5600 years ago, in the land we now know as Iceland, the volcano Leitahraun erupted. From this event over five millennia ago, the Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel, the fourth-longest lava tube in the country, was created. The tunnel regularly hosts guided tours, but during the Secret Solstice Festival, it also hosts a very special musical event.
“The Lava Tunnel” is one of two side events associated with the annual Secret Solstice music festival. Those who are lucky enough to nab one of only 50 tickets to this event are treated to one of the most incredible concert ‘venues’, and music experiences in existence.
As we descended into the tunnel, bands of colourful rock entered our visage. By the entrance to the tunnel, the ceiling has caved in, creating a natural skylight illuminating the geological wonder. The further you walk, the darker the cave becomes, until a headlamp, and the minimal manmade light installed, guides your way. While our group walked forward, two men hauled an electric piano behind us. One can only imagine how difficult it must be to set up and sound check there!
Three Icelandic artists performed throughout the course of the event. First up was singer-songwriter, Rokky. Though she typically performs electronic styled pop, Rokky confessed that she couldn’t say no to the opportunity to perform in such a magical venue. Given the setting, Rokky’s set consisted solely of her and her guitar, through which she rendered acoustic renditions of her songs, as well as an emotive cover of Benny Benassi and Gary Go’s ‘Cinema’.
Just when you thought the high ceilings, majestic geological formations, and stellar acoustics of the lava tunnel simply couldn’t become more magical, BRÍET found her way onstage. The sultry pop singer channelled her deeply confessional songwriting into a captivatingly emotional performance. The simplicity of the set, consisting of only her voice, and a keyboard accompaniment, highlighted the strength of her artistry, and the intimate yet wildly beautiful setting magnified the emotional depth of the experience.
WARMLAND celebrated the release of their debut album ‘Unison Love’ during their Lava Tunnel performance. The synthpop duo conjured up atmospheric sounds which felt perfectly in place within the stunning venue. Their music was paired beautifully with coordinated lights, which further illuminated the tunnel in moody shades of colour.
The Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel is unlike any musical experience I’ve had before. The audience, in their orange hard hats, stood transfixed by the beauty of each moment. Though the alcohol was flowing, and the stage mere steps away, they remained engaged, celebratory, and quiet at all the right times. In return, Rokky, BRÍET, and WARMLAND gifted the crowd with intimate and emotive sets. The artists themselves seemed struck by the magic of Raufarhólshellir, with many a shy smile and awe-filled eye directed around the room.
That afternoon, there was a magic shared by the audience and artist. Raufarhólshellir in itself is a beautiful space, and during The Lava Tunnel event, this beautiful space was filled with beautiful music. This was an experience I won’t soon forget.