Pop festivals are almost always associated with the summer; but this week showed that you can have one in freezing winter temperatures. Iceland Airwaves takes place in October in Reykjavik, and features a host of top UK bands as well as highlighting the thriving Icelandic scene which produced Bjork and Sigur Ros. Many new Icelandic acts lived up to their memorable names, even though this can take some doing with acts such as Rabbi Bananas.
The festival takes place in a number of venues including established concert halls, old theatres, clubs and bars, and has become very accessible to Brits as the relatively new low-cost airline Iceland Express can get you there and back for less than £200. It was good to see top British indie bands Everything Everything and Bombay Bicycle Club getting some of the best receptions of the festival – the latter were a treat.
What set this festival apart for me, though, was the chill-out party after the late-night gigs. Never has chill-out been taken so literally. Buses take festival-goers to the Blue Lagoon just outside the city, where you get into swimwear and emerge from the changing rooms into the icy temperatures before going into the thermal waters, moving towards the bar and gyrating to the music provided by a DJ, a glass of beer in one hand. It's a very different way to recover from the previous night.
And when the night's music finishes you might come out of the venue and catch a glimpse in the sky of the band of green, orange, red and blue that are the Northern Lights. Even Glastonbury can't match that.
Iceland Express is Iceland’s low-fare airline, with prices starting from £89 one-way including taxes. The airline flies daily from London Gatwick to Reykjavik and operates a twice weekly service between Stansted and Reykjavik. Iceland Express also flies from London Gatwick to New York and is operating a temporary service to Orlando between 2 and 24 October 2010. In June 2011, the airline will launch flights from London Gatwick to Boston and Chicago. For reservations go to www.icelandexpress.com or call 0118 321 8384