Iceland Airwaves thrills and mystifies with equal strength, offering a choose-your-own adventure for music fans everywhere. The magic of the festival tosses any sense of time right out the window, rewarding those with comfy shoes who swagger down the cobblestone streets of Reykjavík until dawn. There’s so much going on that you may be tempted to meticulously planned schedule, but your best bet is to imbue your sense in the astral infinity surrounding you, whilst catching everything you possibly can down below. Through venues, hostels, cinemas, swimming pools, record stores, and clothing shops, Airwaves builds a world where what you hear depends entirely on your own perspective.
Walking around Iceland feels like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white into Technicolor. The haunting, unclassifiable beauty of Iceland’s mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, and hot springs magnifies and entangles the music. The few hours of wintry sunlight are reflected in the darker electronics and weighted post-rock, while the country’s seemingly endless summer days bake the area’s chewy bubblegum pop and elated hip-hop.
With 16 hours worth of music on a daily stretch, Iceland Airwaves really makes you think back on all the homogenized lineups that start piling up month after month on any given year. This is the antidote for the ordinary, chock full of incongruous pairings of grit, guts, and soul, where ambition meets invention, where a megastar like Björk can easily and logically coexist with some upstart punks called Hórmónar, and where rockers and ravers meet at the same juncture as reggae and rap.
There are so many intense microcosms of passionate musicians and fans at Iceland Airwaves, each with incredibly specific demands and desires. But when you step back and see the forest for the trees, it all looks like one giant churning collage of Iceland. The only way to truly reflect on the weekend is when you’re flying away, 10,000 feet up in the air, suspended in your very own time capsule, already a soupy mixture of nostalgia for the few days that have passed and excitement for the next drizzly, chilly, sublime year.