Turning Reykjavík into one huge music venue!
In early November each year, the heart of the tiny coastal capital beats to a slightly different rhythm—everything from the melodic tones of indie rock to the pounding beat of heavy metal. Should you take a stroll down Reykjavík’s main thoroughfare, Laugavegur, you can’t help but notice the sound of music coming from literally every nook and cranny—every bar, coffee house, and even some shops become concert venues during the five days of Iceland Airwaves. Everybody joins the party!
Iceland Airwaves music festival was first held as a one-off event in an airplane hangar at the domestic airport in Reykjavík in 1999. Since then it has become an annual event with thousands of music lovers, journalists, and music industry people in attendance. One could even say it has become part of the Icelandic festive calendar: we’ve got Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the pagan midwinter festival Þorrablót, Easter, Midsummer’s Eve, and finally, Airwaves.
For the past years, the festival has played a huge role in introducing local musical talent to an international audience, as well as extending the tourist season, which traditionally was only three months, ending in August. The festival has also had a very positive economic impact on the local business community. Around eight thousand guests attended last year’s festival, more than half of which were international.
Many well-known artists have performed at Iceland Airwaves throughout the years, among them are Florence and the Machine, Klaxons, Hot Chip, Flaming Lips, Wolf Parade, Bloc Party, Robyn, Björk, Sigur Rós, GusGus, and Of Monsters and Men.
This year’s line-up includes Beach House and Hot Chip as well as local acts, including HAM and Mr Silla to name only a few.
The story of Hanger 4
“The idea of an annual Icelandic showcase festival started to develop around a concert I promoted for the band GusGus in February 1999. By then the second GusGus album for the English label 4AD was about to be released, and instead of having the standard release concert in London, we decided to do it in Iceland and have the media come over here,” says producer Þorsteinn Stephensen. The very first Iceland Airwaves was the brainchild of Þorsteinn and his partners, Baldur Stefánsson and Snorri Sturluson, at the promotio
Newcomers Sigur Rós and the band Grindverk also performed at the GusGus concert, and according to Þorsteinn, people within the music industry were hugely impressed with the outstanding musical talent to be found in Iceland.
“So that’s where the idea of creating a music festival that would showcase Icelandic bands and talent came from. The first Iceland Airwaves was then organised in October 1999 in Hanger 4 at Reykjavík Airport.”
Þorsteinn and the rest of the Mr. Destiny team managed the festival for the next decade, or until IA took over.
“After eleven years, it becomes a part of you, and I feel very proud of what we have achieved and all the people that put massive time and effort into this project.”
"That way I still get to follow what’s going on, just like a father who has seen his kids strike out on their own.”
Although he no longer manages the festival, Þorsteinn attends the event whenever he has the chance. He compares himself to a father who has just seen his children leave the nest.
“I try to visit the festival when I can and also work closely with some of the artists that perform. So that way I still get to follow what’s going on, just like a father who has seen his kids strike out on their own.”
Ask the Expert
Do I need to leave a tip in Iceland?
Report: Nine exemptions granted this year allowing foreign nationals to acquire Icelandic property
Report: Former conservative city councilman under investigation for tax fraud, money laundering
Rental car takes a dip in boiling blue lagoon after American couple forgets to put it in park
Photos: Reykjavík fire department rescues cat from tree
Photos: Two destinations in South Iceland on CNN's Ultimate List of Scenic Splendor
Coast guard assist a humpback whale, remove pieces of fishing net and net floats from its tail fin
Yesterday's earthquake swarms not connected: No signs of imminent volcanic activity
Millions in Nazi gold believed to lie hidden off Iceland's shores
Quick primer on Bárðarbunga, Iceland's most powerful volcano
Follow Iceland Mag
Join our weekly hand curated newsletter to have all the latest news from Iceland sent to you
Don't worry, we won't spam you. Promise!
Two autumn storms to hit this week: Weather warning for SE Iceland tomorrow
Report: Was the government collapse good news for foreign visitors, the tourism industry?
Spotting puffins: here is our map showing the best places around Iceland
An American in Reykjavik: A list of Icelandic souvenirs worth buying
German traveller facing heavy fines after criminal off-road driving in Central Highlands
Great news from Mývatn lake: Unique marimo colonies grow second year in a row
Cuteness overload: A video of a litter of Arctic fox pups explore the world for the first time
Watch a selection of the most amazing Hollywood movie scenes shot in Iceland
Magical beauty of Icelandic landscapes captured in this award winning time-lapse video
Superb short film featuring breathtaking drone footage shot along the Ring Road One
Video: The stunning beauty of the Diamond Beach and other wonders of South Iceland