By Árni Hjörvar
Praying for a miracle
In accordance with the unwritten expatriate code, I have spent the last few years going on about the wonders of my native Iceland. Seeing as the majority of those years have been spent in the company of the same three men (i.e. my beautiful band members), they have been subject to some criminal exaggerations of our excellence in pretty much every field imaginable.
Be it how our environmentally friendly energy is morally superior to anything the UK will ever manage to conjure up, how Tópas beats Scotch every time or even how Westminster Abbey pales in comparison to Hallgrímskirkja. My delusions of grandeur have reached such heights that I’ve almost (the key word being ‘almost’) managed to convince myself there’s actually some truth in all this.
This caused me some sleepless nights in the run-up to my band’s appearance at Iceland Airwaves. The realisation that if not for some kind of miracle, this magical world I’d been carefully constructing for my British friends would crumble. I needed something dramatic to happen to save me from the humiliation of my fellow travellers seeing how severely my minority complex had taken hold of me.
But lo and behold, the illusion survived.
The freak arrival of an apocalyptic storm caused my party to stay holed up in a hotel for the duration of their stay. A mixture of back-up plans in case the Art Museum (our venue) lost its roof, traffic signs flying past hotel windows and people clinching to lampposts for their lives resulted in accusations of me trying to murder them if I dared to even suggest going out the door.
I got saved by the bell.
Encountering navigational problems
It became clear to me that this was absolutely for the best, as I would have made a fool of myself had I managed to drag them out of the house. The ever-changing maze that is 101 Reykjavík made it nigh impossible to navigate. A search for Legend’s video premiere at Bakkus took me on a walk from one end of town to the other as I slowly started to wonder if I was losing my mind. What I knew as Bakkus was now Dubliner’s, and by the time I found what I was looking for, at a place which I’ve previously known as 22, Karamba or Barbara—and probably some other names that escape me at the moment—I had passed dozens of pubs which also bore different names to those I associated with them. I felt like I’d never been to the city before.
Entering Bakkus I then found myself, to my surprise, in some sort of a Karaoke-off between various local indie bands. In a state of confusion I ran off and into what could possibly be considered one of 101’s very few staples, Kaffibarinn. It has become a bona fide institution, not because it’s done anything in particular. Just by default. Just by not having disappeared.
Thankfully, the festival itself proved considerably less confusing. Since I last attended in 2007 it’s grown exponentially. Airwaves used to be a relatively simple music festival confined to a few venues in downtown Reykjavík. This time around it had completely taken over the city. It was all-encompassing and everything was Airwaves. I actually think the festival organisers could make a strong case for getting 101 renamed Airwaves for that one week in a year.
Seeing some fantastic local bands jotted around an array of venues and makeshift stages in hotel lobbies, youth hostels, shop-windows or sheds on city squares all proved pretty inspiring, as you didn’t really have to have a clue what was going on, you’d most likely encounter something weird and wonderful just by being in town. I certainly did.
In fact, the words “weird and wonderful” perfectly describe my Airwaves highlight this year. It came from Rafwaves (which is admittedly an off-venue but I’m including it anyway), when I witnessed Ghostigital terrorise a handful of folks with their incoherent mumblings and post-apocalyptic beats in a room above a bookstore, decked out with white tablecloths and candles. It was surreal but comforting.
And that pretty much sums up my feelings towards the whole weekend. Surreal but comforting. Thanks Airwaves.
-Árni Hjörvar, November 11, 2012
Árni Hjörvar currently resides in London, UK, although majority of his time is spent on the road with his band, The Vaccines.