For four days, between June 21 and 24, Laugardalur valley in Reykjavík turns into the biggest outdoor party of the summer. This is when music festival Secret Solstice is happening. The name of the festival already hints at it, the festival takes place during the summer solstice. In Iceland, this means 72 hours of consecutive sunlight. Bands are playing on five different stages, of which one is an inside stage. Secret Solstice takes place for the fifth time this year, with both international and Icelandic artists hitting the stage.
I went to Secret Solstice on the opening night, during which two of the five stages were in use. Compared to the other days, few acts were playing, and the crowd was still warming up. But with Bonnie Tyler closing the main stage, who cares?
Highlights Thursday June 21
Steve Aoki, main stage Valhöll, 19:20
You might know Steve Aoki as the DJ who throws pies into the audience. But he’s more than a DJ, he’s an electro house musician and music executive who has been nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronica Album in 2013. I know a lot of people going to Secret Solstice were superpsyched to see him!
Unfortunately, I just missed his performance, but friends told me Steve Aoki kicked ass! Playing at 19:00 on a rainy opening night in front of a crowd that is still pouring in, is not the easiest, but Steve Aoki – wearing an Icelandic football shirt – had no problem getting the party going!
Bonnie Tyler, main stage Valhöll, 22:30
Secret Solstice reeled country-legend Bonnie Tyler in for this year’s edition. Lots of people could not wait to sing along with It’s a Heartache, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Holding Out for a Hero and Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
(If we take that last one literally: yes, Bonnie, believe me, we have seen the rain…)
Bonnie Tyler and band owned the stage from start to finish. Bonnie Tyler was visibly having a good time, complimenting the audience and asking everybody to sing along, which was enthusiastically done. Even the youngest kids were shouting and singing, proving that Bonnie Tyler is a timeless performer, albeit with extra husky voice these days.
Following the trends of other European music festivals, Secret Solstice offers good food. The days of just eating fries and drinking beer are long gone. This year, the festivalgoers are in for a treat. Fresh salmon salads at Salmon Wagon, burgers and veggie burgers at Hamborgarbúllan, smoothies from Joe & the Juice, cocktails at the Don Julio & Bulleit Whiskey Bar, and fresh veggies and sandwiches at Rabbabarinn. There is something to fit everyone’s tastes.
Unfortunately, not all food trucks were open yet on Thursday, and there were long lines everywhere. I had a bad experience with chaotic lines and rude staff when trying to get food, which is a pity on an otherwise fun opening night. I hope this will be different during the next days, when more food trucks will be open.
New this year is the cashless payment system, making Secret Solstice Iceland’s first and only cashless music festival. In recent years, people had some complaints about long lines, and as a solution for this, they invented a system that lets people pay contactless using a RFID wristband. To pay, you just hold your wristband flat on a reader for a few seconds until it shows “successful payment.”
On Thursday, the contactless payment system worked like a charm. And compared to other festivals I’ve been to, everything on the festival terrain is reasonably priced.
That’s it for now, folks! Tomorrow, my colleague Sirrý will tell you about her festival experiences on Friday.
If you are going to the festival, remember to dress warmly and wear appropriate footwear, as the terrain gets a bit muddy with all this rain. But most of all, have a blast!
PS, to a drunk guy named Nathan: no, meeting you was not “meant to be,” I had to walk up to you because you stole my umbrella and I wanted it back!