The whistling wind is the first thing you hear on Friday morning. Hurricane Sandy has swept North-east from the American Eastern Seaboard and is brushing her dying tail against Iceland. There’s a ban on driving large vehicles outside the city and the day’s press trip which was to have been an epic visit to the Sigur Rós out-of-town studio and a dip in the sea has been replaced by a swim in a local pool (featuring some heavy wind action in the outdoor hot pots) and a trip to see the mayor. If you have an impression of Icelandic people being a little unhinged in a good way, well let us tell you: it goes all the way to city hall. Musicians, Vikings and people completely unsuited to political life in any other country are the keepers of Reykjavik, and it is as refreshing as it is somewhat unsettling.
As we are offloaded to our final stop the wind has reached insane levels and it is only the freshest skin on our faces that remains as we get sent to a Reyka Vodka reception. The standard measly bar measures of Iceland are put away and it’s a hard call to leave those delicious and strong cold beverages to prepare for the night.
Earlier in the day we had time for a quick look at the exciting Passwords at a Canadian showcase but before we tackle any other music this night we pay a visit to our favourite restaurant to a table we reserved weeks ago. We have this routine because the more you come to Airwaves the more you feel like a real part of the town. Locals remember you, and even if they don’t, they are welcoming enough to make you feel comfortable, and sarcastic enough to make you feel at home. The bartender in our group is allowed behind Við Tjörnina’s cosy counter to mix us drinks – and the staff didn’t care to ask what we had put in them. So relaxed.
After the chill, there’s a pace in out step to get to the Harpa convert hall to again catch Ólafur Arnalds because, especially in Reykjavik, you can’t get enough of Mr Arnalds distilling his country’s DNA into music. Soothed, there are now many things tearing at us at this juncture. A quick look at the ever-entertaining local supergroup Apparat Organ Quartet, a pause for five minutes at the smart post-rock scapes of For A Minor Reflection – not exactly anything new, but they do know a good riff. A laughably expensive round of fancy whiskeys and cocktails, only to run back to another Harpa room to see Exitmusic. Never having heard them before, we were enveloped straight in. The low, dusk-time voice of Aleksa Palladino’s and the firework percussion is as big as the opera house we are in, and then drops to the bare bones and back again effortlessly. ‘The Modern Age’ live is really something to behold.
Thrown into Reykjavik on a Friday night is a think of wonder. Some of the most fun bars from last year have changed name, and tack, and are not so much fun. One great rock bar is 90% dudes and all the worse for it but each year you have to put in the graft, meeti the locals and get pointed in the right direction, or better still, be taken willingly to the thousands of house parties the locals put on over the weekend. You make it to one of them and you will never forget it, you will NOT leave before 6am and you most certain will meet Bjork, who may even be DJing.