Our trip to Iceland this summer was a first in many respects. Our first time in Iceland and our first time at Secret Solstice, it was also our first experience of geysers, gourmet rotten shark, phosphorescent pools, the midnight sun, and what we’ll call a whole new breed of festival merchandise (limited edition Secret Solstice acid tabs).
Secret Solstice is at the ideal stage of festival growth. Now in its third year, the sold out festival is just starting to go off in Iceland, being Reykjavik’s only huge, international, annual music event. However, it’s still underground enough to retain the magical diversity that normally only exists before a festival grows and homogenises.
The sold out festival’s crowd boasted Iceland’s music people, fashion people, and general good times people as well as a truly diverse portion of travellers. The sense that this is a traveller’s festival above and beyond a music festival or a wreckhead’s festival gives it a unique spirit – one of adventure and respect for nature. The festival’s immediate surroundings are easily accessible and festival-goers frequently popped in and out of the city to explore Iceland’s wilderness.
Radiohead were predictably brilliant, playing to an enthralled crowd in the darkness of a conference hall. The Hel stage was the other centre of darkness in the festival, which many weary foreigners would shelter from the midnight sun in. Die Antwoord, originally scheduled to play the main stage, was rescheduled to play Hel due to flight delays, and thank God they were – the sweatbox was the perfect setting for the spectacular show the trio put on, complete with an outfit change every other song, dancers and banter for days.
Paranoid London impressed with their dark techno at the Askur stage, which housed an endless rave featuring Midland, Visionquest and Darius Syrossian. Of Monsters and Men, one of Iceland’s main exports, were otherworldly on the main stage, Valhalla. Ragnorak was the chosen spacey, ambient stage, which Slow Magic inhabited with total majesty. Moshing to Deftones on acid as it pissed it down with Scandinavian rain when we didn’t have any coats was the most metal thing we’d ever done.
It was great to get a good look into Iceland’s thriving hip hop scene, represented on the Fenrir stage, which threw us a host of fascinating wonder-rappers whose approach to hip hop is more spaced-out and less misogynistic than the western world is used to.
We recommend GKR – a bit of a Yung Lean, and $igmund, whose shimmering electronica creates an oddly transcendent and danceable hip hop, with a clear grime influence. We found ourselves camped next to Átrúnaðargoðin, the constantly free-rapping duo who have more to say about pyramids and LSD than bitches and dollars.
This is what the festival has to offer even without considering its off-site parties, which include a geothermal pool party and a glacier rave. Although the glacier rave, in this instance, resulted in a bus crash on a mountain in a snow storm, we congratulate the festival on their ambition.
More information on the website and Facebook.