I have a confession to make. It’s quite embarrassing actually. I am a born and raised Icelander, about to turn thirty next year and have lived my entire life in the Reykjavik area. Still, this is the first time I’m attending Icelandic Airwaves. Judge me all you like, because I deserve it.
So here I am, finally attending and I’m looking through the schedule and I hardly know any of the artists. But that’s part of the whole charm, isn’t it? This is a festival of discovering new artist from here in Iceland or just any other place in the world.
So I excitedly started to look through the schedule and plan my weekend. It was harder than anticipated because every time I thought I found the perfect artist to see, another one in the same time slot but different venue caught my eye. It’s going to be a weekend full of hard decisions and it might take quite a bit of beer to wash down any regret I might have about the choices I come to make.
The first choice was easy though. At 2:00 pm Madame Ghandi was playing at Kex Hostel and was pretty much the only artist playing at that time. For some reason I thought the show was starting at 2:30 pm and therefore only caught the last 1.5 song. Let’s put that down as a rookie mistake. So excited for my first Airwaves show that I arrived to Kex 25 minutes late to a packed venue.
If you’ve ever been to Kex Hostel then you’ll know the entrance is just this small doorway that wouldn’t be out of place at just about anybody’s regular home. Madame Ghandi was performing just to the left of said door so basically I come in and right away I’m at the front of the crowd and in everybody’s lane who’s either coming or going. Slightly uncomfortable but kinda charming at the same time. Lucky for me, the show was recorded so future me and readers who aren’t lucky enough to be attending the festival can see Madame Ghandi’s full show here.
Now life intervened so I was a bit preoccupied and busy until about 10pm which is when I made my way to the always masked and mysterious figure Orville Peck. He was once described by Vice as: “Presumably older than 20 and younger than 40” and that’s about it in terms of what anybody knows about the guy. I did know he was a country musician which generally is not my cup of tea but his whole persona had me intrigued.
He was playing at one of the bigger venues, the Reykjavik Art Museum, and like Kex it was loaded with people so I ended up standing in the back and sadly not really blown away by his music. He was cool as moose (get it? Cause he’s from Canada) and the crowd in front of me seemed to be really into it and he had some cool moments for sure but again, country music isn’t really my thing.
But that’s not a problem. There is always another show just around the corner. And literally just around the corner from Reykjavik Art Museum is another Airwaves venue: Gaukurinn. I went there and saw the Icelandic band Flekar whom I had never heard about before yesterday. They have this low-key indie sound that I really enjoyed but unfortunately their music style is so calm and soothing that the crowd at the bar talking loudly became very distracting. That’s not in any way a fault on the musician’s part but it was a factor in my experience nonetheless. Check them out though. They deserve more listens.
My final stop for the night was Hard Rock Cafe where one of the giants of the Icelandic rap scene, Úlfur Úlfur, was performing. I used to love Úlfur Úlfur but I’ve listened to them so much over the years that I’ve become quite indifferent towards them, skipping songs and removing them from said playlists. BUT….man are they good live. They have so many hit songs and bangers and they pull of every line on stage just as well as they do on a record. Don’t let my apathetic attitude towards them stop you from checking them out if you haven’t already.
Final act of the night was Hipsumhaps which have been creating a lot of noise recently in Iceland and they also are just really, really, good. I know. Surprise, right?
They have, similar to Flekar, this low key sound that sounds really mellow and if you are Icelandic and understand the lyrics it’s a bit like having a conversation with your friend. I don’t want to sound overly poetic but that’s how I felt while at the show. They are honest and genuine and something most people can easily relate to.
So all in all a great night to start airwaves.
May tonight be just as good or even better.
Have a great Airwaves weekend!