Words by Tim Boddy and William Caston Cook.

It has everything

Airwaves is the best festival of its type. The best city break festival, full stop. Sprawled out over five days, crammed into every city space that can be repurposed, it fills your heart and mind with music. Towards the end of a terrible fucking year, it sits a beacon, recharging your soul with positive experiences, with smiling faces and friendly strangers, with the great unknown, with air so pure it makes you dizzy and a cold wind that strips away all pretence.

The scale of it hits you like a brick, you drink and dance and run blind around downtown, but once you grow accustomed to the pace of it all, you realise that Airwaves is everything you've ever wanted from a festival. You are immersed in music worth exploring, with good food to eat, pools to jump in and landscape to get lost in.

Over the years the organisers have perfected the balance of bigger acts and names you don't recognise. There's enough going on to never feel like you've done everything or reached the end, but not so much going on that you end up feeling like you've missed out if you have to crash out and collapse. You can save that for the massive world-ending come down that occurs when you finally get home. - William Caston Cook

Diversity

Iceland Airwaves has many things going for it - the obvious such as the beautiful location, warm people, and being a dick on social media and letting the world know you're having a 10/10 time in a place everyone wants to be. Ooo I did thrive on the hate I experienced that week.

The thing I find I face every time I come here is that mini-battle between seeing something familiar, you know the larger European/North American acts such as Julia Holter, Sanitgold et al - and taking a complete chance with (mainly Icelandic) acts unknown, only going on the blurb from the programme, or in a random chance conversation with a festival goer, or because an act's name sounds amusing.

More than any other festival I know, you can do this at Iceland Airwaves, and a high percentage of the time not be disappointed.

I extend this comparative thought process to to food places/coffee shops, both in life and also in Reykjavik; sure you could go Starbucks or some chain and be safe in the knowledge that it will be fine, and not have to worry about working out a menu as you know those lyrics and the dance so well. But I'd rather have the richness of experience, the surprise, the diversity of taking a shot at something new and unpredictable.

Sure, from time-to-time you'll end up with a crappy sandwich and a sad coffee; but I'd rather have that rollercoaster of highs and lows than a flat, asinine experience steeped in safety. And as it goes in Iceland, the quality of music, culture, and indeed food to continue this analogy is bizarrely high, with those rollercoaster lows few and far between. - Tim J Boddy

£30 on pizza and weeping during the Bedroom Community show

Ok, so it's difficult to pin down the highlight, but I'll try. I guess the highlight for me was at some point on day three when I found myself sat on an uncomfortable sofa in a hotel lobby watching someone in a dressing gown have convulsions to electro pop. I don't know who they were, or really what was going on at all, but it was at that precise point where the whole thing clicked into place.

So here's how it goes. Day one: excitedly throw back booze because fuck yeah you're in Iceland until Dizzee Rascal becomes a viable concern and you lose varying degrees of shit all over Harpa. (Harpa is the big instagrammable heart of the festival. Lot's of music happens there but really it is to the festival what the hard rock cafe is to hard rock. What I mean is, you'll have a whole lot more fun running between a million venues not knowing where you are going and if you'll even be able to get in because fuck it, there is solid music coming from that basement across the road so let's go there and have the time of our lives. Working out where you ended up is way more enjoyable than playing it safe).

Day two: wake up drunk and remember spending about £30 on a late night pizza that you tell yourself tasted great but the truth is you don't have a clue. Fight back against the tide of tired drunk delirium all day. It's like fighting a snow plough with a bucket of sand but you do it and win somehow. You weep during the Bedroom Community show. On day three in that hotel lobby you realise that you are here and it is happening.

You spend the rest of the festival stumbling between venues with an open heart, welcoming new sounds and wanting to try everything before it ends and life resumes. You vow to make the most of your limited time and vow to hang onto the feeling for as long as you can when you get home. You experience new and interesting things because you're committed to experiencing them. It started slowly but crystallised in that hotel lobby watching whoever the fuck that was. - William Caston Cook

Kate Tempest fed the soul

I've avoided listening to Kate Tempest for a while now because I'm a perpetually-too-busy-corner-cutting-snob and the wrong people were saying the right things about her. In Reykjavik I ate my words as quickly as she could plant them in my brain. Her set at Gamla Bio was so utterly captivating and inspiring that I am pretty sure I wasn't the only person experiencing an out of body rapture. Tempest as the enthusiastic preacher, me laid out across the pews, screaming.

I can only hope that the Icelandic rappers (that I danced to for five days but don't understand) speak to their fans in the way that Kate Tempest spoke to me. Her unadulterated humanity is pumped into your thought processes, feeding your soul for the better, the message stays within you simply for sharing a room with it. - William Caston Cook

VR Nightmares

Highlight: Losing my shit at the Bjork VR exhibition at Harpa. If this is the future I'm not sure I want to be part of it. - Tim J Boddy

Hatari shouldn't work.

Hatari look nothing like their profile picture (two of them with flowing hair holding a cute wee dog - only the pvc-clad chap on the left a heavy clue to their subversive side).

Hatari were the first act I saw at Airwaves, and also the most memorable - all the more surprising as I hadn't even heard of them until an hour before their set. The chap on the left had a Mortal Kombat-esque gimp mask with intense black and white contact lenses in and drummed standing-up. Middle chap screamed into some sort of warped microphone dressed like a dictator, staring down the audience under his red-tinted glasses while very rarely moving or breaking character. Right side shaved-head chap also has something of the dictator look about him while producing some quite heavenly falsettos - in-between providing some homo-erotic tension with the middle-chap.

It's Pet Shop Boys meets Rammenstein; it's bizarre, and it's quite fascinating. This is literally all we know about them from their very short bio: "Hatari was founded 2015. The project aims to unveil the relentless scam that is everyday life. Prepare to dance. Dance or die." Quite. - Tim J Boddy