Packing for an Icelandic summer festival is an interesting challenge—you might well end up trying to decide between flip-flops and a bottle of sunscreen or wellies and an extra scarf. But not to be deterred by the threat of soaking cloudbursts and violent midsummer windstorms, Iceland’s countryside is dotted with interesting music festivals. From the DIY art explosion of Seyðisfjörður’s LungA, to the rap and techno onslaught of Secret Solstice, to the cultured and genteel Midsummer Music, there’s something for everyone in Iceland’s festival calendar. For full ticket and lineup information, check out the links. And remember: nobody likes poi.
When: 11 June
Where: Ystasel 37, Reykjavík 109
Performing: Markéta Irglová, sóley, Ólöf Arnalds, aYia, RuGI, Marteinn Sindri
Description: Breiðholt Festival celebrates the oft-ignored Reykjavík suburb of Breiðholt. Based around the Bedroom Community record label—which focuses on solo musicians from across the too-talented-to-function avant garde board—this free festival might just convince you that the 109 area code is the place to be. Offering not only music, but a REAL COLLECTIVE dance workshop, an art centre for kids and families, sound installations, a flea market, and food stalls, the Breiðholt festival is fun for every age and musical orientation. Except maybe American country fans.
More Info: breidholtfestival.com
When: 15-18 June
Where: Klambratun, Reykjavík
Performing: Foo Fighters, The Prodigy, Rick Ross, Big Sean, Gísli Pálmi
Secret Solstice is the closest thing to Coachella you’ll find in Iceland. Celebrating the 24-hour sun with booze, sun, and music, the festival mixes international headliners with the best of the best in Icelandic pop, rap, and techno. Not into the whole drunken-soirée-in-the-park scene? They also offer other out-of-this-world events like a concert inside a glacier. Start with a chill on the grass, dance at the main stage, and end with a fury in Berghain-esque Hel. Then pass out. Or just keep going.
More Info: secretsolstice.is
Reykjavík Midsummer Music
When: 22-25 June
Where: Harpa, Reykjavík
Performing: Julien Quentin, Maxim Rysanov, Nicolas Altstaedt, Rosanne Philippens, Sayaka Shoji, Víkingur Ólafsson
Midsummer Music is the festival where you’re least likely to ruin your shoes. It’s a chamber music festival, curated by celebrity concert pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, that brings together stars of the Icelandic scene and visiting musicians to play classical works and contemporary composition. You won’t end up doing rounds of shots or crowdsurfing, but you might come out feeling inspired and edified by Víkingur’s astute choices.
More Info: reykjavikmidsummermusic.com
When: 5-8 July
Where: Neskaupstaður, East Iceland
Performing: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Neurosis, Bloodbath, Sólstafir, Skálmöld, Auðn
Eistnaflug began as a hobby project, but has since grown into an international destination for metal fans worldwide. Held in Neskaupstaður—a tiny backwater fishing village in the Eastfjords—the festival feels like a comfortable little bubble where the entire town is ruled by heavy music and the alt folks who listen to it. The 2017 iteration is the biggest yet, featuring not only a curated selection of international heavyweights, and the best of the Icelandic scene, but also one of the last ever performances of the Dillinger Escape Plan.
More Info: eistnaflug.is
When: 6-9 July
Performing: The Orb, Mixmaster Morris, Another Fine Day, STUDNITZKY, Yagya, Stereo Hypnosis
Calling all lovers of ambient and electronica: Extreme Chill—the only festival in Iceland dedicated solely to those genres—will bring its dazey-dreamy-dancey vibe back to Iceland in July. This nomadic festival has been held in Vík, and under the Snæfellsjökull glacier, but the 2017 iteration journeys to downtown Reykjavík, taking over venues like Húrra, Mengi, and Lucky Records. If you’re looking for like-minded people to dissect complicated beats with, remember to get your tickets early—every other year has sold out.
More Info: extremechill.org
Night + Day
When: 14-16 July
Where: Skógar, South Iceland
Performing: The xx, Warpaint, Earl Sweatshirt, Sampha, Bjarki, JFDR
Having worked on their most recent album in Reykjavík, The xx return to our black shores to curate the inaugural Night + Day festival in Skógar. Their choices are an interesting mixture of electronic music and experimental pop, gleaned from Iceland and the international scene. Little is known about how the festival will be set up, but it’s an intriguing arrival, located right on the Route One tourist trail, on the picturesque shelf of land between the highlands and the black glacial floodplains of the south coast.
More Info: thexxnightandday.com
When: 14-16 July
Where: HERE Creative Space, Stöðvarfjörður
Pólar Festival is an intimate DIY festival based around the HERE creative space—an impressive, labyrinthine redeveloped factory in the tiny eastern town of Stöðvarfjörður. With free food fished from the fjord, communally created decorations, and a programme of concerts, film screenings, talks and exhibitions, it’s a lively event that draws an interesting crowd. It’s a labour of love for the locals, and their generous, friendly, collaborative spirit radiates throughout the festival.
More Info: facebook.com/polarstodvarfjordur
When: 16-23 July
Where: Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland
Performing: Emmsjé Gauti, Daði Freyr, JFDR, Hormónar, Hermigervill
LungA is a festival unlike any other. Music is only one of its elements, which also include art workshops, exhibitions, talks, and spontaneous happenings. The whole town of Seyðisfjörður comes alive with creativity during LungA—you might find yourself at an impromptu concert in an abandoned house, watching a piece of improv theatre in a school hall, or rowing out into the fjord as part of a mysterious art ritual. And, of course, it all ends with a blowout party featuring a choice selection of Reykjavík’s finest.
More Info: lunga.is
When: 29 July
Where: Borgarfjörður Eystri, East Iceland
Performing: Úlfur Úlfur, Todmobile, Hinemoa, Lisa Hannigan, Murmur, Síðan Skein Sól
Located deep in the Eastfjords, Bræðslan must be one of the most remote festivals on the calendar. The town of Borgarfjörður Eystri is home to just 110 people—but every single one of them, old and young, will be in attendance as a diverse range of pop acts take to the stage to throw an almighty summer party for the locals, and those who made the journey.
More Info: braedslan.com
When: 4-6 August
Where: Laugarbakki, North Iceland
Performing: Bölzer, Wormlust, Plastic Gods, DYS, Godchilla, Grit Teeth
Black metal, feminist punk, gothic post-punk, gothic post-post-punk: all of Iceland’s DIY and fringe scene is represented at Norðanpaunk, an intimate alternative gathering held in the tiny northern town of Laugarbakki. Experimentation is appreciated, strangeness is celebrated, and being a freak is just expected. Grab a beer and watch attendees make the banners and band members clean the venue whilst passing the spatula for barbecue duty. Don’t forget to BYOB.
More Info: facebook.com/nordanpaunk
Photos courtesy of the festivals. Bræðslan photo by Aðalsteinn Svan Hjelm.