“Glöggt er Gests Augað” ­ “Distinctly Sees the Guest’s Eye” – Iceland Airwaves

“Everyone in Iceland is an artist” an American artist said to me two years ago. She said that anyone she met in Iceland, does some sort of art, either professionally or not. She says that we write, make music or craft-work. But do we know that and do we see it? Do we appreciate it? Do we understand what it means?

I went to the Icelandic Airwaves this year. It was my first time even though it was the 17th time the festival is held. I had always thought that it was filled with teenagers and people in their twenties, with the occasional thirty something late bloomer. I had never before been to a music festival actually. I had this image in my head. Staying in a dirty tent or hostel for days, being drunk a lot and not having clean showers and toilets. The idea of a music festival in November in Iceland sounds at first like going camping in Greenland without a jacket. So I just never go.

Naturally, it took a foreigner to get me there. A German friend bought me a ticket and I went, keeping in mind that my apartment and warm bed is never too far away. I had also borrowed a car for that week just to make things a little easier for the Breiðholt suburb inhabitant.

I saw a lot of Icelandic bands that I have never seen before. I have heard about them on the radio and heard some of their songs, but I felt a bit weird realizing that I am a 31 year old woman that has never before seen GusGus on stage. They were amazing. I especially liked Sóley, Vök and Árstíðir, but there were so many other good ones as well, it's really difficult to rank them.

I realized that there's a large part of the music scene that I don't even recognize! For a local like me that doesn’t go out that much, Airwaves is the perfect opportunity to just get the créme of the crop within a few days. I got to know 15­20 artist in a few days that I would have otherwise much later, or never, appreciated. My only regret is not to have gone to more off­venue concerts.

The atmosphere was relaxed, there was space for everyone. Harpa Music Hall was a great venue, along with the smaller ones not too far away downtown. Having a big venue like that means you don’t have to walk outside as much. Which is convenient for a wet music festival in the north Atlantic in November. This is the time when the sunlight is diminishing and the days grow shorter and the cold and darkness take over. Your brain thinks it's nighttime at 19:00 and you start longing for your warm bed. You are transformed into a slow, heavy home­loving troll. It’s high season for plumbers when everybody starts to heat up their radiators at the same time, often finding out they don’t work. You crawl under a blanket along with your other troll family and friends and keep each other warm, looking out into the cold until the plumber comes a week later. That’s the week when I can’t think of a better way to pass the time than at a vibrant, vivacious music festival that’s inside a warm place. Also because music is a phenomenon of oscillation that goes through your body and soul like a thousand different cogwheels and the machines’ echo stays with you after it stops. Stays within you. Living beings can only stay alive within the bounds of certain temperature and when we push our boundaries, perhaps we seek out other elements that actually keep us alive and going. We need it to lift our spirits, let ourselves know that we are alive even though it’s dark and cold.

Perhaps that’s the reason why we make music and art.