Sunday, June 24, was the closing day of Secret Solstice 2018. This day can be summarised in one word: RAIN!
It started raining around 16:00 and it kept raining non-stop for the rest of the day. Of course, this extreme rainy weather did affect the festival mood. Not only was the festival terrain turned into a muddy swamp, people were getting cold and wet. However, everybody made the best of it, getting ponchos and umbrellas out, and continued partying.
When I arrived at the festival for the last time, I was still reminiscing the previous days at Secret Solstice and Slayer’s bangers from the night before. But I was also looking forward to another day filled with exciting acts.
Highlights Sunday June 24
Between Mountains, Fenrir, 17:10
Between Mountains is a band formed by two teenage girls from the Westfjords. They won Músíktilraunir, the annual Icelandic Music Experiments in 2017, a contest won in previous years by bands such as Of Monsters and Men and Samaris. I love their song Into the Dark and was excited to see them play. For their live performance they had two guest musicians, drummer Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson from Agent Fresco and a bass player whose name unfortunately eluded me. The four of them put on a great show. Even though they seemed a bit nervous at times, they brought fresh energy to the stage.
Úlfur Úlfur, Gimli, 18:10
Úlfur Úlfur is an Icelandic rap duo, producing and performing songs since 2010. In 2015, their debut album was an instant hit and they have been an essential part of the Icelandic rap scene ever since. Their performance at Secret Solstice was brilliant. Right when they appeared, masses of people basically started running towards the stage. Even though it was raining heavily, a good crowd had gathered, and everybody was mouthing the lyrics to their songs from start to finish. Úlfur Úlfur really connected with the audience, asking people to sing along and dance, and everybody was going wild during songs like Brennum alt and Ég er farinn. Great show!
JFDR, Fenrir, 19:50
I watched GDRN’s concert at Fenrir before JFDR would play (lots of capital-letter band names). Fenrir is a stage inside a tent, and because of the rain, the place was packed. GDRN seemed to please the crowd, but I was waiting with much anticipation for JFDR, one of Jófríður Ákadóttir’s projects, also known from Samaris and Pascal Pinon. During JFDR’s concert, a wave of calm washed over the audience, with everybody attentively listening to the music. Jófríður had three musicians with her on the stage, a saxophonist, drummer and bass player, and together they put up a wonderful introverted show. A welcome serene moment during this four-day festival.
6lack, main stage Valhöll, 20:15
I had enjoyed staying dry inside the Fenrir tent, but now it was time to make my way through the rain to the main stage, where 6lack was playing. 6lack is an American rapper and songwriter, who received international fame with his single Prblms. June 24 was actually his birthday, and he was ready to get the party started. With a live drummer, DJ, MC, and cool visuals, it was a dynamic performance which exceeded expectations. The crowd sure loved every minute of it. After his show, I decided to stay close to the main stage to wait for Clean Bandit, who were supposed to start at 21:20, but when at 21:50 there was still no sign of them and I was soaked to the bone, I decided to go out of the rain for a while and warm up a bit.
Stormzy, main stage Valhöll, 22:40
Hip hop and grime artist Stormzy was closing the main stage of Secret Solstice. Stormzy was very enthusiastic to be back at the festival. In 2015, his gig at Secret Solstice was his first big performance outside of the UK and he was psyched to return as headliner of the festival. It was still raining cats and dogs while he was on stage, but this didn’t seem to bother people much, who had shown up in great numbers for his show. Stormzy played most of his hits, like Big For Your Boots and Blinded By Your Grace. All of this was topped off by a rad fire show!
Special mention: Mighty Bear
I kick myself for missing part of Mighty Bear’s show. I did not know Mighty Bear yet, but this was exactly what I was waiting for at Secret Solstice. Being surprised and discovering new music are the reasons I love going to festivals. Icelandic musician Mighty Bear brought something unique to the stage, and during their performance, the whole was bigger than the sum of its parts. Their dark electronic music, strong vocals and intriguing visuals formed an emotionally gripping concert, and I will be following their future projects closely.
Slayer, young Icelandic hip-hoppers, silent disco, a glitter station, amusement park rides – Secret Solstice really was a mishmash of fun stuff. And to give the festival a special Icelandic touch, every day Viking battle demonstrations were organised. It was funny to see people dressed in traditional clothing mixing with all the other festival guests after the battles.
What I like a lot about Icelandic festivals like Secret Solstice, is that you can see the bands that are playing in the audience just minutes after their concert. Icelandic musicians all seem to know each other and are at the festival to have a good time, show their talents and watch their friends perform. This everybody-knows-everybody vibe makes Secret Solstice an intimate festival, even though about 15.000 tickets were sold this year.
See you next year
Secret Solstice 2018 was a success, even though the weather tried to throw a spanner in the works. This year, I didn’t go to any of the side events, but the Secret Solstice planners are known for creating unique experiences and if you’re coming to Iceland for the festival next year, you might want to check out the excursion to a geothermal pool, or concerts inside a glacier or lava cave.
Oh yes, a shout-out to Kombucha Iceland. Thank you for the great service and tasty, healthy drinks. I think I was the only one enjoying a cup of kombucha during Slayer, though.
We hope you enjoyed the festival as much as we did. See you next year!