‘Live From Reykjavik’: Five Highlights From Iceland’s New Virtual Music Festival

Above image: Vök

To give you an idea of what a society based on the dignity of its citizens looks like, versus one based on the unceasing growth of the stock market at all costs, Iceland has experienced one death per 21,000 people due to the coronavirus…while in America it stands at one death for every 1223.

It says a lot about why a certain sort of ideologically disposed American is regularly drawn to the tiny Scandinavian country. Every visit is an opportunity to leave behind the “I got mine, screw you,” ethos that propelled DJT to the presidency, for temporary immersion in a far more egalitarian value system. It just feels good being around that, even if just for a few days.

Oh, and there’s the breathtaking scenery. And the music.

But the annual Iceland Airwaves festival has just passed (November 4 – 7), and, of course, it went off without a single American (that we know of) in the audience—yet another reminder of the relentlessness of this ongoing pandemic. Those amiable Icelanders, however, ultimately decided that they can’t go a whole year without seeing us. And so this weekend, November 13 and 14, Airwaves will present Live from Reykjavik, a virtual festival featuring performances by some of the country’s most considerable talents.

Emilíana Torrini

Indeed, from A to V, Auður to Vök, a full 16 acts will be streamed live, and there will be a special set by what is being billed as Emilíana Torrini and Friends, featuring the ethereal songstress who will always remain a goddess of geekdom for her ‘Gollum’s Song,’ which soundtracked 2002’s Lord of the Rings: Two Towers. Sets by Ólafur Arnalds, Ásgeir and Daði Freyr will be available to be viewed individually.

“Artists have to find meaningful ways to perform their art in these times,” Ásgeir observes, “and while nothing will ever substitute for the magic of playing live with an audience in the room, streaming makes it possible to perform for people anywhere in the world, and bring joy and happiness to people’s lives at a time we all need it the most.”

And Of Monsters and Men singer/guitarist Nanna Bryndís says, “There’s not much that can replace a performance where the artist and crowd are together in one space. But it’s important to adapt and share live [music]. It’s such a strange time and it can be hard to adjust to this isolation, so if we can find ways to connect through music, I really think it helps.”

Alas, our beloved Björk will not be a part of the festival. But her Björk Orkestral—Live from Reykjavík in Harpa has been rescheduled to January 17th, 24th, 31st and February 7th—something to most certainly look forward to in the new year. And just released last week was ‘Cosmogony,’ her new collaboration with the The Hamrahlíð Choir.

In the lead up to this weekend’s festivities, we’ve chosen five artist highlights—though we stress that it is a stellar lineup through and through.


The always intense singer-songwriter’s 2012’s album Dýrð í dauðaþögn was one of Iceland’s fastest selling ever. Earlier this year he released the decidedly more cinematic single ‘Pictures.’

Of Monsters and Men

The folk-rock-whatever stalwarts are this year celebrating a decade of defying genre classifications. All three of their albums have made the US top ten.


A BlackBook fave, they make cool, ’80s referencing electro-disco, with charismatic singer Margrét Rán always an electrifying presence onstage.

Ólafur Arnalds

The multi-instrumentalist and composer is known for creating gorgeous, enigmatic soundscapes. The video for his new single ‘The Bottom Line’ was just released today.


The burgeoning actress and singer makes captivating pop with jazz-inflected undercurrents. She will be appearing in the upcoming Netflix series KATLA.

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