“We come from the land of ice and snow
From the midnight sun where the hotsprings flow” – Led Zeppelin, “Immigrant Song”
As I type these words I am roughly 30,000 feet in the air on a Boeing 757 on my way to Reykjavik with Mrs. Guerrilla Candy where we will spend 10 days enjoying the food, culture, people and music of Iceland.
Why am I telling you this? Because dear readers, while I am in Reykjavik I’ll be spending lots of quality time with some of the best up-and-coming bands from around the world at the annual Iceland Airwaves festival and I want to share all of the awesomeness of Airwaves, as well as the magical beauty of of all things Iceland, with you.
Here’s a quick rundown of Icelandic Airwaves in case you aren’t familiar with this burgeoning international festival. Airwaves is a five-day event that features more than 200 bands and more than 600 shows at various off-site venues. The off-site venues are spread throughout Reykjavik and include spots like laundromats, cafes, book stores, record shops, restaurants and other spots that aren’t the larger concert halls where all the main action takes place, making for interesting and fun settings to get up close and personal with the talent. I’m personally looking forward to seeing bands perform at a bar in the early morning (roughly 7 a.m.) while eating bacon, sausage and maybe some Icelandic pancakes (which are somehow different than regular old American pancakes). The best part about the off site shows, aside from the cool locations, is that they are all free. So while Airwaves passes have been sold out for quite a while now, anyone can experience the festival by checking out the off site events.
Unlike most major music festivals around the world, Airwaves isn’t booked around big-name headliners. Sure this year the fest is headlined by German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk. But Airwaves is known for focusing on smaller bands who may, or may not, be on the rise to fame, as opposed to bringing major acts out to the tiny island nation of Iceland. Some of the other acts on the bill you may be familiar with include UK rockers Savages, Canadian Sub Pop signees Metz, Yo La Tengo, Villagers, Midlake, Zola Jesus, Syrian dance music maestro Omar Souleyman, Olafur Arnalds (who is performing with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra), FM Belfast and soulful pop duo AlunaGeorge. But really, I’m attending Airwaves more to discover some of my new favorite artists as opposed to check out music I’m already familiar with. Oh, and I should mention that Guerrilla Candy favorites Kithkin are the lone local band on the bill and that KEXP will be broadcasting from the festival, so tune in to 90.3 to hear some very cool Icelandic bands as well as other artists who are also performing at the festival.
Throughout the next several weeks, possibly months, Guerrilla Candy will be part local music website and part travel blog as I chronicle my experiences in the land of fire and ice and share selected highlights from my journey as well as lots and lots of words about some killer music. Expect to read about what it’s like to chill at the Blue Lagoon, shop at Icelandic record shops, eat Icelandic hot dogs (believe it or not, Icelanders are very proud of their hot dogs), drink authentic brennivin (which is a supposedly delicious Icelandic alcohol that’s sometimes called “black death”) and Icelandic microbrews, learn about the Icelandic Phallological Museum (it’s exactly what you think it is) and find out the differences between Icelandic and American pancakes.