In retrospect: Secret Solstice 2014
Wolf correspondents and performing artist Tanya and Tómas take Wolf into the thick of it at Secret Solstice, Iceland 2014.
Secret Solstice was held for the first time during this year’s summer solstice on the 20th-22nd of June. When the sun never sets it brings a unique party atmosphere to our little fishing harbor, which we like to call the city of Reykjavík. The line up was very impressive with a wide range of musical genres, anything from ambient to rock, featuring local and international acts, both up and coming talent and bigger numbers such as Banks, Massive Attack and School Boy Q. The summer solstice has always been a major event in Icelandic paganism and the festival’s theme was Norse religion and mythology. All the festival areas were named after places and personas within these sagas such as, Vallhöll, Gimli, Hel and Embla. The producers of the festival had artist decorate the area with amazing images inspired by mythology, which resulted in setting the perfect mood for the party.
In the recent years there has been many new festivals taking place Iceland, Iceland Airwaves, All Tomorrow´s Parties, and Sonar Festival to name a few. With Iceland being a very small country, with a population just over 300,000, us musician tend to land in the loophole of playing for the same crowd. Festivals like Secret Solstice have given us the opportunity to get fancy and play for new ears, widening our horizons and getting inspired. About a month before these festivals kick off you can always sense this tension with local musicians who are trying to get ready for a new crowd, up the intensity of their sets and look fresh - because somebody ´´big ´´could possibly come to their show and love them, inevitably helping them make it out there in the big wide world.
The location of the festival was about a 20 min walk from downtown Reykjavik in a huge sports arena, positioning the main stage on the football field, with a open grass field next to it where 2 reasonably sized stages and a big party tent, which combined with an indoor ice-skating rink was turned into a rave after hours. All of this sounded impressive, but when I actually showed up at the festival grounds, nothing could prepare me for what a massive production these cat’s had pulled off, and then kept one-upping all weekend. For instance, one thing I can´t stand at festivals is trash everywhere, at Solstice they had happy workers sweeping the area day and night, the security people where calm and reasonable, keeping things in check, which was a nice change to the usual sour faced and irritated festival security reps - they looked more like they were enjoying there jobs and interactions with the people!
There were a lot of young children present which I think helped to keep things civilized, and gave you the feeling that this festival was for everyone - young and old - Solstice was absolutely for the people and those from any walk of life. What set Secret Solstice apart from other festivals was the very relaxed energy. There was no doubt that things would work out and everybody would have a great time, which in the end had a lot to do with the guy´s and gal´s making this festival happen, they were everybody's homie’s!
I was getting real excited for my own performance at the festival. Tómas, my co-writer and photographer, and I have a crew called the Weirdcore Collective and under that name we have been hosting the longest running live electronic music event in Reykjavík. The festival gave us a stage to takeover the Sunday, where we were able to make the call on the line up and the performance of our showcase. It was another good call by the festival organisers to get all of these local crews involved straight away, helping to gain support from the festival goers and providing a major cool stamp for being down with the local scene - the musical people who make things happen in Reykjavik day to day.
Usually I would have been apprehensive about playing at midday on the last day of 3-day festival, but this was different. Well…it was a slow start even for myself, I just made it to the last minute of the first line check, but soon as we got there it was ON. The stage managers and sound guys were very positive and helpful, making everything soooo smooth. A good crowd started to turn up in the middle of our stage take over, the sun was beaming and faces were shinning. I heard from some of the festivalgoers that the sound had been exceptionally good and I must say the sound on stage was also amazing, making it so much more fun to perform.
I had already been blown away by the positive vibe of this weekend, but to top it off a fan of ours, Hrafn Fróði age 10, came to our show with his older brother and had asked us to give him a shout out. We topped it off by asking him and his brother to join us on stage to dance and be involved in the music. Well, this little dude was so open and cool he ended up joining us throughout the whole set! I taught him how to work some of my musical boxes and this kid just melted everybody's heart, it was my favorite moment of the festival. The rest of the Weirdcore crew, Quadruplos (Tómas´s band) Thizone and Chryptochrome were all beyond cool, really enjoyed themselves and serving up their sets perfectly.
It was great that everybody always had a great view of the performances; there was always enough space to move around and cut through the crowd to get a good shot. All the acts we saw were a sweet mix of humility, a cozy down to earth vibe, with excellent sounds production. Although at times the sounds from different stages would bleed into each other, however no doubt this is a technicality the festival will work on for next year.
There were 150 plus performances and a high quality of music playing throughout the festival. I was constantly entertained, I think there was just one time I heard something that was not my cup of tea, but all I had to do was walk a couple of meters and something awesome would happen. The next thing I know I´m would be experiencing an amazing live performance by good friends MÚM or up front taking pictures of Massive Attack. Oh, there was so many high points, but to list a few performances that stood out for us, Geimfarar, Shadez of Reykjavík, Alvía Miakoda, Sometime, Fox Train Safari, Samaris, MúM, Massive Attack and Banks. Our grand finale was sitting on top of a hill with Iceland's most infamous king of swag rappers, Gísli Pálmi, and his crew sippin’ champagne watching School Boy Q drop a crazy show. There were glass buildings as the backdrop reflecting the midnight sun beaming golden light into the illuminated sky and thousands of fans with there hands in the air, waving them around like they just didn´t care. We were ballin’ and everything was awesome.
Words: Tanya Pollock
Photography: Tómas Magnússon