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Airwaves Music Festival 2022 by Alicia Yang

I attended the Iceland Airwaves Music Festival in early November for the first time this year. After a visit to Iceland years ago, I found out about the Airwaves Festival and have made it a goal to attend. The recent years have had some uncertainty in travel, but I decided to plan as if I were going to go and am glad I did. 

Attendees of this event respect the art form and that's what I loved most of all. It was a collective celebration of music amongst a crowd of music lovers enthusiastic enough to buy a ticket and trudge it out in cold weather to several venues sprinkled all over downtown Reykjavík. Chilly evenings or not, it was one of the best experiences I've have had attending a festival. 


Note to reader: I purposefully did not research any band until I saw their performance. The only information I had was on the Iceland Airwaves Festival official site and Spotify playlist. I felt it presented more of a fresh experience that wasn't hampered down with the number of followers, posts, label/manager/album reviews, etc. that can bring judgement upon an artist. While there were a few names I was already familiar with - it was a fun experience to go into without biases from social media and the like. 

Day 1

After briefly going over the lineup of the festival and trying my best to retune my circadian rhythm to the time difference, I only had energy to see two bands. While disappointing, I told myself I would make up for it expeditiously in the next two days.  

The first day of festivals can sometimes be a wash, but being determined as I was, I wanted to uncover a jewel in the midst of the ocean of talented arts gathering in the city. Eyes glazed after scanning the online schedule several times, one band caught my eye - Apparat Organ Quartet.  

Although they were playing in an off-venue, meaning no bracelet or festival entrance was needed, I knew right away I needed to get there fast. Word had been spreading of unbearable lines and attendees growing skeptical of being able to get inside their concert of choice.  

A few hours into Iceland Airwaves and I had already overheard attendees bringing them up. So quickly getting into Apparat Organ Quartet on pure instinct was right on the money. It was a packed room and the door locking right behind me, as I entered.  

Being that they were not part of the official lineup in an official festival venue, gave it this underground feel. It was a one of those word of mouth or random flyers that was passed out to get there. Once you got there, your street cred just rose by 50 points.  

The quartet was in deep song as I entered, more drum machines and knobs than a recording studio. There was one on some kind of percussion instrument. I got some real Kraftwerk vibes, also just the nature of the setup and the packed room harkened me back to my warehouse days in Detroit. 808s pulsing and rhythmically creating the homegrown sound.  

One of the members had to leave for the last few songs. A bubble machine was activated after he left, not sure if the two were related. I really wish I had caught the whole performance. They had records for sale and when I walked by the back retail area of Bad Taste, the line was too long for me to stand in. (I bought it a few days later anyway.)  

Decided to go back to my headquarters and warm up, took a short break and felt done for the night. As I prepped for the next day, I saw that Crack Cloud was on in six minutes and it was a three minute walk to get there. Not being one to turn down new music, I am so glad I was able to get over any hesitation. Crack Cloud was a joy to watch and a band right up my alley.  

A multi-instrumental ensemble, their lead vocalist being also the drummer made for an interesting energy and stage set up. The amount of multitasking that was happening made the dynamics on stage constantly influx. One of the bandmates being a multi-instrumentalist, switched between guitar, sax and other instruments.  

The keyboardist went all the way. He threw himself into his performance and it was not ignored. There was a moment of soloing, like a jazz impresario diving into his work and recreating deeper levels of the piece. If you haven't had the pleasure to witness something like this, it's akin to any other type of solo work on stage - cadenza in the symphony, a soliloquy from Shakespeare, etc. The moments of his solo work were close to sacred moments in completing the performance. I definitely see a promising future for this band hailing from Canada.

Day 2

Cosby - Not sure I wanted to see this band but was immediately drawn to their energetic and upbeat songs from hearing it through a curtain partition. I realized I should be on the other side of the curtain and get my boogie on. Their lead singer kept the party going through their high frenetic song making.

The night before, I met someone from London who had recently become a fan of electronic music and has been exploring the genre. A super fan of Janus Rassmusen and going on about his prior performances, I could sense the absolute admiration and respect for Januswork. I really had no choice but to check him out. 

One part of a Icelandic-Faroese duo Kiasmos, from what I could tell, this was a solo performance by Janus. Unfortunately the line was long (good sign), but eventually got up in the queue and caught about the last 10-15 minutes. Upon entering, one sees heads bopping and bodies trying to shift around to the music - it was a straight up sauna in there. I felt like I was in one of the community pool places, the collective body heat conjured up this thick, warm wet air - 200% humidity made by 100% dancing. Boy lit the room on fire. 

Day 3

Marius DC is a Faroese MC who caught my interest from his video on the Airwaves site. His boyish looks and charm are a bit deceiving. His lyrics that let you know he is street wise, although from an area of the world that is yet to be recognized for its hotbed of music activity. I did enjoy his live performance just as much and would have liked to seen more of him. I dont know if it comes from again, my roots in Detroit and working at a rap label. If it does, I suppose I just have a softer spot for up and coming rhyming lyricists. 

Icelandic band LÓN was very peaceful and appropriately placed at Fríkirkjan, a church venue. There was a calm and stillness to the music. What I especially loved the most was being able to hear the acoustic set in absolute stillness, while every pew was filled in a standing room only sanctuary and have the acoustics of the church carry the set forward. My only objection was that it was at the very beginning of the evening when everything is just starting to pop off. Don't get it twisted, I thoroughly enjoyed the music but it would have been great to hear this right before I went to bed. At this performance, I was accompanied by a local Icelander who said her parents enjoyed LÓN. Do what you want with that information. 

Another Icelandic band, Vök is a local favorite and recognizable to several Icelanders for their hits being in constant radio rotation and public play. They definitely kept the energy up and fans were not disappointed. 

Arlo Parks has a rich, smooth voice that just wraps you up in a silky robe on a sunny day. Her voice instantly roped me in with its warmth and class. I could really listen to her anytime. There's no excuse needed to play her songs, they are good for anytime, anywhere. 

Norwegian band Combos was listed as hip hop. I then took a listen to the track listed on Spotify and a quick look at their photo, which was puzzling. Their style reminded me of a ska, punk, possibly reminiscent of that 90s garage rock. They have an energy right out the gate that is aggressive, in your face and punchy. Right away, you'll want to release your own aggression in the mosh pit. The lead knows how to command the audience and enjoys surfing the crowd often. The band is in synch, confident in what they're delivering and do a great job of it. There is no room for maybe we'll play a little, it's let's go from the start. 

Röyksopp's DJ set was a definite crowd pleaser, ending the festival at the Art Museum. I danced my pants off it was so great, really! They had a great tech-house set and of course ended on their hit song. They were the only performers to go past the set end time and play an encore song, that I witnessed personally. My friend also made the same observation. 

Every performance up to this last one, started right on time and ended on the minute of their end time. Even though crowds were absolutely begging for an encore - none would cave. So it was a nice breaking of rules for the very last act. 

Regrettably Missed but not Forgotten

It's too bad this list is longer than it should be. There were moments you just had to sacrifice one artist for the other and hope that they will tour soon or make it to another festival. 

Emotional Oranges - Hunnypot favorite! I know I know, how could I? My scheduling got off on the night of their performance and really sucked some stinky shark meat. 

Daughters of Reykavík - An Iceland music export gaining traction in the US, will most likely play US at some point. Got some info that it was a great show with some punk aesthetic and good on them for using their platform for positive action. 

Inspector Space - They will be on heavy rotation on my dance playlist 

Ultraflex - I was trying to balance out the type of acts I was going to catch and unfortunately this one got missed (couldnt miss Janus! Im sure they understand.) 

Árný Margrét - this Icelandic artist's voice enraptured me with her mellow tunes, soothing on a cold night and goes well with a warm cup of tea. Aeing after Lon though, I was worried I would fall asleep. 

Gugusar - performing on my poorly planned Friday, I missed out on them but have been dancing along with their music. 

Bríet - Local favorite, I saw a bunch of tweens/teens and their mothers getting all excited over her. 

Kristján Hrannar Pálsson Organ Concert - Big fail. This was a special concert taking place at the largest church in Iceland, Hallgrímskirkja. The venue is a huge point of tourism for the city and houses an organ with 5,275 pipes. Kristján was set to play the works of Daft Punk on organ... drool, the music lover/dork in me. It seems he has performed Daft Punk on organ a few other times so hopefully there will be another opportunity.


Takk Airwaves 2022

The US has always welcomed a Norwegian and Iceland music export here and there for quite a while now and I don't see any reason to stop. They continue to bring a good time and respectful compositions and strong performances. 

All of them starting on time and ending on time.  


Alicia Yang

Alicia Yang


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