You can start to pick out the locals from those folks who are not from around Reykjavik pretty easily as you start to reach the end of a multi-day, multi-venue music festival. The tourists, especially the Americans, are the ones that have a glaze slowly coming over their eyes. Between the shows and attractions and day trips, their bodies are starting to slow them down.
For the Icelanders, the weekend is the time to let it all hang out. It should tell you everything that the last act to hit the stage at Hurra last night—techno producer/DJ from the U.K., Kane West—didn’t even get started until 3:30am. Every club and bar in the city was overstuffed with people, including a thousands strong scrum at Harpa.
Travel tip #5: This festival is not very good at crowd control. Trying to leave one of the upstairs theaters at Harpa after Battles’ spirited but technically flawed performance was like trying to squeeze onto a subway car in Tokyo at rush hour thanks to the equally big crowd trying to push through to get into see GusGus.
It was interesting (for this guy at least) to see how the city responds to the influx of people out to cut loose on a Saturday night. At Harpa, a kind-looking young man pushed a metal cart around filled with 10-packs of Gull beer to sell to the many, many people standing in a line to get upstairs.
Travel tip #6: I’m not sure if this is just an Iceland Airwaves thing, but you can buy full 10 packs of beer rather than just one can. Nice if you’re with a group; potentially dangerous if you’re hanging alone.
A half-dozen new food carts popped up in Reykjavik’s main square to sell donuts, fish & chips, and lobster rolls. And at one strategic location, a folding table was set up with free coffee for the revelers. All the better to cut down on any drunken antics, I suppose.
Reykjavik is also one of the few places I’ve visited where drinking alcohol as you walk the streets is a totally acceptable activity. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to some dodgy decisions like tossing empty beer cans and bottles here and there. The floor of Harpa’s Silferburg theater after Beach House’s performance looked like the grounds of an outdoor festival with the detritus of joyous drinking everywhere. At least outside the cans can be retrieved by pensioners to be exchanged for a bit of money.
The music last night was plentiful, of course. My highlights, though, swung from something completely sedate to a show that was anything but. I had dropped by Kaffi Vinyl, a nice little spot on Hverfisgata, with the intention of hearing techno producer Exos spin some tunes. From the looks of the frantic phone calls the bartenders were making, he either skipped it or forgot all about it. Instead, another local Ravenator took his place, picking from among the hundreds of records they had on site to spin an eclectic mix of early ’80s electro, deep house, strange synth experiments, and then, out of nowhere, Dire Straits’ “So Far Away.”
That was a nice balm to the system to help get me ready for the bundle of energy that was Reykjavíkurdætur. The 15-person strong, feminist hip-hop collective has been the talk of the festival this year, and for good reason. They are everything you’d want from a brash bunch of ladies dressed in various shades of white and rocking the mike. Even not being able to understand the crew’s rhymes (again: all in Icelandic), it was obvious that the group (whose name translates to Reykjavik’s Daughters) focused on the political—I heard UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon’s name dropped at one point—and the sex-positive, like their anthem for this year’s Icelandic Slut Walk, “D.R.U.S.L.A.” Taking place at the Reykjavik Art Museum last night, their set was a necessary corrective to the very male energy of the hip-hop showcase from the night before.
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