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Best of Iceland Airwaves ’16 – What We Saw And What We Liked

Iceland Airwaves - Reykjavíkurdætur
Reykjavíkurdæturby Ian Funk

Favourite Performance

Gréta: I think I’m going to have to go with an Icelandic hip hop act for this one, just because showmanship is so ingrained into the style and scene. Acts like Úlfur Úlfur or Emmsjé Gauti come to mind but they can’t hold a candle to Reykjavíkurdætur, whose shows are always energetic, inspiring, and awesome.

Ian: The best performance for me was Reykjavíkurdætur as it was unlike anything I have seen before. With the sixteen-member collective spanning over the whole stage and rapping with such intensity, they have a presence that is impossible to ignore.

Iceland Airwaves - Cryptochrome
Cryptochrome

Favourite Act You’d Never Heard Of Before

Gréta: My Airwaves were fairly planned out so I didn’t see a lot of bands I’d never heard of before. Those I did see mostly were because of recommendations from the people I attended the festival with. Of the things I hadn’t planned on seeing, Cryptochrome, the first band I saw, was the nicest surprise, recommended by my brother-in-law. Not only was their music captivating, their stage presence was also very entertaining.

Ian: I technically did not know anything about any band at airwaves, so you could say that the Icelandic band Hórmónar(Whoremoans) was really just my favourite band of them all. Playing an amazing set of experimental punk music, their show was eerily soothing, chaotic, and extremely powerful.

Iceland Airwaves - Doctor Spock
Dr. Spock at HúrraPhoto by Ian Funk

Favourite Venue

Gréta: I didn’t see many shows there but my favourite venue was actually the Reykjavík Art museum, maybe because of the rarity of it. I’ve definitely seen a lot more shows at Húrra than at the Art Museum’s long and narrow hall.

Ian: My favourite venue was Húrra, small enough to keep things intimate, yet big enough to hold quite a crowd. Constantly filling up wall to wall with fans, it was always live and always a party.

Iceland Airwaves - Dizzee Rascal
Dizzee RascalPhoto by Ian Funk

Favourite Night

Gréta: It’s really hard to choose but I actually think I’m going to have to go with Wednesday night. It was the first night of the festival so my energy was still way up, I saw some solid artists play and ended the night at Dizzee Rascal’s show, which was great!

Ian: Definitely Thursday, November 3, mainly due to Húrra hosting a punk/rock themed night that had three of my favourite performances, Dr.Spock, Hórmónar, and Die Nerven.

Photo by Florian Trykowski
Kate TempestPhoto by Florian Trykowski

Favourite Experience

Gréta: Kate Tempest, for sure. Her show, despite being much less involved a production than some of the other captured the audience, myself included, in a way I didn’t see with any other artist. She held us in the palm of our hands!

Ian: The best experience I had was Amnesia Scanner’s performance, as they filled the entire room with fog and visually isolated us from each other and the venue, they really went outside the box with what one can expect from a concert, allowing the audience to lose themselves in the unnatural music they produce. I felt at times that I was no longer watching a set but instead transported to another realm that was beautifully alien in its nature.

Iceland Airwaves - Pétur Ben
Pétur BenPhoto by Siggi

Favourite Icelandic Acts

Gréta: Living in Iceland, I’m lucky enough to have unlimited chances to see the amazing Icelandic bands perform so during the festival I focused my energies on seeing visiting bands perform. That said, I did see some great Icelandic artists perform, such as Reykjavíkurdætur, Pétur Ben, and RuGl.

Ian: It is so difficult to choose between all the Icelandic talent that I saw during this festival, but I would say the three that really stood out the most to me, and the ones I will probably see again if given the chance, are AmabAdamA for their extremely chill and uplifting reggae, Dr. Spock for their surreal stage presence that surpassed all normalcies, and finally Ayia for the pure talent they demonstrated in creating an atmosphere with their music that was entrancing.

Iceland Airwaves - Die Nerven
Die NervenPhoto by Ian Funk

Favourite Visiting Acts

Gréta: It’s really tough to limit my favourites to just three but I’m going to do it anyway. First up is Dizzee Rascal. Man, does that guy know how to put on a show! Second is Baloji, who I had not heard of before the festival but will definitely follow in the future. Of course, I must put Kate Tempest first, her show was astonishingly good. Seriously, so good!

Ian: One of the best bands I saw was a Die Nerven, a German post-punk/noise rock band with performance that felt like an unstoppable force of adrenaline, the Swedish band Dolores Haze for their bad ass attitude that manifested itself in their music, and finally Amnesia Scanner from Germany for their electronic music that took on a life of its own during a performance that transcended what a concert can be.

Iceland Airwaves - GKR
GKRPhoto by Ian Funk

Special Mention

Gréta: I would like to mention all the bands I didn’t get to see for various reasons, including, but not limited to, scheduling clashes, venue capacities, my inability to get myself downtown early enough and, in some cases, disinterest. I’m sure you were all great.

Ian: This one goes to GKR for his genuine enthusiasm and love for what he does. A young rapper from Iceland who demonstrated his ability to be put on a show with such high energy and life that I would only expect from a veteran of the industry.

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RuglPhoto by Florian Trykowski

Our Thoughts On the Festival This Year

Gréta: I’ve lived in Reykjavík for just over a decade now, so of course I’ve been to Iceland Airwaves a couple of times before. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the fact that I had to do my homework properly this year to be able to write about the festival, but this year I was a little more focused on the music rather than just partying, than I have been on the previous occasions I attended the festival. That’s not to say that I never paid any attention to the music before (or that I didn’t party at all this year) but it definitely felt like this year’s festival left a little more behind than it did in previous years.

Ian: As somebody who knew nothing about Iceland Airwaves before attending, I now understand why this festival has gained so much global attention. With a seemingly endless supply of bands playing at all hours during the day and into the night, there is something to please every type of concert-goer. I must admit though that I underestimated Airwaves, I knew it was going to be intense, but I was definitely not prepared in the slightest. One must train for an event of this calibre as a runner would train for a marathon, that is if they hope to make it through alive and well while taking full advantage of all that Airwaves has to offer. With so many new and talented bands making up the festival, one can discover so much music in such a concentrated amount of time that it boggles my mind. It may have only lasted for five days but the time I will need to process exactly what happened will take so much longer. The best thing about it all is that with so many unexpected bands now added to my arsenal of music, they will remain with me for a lifetime, making Airwaves a festival that just keeps on giving.