One of my favorite aspects of this magazine, which we have been producing for almost a decade, is that we cover the outdoors as more than just mountain sports or nature, but as a lifestyle. And one thing that is essential to that mindset and to the pages of Elevation Outdoors is our music coverage. Every issue, our Hear This column delves into the sound track we always have playing around the magazine, whether we are chained to our laptops putting these pages together or we are headed out on an adventure somewhere in the vast wilds of the West. Some Old-School purists may ask what music reviews are doing in an outdoor magazine. I say there’s no better place for them. In fact, when we put ultrarunning champ Clare Gallagher on the cover of this magazine, her friends were most excited that she shared the spot with a line calling out a story about Colorado dance parties.
Truly, music goes hand-in-hand with outdoor sports and an appreciation for the wild places where we go to persue them. Plenty of top athletes play music. Climber and Paradox Sports founder Timmy O’Neill rips on drums. Salt Lake City-based telemark-ski evangelist Josh Madsen tours with his band the Riva Rebels. At Outdoor Retailer trade shows, impromptu bands form from various brands to play the All Star Industry Jam. Our own Ben Dawson brings his guitar along on the Live Outside and Play road tour. Every good campfire or outdoor celebration ends up with someone strumming or singing (I have even been involved in an all-you-can-drink karaoke debacle when skiing in Japan). Our annual festival guide—which includes pure music fests alongside sport and more outdoor events with bands—is our biggest and most popular issue. Music is a part of the broad fabric of the outdoor world.
That world certainly includes Iceland, a country where music and enjoying and respecting the natural world are an ingrained part of the way people live. Visit the active volcanic island just south of the Arctic Circle and you experience nature in a visceral way: You sit in hot springs with roots in magma vents, hike the largest glacier left in Europe, wander through empty volcanic landscaeps with massive waterfalls. It’s also a place filled with music. There’s a joke that everyone has a job in Iceland… and “does music.” Indeed, it seems impossible that the island populated by just 335,000 souls could harbor so many bands, from electronica artists to hip hop rappers to folk singers.
I was lucky enough to experience that local talent last month when my wife and I attended the Iceland Airwaves festival in Reykjavik. There were 207 bands performing in venues throught the city (as well as in the town of Akureyri) in music halls, opera houses and brew pubs. While big-name foreign acts like Fleet Foxes and Mumford and Sons headlined big shows (and there was an appearance from New Jersey kids Pinegrove), most of the bands were Icelandic. I felt truly inspired by the variety of creativity and the passion in these local musicians, who are inspired by their wildly beautiful island home.
It made me glad, too, that we do feature so much music in Elevation Outdoors. The outdoors are about passion and creativity. I think we could connect to that even better with more music in our lives.