Protect Your Livestock! Iceland Airwaves 2011 is here!

11 Oct

Sigh…. i suppose i better get this over first…

My thoughts on this are my own and not part of my genial overlords at The Grapevine. Also I’m not going to say what bands you should and shouldn’t see as i may end up reviewing them, and can’t be arsed dealing with angry internet cries of “bias” and other things.

OK, now that bit of shaky internet legal disclaimery is done, here some thoughts on this years Iceland Airwaves…

There’s no such thing as a bad Airwaves Line up: Oh there may be some years that look way better on paper than others. And there’s this niggling thing that several of us could come up with (in our own humble opinion) better and more vital acts across the genres than whats being offered this year. But with the size of the festival and the bands on offer, there’s always several acts that make you go “Yup, i would definitely like to see those”. This is true for this Year. Secret Chiefs 3, Iceage, K-X-P and Zun Zun Egui for example.

But are they all about being new anymore? I’m referring to the headlining acts namely Björk, Yoko and Sinead. Now Björk, with her “Biophilia” album, the fact that she still pushes the boundaries, and this is her first proper show in Iceland for a few years, she’s pretty hot right now.. No problems with her. But the other two?

It’s not really a question of aesthetics. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Sinead perform at Frikirkjan (Yoko not so much). But are these two artists really the right ones for Airwaves? Despite their fairly distinguished musical careers, they’ve not set the cultural agenda for many people for a long time now. When i mentioned to a few friends outside of Iceland that Sinead was to be performing, they nearly all went, “Sinead O’Connor? Is she still even making music?” (The answer is yes).

I thought the whole point of Iceland Airwaves was being, in their own words, “one of the premier annual showcases for new music – Icelandic and otherwise – in the world.” Of course there’s no reason why they can’t book these artists or other similar ones. But if you do, you risk turning Airwaves into every other festival, albeit one that is in Iceland. Which leads us to…

Next years Airwaves starting in November: This is a really sucky Idea. Apparently Icelandair have pushed for, and have gotten their way on this. Yeah October is full now, let’s extend the season a bit more, try to get people coming to Iceland in November. Iceland Airwaves has always been a big boon to the tourist and culture industry here, but the weather in November is worse than in October. And don’t forget darker as well. November in Iceland is a very bleak time. It’ll still probably sell out though.

Where Da F**Kin’ Bass???: OK here is my only real gripe with this years line up. It completely ignores any new decent stuff that’s happening in the world of electronic/Bass music right now. Last year, they took a bit of a chance in experimental electronics with the Hljóðaklettar/Electric Ethics/Extreme Chill Night, which by all accounts, went down really well. They also didn’t plump for the default setting of boring 4-to-the-floor techno and acknowledged the fact that there was this thing happening in music called dubstep by getting Ramadanman, Mount Kimbie and James Blake (for a DJ set).

But this year? There’s barely any meaty bass music from abroad this year. What about Nedry and SBTKRT you say? Nedry? Pfft, please! and SBTKRT? Well he has talent as a producer, no question, but you couldn´t say that you’d find yourself dancing that much to his tunes. More beats for the coffee shop than for the dance floor.

And this is a shame because Iceland is slowly, but surely, getting to grips with what’s happening out there. Take the guys from for example. They’ve really upped their game this year in playing what’s new and hot from outside of Iceland. If they’d been given the chance, I’m sure they would have tried to have their night in conjunction with say Hessle Audio (Pangaea, Perarson Sound, Blagwan, Martyn), Deep Medi (Skream, Goth Trad, Old Apparatus), or even new guys like Night Slugs (Girl Unit, Bok Bok, Mosca). That night alone i would have paid for.

The Biogen Tribute Night: Alas i won’t be there, but if you fancy having some decent hardcore Ravey Davey Gravey action then these guys will provide the vicks and the disco biscuits (ask your dad). This night IS HIGHLY recommended. they have these guys for example! go to Faktorý on Thursday night…

Avoid Cafe Amsterdam on Wednesday: Trust me on this one. If you do decide to ignore my warning, then find the reviewer Sindri Eldon and buy him a drink.

We’re actually doing things properly!: Yup this year, the Grapevine have decided to not use their normal website (which is powered by plague-ridden gerbils). and have some up with a NEW shiny site specifically for Iceland Airwaves (which is powered by wild crazy mustangs). you can see it HERE. They’ll be posting many things the likes of myself and Ms Rebecca Louder have worked hard on over the last week and a half, many of which i will be linking here. Also on the site, they’ve provided a  huuuuuge compilation mix for you all. 54 (you head me, 54!) tracks to listen to. That should easily cover your flight over from whatever hellhole your travelling from. You can get that HERE.

I’M OFF ON SATURDAY!: Oh and i’Ve managed to get a night off on Saturday so no reviewing for me. It’s also a small coincidence that my brother is also coming to Cleland for airwaves as well. I WILL BE GOING ROGUE! MWAHAHAHA!!

GO AND SEE OTHER STUFF!: Not just the Off-venue schedule, but also the Bakkus B-Waves festival happening on at the same time at Bakkus bar. It’s free, starts tomorrow, and has several bands that are on the airwaves bill (and a few that aren´t). You WILL be guaranteed a good time there, i swear. Just ask for Palli and them him that I sent you (he won’t bar you straight away…)

GET SOME INTERNS NEXT YEAR!: By all accounts the airwaves team running it is really small. Only a couple of guys and a really nice lady doing PR/marketing. You have to give real props to them for being able to put all of this together like they have. But they  should really get some interns or something for next year to help take some of the load off. That’s what interns are for! I’m sure there are some really hungry young pistols from a Menntaskolin or the nearby universities that would jump at the chance to work on Airwaves for next to nothing. And get a good mix. Not just people who are into music, but really ORGANISED people too. You won’t regret it i swear.

OK that’s all my negative thoughts laid out there like an open wound. It actually feels rather better doing that. Like a weight off my shoulders. I’m actually feeling rather positive now.

And, despite my almost constant grumpy nature, and the fact that i lied about what acts you should and shouldn’t see, I’m now actually a bit excited about the coming days ahead. There’s no way you can´t really.

REMEMBER! You know the rules. If you’re unlucky enough top see me, you have to buy me a beer. Or i will hack the Airwaves smartphone app and have dolphin midget porn downloaded onto your phone. You know i can do this…


Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Iceland, live music, music


Tags: , , , , , ,

8 responses to “Protect Your Livestock! Iceland Airwaves 2011 is here!

  1. wim van hooste

    October 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Bob,
    Nice to read your point of view. I disagree about avoiding the Wednesday night @ Amsterdam.
    Enjoy yourself.

    • bobcluness

      October 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Well i´m glad we can agree to disagee etc etc.

      Catch up with you during the Festival

      • wim van hooste

        October 11, 2011 at 5:36 pm

        I’m skipping Airwaves this year. Because of a lot of reasons. Missing some of my favorite artists. But a lot of my personal favorites are not performing this year (or maybe somewhere off-venue?!).
        I am working on my Icelandic Music Museum, a little back to the 80s & 90s. Before there was Airwaves. Unfortunately there was already Icelandair.
        Have fun!

      • bobcluness

        October 11, 2011 at 11:40 pm


        Well i shall have a beer in your honour…!

  2. Professor Batty

    October 12, 2011 at 2:21 am

    Airwaves in November? You are right, it’s a terrible idea.

    The new player in the Airwaves festival is the Harpa concert hall and I suspect that it needs to be used as much as possible to cover the construction costs. There may be more profitable uses for the hall in October, I don’t know. I do know that the days of glorious fall weather spent exploring Reykjavík and the surrounding countryside will be greatly diminished for the Airwaves patrons. If the weather is foul enough it may discourage festival goers from ever returning to Iceland, which is exactly opposite of its original intention.

    • wim van hooste

      October 12, 2011 at 8:19 am

      I’m thinking about having my birthday party in Iceland again next year. The end of May. Like I did years ago. Smekkleysa exists 25 years (1986-2011), but no tribute to them either or a special performance (or is it Björk?). Don’t like the idea Björk performance + flight with Icelandair. What I liked about Airwaves, are/were the small venues close to each other, not the big Harpa. Loved the performances in second hand stores, museums, Nordic House, breakfast concerts, etc.
      I’m getting old & grumpy.

  3. Kalli

    October 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Are they really moving it to november next year? Where did you hear about that?

    Anyways, agree with most of your sentiments, the headliners feel a bit odd and not in line with the feel the festival has had in the last few years.

    As for the lack of electronic stuff. The indie/band music (or whatever you call it) side has definitely been strong in the last few years but like you mention a lot of times there’s been a few interesting electronic acts, this year even the dj’s/acts that they booked, although interesting to me, were definitely coming from that angle (band music) James Murphy, Greco Roman Soundsystem, Tim Sweeney.

    btw we ( would have loved to do many of the names you mentioned at airwaves, even pitched them a few, didn’t go through though so we went with local acts. Was an alright night but its hard to compete without a headliner (your colleague didn’t seem to agree though )

    • bobcluness

      October 17, 2011 at 3:02 am

      i just would have loved to have seen the melding of the old school rave/hardcore feel of weirdcore with guys like yourself bringing in some of the new BASS acts to be hitting the scene. I use the word bass instead of electronic because electronic is rather expansive in the sort of acts you can find, whereas with BASS you are looking at real beats to dance and pump to.


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