There’s always something magical about watching a festival headliner hit the stage, but this is even more so true when it’s 10pm, and you’re dancing the night away while draped in the warmth of the midnight sun. Reykjavik, being the northernmost capital city in the world, receives weeks of constantly sun-filled skies during the Summer Solstice. This midnight sun phenomenon acts as the backdrop to the city’s annual Secret Solstice Festival.
The 6th iteration of the festival, which took over Laugardalur Park in Reykjavik, featured an incredibly diverse set of artists. Over the course of its three days, we witnessed everything from EDM, Icelandic folk and rap, pop superstars, legendary classic rock performances, hip hop pioneers, up and coming indie talent, and even a BDSM tinged industrial set.
British DJ, Jonas Blue headlined the first evening of the festival. He had the unenviable position of being a last minute replacement, after original headliner Martin Garrix was forced to drop out due to a leg injury. However, Jonas Blue’s summery pop served as a perfect soundtrack to the evening, as flower crowns and dance circles filled the sunny stadium.
The Black Eyed Peas headlined Day Two of the festival, bringing plenty of charisma and an arsenal of well known pop hits in tow. The Peas performed the first half of their set as a trio, as original female vocalist, Stacey Ferguson (otherwise known as Fergie), left the group back in 2017. During the latter half of their performance, Jessica Reynoso, an alum of The Voice Philippines show (which apl.de.ap served as a judge and mentor during), joined the group.
Plenty of Icelandic talent graced the Secret Solstice stage, including the folk inspired chamber-pop or Arstidir, Vok’s shimmering indietronica dreampop, and techno industrial rockers, Hatari. Hatari, who recently represented Iceland during the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest, are known for their onstage theatrics and incorporation of BDSM-inspired attire. Their set at Secret Solstice was no exception, and the crowd went wild for their every move.
Other highlights of the festival included a sultry and beautifully lit set by English electronic trip-hop artists Morcheeba. Frontwoman, Skye Edwards, is an otherworldly engaging performer, whose every move, and every note, reel you in and refuse to let go. Boy Pablo had a difficult time slot, which overlapped with the mainstage headliner, but the Norwegian pop rockers looked like they were having the time of their lives as they played a solid set to a stalwart, and thoroughly excited crowd.
Though the outdoor festivities ended by midnight each evening, the party continued over at The Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Reykjavik. During this ‘Ragnarok’ after party, the sunshine continued to peek through the windows, as festivalgoes raged until 4:30 in the morning.
The festival closed with an especially notable moment that simply could not have materialized the same way in any other setting. For the final song of their encore, Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters treated the crowd to a version of “Immigrant Song” – his first time performing the tune in 23 years. Plant penned the tune during the summer of 1980, when Led Zeppelin was on tour and played Reykjavik, aka “the land of the ice and snow”, as their very first stop. “Thanks to your culture for the inspiration,” Plant addressed the crowd, as he closed the festival with the iconic song.
In an era where music festival lineups are becoming increasingly homogeneous, events are forced to differentiate themselves based on not only their soundtrack, but on the overall experience they create. Secret Solstice Festival, with its endless daylight and incredible side events, succeeds in creating an experience well beyond the sum of its musical parts.