Iceland Airwaves 2016 – Looking back

Iceland Airwaves – the most evocative music festival in the northern Hemisphere

The festival is situated in between Europe and US – the best of both worlds. It all started as a grass root festival in 1999, as a one-off event in an airplane hangar at Reykjavík Airport.

Today the festival has become more of a showcase festival for new artists around the world. A great place to prove them selves on the many venues at the festival, both official and off-venue.

Bands and stages

There are more than 220 bands on 79 stages; 15 official and 64 off-venue stages during 5 days! From 2nd-6th November 2016. And you can still find some secret events during the festival if you are lucky enough to get invited (or find one by occasion). Off-venues are typically only 30 minutes long.
I found my favourite shows, among many others, at Harpa, Idnó, Gámla Bío, Húrra, Bíó Paradís, Valshöllin and KEX hostel.

KEX hostel has become a legendary place for all the live recordings made by the Seattle-based radio, these recordings can be found at KEXPs youtube channel.

Seattle-based at KEX Hostel. Kevin Cole and David Fricke discussing music?

This is the same place where the Mammút perfomance  were recorded.

My personal favourite acts during Iceland Airwaves 2016

  • Beliefs (CA)
  • Mammút (IS)
  • Connor Youngblood (US)
  • Kiasmos (IS)
  • PJ Harvey (UK)
  • Aida Victoria (US)
  • Dream Wife (IS/UK)
  • The Sonics (US) at KEXP
  • Small Time Giants (GL)

and somehow I missed Vök at Slippbarin (off-venue) and Reykjaík Art Museum (official venue). But the good thing is, they are right here and here and everywhere. And lets eat grandma!

This is an odd side effect! You still find bands from the program. Bands you discover – after you are back home. All the bands you didn’t get to see during the 5 days of festival, then you know; it’s high standard!

If I only could see more than 220 acts! I hope to see some of them at Roskilde Festival 2017. Well except PJ Harvey and Dream Wife, who they appeared in Roskilde Festival 2016 (but i don’t mind seeing them again).

Festival goers, people and artists

I had a very great time together with my friends from Greenland and Denmark and thats one of the main things in a festival, besides listening to the inspiring music, having great moments with your friends and create new friendships.

Great moments with friends

What surprises me the most, is that you can have a chat or two with the artist as well. You get an impression that Iceland Airwaves is a big deal for the artists performing there, but not bigger than you can have a beer and casual chat with the artists. Talking about music, gear and instruments! Get the feel in the Airwaves rockumentary (40min).

Connor Youngblood – intimate live in the hostel hallway

I really enjoyed one special moment from our hostel. Just waking up having a brunch on the cantina went back to our room and could hear that someone was playing. The sound was familiar to Connor Youngblood who I saw at Harpa, but wait, it was Connor Youngblood making an intimate live recording for two cameramen and four other audience or soundcrew and there is me and my friend Martin – I think the song played was  Stockholm. Total audience of 6-8 people?! How often do you have a moment like that? After the session we had a chat on whereabouts, gear and guitars, and to our surprise he speaks a bit danish! That was a special “Airwaves-Moment”. I’m really looking forward on his progression.

A chat with Connor Youngblood!

Dont miss out and check out his music at soundcloud and youtube!

Edit: here is the performance or recording we attended just outside the room.



Maybe the most evocative city in the North Hemisphere. While being in Reykjavík I felt it was a new Berlin with a twist! Cool, vibrant, earthbound, casual and relaxed. The people you meet at the festival; the attendees, the media and the bands are so ecstatic and it makes the festival so inclusive. Everybody is welcome. Sounds like a festival kliché, but after being on couple of Festivals mainly Roskilde Festival and Copenhell. This is much different. It’s in the middle of the city, not the most beautiful city in scandinavian style context, but certainly one of the most charming and evocative. And the North Atlantic air is so fresh you don’t get hangover after a whole night party!

Sightseeing and shopping

If you can overcome and leave the festival for a day or two the typical sightseeing outside Reykjavík is a must! Rent a car take the trip to the golden circle (Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss) and the blue Lagoon. Or you can simply arrive couple of days before the festival (as we did) or depart couple of days later to see all the tourist stuff.

While having break from festival treat yourself and take a trip to the golden circle, blue lagoon or take a walk around Bankastræti, Laugavegur and Skólavördustigur and spend some money for cool souvenirs and food! Icelandic people have mainly a great taste in art, music and food. Avoid the tourist shops it’s full of the national bird Lundinn a.k.a. Puffin, fridge magnets and other tourists stuff, instead go for the niche shops and support the local artist, designers and creators. Here is couple of tips among other great places.

Listasafn Reykjavíkur
Also one of the official venues. Check ou the Art museum of Reykjavík located in downtown.

The whale museum
If you have kids, this is really cool place to see how these wonderful creatures really are! All the whales are presented in the museum in full scale 1:1 size!

Seeing is learning!

There is surprisingly cool graffities around the city, check them out while walking around the city.

Keep your eyes open for graffiti

12Tónar at Skólavördustigur 15
Probably my favourite vinyl store at Reykjavík. Get a cup of coffee have a chat and sense that vibrant presence of Icelandic music!

Kormákur & Skjöldur at Skólavördustígur 28
Cool and casual clothing for cool and casual men, you can also find personal care for your beard!

Orrifinn at Skólavördustigur 17a
Cool and raw jewellery, local jeweller and the creations are made just behind the desk

Solveig Holm – Ceramics and Sculptures
Cool ceramics and sculptures inspired by the unpredictable nature.

Fotografí – Fine Art Photography Gallery at Skólavördustigur 22
Maybe the coolest photo print to find in town! A cool way to get a photo souvenir, you can get a small A4 size photo print from 3000ISK.

The food
The food is exquisite! Most of the city´s restaurants and cafés are high standard. Check out the burger corner and Kaffevagninn at harbour site and Sjávargrillid.

Sjávargrillid at Skólavördustigur 14
Get the shellfish soup to cure your hangovers. I got this recommended by the waiter. It’s heavenly good! A taste of ocean and salts and try the desert as well.

Iceland Airwaves took a big part of my music heart, so now I have to come back to nurse it. Tákk Iceland Airwaves!

See you next year!

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