. What a treat to hear all of this new material and what a great setlist. I loved every moment of it. walking away with a big smile. When I got the chance I told them how much I had loved it and that I had not even missed Guillaume, even though the cello is very important for me in their music. Their Airwaves comeback could not have been any better.
Þar sem enginn fer
Bringing back the Feel
While this Way
A new tomorrw
Following this amazing show, Axel Flóvent was a bit boring. C. and I watched for a bit, then decided to leave, because we did not want to spoil the memory of the show we had just seen. We stayed outside mostly and had a nice chat with the guys as they packed their instruments in the car to take them to their rehearsal space. After they had left, C. went home and I had drinks with Jean-Samuel at the bar before he met the others again.
Went back inside to see Porridge Radio and liked their upbeat music. It was fun and nice to listen too, but didn’t exactly blow my mind. Overall it was alright, but again I left early, knowing I had already seen the best show of the night.
VENUE: REYKJAVÍK ART MUSEUM
The final artists of the evening was Arlo Parks. The art museum was packed. Clearly many people wanted to see her. This time, it was impossible to get anywhere near the front, so I stayed at the back and enjoyed the show from there. I felt nice vibes all over the room and thought it was a brilliant show if not really for me. I was still happy I had gone to see this and enjoyed the show.
Afterwards I met up with Marta, Ragnar, Jean-Samuel and some other friends again and the rest of the night was absolutely legendary. After an Irish pub with the worst troubadour in town and a short stay at the official after party we ended up at the English pub drinking, dancing and having a great time. There was an aftr-after party too, but since I. and myself had the same way home we called it quits and walked back together. It could not have gotten any better. 😀
Iceland Airwaves was definitely back and the three year break had only made the festival better. What a joy it was to move from venue to venue again being pleasantly surprised at every turn. I have already bought my early bird tickets for next year and will be back for sure.