We teamed up with the good people at Festlane, to explore one of the most unique music festivals in the world
As the domestic festival scene becomes increasingly overcrowded, you could be forgiven for thinking that the wonder of the music festival was beginning to loose some of its magic. The rise of the one dayer has unfortunately led to cookie cutter lineups, poor sound quality and a focus on the VIP experience, to the detriment of the event as a whole.
During this period of festival fatigue it's refreshing to be presented with something truly unique, unquestionably different, something... special.
And that's exactly what Secret Solstice is bringing to the table.
Taking place over the summer solstice weekend at a site in the Icelandic capital, Reykjavik, the festival welcomed a diverse range of artists from rock, pop and dance to a three day party right at the top of the world. Most festivals rely on the strength of their headliners to get people talking, but Secret Solstice relies on a truly unique proposition - come and party over three days of non-stop daylight.
Just to repeat: it does not get dark. At all.
What does three days of drinking, dancing and daylight do to your brain? That's exactly what we wanted to find out as we boarded our flight from Gatwick. Landing at 11PM we were greeted by the kind of weather you get on a misty March morning. The promised daylight wasn't so staggering, but it was still bizarre to be able to read without artificial lights a few minutes from midnight.
After checking in at our hotel we headed over to the festival site, arriving after 2AM, the rain had cleared and it felt more like 2PM. heading straight for the dance-orientated Hel stage, we lost our first few hours in Iceland to the rhythmic house of Derrick Carter and Art Department while getting well acquainted with the local Viking larger.
The author with a Viking beer in broad daylight at 2AM
One thing they don't tell you about is that non-stop daylight can seriously mess with your time perception and for the next three days I was never quite sure if it was morning, noon or night. In fact the only thing I can be sure of is that I had a pretty amazing time and saw some things I'll not soon forget.
2016 was Secret Solstice's third year and expanded on the previous two with a number of super exclusive off-site parties. For most festivals the satellite events are either an afterthought or a barefaced attempt to squeeze more money out of attendees, but at Secret Solstice, they almost outshine the main event.
Capitalising on the nation's staggering natural beauty, the secret solstice team assembled a range of parties in some of the most breathtaking locales imaginable. From Iceland's largest thermal spring, to 25 meters inside the world's second largest glacier, to a boat trip out into the arctic sea to marvel as the sun kissed the horizon before rising again.
A party 25 meters under Langjökull, the world's second largest glacier
But by far the most exclusive event, and a world first, was held for twenty people inside a dormant volcano. Taking a helicopter from Reykjavik, attendees were lowered 400 ft into the magma chamber of the Thrihnukagigur volcano. There they were met by Deftones frontman, Chino Moreno, who performed an acoustic set in the natural amphitheatre.
Despite all the impressive add ons, Secret Solstice, like most festivals, can be distilled into three categories: music, vibe and setup. So lets take a moment to go through these now.
A mix for forward thinking and on-point heritage bookings were the order of the day. I go to a lot of festivals, but I've never been to one where you can see Die Antwoord, Radiohead and Deftones alongside Kerri Chandler, Artwork and Skream. This blend of alternative rock, hip hop and cutting edge dance really was a major highlight and almost topped the breathing scenery.
In a nutshell the vibe was... strange. It's hard to put your finger on quite what makes Iceland so different from the UK, but different it is. The crowd look like a mix of new age vikings and ultra hipster fishermen. Everyone is seven feet tall and the nicest person you've ever met. It's weird, but that's part of it's greatness.
This is probably the only place Secret Solstice fell short of its UK counterparts. A lingering sense of barely-controlled chaos permeated our time in Iceland. From the jaw-dropping disneyland style queue for Radiohead, to the official app never quite giving you correct information, to fearing for my life on a glacier. There was always something just a little unsettling about the "it should be fine" attitude of the organisers. By all means that adds to the excitement of the festival and isn't anything to truly worry about, but it also created an overwhelming sense of relief when we arrived back in the UK intact.
All things considered Secret Solstice deserves all the attention it gets. You simply cannot have an experience like this anywhere else. If you have a taste for adventure and don't mind straying out of your comfort zone I can think of no better alternative to the rinse and repeat domestic day festival.
Bring your shades, bring your swimming shorts, bring your snow shoes and come on a real adventure.
Festlane are the world's first comprehensive one-stop shop for festival holidays. They enable music fans to book tailor-made trips to any music festival in just a few minutes. Choose your festival, select your flights, pick your accommodation, and enjoy the musical experience: you call the tune! Find out more here.
05 Jul 2016