Reykjavík Art Shows Cancelled Over Noise Complaints

iceland music venues

An art and concert venue in Skerjafjörður has been forced by city authorities to cease holding events after persistent noise complaints from local residents, reports Vísir.

The venue, called Tóma Rýmið, or Empty Space, is managed by the art collective, Klúbburinn. The collective leased the space from the City of Reykjavík through the art initiative Skapandi Borg, which seeks to promote the arts in Reykjavík. According to the group, it was understood at the time of signing that the space would be used for concerts. As such, they claim it is unfair for the city to prevent them from using the space as it was intended.

In the last two years, the old bar as hosted numerous shows, raves, and theater productions, and members of Klúbburinn are fighting to keep the venue alive.

In a statement to Vísir, Diego Manatrizio, event manager for the collective, said: “I think this is a unique place in the art scene. We provide a space for many projects that could probably not find a place anywhere else, projects that are first presented here.”

However, not all agree, and the City of Reykjavík also claims that the art group never applied for the necessary permits to hold events.

Local residents are also unhappy with the venue, saying that the shows last too late into the night and are far too noisy.

The art collective, however, has expressed the desire to improve conditions to be able to continue using the space. Birnir Jón Sigurðsson, a member of the collective, stated that they took the complaints seriously and were ready to make changes. However, he said, “If we don’t get help from the city, we’ll have to close the business.”

No More One-Metre Distancing Requirement for Seated Events

Harpa concert hall

Iceland’s Health Minister has lifted the requirement of one-metre distancing at seated events, such as concerts and performing arts events. The decision was made in consultation with the Chief Epidemiologist. Event organisers had complained that the rule was unnecessarily cumbersome and stricter than requirements in other types of venues, such as bars and restaurants.

“This is a big and important change,” Health Minister Willum Þór Þórsson stated. “This changes the conditions for holding events as it will be possible to utilise all seats at events as long as there are not more than 500 people per compartment.” As previously, mask use is still required at all seated events.

Performing arts venues are still not permitted to sell alcohol during events. Some event organisers have protested that regulation, as alcohol sales are permitted at bars, clubs, and restaurants.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Free Rapid Tests Possible Key to Looser Restrictions

Harpa concert hall

Public health insurance will cover the cost of rapid antigen tests as of September 20, including those required by private organisations such as concert venues. The aim is to increase the public’s access to rapid antigen tests and enable more parties to offer testing free of charge. Current domestic COVID regulations allow events of up to 1,500 guests provided attendees undergo rapid testing. Iceland’s Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason told Fréttablaðið that rapid tests could be the key to a more open society in the coming weeks.

When the pandemic began, Icelandic health authorities at first used exclusively PCR tests to screen for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Rapid antigen tests were approved for use much later and have only come into general use in recent weeks for border testing and for individuals who are not required to quarantine but may have been exposed to the virus.

In support of culture

New domestic regulations came into effect on September 15, raising the general gathering limit from 200 to 500 people. Events with up to 1,500 guests are permitted if all guests supply negative rapid test results. “In order for the introduction of rapid tests to serve its purpose of increasing people’s opportunities to attend a variety of events and pursue cultural activities, it is important to have easy access to rapid tests and that their cost is not cumbersome,” a government notice states.

The capital area healthcare service has offered rapid testing at Suðurlandsbraut 34 in Reykjavík, and other public healthcare centres offer rapid testing in various regions of the country. Private providers currently offer rapid tests at BSÍ, Kringlan, and Kleppsmýrarvegur in Reykjavík; Aðalgata 60 in Reykjanesbær; and the University of Akureyri in North Iceland.

The regulation comes into effect on September 20 and is valid until the end of this year.

Björk to Stage Three Unplugged, Fundraising Concerts in August

This August, Björk will stage three, special matinee performances to raise awareness about, and funds for, causes important to her. “i want to invite you to some concerts,” she wrote in a Facebook post in late June. “i want to celebrate that we’ve at least made it through the first stage of the coronavirus epidemic and honour the many icelandic musicians i’ve worked with through the years.”

“i recorded almost all of my albums with local musicians,” Björk wrote in a translation of her post on the Harpa website:

homogenic with an icelandic string octet

medulla with schola cantorum ( an icelandic mixed choir )

volta with 10 brass girls i found all over the island and then later they formed wonderbrass

biophilia with langholt´s church girl choir graduale nobili

vulnicura with a 15 piece string ensemble

utopia with 12 female fluteplayers who later formed the flute septet viibra

cornucopia with hamrahlíð´s choir conducted by þorgerður ingólfsdóttir

all these albums where then performed all around the planet with these musicians

together they are over hundred people !!

and we are going to celebrate that we are all healthily exiting quarantine together by playing concerts in harpa

my input into the feminist fight is to brag about that almost all of those arrangements are by me

unfortunately this is something that is almost always ignored when women are arrangers

Björk Orkestral – Live from Reykjavík” will be comprised of three, unique unplugged/acoustic performances. For the first performance, she’ll perform with the Hamrahlið Choir (conductor Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir) and organist Bergur Þórisson. The following week, she’ll be accompanied by the string section of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra (conductor Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason), and finally, for the last performance, she’ll be joined by the brass section of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, the flute septet Viibra, and harpists Katie Buckley and Jónas Sen.

Each of the performances will be held in the afternoon and streamed live, giving viewers the opportunity to donate to Kvennaathvarfið, a local women’s shelter which provides assistance to women and children who have had to leave their homes because of domestic violence. In-person attendees will have the opportunity to purchase food after the show, the proceeds of which will also support the shelter.

Referencing the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Björk concluded by writing:

i feel we are going through extraordinary times

horrifying but also an opportunity to truly change

it is demanded of us that we finally confront all racism

that we learn that lives are more important that profit

and look inside us and finecomb out all our hidden prejudices and privileges

let´s all humbly learn together


humongous love

Tickets for the concerts will go on sale at noon on July 3.

Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll to Live Stream Concerts

The Hjómahöll cultural centre and Icelandic Museum of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Reykjanesbær are collaborating on a series of live-streamed concerts in the coming weeks. The series, “Látum okkar streyma,” (‘Let us stream’) kicked off with a live set by singer/songwriter Ásgeir on Thursday night.

Moses Hightower will play on April 2, followed by GDRN on April 7, and Hjálmar on April 16. All concerts will begin live-streaming at 8.00pm GMT. The series will also include a behind-the-scenes tour of exhibits at the Icelandic Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum with music icons Páll Óskar and Björgvín Halldórsson (date and time TBA) and Icelandic music trivia nights hosted through the Kahoot live platform on March 27 and April 3 at 2.00pm GMT.

The concert schedule may be added to in future days and can be found on the Hjómaholl Facebook page. Live streams can be viewed online via the Facebook page or RÚV website, or listened to on Rás 2.

Ed Sheeran Arrives in Iceland

British pop star Ed Sheeran arrived in Iceland on Thursday ahead of two concerts he’ll hold at Laugardalsvöllur in Reykjavík this weekend, RÚV reports. The concerts are expected to draw 50,000 attendees.

Sheeran performed in Hungary on Wednesday and then flew straight to Iceland – possibly, it’s speculated, to give himself some time to do a little sightseeing. (This will be the musician’s first time putting on concerts in Iceland, but it isn’t his first time visiting. His last visit wasn’t all fun and games, though: as he told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, he burned his foot in a hot spring while visiting the country for his 25th birthday.)

Some 200 staff are now in the process of setting up the stage and preparing for Sheeran’s weekend shows. The musician actually brought his own stage, weighing 1,500 tonnes, with him, as well as 55 shipping containers with other equipment.

New Fund to Support Live Music Venues in Reykjavík

Húrra concert Reykjavík

Supporting small music venues is the goal of a new fund under the auspices of the City of Reykjavík. A press release on the city website states that the fund will supply grants for improving facilities, equipment, and accessibility at small and medium-sized venues and cultural centres that organise live music events. Recent years have seen the closure of many small music venues across Reykjavík, including Café Rosenberg, NASA, and Húrra to name a few.

“[The fund] contributes to the continuation of amenities for live music in the city which in turn supports the music scene and enhances daily life,” the press release reads. The fund is part of the Tónlistarborgin Reykjavík (Reykjavík Music City) project, a three-year developmental project intended to further strengthen Iceland’s capital as a centre of music by creating more supportive infrastructure for the music scene.

The application period for the fund opens on July 15 and the deadline is August 30. Application forms can be found on the city’s website.

Björk Debuts Cornucopia in New York City

Björk will be holding eight performances of her latest staged concert, “Cornucopia,” in New York City over the next month. RÚV reports that the Icelandic government has provided ISK 5 million [$41,196; €36,745] for the Hamrahlið Choir to travel to new York City and take part in the series.

Cornucopia will be performed at The Shed, a new arts and theater space in New York City. Per the description on the website, it is a collaboration between Björk and “a team of digital and theatrical collaborators, including award-winning filmmaker, screenwriter, and director Lucrecia Martel.” The performance will include “live musical arrangements, digital technology, and stunning visuals.” Björk has called Cornucopia is her “finest and most complex concert since getting started.”

The first performance will be held on Monday and the final on June 1. Each performance will have an audience of 1,200 people; all performances have sold out. Joining Björk at each of these performances will be a dozens of Icelandic musicians, such as the Vibra Flute Septet, and 50 members of the Hamrahlið Choir. The exact nature of the concert has been kept quite secret: no one from RÚV, for instance, was allowed to take photos during a recent Hamrahlið rehearsal for the upcoming event.

Duran Duran Returns to Iceland

Duran Duran will play a concert in Iceland in late June, RÚV reports. This will be the iconic band’s second time visiting Iceland—they last visited the country fourteen years ago, in 2005.

Known for such classic pop songs as “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Rio,” “Notorious,” and “A View to a Kill,” Duran Duran’s tenure has spanned four decades, during which time they’ve sold over 100 million records, won two Grammys, two Brit awards, and been awarded seven Lifetime Achievement Awards.

“If the show Duran Duran played in Iceland in 2005 is anything to go by, our show on June the 25th at Laugardalshöll is set to be a magnificent celebration – a blowout!” singer Simon Le Bon was quoted as saying in the press release on the band’s website. “I look forward to staying up all night like I did last time.”

The concert will be held at Laugardalshöll on June 25. Tickets will be sold on starting at 10 am on April 24.

Airwaves Raises Fees, Reduces Locations For Off-Venue Shows

Iceland Airwaves will be significantly reducing its off-venue locations from 60 to 25 in total, Kjarninnreports. Simultaneously, the fee for hosting official, off-venue Airwaves concerts over the entire Airwaves festival is significantly increasing, from ISK 60,000 [$526.40; €456.94] to ISK 500,000 [$4,387; €3,808].

These changes have been confirmed by Ísleifur Þórhallsson, the new CEO of Iceland Airwaves, who is also the CEO for Sena Live—the events company that bought Iceland Airwaves in February and which is responsible for bringing Ed Sheeran to play his first concert in Iceland next year.

Venues that want to host official off-venue concerts during Airwaves have to pay the festival a nightly fee, which increases the later in the week that the show is held. These fees are all being increased. So now, a venue that wants to host an off-venue concert on Wednesday has to pay ISK 50,000 [$439; €381]. Thursday shows will cost ISK 100,000 [$877; €762] and Friday shows ISK 150,000 [$1,316; €1,143]. Saturday off venue concerts are the priciest: ISK 200,000 [$1,755; €1,524]. This means that a venue that wants to host off-venue concerts every night during Airwaves will have to pay ISK 500,000 [$4,387; €3,808] for the honor. Ísleifur says that the festival is making special arrangements with non-profit venues, but no distinction has been made between venues based on their sizes or how they were operated in the previous year.

Official off-venue locations are listed in the Iceland Airwaves program and presented as part of the festival. There are rules that off-venue locations must abide by, such as that no artist playing an official Airwaves show can play an off-venue set on the same day.

Ísleifur says that off-venue locations are an important and fun part of the Airwaves, but that in reality, they have a significant effect on ticket sales and are a financial strain on the festival. As such, the number of venues is being reduced and special weekend events for bracelet holders are being introduced, in accordance with reorganization efforts aimed at helping the festival continue to succeed in the future.

Sena Live hopes that these changes will lead to increased ticket sales. This year, a festival bracelet will allow the wearer entrance to all festival events, unlike previous years. Ísleifur says the goal is to increase the value of the bracelets. He is quick to emphasize as well that the new owners take their position seriously and recognize the important role that Iceland Airwaves plays in the Icelandic music scene and in the city of Reykjavík as well.