Yeah, so this is a little late…..Iceland Airwaves. Wow. Where to even begin. Well, let’s start off with a few basics…
Reasons not to go to Iceland Airwaves:
1. Iceland is so expensive it will hurt your soul. Only go here if you are a millionaire, wait no, make that Billionaire. They have a sign at customs that says “Only American Billionaires May Enter”. Beer costs $12 at a venue and a meal will run you about $40, $50 if you have anything to drink. It’s insane. The value of the dollar is so low right now that Iceland just isn’t the smartest choice.
2. People are SO beautiful you will feel like a deformed leper compared to them. DO NOT GO TO ICELAND IF YOU HAVE LOW SELF ESTEEM. You will leave feeling like a pile of poo.
3. The weather in October SUCKS. If you can’t deal with cold, wind and rain all at the same time then forget about this festival.
4. There are so many bands playing at the same time in 6 different venues across town, you will undoubtedly feel like you missed someone.
Reasons to GO to Iceland Airwaves:
1. People are SO beautiful you will feel like a deformed leper compared to them. I mean MY GOD. I have never been in a place with such a dense concentration of people I wanted to make out with. Men look like Viking Norse Gods and women are breathtaking and elf like.
2. Reykjavik is such a small city that the festival basically takes over for a few days. The city is overrun by musicians, music journalists and photographers. It’s easy to mingle with all of these music folk as you see them everywhere you go. Want to have dinner next to Bonde do Role? Easy. Want to drink tea across from !!!? Done. You literally see everyone everywhere.
3. Iceland has created some very innovative artists: Sigur Ros, Björk, Amiina and Mum. However, there are hundreds more and you can see them all at the festival. Exposure to so many interesting and talented musicians is a delightful treat.
Guide to Iceland Airwaves
Practical Bullshit and random tourist information
Choosing a package deal with IcelandAir is going to be your best bet. These deals include airfare, hotel accommodations and a festival pass. All things considered, this is not a bad price- roughly $800-$900. The festival pass alone is about $100 and for all the music you get to see it’s worth it. Plus you don’t have to sleep in a horrible mud filled tent like at Roskilde or Glastonbury. You get to choose a hotel from a list of centrally located hotels. Flights leave from BWI which is both quiet and convenient.
Reykjavik, the northernmost capital in the world, is a small town. It’s location on the southwestern coastline gives it a more temperate climate then you think. The Gulf Stream comes through here and the winters are in no way as severe as the word “Iceland” makes you think. However, as any Icelander will tell you: winter undoubtedly means rain /wind season. Bring layers and a lot of rain proof material.
You can visit most things in the “downtown” 101 area in a day or two. The city sprawls out amidst a fairly large area but the 101 part is where you will most likely spend most of your time.
Places to check out in the day time:
Babalu café- tucked away on an upper level on Skolavordustigur 22a. This is an extremely cozy coffee house, full of books, magazine, music and everything you can imagine in your friends basement when you were 15 years old.
12 Tonar– right across the street is one of Iceland’s best known record labels and record store. This is also an off venue event space during the festival. If you miss a band during the evening, they are most likely playing at least once at an off venue place in the daytime!
Café Hljomalind– Located on the main street, Laugavegur 21, this non profit coffee shop offers delicious vegetarian food and free musical performances. Find a seat in a small nook and get the hot chocolate.
Hressingarskálinn– This year the festival information center was spaced in this roomy and bright bistro/bar. Come here to answer any festival related questions, have a beer or eat a reasonably priced and tasty meal. This is also where ALL the musicians and media people could be found staring at the Macs (free wireless).
Kolaportið Flea Market– If you are into flea markets, this is your dream world. Located by the harbor ( and indoors!) and open only on weekends, you can sift thru all sorts of odds and ends, do your grocery shopping, have coffee with the senior citizens of town and buy some delicacies. Last time I went a lady was giving clothes out for FREE.
Sputnik – A second hand and vintage clothes lovers dream. This is where all the young and trendy of Reykjavik buy their attire. And trust me, they are TRENDY. Here you can find as many Fresh Prince blazers as you can fit in a room or any color spandex. Their dress section is sick; I had to leave this store because I thought my brain would blow up. On 28B Laugavegur
Rokk og rósir– A few doors down at Laugavegur 32, you will find an even more detailed selection of thrifty goods. Connected to a music store
Hallgrímskirkja, the centrepeice of the city.
Icelanders love soaking in hot pools. It’s almost mandatory to visit the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal man made outdoor spa. The water has a milky blue color contrasting with the lava formed black rocks and steam drifts into the air giving off an ethereal quality. The water is rich in minerals like silica, which are supposedly good for your skin. You can even buy some special blue lagoon skin products in their store for about one million dollars, if you want to take a part of it home with you. Seriously, it’s an extremely unique experience, albeit expensive. (entrance is around $20).
During the Airwaves festival, there is a “Blue Lagoon Hangover Party” where everyone is invited to enjoy music, float in silica water and mingle naked with other festival goers. This year French bloggers FluoKids and Detect entertained the crowd.
If you feel adventurous and want to explore some of Iceland’s breathtaking natural surroundings in between all your concerts and blurry late nights, it’s just a short trip away. I cannot stress how STRANGE the landscape is. There are barely any trees. Black boulders of lava rocks are sprawled everywhere. You see massive glacier topped mountains in the distance, and this is just in the surrounding area. Go a bit farther in the middle of the country and the geological activity gets even more interesting and bizarre. When you leave the city, the landscape is void of anything manmade. You can be on a road, alone and see practically nothing to prove the existence of humans. It’s spectacular.
For a short taste of this do the “Golden Circle” tour which encompasses: Gulfoss, a thundering waterfall; Geysir, a hot spring from where the word “geyser”; and Thingvellir, a national park and home to Iceland’s first parliament. There are several tour companies that offer this tour and it doesn’t take that long. I recommend!
Thingvellir, where the American and European Teutonic plates meet.
TOMORROW: THE ACTUAL FESTIVAL BREAKDOWN