We arrived at Keflavik International Airport around 6AM local time (2AM EST). Swathes of rocky, barren ground beneath us looked like the surface of the moon. So few trees grow here that an old joke says “if you’re ever lost in an Icelandic forest, just stand up”. This otherworldly landscape greeted us during our escape from the temperate forests, lakes, farmland and concrete of Michigan, USA.
After landing, we hopped into our rental car and cruised down to Reykjavik. We were taken aback by how adorable yet hip much of the architecture was; a mixture of Nordic modernism, rustic strength, and a sense of playfulness.
The most advertised way of getting to Iceland has been through WOW air. Perhaps it depends on the city you’re departing from, but for those of you who have Icelandair as an option, I’d highly recommend it over WOW. Why? Because you still get the cheap airfare, with in-flight entertainment, reasonable leg room, a carry on, and two free bags without paying extra. WOW gets lots of press for absurdly low prices, but they nickel and dime you for anything beyond a thin seat and getting from point A to point B.
Where to stay
Stay in Reykjavik if you’re heading to Secret Solstice. It’s a small city, so anywhere you stay will be a hop and skip away from the action. Plus, you get to walk around and enjoy the city. If you stay at an AirBnB, you could befriend some locals. We had two amazing hosts that made great recommendations on how to get around, where to eat, and where to go for after hours. They also recommended places to visit outside of Reykjavik that were off the usual tourist list. When we come back to Iceland, we know exactly where we’re staying.
Tip: If you’re solely going to Iceland for the festival, save some money and don’t rent a car. There are buses that can take you from the airport straight to Reykjavik and back.
ProTip: Make time to visit other parts of Iceland before or after the festival. Iceland is a gorgeous country, filled with breathtaking natural sights that you shouldn't miss.
This year, the line up was filled with big headliners from the likes of Radiohead, Deftones, Of Monsters And Men, Goldie, and more. Unique to Secret Solstice was the high percentage of Icelandic bands and artists, including Mammút, Úlfur Úlfur, and Shades of Reykjavik. Here are some of the performances by up and comers that truly stood out.
Our first day on the festival grounds was filled with excitement. As we explored, we were lured in by the crisp sound emanating from the Function1 speakers at the Askur stage (props to the sound engineer that picked out those massive speakers). That’s where we stumbled upon a local dj named Yamaho. Her set ranged from old school deephouse to techno to techhouse with a touch of funk. The mixture of sounds was robust and energetic. We came for the sound and stayed because of her solid track selection.
What can I say, Kelela took my breath away. Her performance was solid, sultry, and most of all, genuine. She kept a strong connection with the crowd by telling the story behind each one of her tracks. These moments of candid reflection on her artistic journey seamlessly filled the space between emotional R&B cuts. Kelela displayed an incredible musical range and fills her performance with heartfelt emotion. As a few tears of happiness fell down, she ended in a crescendo with one of her most popular tracks, “Rewind”, as the crowd sang with her.
Most of the drum and bass music throughout the festival found its home at the Fenrir tent, to the side of one of the main stages.
The crowd ebbed and flowed, but was at its fullest when the RVK DNB crew showcased their resident DJs (Agzilla, Plasmic, and DJ Elvar) and brought Sinistarr back after his smashing debut in 2015. This Detroit favorite hit the stage hard with his nasty footwork, taking the crowd from high speed juke to old-school jungle and many places in between.
Looking around, you could see nothing but smiling faces and bouncing, dancing bodies getting down to the tight breaks booming through the sound system; clearly the experience did not disappoint.
The Midnight Sun
Removing darkness from the night is straight up trippy. I can’t tell you the number of times I thought it was 6pm or 7pm, when it would actually be 2am. It completely alters your sense of time and energises you to keep dancing, even after 10+ hours of movement. To top it off, the midnight sunrise is one of the most spectacular sights you’ll see. Whether you're dancing your heart out at the main stage, partying on a boat, or getting down at one of the other side parties, the midnight sun grabs your attention as it just barely sets and the sky is filled with majestic rays.
ProTip: As beautiful as the midnight sun is, it's hard to sleep with all that sun. Pack a pair of eye masks if you plan on sleeping.
Destination: Secret Solstice
With so many festivals flooding the scene, you need to choose which ones are worth your time, money, and experience. Secret Solstice definitely makes our list of festivals to attend. With it’s mixture of genres, talent, location, and price, we recommend adding this one to your list next summer.
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