A lot of smoke has poured out of the volcano since the band last played the Icelandic capital, and its premier contemporary music gathering has had something of a rollercoaster ride.
In 2008 the meltdown of the tiny north-Atlantic island’s banking system wrecked the festival’s cash flow, angering London agents representing acts waiting several months for their fees.
It took a front-page story from a leading Icelandic newspaper before one of them was paid the balance of its fee, creating a publicity disaster for the festival.
Six months before the 2010 festival, a volcano with the unpronounceable name of Eyjafjallajokull belched huge clouds of volcanic ash into the sky and virtually made northern Europe a no-fly zone.
Iceland Music Export managing director Anna Hildur Hildibrandsdóttir, who’d been brought into straighten out the mess left by the banking collapse, was left on tenterhooks as Eyjafjallajokull and one of its neighbours teetered on the brink of another eruption.
The bilious volcanoes cooled down in time for a 3,000-capacity Airwaves to sell out.
Last year a 5,000-capacity festival, with about 200 or so acts playing across 10 venues in the Icelandic capital, sold out six weeks in advance.
Having stabilised the festival, Hildibrandsdóttir has moved on to become director of Nordic Music Export, an umbrella organisation to coordinate co-operation among all five Scandinavian music export offices.
Sigur Rós, which has helped put its homeland on the global music map, will feature an expanded 11-piece lineup to close this year’s Iceland Airwaves at the 5,500-capacity Laugardalshöll indoor arena.
The other acts playing the festival Oct. 31 to Nov. 4 include Daughter, Django Django, Rubik, Friends, Elektro Guzzi, and Gabríel.