I love you. Today I sped down one of your little two-lane highways in the backseat of a rented Corolla listening, impossibly incongruously, to Patti Smith's "Rock N Roll Nigger" (don't worry, she's cool). In the front seats: A British couple my girlfriend and I met earlier that morning. The destination: Iceland's "golden circle" of tourist destinations, including geysers, a national park, and an incredible waterfall. For six hours, I wished for a swivel in place of my neck, because every direction provided something breathtaking–from little horses to massive mountains to clear blue skies to lava-rock fields that looked line another planet. Even when "Easter," the song that makes me kinda sick to my stomach, came on, I felt joy.
The occasion: The Iceland Airwaves Festival, Reykjavik's answer (not exactly) to South By Southwest or CMJ. I was invited, along with several other music journalists, to cover the festival for the Reykjavik Grapevine, a terrific little newspaper that acts as the city's alt-weekly, though it's published less frequently during winter (and daily during the festival). Iceland Airwaves feels like a sensible, energized reaction to its own city. It's perfectly sized–seven venues, four days–with just enough American and European bands to attract tourists to Iceland's breathtaking beauty and surprisingly vibrant music scene.
So in addition to the stunning, unforgettable sights (and geothermal pools and a cosmopolitan city, etc.), I saw a bunch of great music: young Icelandic band Jakobínarína, producer Valgeir Sigurðsson, We Are Scientists, Islands, Fields, Benny Crespo's Gang, and lots more. The venues–including auspicious spots like the Reykjavik Art Museum and a beautiful old theater-turned-restaurant–were almost too nice, and the city's nightlife was just getting warmed up as the shows ended.
At that point, the other foreign journalists–a sinfully jolly bunch including Christian Hoard from Rolling Stone, Nick Catucci from New York Magazine, Don Bartlett from Chicago Innerview, and Deborah Coughlin, who I think wrote for NME at some point but now fronts a British band called 586–and I gathered at the Grapevine office to review what we'd seen. Our hosts–Icelanders with tricky-to-pronounce names like Birkir, Hilmar, Steinnun, and Oddur, and Americans named, umm, Bart and Virginia–couldn't possibly have been friendlier. If they're representative of most Icelanders, sign me up for citizenship. (Though I still don't want to eat putrid shark.)
That's all, Iceland. I hope you'll show this letter to anyone and everyone, so that they may share in your charms, too. And I hope to see you again soon.