From my readers: Iceland Airwaves for the uninitiated by Edward Hancox

This is the second guest post in my From my readers series (see the first post from Florian here) and this time Edward Hancox is going to tell you all about why Iceland Airwaves is one the greatest music festivals ever.

Edward has traveled to Iceland on numerous occasions. He pretends to forget the exact number. His wife knows the exact number.
Edward is currently writing his first novel, Iceland, Defrosted, which puts into words his obsession with Iceland, its people, places and its music. It’s an obsession that started with hearing Sigur Rós in a record store, and shows no sign of abatement.

He is currently searching for a publisher for Iceland, Defrosted. Interested? Please feel free to have a look at his Iceland Defrosted blog (and some cute puffin photographs!) or follow him on twitter (@edhancox).

Iceland Airwaves for the uninitiated

Photo by Siggi – From the Iceland Airwaves Flickr Photostream

In less than 3 weeks, Iceland Airwaves will be here. Personally, I can’t wait. For those new to the concept of Airwaves, let me explain. Reykjavík becomes a music festival. Not a music festival in the traditional sense – no Wellington boots are required, no portable toilets to be seen – but one that all music festivals should be modelled on. The usual venues are supplemented by special venues, such as chapels, shops, swimming pools, hotels, hostels, museums, bookstores, a church and even cafes serving ‘Rock and Bacon’ at breakfast. Consider Lily & Fox (Hildur fromr Rökkurró, no foxes involved) in a tiny record store, Low Roar in a bookshop, or Lay Low in a church. Every corner of Reykjavík is filled with the best new music.

Not interested yet? Reykjavík turns into a party town, for five days. Music combines with drink and good times, and in true Icelandic style, doesn’t come to an end at 11pm, but continues throughout the night. Having looked at the schedule, I think it might be just about possible to go from gig to gig for 24 hours, for five consecutive days. Parties are bound to include any shows by FM Belfast, The Vaccines, the electronica session in the Hlemmur bus station (no really!) and anything kicking off in the small hours, most of which will be unannounced until the last minute.

If this doesn’t grab you, there are quieter, more cultural moments to be sought out. Try Days of Gray, a film shot in Iceland and scored by Hjaltalín at Bió Paradís, or the opening of the Apfelsin bros. art exhibition – the latest project from Sindri (from Sin Fang and Seabear) and Örvar (from múm and FM Belfast), or a experimental visual experience at the National Theatre with music from Sóley.

There are some miscellaneous bits and pieces not to be missed; the Nordic House might be a trek but this is rewarded by some special sessions and a chance to ask questions of your favourite artists afterwards, the legendary blue lagoon hangover party takes some beating, and there is a whole evening of Canadian music called ‘Maple Invasion’.

Local heroes are all coming out to play; Sóley, Gus Gus, Samaris, Ólöf Arnalds, Sin Fang, Lockerbie, Myrra Rós, Sykur, Tilbury, Ólafur Arnalds, the list goes on. Will Snorri Helgason beat his personal record of 14 shows last year? I bet he gives it his best shot.
International highlights are likely to come from Daughter (UK), Philco Fiction (NO), Woodpigeon (CA), Phantogram (US), Boy (CH/DE) and I Break Horses (SE). I also recommend Jamie N Commons (UK), who despite his rap-name, delivers a country style drawl that belies his young age.
The big boys and girls are here too; new favourites Of Monsters and Men, internationally successful The Vaccines, New York noise extremists Swans, Mercury nominated Ghostpoet, and some band called Sigur Rós?

Sigur Rós are playing on Sunday night. They are, and quite rightly so, headliners this year. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, their most recent album, Valtari, is a superb return to form. Is it right though, that festival go-ers have to pay extra for the pleasure of seeing them? I have mixed feelings on this, but do you know what, I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Sigur Rós live is hard to beat; on their home turf, cold Icelandic beer in hand, they are unbeatable.

My top tip though, is don’t plan. Have an idea of who or what you want to see, certainly, but after that, just see what happens. Wander from venue to venue, or just park yourself somewhere and hope the music comes to you. Talk to other festival go-ers and locals and see what they are going to see. Be carried along by the crowd. Don’t plan; just go with it. It’s not like you are going to be disappointed now, is it?

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