Iceland Airwaves Daily Blog (11/6): Sleep Is For The Weak

From arriving on no sleep in a city and country I’ve never been in before, to staying out until at least 3am seeing amazing bands that I would probably not get the chance to see anytime soon in the U.S.- my trip to Reykjavík, Iceland was more than amazing. I quickly learned my way around the streets and felt confident while shopping, interviewing and going from venue to venue. I got to go on trips to see the northern lights, swim in geothermal pools, see geysers on the Golden Circle tour, experience Björk Digital at Harpa (being my first time using virtual reality goggles) and try new foods like puffin, lamb hot dogs and whale (which were delicious, but still have me feeling slightly guilty about). I went to cool cafés, like Kaffi Vínyl, which had the most amazing vegan lasagna and garlic bread, and Elder & Is, which had to die for vegan savory crêpes- what more could I ask for? I browsed through probably five or more different record stores, including Bad Taste Records and 12 Tónar. I splurged a bit on my trip, because who just casually goes to Iceland? No one I know. I wanted to remember it with show merchandise, vinyls and CDs I wouldn’t be able to find in the U.S., souvenirs for friends and family back home and I’ll hopefully buy something made out of Iceland’s famous wool before I leave for the airport.


Over the last week, the class became really close, even compared to a day before we left for Iceland. Everyday, we would coordinate outings, have late night homework sessions, meet up for breakfast and join each other during Airwaves shows. I guess one could say that we have each other’s backs, like a little Iceland family, considering that we would share food, pack extra medicine and snacks, just in case, and walk each other home after late night shows.


I saw countless bands and artists at Iceland Airwaves over the past five days. Some of my favorites had to be The Ills, Mammút, Reykjavíkurdætur, CHINAH, Warpaint, Dream Wife, Seratones, Cryptochrome, GKR, Kælan Mikla, Mr. Silla and Agent Fresco. They all performed at amazing venues that I’m really going to miss once I’m back in Chicago. My favorites were probably Húrra, because it was small and intimate with great sound quality, the Fríkirkjan church, because of it’s unique setting and echoey sounds perfect for acoustic bands, and Harpa Silfurberg, since it was big enough for dancing room and had a giant screen for cool backdrops. At the shows, I talked to people from all over the world, from London to Utah, to Canada to Iceland. One of my more memorable moments was when I held hands and belted out lyrics with a group of guys I met from Reykjavík, who were just as excited to see Warpaint and Santigold as I was. To their surprise, I was American. I was mistaken for being Icelandic at least three times a day by locals and tourists. I was told it was either because of my light hair and blue eyes or because of the trendy way I dressed. I guess I blended in pretty well. I was beyond flattered and almost hoped not to disappoint when admitting to being from the Midwest.


Agent Fresco was my last band that I reviewed at Húrra at 12:20am. They are a progressive art rock band from Reykjavík. They currently have two albums, A Long Time Listening (2010) and Destrier (2015). The band is inspired by anything from classical music to poetry to create their own music. The amount of energy and passion in their music filled the room, almost seeming like they should have been in a bigger venue. There were fans waiting for them three hours in advance. When singer Arnór Dan Arnarson started yelling into the microphone, that’s when the crowd lost it and started head banging and cheering. He climbed on top of the speakers and hi-fived people. He even told a story of a recent car accident scare and how grateful the band was to be well and there performing one of the last sets of Iceland Airwaves 2016. Seeing Agent Fresco was a great way to end Iceland Airwaves with some of my classmates.

From climbing up and down mountains and sleeping in uncomfortable bus seats, to being constantly on the go and running on two to five hours of sleep a night; I am sore and sleep deprived, but do not regret a thing. This trip showed me so much and was my first time out of the country. I can sleep when I get home. I’m sad to be going back to Chicago, especially after adapting to life in downtown Reykjavík, where the people are trendy and polite and the city is clean and colorful, surrounded by mountains and the oceans. Although Chicago is home, it’s grey buildings and dirty lake beaches seem pretty unappealing at the moment. On the other hand, I can’t wait to tell everyone about my trip and sleep in my own bed.

I really hope to come back to Iceland soon. I would preferably love to live here, but that means I’d have to get married to someone from the country. I’m thinking that it’s worth it (and honestly considering it). Maybe next time.


Special thanks to Althea Legaspi for giving me this opportunity. Another special thanks to the people I interviewed for multicultural stories- Benedikt Hermann Hermannsson, Bjarki Sveinbjörnsson, George Cowman and Jóhannes Ágústsson.

About sarahpenn8

Columbia College Chicago Post-Production Editing Major
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