Kóboykeks, firing on all cylinders in Iðnó.

“So good to see you again!”

It was incredibly nice and heartening to be able to attend The Iceland Airwaves festival again, an event I’ve been a part of since the very beginning. What follows are a few highlights from this years festival along with general ruminations. And … photos!

Author: Dr. Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen. Music critic, adjunct lecturer and Airwaves-fan of twenty years. Writer for Morgunblaðið, Rás 2 and many more outlets.

Yes, I was present when Suede held their press conference for the 2000 version (and, Sigur Ros’ phenomenal concert in Fríkirkjan that same year). The first time Airwaves was properly held as an intra-city festival. And ever since. I did the interviews for Morgunblaðið, trotted around the venues – saw brilliant, sweaty, life affirming gigs – trumpeted the festival on any available platform and had fish soup with David Fricke. And Jan Sneum. I don’t need to go in any details here about the impact of a world pandemic on music life in general so let’s just say that I was THRILLED to be able to parttake in a fully fledged festival yet again.

And full sails it was. A brilliant conference ran alongside it, the most ambitious one yet. And the schedule was simply wonderful. Full on rock shows, electronica noodling in small spaces alongside epic concerts in Listasafnið or intimate affairs in Fríkirkjan. Something for everyone and as usual, a dazzling display of what Icelandic music has to offer, in conjuncture with exciting vibes from afar.

I started Thursday with picking up my press-pass in the Airwaves HQ which was situated in the Reykjavik Flea-market – Kolaportið. A very nice and clever spot and I hope the festival will use it again next year. After waxing lyrical about the festival on Rás 2 – the National Radio – I bumbed into one of Icelands’ current musical heros, Júníus Meyvant. I can attest that his manner is the complete opposite of his mellow, gentle music. He’s funny, enthused and quite the jovial joker. I kept bumbing into more Icelandic musicans there, grassroots ensembles like the brilliant electro-pop singer KUSK and the doom-melody makers of Múr. This is one of the many important aspects of Iceland Airwaves for us, the industry people. Here, we get to look up from our computers and meet one another, change stories and fasten the bonds, be it professional ones or personal.

On Friday I made use of this position and turned up for a gathering held by the Swedish music expo. There I met an old friend, Ludwig Böss, member of the Swedish pop legends Ray Wonder among others. Great catch up and a change to mingle with Danish music journalists, Norwegian bookers and Finnish festival managers (which were all sat at the same table!). I copied this a few hours later, but this time it was the Faroe Islands music expo. Nordic region ahoy! Later that night, in the oh so lovely venue Iðnó, the brilliant Guðríð Hansdóttir played with her band. She’s come a long way, so professional and positively roadworn and her melodic songs shoot straight to the heart. Kóboykeks were amazing, loaded symbolism in the name, the outfits and general LGBTQIA+ vibes, taking their countries culture to task.

Later on Friday I went to Dillon and saw two legends, punk greats Fræbbblarnir and then Kolrassa Krókríðandi, our one and only riot grrrl band from yore. They were a total BLAST like always. On Saturday, the absolute highpoint was the magnificent Arooj Aftab which played in Fríkirkjan, lacing the place with a healing aura, proofing that music is the absolute best.

The Importance of Icelandic Airwaves really can’t be overstated. There are two pillars in the Icelandic music calendar, the battle of the bands competition Músíkilraunir, in the spring, and then Airwaves, in the autumn. Giving Icelandic music a spotlight, “something to do” and with that fortifying our energetic scene that never seems to let up. I’m amazed by the constant energy, the incredible output and the joyous vibes that find their way into our being, enriching not only the Icelandic music culture but our culture in general.

More photos dear friends: An assemblage of me bumbing into friends from the Scandi-music business, Icelandic industry friends and bands. Hope the joy will be palpable!

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