“Do you want this?”
“What is it?”
“It’s a cheeseburger, I don’t want it, you can have it.”
This was the high point of my Secret Solstice weekend. Following the Roots Manuva concert, a girl came out of the crowd and handed me a free cheeseburger. I don’t know what good karma I’ve earned lately, maybe it was that I briefly considered donating to starving children in Africa, or that the other day I allowed my little brother to have the last pizza slice—I was only almost full.
But it is not really the cheeseburger that matters, it is what the cheeseburger represents. Partying in Reykjavík can be a bit … aggressive, but the mood at the festival was very relaxed. The organisers should also be praised for not pushing alcohol prices into the stratosphere—they were basically the same as downtown—which meant Crabbies … so much Crabbies.
The only one of its kind
I lived abroad for nine years, in cities where large city festivals are dime a dozen. Where whole neighbourhoods in Copenhagen get taken over by 100,000 drunk and loud revellers each year at Distortion. And the Carnival of Cultures rocks Berlin into the night. But Icelanders are weird about these things. While people in Denmark and Germany seem to accept that people need to have fun and they want to party, there seems to be almost a puritan sense of middle class values that permeate the Icelandic psyche.
However, once a year, the city allows people to enjoy international bands outside in the sun—during the Secret Solstice Festival. The concept is in one word brilliant. Bringing in 18,000 people for a long weekend in Laugadalurinn right by the city centre, in a beautiful setting.
Festivals are among the more fun things you can experience. The music, the drinks, the food and the riveting company are all integral parts of the festival experience. Yet, people who live close to the festival keep on complaining about once a year there being noise from people having fun. Seriously, get over yourselves.
I can freely admit that this year’s lineup didn’t do much for me. I find the Foo Fighters boring and despite having been raised on “Music For the Jilted Generation” and “The Fat of the Land”, I can’t say I was really excited about seeing them perform. I found last years headliners Radiohead and Die Antwoord a lot more interesting. But that is a matter of preference and the crowd certainly lapped it up when The Prodigy turned it on. You have to be real curmudgeon not to get into seeing ‘Smack my bitch up’, ‘Voodoo People’ and ‘No Good’. But although the artists didn’t do much for me, I didn’t meet a single person who didn’t have fun.
There was also a moment of hilarity that happened at the Pharoahe Monch concert. The last song he played was by-far his biggest track ‘Simon Says’, and as the crazy brass intro was almost over and the song about to kick-off, everything went quiet. He had arrived around 30 minutes late and the municipality’s custodian had cut the power. It would have been endlessly funny, if it wasn’t so frustrating to wait for the climax song, only to get a dissapointing dry-hump tease.
Aside from the novelty of the midnight sun, the festival is a great way to discover local artists. It is packed with many of the hottest names in the country. I highly recommend that all future foreign guests make an effort to sample what the local scene has to offer. Only Iceland Airwaves allows you greater access to Icelandic talent.
Let’s hope the festival sticks around
A festival within the capital limits is something Reykjavík deserves, let’s face it, this is not exactly a city where something is always happening. For the most part we are pretty starved of large-scale cultural activities. And aside from countryside festivals where Icelandic bands play cover songs, or artists you’ve seen a million times perform, this is basically the only outdoor musical festival.
I don’t really like tents, they are either too hot or too cold, never just right. So being able to take a good stroll home under the sunny night sky while listening to ‘Return of the Mack’ by Mark Morrison is just perfect. It is just one more thing that makes Solstice a great concept and an important festival that should be celebrated.
I know I had fun.
Here is a video recap of The Grapevine’s last day at the festival: