Ever since the first festival in 1999, Iceland Airwaves has become one of the premier showcases for new music, Icelandic as well as international. Known for its intimacy and party spirit, Airwaves features many local and visiting artists playing venues all around downtown Reykjavík. Local artists include feminist punk band Hórmónar, the folky dream pop ensemble Team Dreams and hip-hopper Logi Pedro. Among the visiting artists this year are Faroese singer-songwriter Eivør, Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat and British indie band Stereo Honey.
What’s On is attending the festival, so expect daily reviews this week. But first, read what artists you can’t miss during Airwaves 2018.
Visiting artists you must see
Blood Orange, Harpa Flói, Nov. 10 at 01:00
Blood Orange is the R&B solo project of producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Davonté Hynes, known from Test Icicles, Lightspeed Champion, and as songwriter for artists including Solange, Florence and the Machine, and Carly Rae Jepsen. His fourth studio album Negro Swan was released August 2018 and received universal acclaim.
Eivør, Þjóðleikhúsið, Nov. 9 at 19:00
Faroese singer-songwriter Eivør, known for her distinct and powerful voice, has her musical roots in Faroese ballads. Pursuing music since she was just 15, she sings pop, jazz, rock and folktronica songs in English, Faroese and Icelandic. Don’t miss this force of nature!
Stereo Honey, Gamla Bíó, Nov. 8 at 22:40
With uplifting melodies and a catchy falsetto, Stereo Honey is slowly winning hearts. Having performed all over the UK in 2017 and 2018, this four-piece band is ready to take on the rest of the world, starting with Iceland. Believe us, this band will live up to the hype.
Crumb, Silfursalir, Nov. 10 at 00:10
60s-inspired psych rock, dream pop and jazz fusion band Crumb is quickly making a name for themselves. Their two EPs are filled with groovy songs, written by lead singer Lila Ramani during her college years and further developed by the band since. We look forward to hearing their fresh sound during Airwaves.
Cashmere Cat, Reykjavík Art Museum, Nov. 9 at 01:00
Cashmere Cat is a project by Norwegian producer Magnus August Høiberg, known for his bootleg remixes and EPs, and his collaborations with Kanye West, The Weeknd, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Selena Gomez, MØ, and more. His debut album 9 was released in 2017, and some call him one of the most popular pop producers in the world.
Bedouine, Fríkirkjan, Nov. 9 at 22:20
Born in Syria and spending her childhood in Saudi Arabia, singer-songwriter Azniv Korkejian, known under her artist name Bedouine, moved to America when she was eight years old. Her music influenced by her nomadic life, she produces charming folk and country songs, all wrapped in her warm voice.
Local artists you must see
Hórmónar, Gaukurinn, Nov. 8 at 22:20
Feminist punk band Hórmónar released their first album Nanananabúbú this year. After winning The Icelandic Music Experiments in 2016, they have been playing at Airwaves every year to much critical acclaim. Expect an energetic punk show you will not soon forget.
Team Dreams, Harpa Flói, Nov. 10 at 21:10
What do you get when you combine musicians from three amazing bands into one project? The answer is: Team Dreams, a collaboration between Sin Fang, Sóley, and Örvar Smárason of múm. Together, they make a careful mix of folky, electronic, dream pop songs, guaranteed to sweep you away this Airwaves!
Moses Hightower, Gamla Bíó, Nov. 7 at 22:30
Moses Hightower is a 70s-inspired soul and soft rock band that has been one of Iceland’s sweethearts since 2010. They have released three studio albums which were all very popular, topping Icelandic radio charts and winning them many music prizes. We can’t wait to see what they bring to Airwaves this year.
Vök, Harpa Flói, Nov. 9 at 22:20
The members of Vök have been busy creating the finest indie-electronic in the country since 2013. The group lists Portishead, Air, and Massive Attack as their main influences. If you are into indie then Vök is a must-see!
Mammút, IÐNÓ, Nov. 10 at 23:40
Get ready to rock! Mammút won The Icelandic Music Experiments back in 2004 and has since gained popularity both nationally and internationally. The band is known for their solid rock shows and lead singer Kata has been praised for her strong vocals more than once.
Logi Pedro, Reykjavík Art Museum, Nov. 9 at 22:40
You might know Logi Pedro from popular alternative rock band Retro Stefson, active until 2016. Since then, he has performed with Young Karin and Sturla Atlas, and has just started his solo hip-hop project. His first single Dúfan mín reached the top of the charts in Iceland.
See you at Airwaves!
Every year, downtown Reykjavík is the stage of an all-over music festival: Iceland Airwaves. During Airwaves, both upcoming bands and established acts are performing on all kinds of stages throughout the city. This year, Airwaves is celebrating its 20th birthday, and to celebrate this, almost 200 acts from over 30 countries are hitting the stage.
Let’s start with Wednesday night, the opening night of the festival.
The What’s On team is attending all days of Iceland Airwaves 2018, so keep an eye on our website for articles and updates.
Photo: Sigurður Ástgeirsson
Jelena Ćirić at Petersen svítan
The night started out great with one of What’s On’s very own, Jelena Ćirić. For this concert, she brought two guest musicians with her, accordionist Margrét Arnar and violist Karl James Pestka. When I arrived, the cosy venue was already packed, with a lot of people sitting on the floor ready to listen to Jelena’s songs. She had no problem pulling the audience in with her intimate performance, tying her songs together with her beautiful voice and poetic lyrics. With a wonderful start like this, the tone for Airwaves was set.
Bagdad Brothers at Kex Hostel
After Jelena’s concert I had a quick bite to eat at Mandi (highly recommended for any food cravings during Airwaves) before walking down to Kex Hostel for Bagdad Brothers. I was pleasantly surprised by the live performance of this five-strong band. Even though they described their songs as rock ‘n’ roll, I would say quirky 90s pop is a better fit. They mix catchy guitar tunes with the lead singer’s soft and dreamy voice, resulting in a nostalgic yet warm sound. It was obvious that they felt at home on the stage, using the room to dance and encouraging the audience to join them. I really enjoyed their performance, and I was not the only one.
Kiriyama Family at Gamla Bíó
The next band played at Gamla Bíó, probably one of the most beautiful venues in downtown Reykjavík, built in the 1920s, and these days hosting film viewings, theatre performances, and concerts. Kiriyama Family is a six-piece electropop band made up of great singers and multi-instrumentalists. That band members play several instruments was also clear during this concert, with keyboardist and bassist swapping instruments several times. The female lead singer of the band is an eyecatcher with her amazing pop voice and charismatic persona, but even though the venue is great, and this band did everything “right,” I must admit I did not really feel their music.
Árstíðir at Gamla Bíó
I decided to stay at Gamla Bíó for Árstíðir, who became known to the public when a YouTube video of the band singing Heyr himna smiður in a train station went viral in 2013. They brought a cellist and violist on stage with them, and with three singers, a keyboard player, a drummer, and two guitarists, I expected to witness a bombastic live performance. Fans present at the concert will disagree with me, but I was somewhat disappointed by their modest live sound and decided not to stay till the end.
Photo: Sigurður Ástgeirsson
KLAKI at Hresso
I was on my way to Ateria at Húrra when I passed Hresso. People without Airwaves wristbands had gathered in front of Hresso’s windows and were looking in through the glass. This grabbed my attention, and in passing, I heard the catchiest saxophone tune. I retraced my steps and walked in. In an almost completely dark venue, an enthusiastic crowd was dancing to KLAKI, who was walking through the audience playing his saxophone like a maniac. The saxophone tunes were accompanied by steady electronic beats, resulting in a very danceable one-man show. So much fun!
Ateria at Húrra
Feeling energised and happy after KLAKI’s performance, I stepped into Húrra for Ateria, winners of the Icelandic Music Experiments 2018. Ateria consists of three teenage girls, two sisters and their cousin, who make music that has been described as folk goth, even though they don’t like to put a label on it themselves. Húrra was filled with a beer-drinking and loudly talking crowd, and I felt venue and act were a mismatch, as they use minimal drums, cello, and gentle voices. The band looked a bit uncomfortable on stage and even though I see a lot of potential, this performance did not do them justice.
GlerAkur at IÐNÓ
When I arrived at IÐNÓ 15 minutes before post-rock and drone band GlerAkur started, the venue was so crowded that I could hardly make my way in. I noticed that two drum kits were set up on stage, and my anticipation for this band started to grow. And not only did two drummers appear on stage, also as many as five guitarists. GlerAkur carefully and hypnotically built up to an explosion of sound that completely drew in me. You could feel the bass vibrate in the floor, and everyone inside IÐNÓ was engulfed in a wonderful soundscape. Definitely the highlight of the evening.
Photo: Jimson Carr
After seeing such talent on Iceland Airwaves 2018’s Wednesday night, I was very excited for Thursday night! In this article, you can read all about the second night of Airwaves.
The What’s On team is attending all days of Iceland Airwaves 2018, so keep an eye on our website for articles and updates.
Photo: Sigurður Ástgeirsson
Bedouine at Skúli Craft Bar
I made my way to Skúli Craft Bar for singer-songwriter Bedouine, only to find it completely packed with people when I arrived ten minutes before the show. The bar was filled to the brim, and there was no place inside anymore for people that were still arriving, including me. During the first part of Bedouine’s show, I was standing outside with heat lamps blasting down on me. Even though Airwaves put up a tent behind the bar, it only had sound streaming and no video, so that did not seem like a good option to me. The show appeared to be a live radio interview, something that was not clear based on the Airwaves app schedule. Bedouine did play a couple songs though, and her soothing, warm voice, and beautiful acoustic guitar play was a joy to the ears.
Ásgeir at Skúli Craft Bar
I decided to stay for Ásgeir, scheduled next at Skúli Craft Bar, as I really love his song Heimförin. I managed to squeeze myself into the bar, but if it was crowded at Bedouine’s show, we were crammed like sardines at Ásgeir’s. The singer-songwriter has been steadily working on his international career, hitting the charts in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, and Australia, and it was clear that Skúli Craft Bar was not big enough. His performance was also a live radio interview, and he played a couple of new songs that he wrote with his father. The audience was excited to hear new material, and I had the feeling most would have loved to hear more.
Tómas Jónsson at Gamla Bíó
Next, I decided to stop at Núðluskálin for a hearty noodle soup. Check this place out if you’re hungry and cold, their soups will warm you up and you will be ready for more Airwaves partying in no time. After dinner, I made my way to Gamla Bíó for Tómas Jónsson. Again, I arrived ten minutes before the concert, but this time, there was literally no one in the big venue and you could hear a pin drop. So, it’s difficult to know what to expect at Airwaves. Big names are put in the tiniest venues, and upcoming acts get lots of space. One minute before they started, a handful of people walked in. It took me a while to get used to Tómas Jónsson’s sound, but in the end, I really liked it. They make some kind of instrumental shoegaze rock, with prominent funky and at times eerie synth sounds. Their drummer did an amazing job, and the combination of sounds and instruments worked really well.
Lisa Morgenstern at The National Theatre
My next destination was The National Theatre for German pianist, singer and composer Lisa Morgenstern. The National Theatre is a gorgeous venue, it opened in 1950 and is designed by State Architect Guðjón Samúelsson. The main hall is beautifully decorated and has a great atmosphere. The perfect setting for Lisa Morgenstern, who put up a surprisingly emotional show. With a complex-looking electronic instrument on one side and a piano on the other, she played both instruments simultaneously, while also singing into two microphones. The result was a combination of a deep, buzzing bass and beautiful piano compositions, topped off by cries from the heart. The artist was visibly emotional, shedding a tear or two, especially at the end, when the whole audience was giving her a standing ovation.
Hugar at The National Theatre
After Lisa Morgenstern, most of the audience stayed for Hugar, and I decided to do the same. This two-piece band of Bergur Þórisson and Pétur Jónsson knows how to create a buzz, and with 50,000 likes on Facebook, 30 million streams worldwide on Spotify, and them making several requests to make Instagram stories during their concert, it’s clear they know how to market themselves. They had a rad light installation on stage responding to their music, and subtle visuals throughout the show. The venue was jam-packed, with a lot of people sitting on the stairs because all the seats were taken. Hugar’s instrumental, ambient post-rock, with keyboard, trombone, and guitar, and dry jokes (“You can sing along if you want to”) were well received by the enthusiastic crowd, who gave the band a standing ovation at the end.
Stereo Honey at Gamla Bíó
A smaller crowd than expected had gathered at Gamla Bíó for British four-piece indie band Stereo Honey. I have been listening to some of their songs lately (check out Icarus and The Bay) and was curious about their live performance. And as it turns out, they are a great live band. The lead singer moves naturally on stage and has the same effortless falsetto as on their EP Monuments. The rest of the band pulled off a solid performance, too. It seems like they’re getting well-known inside the UK, but still have a way to go when it comes to conquering the rest of the world.
© Florian Trykowski
Milkywhale at Skúli Craft Bar
I started the Friday night of Airwaves by walking down to Skúli Craft Bar to take a look at the electronic duo Milkywhale, consisting of singer/dancer Melkorka and musician Árni from Icelandic band FM Belfast. When I got there I had apparently stepped into a Minnesotan radio show called the Current as they were broadcasting live from the venue. It was still early in the night so people were not exactly in the party mood but most had a glass of nice Icelandic craft beer in their hand while listening to the show. As the Skúli Craft Bar is a small place, it swallowed up a lot of the sound from Milkywhale’s dreamy electronic pop and at times it was like listening to a portable cd player. Their performance was great though, the singer obviously also being a dancer with her flowing moves and soft voice on top of various synths and electronic soundscapes. I would have loved to see them at a bigger venue later in the night so I could dance my ass off but unfortunately missed them playing at Silfursalir the night before.
Heiðrik at Húrra
After devouring two delicious tacos for dinner at Fuego Taquería, I headed to Húrra to see DJ Flugvél og Geimskip. I arrived a little early, catching a couple of songs from Iceland based Faroese artist Heiðrik á Heygum who was finishing his set at Húrra. The dance hall was packed with people and the audience seemed to love him. What first caught my eye were the band’s 80’s gothic outfits and charming folky performance. The music was mainly folk pop/rock and his last song had an Eastern European hint which funnily reminded me of the Eurovision Song Contest. Heiðrik would definitely make a good contribution for Iceland next year!
©Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson
Dj Flugvél og Geimskip at Húrra
Dj Flugvél og Geimskip, meaning Airplane and Spaceship, is a one-woman project by Icelandic Steinunn Harðardóttir. She comes across as a quirky nihilist, appearing on stage wearing a Harajuku fashioned outfit with a fan in her hand and EKKERT SKIPTIR MÁLI or NOTHING MATTERS, written on her keyboard. As there was a lack of smoke machines at the venue she started by asking people to vape as much as possible so that the audience could “touch the lights” as almost all of the venues various disco lights were turned for her psychedelic performance, resulting in the whole place smelling like strawberry. With her energetic storytelling performance which sounds mostly like electronic snake charming, she took the audience on a voyage around the Earth, back in time and into space in 30 minutes. It was obvious that half the audience weren’t sure how to react while the other half were devoted fans, dancing and singing along.
Blanche at Silfursalir
Right before dj Flugvél og Geimskip ended her set I had to run to Silfursalir as I wanted to catch Belgian singer Blanche, which I had actually spent 100 ISK on televoting for during last year’s Eurovision Song Contest when she performed her hit song City Lights. When I got to the venue, which was a large dance hall in a basement next to Bónus supermarket, there were already many devoted fans waiting for the concert to begin. Blanche’s melancholic dance pop performance was modest but her strong and distinctive voice completely made up for it. I loved her vocal range, going down from her deep alto tones which I could listen to all day but also to the high notes. I was thrilled when she played City Lights, which was my main purpose in seeing her show.
Vök at Harpa
Vök was by far the best show of the night. They played in Harpa Concert Hall’s large venue Flói which became completely packed and was a perfect match to their performance. The show started with their powerful song Breaking Bones which immediately gave me chills. They played older hits like Before and Waiting that put them on the map as well as newer songs and the audience danced the whole time. Vök consists of talented musicians who frequently switched instruments, including soothing saxophone (who doesn’t love saxophone?!) making their music dreamy yet powerful. I left Harpa happy and satisfied after their concert.
Club Dub at Silfursalir
The line to Gamla Bíó was packed for the Voidz and Hatari and the National Theatre was at capacity for Ólafur Arnalds’ concert. I, therefore, decided to try something different until the lines would clear up a little bit and ended up going to Silfursalir for an Icelandic techno-ish electro-pop duo called Club Dub. When the show started with the two singers shouting in autotune “Hey Airwaves let’s get fucked up – chug chug chug chug!” I immediately felt out of place. Everybody knew the lyrics and I had not heard any of this before, except for maybe a couple of songs that sounded familiar from the radio. Their lyrics were mainly about drinking, girls, money and surprisingly Star Wars robots, and they were both wearing sunglasses indoors. I decided it was time to try out the line for Hatari once again.
©Rúnar Sigurður Sigurjónsson
Hatari at Gamla Bíó
When I got to Gamla Bíó once again, the line was finally clear. That meant that the Hatari show had already started but I was happy to catch some of it. Hatari is an Icelandic dark electronic cyberpunk band famous for their aggressive performances and challenging neoliberalism and consumerism in their lyrics. Gamla Bíó was packed with an audience dancing to Hatari’s heavy electronic beats. The band members were all dressed in cyber-goth bondage leather outfits for the show, the drummer wearing a leather mask with spikes and a neon collar, and the two female dancers wearing chains and neon green bands around them. The fact that they were aggressively challenging fashion norms made their performance highly unique and memorable.
I can’t wait to see which adventures Saturday night might unfold!
Mighty Bear at Húrra
On Saturday night I started by going down to Húrra to see the fabulous one-man electronic project Mighty Bear. When I walked in, the door into the dance hall where the concerts took place was closed with many fans waiting in anticipation to see what was behind. When the door opened, a large psychedelic image of Mighty Bear projected on a see-through curtain was revealed which set the mood for what was about to happen. Mighty Bear appeared on stage behind the see-through curtain, wearing his famous drag outfit with a golden crown on his head covering his eyes, and what appeared to be a white mask underneath. The videos projected on the curtain in front of him were eerie silent era films and video art that fitted perfectly with Mighty Bear’s heavy electronic drone music. The set started with his heavier songs, but the artist was very cheerful in between the songs when interacting with the audience. Ending in heavy but more danceable songs, the set was like a thunderstorm.
JóiPé x Króli at Listasafn Reykjavíkur
As there was still some time to kill before heading down to Harpa for Team Dreams, I decided to stay at Listasafn Reykjavíkur to see Icelandic sweethearts JóiPé and Króli. They emerged into the Icelandic music scene last year when they were just high school students with their hit song B.O.B.A. and stayed on top of the charts in Iceland for weeks. This time they had a whole band playing with them for the first time, including a trumpet player, guitarist and a drummer. JóiPé and Króli play soft jazzy hip hop which they definitely put their souls into with their honest lyrics and performance. The venue was packed with an audience, many of whom were mouthing their Icelandic lyrics the whole time as the duo is very popular among locals. The crowd went wild when they performed one of their newest hits Þráhyggja (Obsession) and Efast (Doubting). As I had to run down to Harpa to catch Team Dreams I, unfortunately, missed B.O.B.A. but I’m sure it must have blown the roof off Listasafn Reykjavíkur.
Team Dreams at Harpa
I was excited to finally get to see Team Dreams, which is a supergroup consisting of established Icelandic artists Sóley, Sin Fang and Örvar Smárason. Their set started calmly with ambient vibes that went on through their show with more beat to follow. They played soft and dreamy electronic songs with beautiful and epic melodies. The sound in the Flói hall in Harpa was just perfect for Team Dreams’ music, and the audience had enough space to just be in their own world while immersing in the otherworldly music. Right before the end of their set, the band announced that this was the Team Dreams’ last performance together and I sure hope that was a lie.
Berndsen at Húrra
When I got to Húrra once again there was a huge line. The venue was packed as I’ve never seen before for Icelandic artist Berndsen who plays italo-disco inspired synthwave. He was as usual accompanied by artist Hermigervill on synthesizers and a guitarist. The set started with Berndsen getting the audience to shout his name, followed by his song Data Hunter and some vocoder madness. Berndsen had entertaining interaction with the audience through the whole show, including lifting his shirt over his head and weightlifting the microphone stand as well as switching outfits several times. The performance was super energetic, the audience was moving and the air was super sweaty. The crowd went crazy when he performed one of his older hits Supertime, Hermigervill swinging his long braids wildly and Berndsen dancing like a maniac. I loved the show but I felt the venue was a bit too crowded to enjoy it to the fullest, as I was crammed between two men the whole time and couldn’t really move as much as I wanted to.
Júníus Meyvant at Gamla Bíó
It felt good to walk out of Húrra into the fresh cold air. I decided on heading down to Gamla Bíó to catch the latter half of Júníus Meyvant’s concert, who is one of the bigger names in the Icelandic indie scene at the moment. The downstairs area at Gamla Bíó was a bit too crowded so I went upstairs to the balcony where the view was good for a small person like me. Júníus Meyvant was accompanied by a large band including a trumpet player and saxophone player and he played guitar himself. The music was happy indie folk with brass, something to listen to on a Sunday road trip to the countryside. The bassist wore a cowboy hat which definitely added to the folky feel. His music was easy to listen to and it was obvious that it appealed to a wide range of audience.
© Florian Trykowski
Mammút at Iðnó
After Júníus Meyvant’s concert, I walked to Iðnó to see Icelandic indie band Mammút. The venue was almost at capacity but I managed to sneak in right before the concert began. I hadn’t seen them perform in a long time or not since they departed with their former drummer. This time they had loads of new amazing songs which were still very Mammút-y: Indie rock spiked with heavy and catchy riffs with lead singer Katrína Mogensen’s amazing voice and dance performance on top. Their most recent music video was screened on the wall behind them to their song What’s Your Secret which was stunning. Mammút’s newer songs were all in English as they now have a huge international fanbase, but they of course performed some of their older hits in Icelandic to everyone’s pleasure.
The Saturday night was by far the sweatiest night of Airwaves. Even though there were no huge headliners this year, the festival was a blast and a great way to discover new artists in the Icelandic music scene.