October 2006

Iceland Airwaves Music Festival
October 18 – 22, 2006 • downtown Reykjavik • Iceland
Report & photos by Galina Oussatcheva
Iceland Airwaves is by far one of the most interesting and exciting events in the music world. Set in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the midst of the Earth’s most spectacular landscape, the event attracts thousands of spectators every October. For four days, the picturesque capital city (the World’s most northern) becomes a venue for hundreds of performances by artists from a multitude of genres ranging from folk to rock to techno to experimental music. Bands and solo musicians from Iceland and abroad convene to showcase their talent in one of the coolest cities in the world.

Reykjavik view from Hallgrimskirkja
Perhaps the most important aspect of the event is that its organizers search for new, fresh faces in the Icelandic and international music scene. For those music lovers who are after what’s current, innovative and daring in the music world — Iceland Airwaves is a definite must. In the past, the festival hosted performances by such innovative artists as Ratatat, Hot Chip, GusGus, and Sigur Rós to name but a few.
This year’s festival highlights included performances by Icelandic Ghostigital of the former “Sugarcube” Einar Örn and contemporary music artist Curver, whose daring experimental soundscapes made for a performance as unforgettable as it was indescribable; Britain’s rockers The Kaiser Chiefs and from the U.S., We Are Scientists. For the first time in the festival’s almost decade-long history there were performers from Canada: Metric, Wolf Parade, Patrick Watson, and Islands. The latter gave two phenomenal performances, one at a record and retro clothing shop called “Elvis”, and another later the same day on the festival’s main stage located in the Reykjavik Art Museum. Both shows were popular with the crowd, effectively displaying the band’s ability to perform at both small and large venues with equal success. The rest of the line-up featured over 190 bands, solo musicians, and DJ’s from Austria, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United States, and the U.K.

“When choosing candidates for our next festival, the booking committee looks at what artists have to offer in terms of interesting, engaging performance. Fame is not a factor at all”, explains Eldar Astthorsson, the festival’s senior organizer. “In fact, we prefer emerging Indie artists, rather than big names, as Iceland Airwaves is rather a show-case event that provides much needed exposure, which is especially important for Icelandic musicians for whom such opportunities are otherwise limited.”

Skatar (Iceland) at NASA night club

Metric (Canada) at NASA night club

Kaiser Chiefs (UK) at the Reykjavik Art Museum
Indeed, as more and more attention is being paid to the festival by the music industry and press, the participating artists’ chances to get noticed increase. The festival’s philosophy is to be open to any suggestions and not to focus on any particular stylistic direction; all artists are welcome as long as they have something to offer. It is in a lot of ways a grass-roots event. The very idea of the festival grew out of an informal get-together organized about eight years ago by the Icelandic techno veterans GusGus, who are now renowned for their own work as well as collaborations with such artists as Björk and Depeche Mode. “It started as sort of a party GusGus threw with guests from the U.S. and the local folks. The atmosphere was fantastic, everybody just loved it!” says Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir, the festival’s organizer. “Then more people came the following year, it became a good tradition of getting together and performing for a local and foreign audience, and soon the event acquired a more solid structure and became a more formally organized event.”
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Galina Oussatcheva
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