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Iceland Airwaves 2019: The story of the festival in stunning pictures

Iceland Airwaves took place this past weekend (Nov 7-9) across venues in the nation’s capital of Reykjavik. Now in its 20th edition, the festival has become a staple in enthusiasts for both new music and those wanting to see the biggest artists knocking around.

Down at Gaukurinn, punters could witness fearless punk upstarts from the Faroe Islands, while further across town, there were sets from both huge international artist and homegrown success stories. Here’s what went down at the tastemaking festival

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Masked cowboy Orville Peck opened the festival at the Reykjavik Art Museum, playing songs from his breakthrough 2019 debut album ‘Pony’.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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During the album’s highlights’ ‘Dead Of Night’ and ‘Turn To Change’, the singer’s booming voice echoed around the cavernous venue.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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The following night, the full schedule kicked off across numerous venues in the town. Returning several years after her initial appearance at the festival as a session drummer, Georgia came back on her own terms – previewing cuts from her upcoming second album ‘Seeking Thrills’.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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The performance featured already released songs from the record, including the thumping pop hits ‘About Work The Dancefloor’ and ‘Started Out’, as well as the MIA-sized off-kilter electro pop banger ‘Ray Guns’.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Soon, another ranger trotted into town. On Thursday, Mac DeMarco headlined the Art Museum for his first show in Iceland for several years, bringing along songs from his 2019 album ‘Here Comes The Cowboy’.

Mac DeMarco Iceland Airwaves
Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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The album sees Mac take another mellow turn, following ‘This Old Dog’ in 2017. ‘Nobody’ and ‘K’ meandered wistfully, showcasing his ever-growing songwriting and vocal chops, though the indie classics like ‘Ode To Viceroy’ and ‘Cooking Up Something Good’ garnered a huge reaction from the packed-out crowd.

Mac DeMarco at Iceland Airwaves
Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Over at stunning Gamla Bíó venue, London’s Shame showed up with bags of energy and a few treats for their fans. New songs like ‘Another’ and ‘Nigel Hitter’ got airings early on during the set, as the band continue to work towards their second album.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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But ‘Songs of Praise’ highlights ‘Concrete’, ‘Friction’ and ‘The Lick’ proved to be enjoyed just as much. The rowdy pit opened up mid-set, with lead singer Charlie Steen getting involved with the fun as he crowd-surfed atop them.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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After a late-night rager downtown, it was up to Anna Of The North to ease the gig-goers back into the swing of things at the Art Museum on Friday night. The Norwegian’s recently released second album was the perfect remedy. Title-track ‘Dream Girl’ and Lonely Life’ both breezy pop cuts with Anna’s affirmed swagger and crowd interaction doing just the trick.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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This one was special. US-born singer-songwriter John Grant gave the Airwaves a spectacular show at the Fríkirkjan church on Friday night. Performing with just a grand piano and his soaring vocals, the packed-out faithful remained in startled silence for the wonderful set.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Now residing in Iceland himself, Grant used the opportunity to play some deep cuts from his catalogue, like ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Geraldine’. The following night, he played another show at the glorious building, but altered the setlist ever so slightly. We’re certain we saw several of the same people in there both nights…

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Gamla Bíó appeared to be the perfect place for rising acts to make their statement this weekend. Though she had popped up several times across the festival, Norway’s Girl In Red’s breakthrough set was no doubt the Friday night appearance in front of a young and engaged audience.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Sporting Billie Eilish merch, the Gen Z icon raced through songs from her array of EPs and singles, with recent songs ‘Bad Idea!’ and ‘Dead Girl In The Pool’ proving to be fan favourites already.

Girl In Red at Iceland Airwaves
Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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On Saturday night at Gaukurinn, Faroe Island punks Joe and The Shitboys put on a truly unforgettable show. Introducing themselves to packed venue as “bisexual vegans”, what followed as a 40-minute masterclass of frantic minute-long punk anthems.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Though their debut album clocks in under a quarter of an hour, they bulked the set out with unreleased songs and fan favourites like ‘Shitboys Theme’ and the two-second long ‘fuCk’. To close things, they dusted off a pit-inducing cover of Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Sleep Now In The Fire’.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Later, US folk duo Whitney topped of proceedings at the Art Museum with a brisk set of low-key headboppers by the duo, comprised of Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek. Transformed into a seven-piece band for live shows, each member had its role to play during the set, with the trumpets, guitars and piano working seamlessly together for a heavenly sound.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Split evenly between songs from their debut album ‘Light Upon The Lake’ and 2019’s ‘Forever Turned Around, they found time for a couple of covers, too: the upbeat ‘Magnets’ (originally by NRBQ) and ‘Southern Nights’ by Allen Toussaint.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi

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Back at Gaukurinn, Montreal gang Pottery rounded up the weekend in frantic style. Their ‘No.1’ EP was a window into just how expansive their indie-punk sounds can be, though the live show offered even more speed and rawness to an already unhinged and tense sound.

Credit: Chloe Hashemi
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