So it’s midnight in the dimly lit Gaukurinn venue down near the harbour. You’ve already been to Harpa concert hall for some relaxing neo classical piano, caught a singer songwriter in a bookstore, a synth pop group in a cafe and an indie folk outfit in a church. Now you’ve a pint of Thule in one hand and are fist pumping with the other to black metal while new friends you met just a few hours earlier stick a shot of Brennavin in your hand and tell you about a house party happening later on. Welcome to Iceland Airwaves.
Nov 2nd marks the 18th year of the festival with the guts of 200 acts playing across a dozen or so venues from Wednesday to Sunday. Better known international acts on the line up this year include PJ Harvey, Warpaint, Julia Holter and one I’m very much looking forward to – Santigold. Supergroup Minor Victories, consisting of members from Slowdive, Mogwai and Editors will also be making the trip north. Then there’s the finest Canada has to offer with shoegaze supremos Beliefs and psyche dance headcases Doomsquad. Coals from Poland will bring a folky tinged air to proceedings while German act Die Nerven will have post punk panda eyes locked on their every move.
And how often do you get the chance to see a band composed of four mentally disabled musicians from Finland? That’s right, the stars of the famous documentary “The Punk Syndrome”, Pertti Kurikan Nimpaivat will be there. How the hell I’m going to pronounce that is another story.
The vast majority of the line up though quite rightly features Icelandic acts and to say that there’s a lot of talent up there is like saying there’s a bit of snow in Greenland. The place is packed with gifted musicians of all conceivable genres. Don’t be shocked if you see the drummer from a death metal band behind the skins for a electro pop act or the same bassist playing shows with five or six different bands during the week.
Icelandic acts to look out for include black metallers Auðn, party bands FM Belfast and Berndsen and neo classical geniuses Hugar. In a country awash with hip hop acts we have one of the best in the shape of Emmsje Gauti and if it’s Iceland’s answer to Aphex Twin you’re after looking no further than the sublime Futuregrapher. My favourite act of last years festival, Fufanu will be swagging across the stage delivering post punk volleys at unsuspecting punters while Hinemoa will sooth any hangovers with their gentle indie folk melodies. Of Monsters & Men and mum will be making an appearance while the brilliant Sin Fang will be showcasing tracks from his magnificent new album Spaceland.
There’s also a whole off venue program running alongside the main festival for which no wristband is required.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Bjork is playing.
See the rest of the line up here.
All words by Emmett Mullaney. More writing by Emmett on Louder Than War can be found here