Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Since getting back last week from the Iceland Airwaves music festival, I've been waiting for the romance of it all to settle into something I could be at least somewhat rational about. That hasn't happened. Part of it has to do with Iceland as a place, which is as dreamy and wondrous and weird as I had come to fantasize by way of reading and hearing lots about it. (See: columns of geothermal steam rising out of the earth, craters with lakes surrounded by dirt the color of red velvet cake, bites of meat shorn from a sheep's refrigerated face.) The bigger part, however, owes to Airwaves itself. I went on loan to cover the festival for an English-language newspaper in Reykjavik called The Grapevine, which publishes daily during the four days of music that take over the city each year before the start of winter. The lineup was strong on a somewhat small scale–the marquee draws this year included Of Montreal, !!!, and Bloc Party. But oh, the spirit of the thing! It's hard to imagine a festival of any size here that would be taken so seriously, flooded so feverishly–and all for reasons that couldn't be more far-removed from the concerns of industry of any kind. It's just a festival that people find to go hear music, talk about it, and then drink a lot before the bars close (at 6 a.m., lest the drinking part be given short shrift).

All of us on duty from America–including Christian Hoard from Rolling Stone, Don Bartlett from Chicago's Innerview, Katie Hasty from Billboard, Joe Keyes from eMusic, and Jonah Weiner, a freelancer in L.A.–were pretty summarily shocked by the experience. This isn't to bemoan the state of music festivals otherwise–there's always good music and good people to be found no matter the locale–but more to thank all those who gathered in Iceland around a simple idea just waiting to be made profound any- and everywhere. It seems all they did there was decide to have a music festival and take the music part of it seriously–a noble deed, indeed.


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