On A Wing And A Prayer

Despite the country’s financial system going into meltdown, Iceland’s Airwaves Festival managed to get through on a wing and a prayer Oct. 15-19.

The cost of foreign artists almost tripled as the Icelandic króna went into freefall against foreign currencies. Meanwhile, it wasn’t possible to pay artist deposits because the country’s banking system was paralyzed.

But festival promoter Steini Stephensen said it never entered his head to cancel the event.

The international acts agreed to perform despite not receiving their fees in advance, as would normally happen, and waited until arriving in Iceland to collect their money.

“We have a longstanding working relationship with most of the agents. We’ve been doing this for 10 years now and I believe there’s trust there,” Stephensen told BBC News.

The Icelandic banking system nearly collapsed last week.

“It’s not a very usual situation, but that’s the way it has to be,” he said.

The five-day event in Reykjavík, which takes place in nine of the city’s venues, is known as a platform for emerging talent.

Bands that have previously played it include Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Bravery, Thievery Corporation, Kaiser Chiefs, Flaming Lips, Keane, Hot Chip, and Klaxons, as well as national acts including Sigur Rós, Cynic Guru, GusGus, and Singapore Sling.

The event is promoted by Stephensen’s Mr. Destiny in cooperation with the city of Reykjavik and Icelandair. Each has accepted that the 2008 version will have lost money.

“It was never an option in our opinion to cancel the whole thing,” Stephensen explained. “We are going to have to support this one with our own money,” he added, although he wasn’t confident of doing it in 2009 if the country is still in crisis.

This year’s Iceland Airwaves lineup included Biffy Clyro, White Lies, Vampire Weekend, CSS, The Young Knives and Yelle.