Last weekend was all about the debut of the Secret Solstice festival in Reykjavík’s recreation area Laugardalur.
With headliners such as Massive Attack, Woodkid, Disclosure and Schoolboy Q, the event attracted up to 10,000 people at its peak.
The festival kicked off at noon on Friday, and although about 6,000 people attended that rainy day, there were very few people to begin with so the opening day’s acts, such as the great Faroese artist Eivør Pálsdóttir, performed to a really small audience.
Photo: Donna Tzaneva/Secret Solstice.
I was only able to arrive at the festival in the early evening. Very much to my disappointment, Woodkid performed rather early, at 6:20 pm, so I missed out. According to a friend of mine, who was one of the festival’s many volunteers, the performance was rather short but great including a brilliant drum section so it seems that I really missed out.
Instead I caught British DJ Subb-an’s performance, which was surprisingly nice. The main stage, Valhöll, was then taken by Eats Everything and Skream but they really weren’t my cup of tea. The British DJ brothers of Disclosure were certainly the highlight of my first day with their buzzing, clubby deep house beats. Unbelievable to think that these two DJs are so young!
A lot more people—reportedly 10,000— turned out for day 2. My day was filled with great sets by artists such as Reykjavíkurdætur (“Reykjavík’s Daughters”), a rap group consisting of a bunch of Icelandic women, True Tiger, múm and many more. U.S. singer Banks delivered a solid but somewhat dull show; her music was enjoyable but nothing special as far as I'm concerned.
The act everyone was waiting for was of course headliners Massive Attack. I finally got my chance to experience them live when they took to the main stage at around 11 pm on Saturday. The group played their greatest songs such as ‘Inertia Creeps,’ ‘Teardrop,’ ‘Karmacoma,’ ‘Angel,’ ‘Paradise Circus’ and more. A fantastic show, the booming bass crept into my body giving me the sensation of being high. Guest singers, such as the great Martina Topley-Bird and THE Horace Andy, joined the band on stage. The cherry on top was their most famous track, ‘Unfinished Sympathy,’ which they performed during the encore. Judging by the reaction of my fellow concertgoers, the crowd agreed that it just couldn’t get any better than this!
The final day saw me catching Schoolboy Q’s performance, to which the crowd sung the act’s explicit lyrics with all their heart. Later, house legend Kerri Chandler took over the turntables on the only inside stage, Hel. Chandler isn’t really my thing but the rest of the audience clearly loved him. I wandered over to the Gimli stage and saw Rum Buffalo, who plays a mix of swing, surreal, Vaudeville and experimental. This was the highlight of the festival’s last day.
Massive Attack. Photo: Donna Tzaneva/Secret Solstice.
After now having had a few of days to reflect on what was a weekend filled with (mostly) good music, lots of drunk teenagers, wet feet and happy faces I would say that overall I enjoyed Secret Solstice. However, I do think though that the organizers were a little too ambitious and I would suggest skipping two of the stages next year as three are really enough. Also, the action shouldn’t start at noon because nobody will be there so early! And, please, don’t let your headliners play in the early evening. I also felt that there were too many artists signed on. It’s sad when great musicians don’t get the audience they deserve!
In my opinion, the line up could also do with a bit more variety It seemed, at least to me, like there was a bunch of rather unknown British DJs whose music all sounded the same. Exclusivity is what I’m talking about. The token system has also been criticized. Although it is not uncommon to use such a system to purchase drinks and food (for horrendously high prices, by the way) at festivals, it should have been clearly stated somewhere that one needs to buy those tokens beforehand and that they are not refundable.
Overall, the festival was well received and people obviously had lots of fun. My highlights were Massive Attack and Rum Buffalo. Alone for those two acts it was worth attending.
For its first edition, Secret Solstice did well enough but needs some fine tuning. Less is more.
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org