The first time I went to Iceland Airwaves was the 2004 festival. I was 17 years old, way underage to be in any of the venues, and I had to ask my mom to buy my ticket. I lived up north in Akureyri at the time and I drove with a few friends to Reykjavík to experience the festival. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into; I just went along with the group.
By that time, the festival was shaping into what it is today with the venues down-town and the acts included the major Icelandic players along with some exciting international ones. I saw, for example, The Shins and Yourcodenameis:milo at a small bar and Keane at the major venue among other great ones. The magic happened and I was in love with it.
First of all, the location is awesome. It takes about 10 minutes to walk between the two venues that are furthest apart. Second, the line-up is usually kicks ass. This is the big stage for the local bands to impress the international music press and fans – and they usually bring their A-game! Also, the Airwaves staff usually has a knack for picking up international bands on the verge of world fame. Among bands that have played are Florence and the Machine, The Shins, The Rapture, Bloc Party and Hot Chip.
Third of all, and one of my favorite things, is the off-venues. The off-venue concerts are held at various places in Reykjavík and are open to all, ticket holders and others. Most of the Icelandic bands play off-venue gigs and many of the international ones too. So if you miss out on an act you can usually catch it at an off-venue.
But the main thing is that the people are awesome and the atmosphere is unreal. The town is packed and you hear music on every corner. Everyone is there to have a good time and enjoy themselves.
The beauty of Iceland Airwaves is that it’s always the same, but yet it’s always different. This festival will be my seventh. I’ve gone both prepared and unprepared. I’ve gone both sober and piss-drunk. I‘ve lived in the city center next to the bars and I‘ve been in the suburbs where you have to take an expensive taxi to get home. And I‘ve both had to wait in lines for hours and had a VIP pass to get in front of queues. There‘s just something about Iceland Airwaves that keeps me coming back!