Musication to Reykjavik’s Iceland Airwaves 2014
What: Itching for a vacation to escape Seattle? Picture journeying to a brisk European destination with a geothermal beach in the heart of the city, and a peace tower conceived by Yoko Ono to honor the late John Lennon. Music is at the heart of the Icelandic culture, and the Iceland Airwaves Festival is the perfect reason to mark your calendar, and explore Reykjavik. The 16th annual festival took place last week, and has grown immensely in popularity, no longer Iceland’s best kept secret. Iceland Airwaves takes over the quaint city center of Reykjavik with thousands of locals, Europeans, Americans, Canadians, and music lovers from around the world pouring into 16 venues to catch over 200 artists. Headliners like Flaming Lips and War on Drugs, and local favorites FM Belfast, Agent Fresco and Lay Low had fans on their feet all day and night. Move over New York – with venues, pubs, and restaurants open until 5:00am, this is THE city that never sleeps!
Why travel to Iceland for a music festival? IcelandAir offers affordable straight through flights from Seattle to Kevlavik, just 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city. Iceland is the perfect introduction to European culture, a picturesque Scandinavian country, and the ideal layout for a city music festival. All Airwaves off-venues were within walking distance from Harpa concert hall, the beautiful main venue with six halls, stretching out on a pier overlooking the marina. Reykjavik has held onto a small town feel, with 120,000 residents, allowing the festival to take over the city with venues in small pubs, art museums, clothing stores, and even out front of hot dog stands. Yea I said it; over 40% of Iceland’s population believes in trolls and elves, and their most famous restaurant is a hot dog stand. Naturally, I fell in love with the culture at first bite.
Another noteworthy off-venue is the beautiful Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located on a lava field, creating the ultimate epic concert/geothermal pairing you’re ever likely to experience. Festival-goers can swim up to several poolside bars and scan their bracelets to purchase Icelandic cocktails and brews without ever leaving the comfort of the heated baths. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the breathtaking natural wonder that is the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), or climb a glacier with tour companies like Icelandic Mountain Guides. These guides are experienced and well versed in the Icelandic landscape and history, and lead exceptional tours in English, across the Golden Circle and countryside. Tour groups are fairly small, offering a personal touch, and you’ll definitely get comfortable with your guide and other excursion guests. Iceland Airwaves festival passes are quite affordable, offering week passes for around $170, a steal in comparison to local festivals like Sasquatch and Decibel. Be sure to mark your calendar for next year’s Iceland Airwaves 2015! Now back to the music.
Who: FM Belfast
Destination music festivals are all about exploring the local talent, and Airwaves is the perfect place to discover the hype surrounding the Icelandic music scene. FM Belfast is an electro-pop band from Reykjavik, who were really discovered at Airwaves back in 2006, and ignited the crowd at Harpa this year, ending with a lively version of Oasis’ Wonderwall. Members have come and gone throughout the years, but the energy is always in your face, and their live performance was a highlight of the festival for many.
Agent Fresco cannot really be pinned to one genre, and is a chameleon group of Icelandic men, who depending on the evening can be heard playing pop, electronic, alternative rock, synth, hard rock, or any combination of the like. Fans wrapped around two city blocks waiting in line in frigid temperatures outside the off-venue Gaukurinn, to catch their performance in the wee hours of the morning. Their music, almost aggressive at times, echos raw emotion, and it was no surprise to take in a panoramic view of the crowd, and see nearly every person belting every lyric right back at the band. While their stardom is clear in the local scene, their recognition has stretched internationally as well, with praise from KEXP in Seattle, Rolling Stone, and across the world.
Self described as the alter ego of Icelandic singer/songwriter Miss. Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir, Lay Low is the fine line between endearing and FIERCE. She is the daughter of a Sri Lankan father and Icelandic mother, and she could silence the crowd with her captivating acapella, or warm the audience on the piano or bass guitar. She has performed around the world with Icelandic sweethearts Of Monsters and Men and Ásgeir, and you really just feel your arms stretching out to wrap her in a bear hug after her set. She is sweet and spicy, has dabbled in blues folk, alternative rock, and synths, and recently came out with an English album called Talking About the Weather – it deserves a listen.