I’ve Never Gone North

ísafjörður road

Our camper van is eating up kilometres as we drive north into the Westfjords. It’s the middle of March, and though in climes less far-flung that means springtime, up here it is still very much winter. An observer may well ask – why drive to the edge of the Arctic Circle, in March, in a […]

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5 x Music Festivals in Reykjavík Worth Attenting

While Iceland´s breathtaking landscapes and natural wonders often are the reason people visit, the capital city of Reykjavík is a dynamic hub with vibrant cultural and artsy energy. Iceland´s music industry is one of the main cultural scenes, with numerous artists having achieved international acclaim, like Björk, Laufey, Of Monsters and Men, Sigur Rós and more.

With the music scene in Iceland undeniably flourishing, Reykjavík city hosts over a dozen music festivals annually with even more festivals taking place around the country. These festivals are a great place for both established and emerging artists, whether local or international, to showcase their art to enthusiastic audiences.

Here are 5 music festivals in Reykjavík city worth attending. 

 

1. Iceland Airwaves

This festival is without a doubt one of the most iconic festivals in Reykjavík. Iceland Airwaves was established in 1999 as a one-time event in an aeroplane hangar. Since then it has evolved into one of Iceland’s biggest and most established festivals. Held in November each year, Iceland Airwaves transforms the whole city into a musical haven with its immersive, multi-genre music festival. The performances spread across various venues, from intimate bars and stores to grand concert halls and showcases a range of unheard-of-up-and-comers to local rising stars and established (international) talent. 

 

2. Innipúkinn

In Iceland, the first Monday of August is celebrated as a national holiday known as the ´tradesman’s holiday´. The weekend before is the Verslunarmannahelgi weekend, which has become the biggest festival and travel weekend in Iceland, marked by numerous festivities across the country and leaving Reykjavík almost empty for an entire weekend. 

To inject some energy into the city during this bustling travel period, Innipúkinn festival was established in 2001. Translating to ´someone who prefers being inside´, Innipúkinn is an alternative celebration for those who opt to stay within the city confines rather than venture to outdoor concerts and camping sites.

This three-day music festival features performances by various musicians at venues scattered throughout the city. Single-night tickets are available, and attendees may even have the chance to snag a ticket at the door.

 

3. Secret Solstice festival

Embracing the spirit of the iconic lyrics of Led Zeppelin, “From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow….,” the Secret Solstice festival is perfect for those seeking a more distinctive experience. Held during the summer solstice, the Secret Solstice festival makes use of Iceland’s long and bright summer nights with performances under the beautiful glow of the midnight sun. 

The festival was established to create unique music experiences and to push boundaries. Whether they ́re hosting a rave in a glacier or orchestrating performances in 5000 year old lava tunnels, the organisers are dedicated to offer memorable and unconventional experiences to their attendees. Their main goal is to combine music with outdoor adventure as well as having stage events in the city. 

It’s truly an immersive experience that celebrates both the music and natural wonders of Iceland.

 

4. Reykjavík Jazz festival

Established in 1990, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival stands as one of Iceland’s oldest and most enduring music festivals. Held annually at the end of August, this event has garnered increasing prestige within the international jazz community.

For jazz-fans, the festival presents an unmissable opportunity to dive into a world of musical diversity, featuring performances from both Icelandic and international artists. From contemporary and avant-garde expressions to the rhythm of Latin jazz and the grandeur of big bands, the Reykjavík Jazz Festival offers a rich tapestry of genres to explore.

5. Músíktilraunir – The Icelandic Music Experiments

Músíktilraunir or The Icelandic Music Experiments, is an established musical event that was first held in 1982. It stands out as a unique event within Iceland´s music industry as it provides an invaluable opportunity for young, aspiring musicians. While its not a traditional music festival, music-lovers are sure to discover upcoming talents and enjoy great music. 

The festival takes place in Reykjavík city, usually at the beginning of the year. Over the course of five days, close to 50 musical acts compete to take one of the ten available places in the finals. Músíktilraunir serves as a crucial stepping stone, offering a platform for 13-25 year old musicians to showcase their skills and gain both national and international recognition. 

Notable past winners include Of Monsters and Men, Samaris, Mínus and Mammút, all of whom have since cemented their place within the music industry, both in Iceland and abroad. 

So if you are a music lover seeking fresh sounds and travelling to Iceland, Músíktilraunir might just be the festival for you. 

 

Iceland News Review: Music in the Countryside, Saving Our Sheep

INR

In this episode of Iceland News Review, a very special music festival is coming your way, more Palestinians with Icelandic residence permits have been rescued from Gaza, possibly the largest police sting operation in Icelandic history, how we may save our sheep from scrapie, and much more.

Iceland News Review brings you all of Iceland’s top stories, every week, with the context and background you need. Be sure to like, follow and subscribe so you don’t miss a single episode!

Popular Town Festivals Coming to an End

Mýrarboltinn mud football

Town festivals in Iceland have long been popular summer attractions that receive visitors from all across the country and abroad. However, many notable ones have come to an end in recent years, Vísir reports. The “mud football” tournament Mýrarboltinn in Ísafjörður no longer takes place, the Great Fish Day in Dalvík is not celebrated anymore, Mærudagar in Húsavík has been scaled back, and the heavy metal festival Eistnaflug in Neskaupsstaður is in hibernation. Recently it was announced that LungA Art Festival in Seyðisfjörður will be hosting its final edition this summer.

Stressful for organisers

The festivals tend to focus on music, arts, food or other cultural activities, and most of them take place in the summer, with the music festival Aldrei fór ég suður in Ísafjörður kicking off the season around Eastertime.

According to Þórhildur Tinna Sigurðardóttir, an organiser at LungA, the reason for the festival coming to an end is limited funding and a heavy workload for the people involved. “There is a lot of volunteer work and struggle,” Þórhildur Tinna said. “The format is such that most of the work falls on one week in the summer. It takes its toll and isn’t emotionally sustainable. Not to mention the financial side.”

25th and last LungA

Þórhildur Tinna called for more public funding for town and arts festivals across the country and argued that the financing has gone down in real terms. “If this is to be sustainable for small festivals, town festivals, arts festivals and music festivals, these grant systems need to be revised,” she said, adding that it’s appropriate that the 25th edition of LungA this summer will be its last. “We’re ending the festival with the hopes of something new being created in its place by the younger generations.”

Bombay Bicycle Club, 30 Other Acts, Added to Airwaves Lineup

Over fifty artists have been announced for this year’s Iceland Airwaves music festival. Among the bands that will be performing in Reykjavík in November is the English indie rock band Bombay Bicycle Club.

Over two decades of fresh music

Yesterday, the organisers of the Iceland Airwaves music festival announced 30 additional acts to this year’s lineup. For over two decades, the Iceland Airwaves music festival has endeavoured to shine a spotlight on up-and-coming musicians, local and foreign alike. The festival has seen early appearances from the likes of Mac DeMarco, James Blake, Sufjan Stevens, Sigrid, Florence and The Machine, and Hot Chip – alongside most of Iceland’s most recognisable musical talent.

This year’s festival will take place in various venues around Reykjavík between November 2 and 4. Yesterday, Airwaves announced that the English indie band Bombay Bicycle Club, which first performed at the Airwaves festival in 2010, would be performing again at this year’s festival. Alongside Bombay Bicycle Club, the following acts are set to perform at the 2023 Iceland Airwaves festival, As noted on the festival’s website:

Andy Shauf, Anna Gréta, Árný Margrét, Ás­dís, Ash Ol­sen, Balming Tiger, Blonds­hell, Bombay Bi­cyc­le Club, Cassia, Celebs, Clubdub, Cyber, Dani­il, DOMi and JD Beck, Donk­ey Kid, Ey­dís E­ven­sen, Faux Real, FETISH, Fran Vasilic, Gallus, Ghostly Kis­ses, Greyskies, GRÓA, Jelena Ciric, JJ Pau­lo, Jon­a­t­han Hul­tén, Kári Egils­son, Kóngu­ló, Kristin Sesselja, Knee­cap, Kusk & Ó­viti, Kvikindi, Lime Gard­en, Lón, Love’n’joy, Madma­dmad, Markéta Irg­lová, Monikaze, Mugi­son, Myrkvi, Nanna, Neonme, Sandra­yati, Sig­rún Stella, SKAAR, Soffía, Sprints, Squ­id, Superjava, Super­serious, The Goa Express, The Haun­ted Youth, Til­bury, Trentemøller, Whispering Sons, Yard Act.

Iceland Airwaves Postponed Until 2021

This year’s Iceland Airwaves music festival will be postponed until 2021. Per an announcement on the Airwaves website, organizers “reviewed many scenarios: with social distancing; with lower attendance; with less venues” and came to the conclusion that “there was no feasible solution to deliver the festival safely.” Ticket holders for this year’s festival fear not, however: 2020 tickets will be valid for Airwaves next year.

The 2020 Airwaves lineup will stay in place for next year’s festival and includes an additional 25 new acts that were announced on Wednesday. International acts Crack Cloud (Canada), Porridge Radio (England), Balming Tiger (South Korea), and Faux Real (France/US) will play Airwaves next year, along with Icelandic favourites Bríet, HipSumHaps, GDRN, and “beloved troubadour” Mugison.

Those who will not be able to attend next year’s festival will receive a reimbursement for their ticket.

More information on the Iceland Airwaves website (in English), here.

Twentieth Annual Iceland Airwaves Kicks Off

Iceland Airwaves began today with a full schedule of shows, featuring headlining Icelandic acts such as Kælan Mikla, Reykjavíkurdætur, Úlfur Úlfur, and Árstíðir, mbl.is reports.

This is the 20th year in a row that Iceland Airwaves has been held, although this year’s event is under new management, as the popular fest was purchased by event production company Sena Live earlier this year. Sena has implemented some structural changes to this year’s Airwaves, such as reducing the number of off-venue locations from 60 to 25.

Featuring musicians from 25 countries, this year’s festival will host 240 bands, the most musical acts to have ever taken part in Airwaves. The festival will continue nightly through Saturday, November 10.

Heavy Metal Festival Proposed for Mosfellsbær

Stephen Lockhart and Gunn­hild­ur Edda Guðmunds­dótt­ir, residents of Mosfellsbær just outside of Reykjavík, have petitioned the town council to allow them to host an international heavy metal festival, mbl.is reports. Ascension MMXIX, as the would-be festival been dubbed, would invite 10 – 12 international acts to perform alongside a number of Icelandic bands over the course of three days next summer.

Looking to the success of the Eistnaflug metal festival and its partnership with the East Iceland village of Neskaupstaður, Stephen, a recording engineer who operates Studio Emissary in Mosfellsbær, and Gunnhildur, a designer, are hoping to partner with a municipality to launch the new festival. The town’s sole contribution to the venture would be provide an indoor festival venue free of charge.

For the last three years, the pair has organized the Oration Music Festival in Reykjavík, which has drawn some 300 – 500 attendees, about 60% of whom are foreigners. Ascension is meant to appeal to the same demographic.

To Hell: At Sigur Rós’ Norður og Niður Festival

An Icelandic artist is standing on a makeshift stage in Harpa concert hall and conference centre. Clad in a poncho and Gandalf hat, he has been given the task of introducing indie choir Kórus on stage as a part of the opening ceremony of Norður og niður (“to Hell”), Sigur Rós’ music festival held last December at Harpa. The thing is, the artist can’t see the choir, standing patiently in the staircase opposite him (perhaps they’re obscured by his enormous hat?), so he fumbles on with the introduction in English so broken that at one point someone is heard asking “What the hell is he talking about?” What the hell, indeed! Norður og Niður literally translates as “north and down”, but more colloquially it might be translated as “to hell” or even “go to hell”.

Eventually, the host sees the choir waving and nervously introduces them twice more, further confusing everyone. Luckily, he has been blessed with a most amiable crowd of Sigur Rós fans and music-loving introverts, so whatever dismay we may be feeling as a result of the opening ceremony’s incoherence, we’re silently internalising it while listening to the ethereal Kórus and drinking patented Sigur Rós beer. For some people, this might be hell, but for lovers of the Sigur Róss unique quirk and charm, it’s quite the opposite.

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