Old friends, new discoveries and living legends

Secret Solstice – Reykjavik; June 21st -23rd, 2019

DAY ONE (June 21st)

Day one of the festival was a short one for me, since I only saw four artists, but that was more than enough for a start. It was just great to be back in Reykjavik and enjoy the midnight sun. I didn’t even need music to be happy. 🙂

The doors were supposed to open at 4 pm and the first artist I wanted to see started at 4:45 so I showed up at the festival gates at 4:15 or so only to find them still closed. When the finally let us in it was past 4:30, but everything went smoothly and when I arrived at Valhalla stage (the biggest of the three) there were not many people at the front yet. 🙂

First up was Bríet. I’d wanted to see her at last year’s Iceland Airwaves, but didn’t mange so this was my chance. I rather liked it. She had good command of the stage and her electro-ish pop tunes nicely wound their way into my ears. Watching her was fun and I soon found myself moving in tune with the music. The second song immediately grabbed my attention, because it contained a line about “finding answers in a stranger’s bedroom” – what a great image. My favorite was ‘Carousel’ though. For a few of the songs she had background dancers, who did a great job. It was a really nice start.

After she was done I moved over to Gimli stage for The Vintage Caravan. I’d seen them a few years ago supporting Europe and they hadn’t impressed me much then so I  thought I’d give them another chance. People stood away from the stage in a half circle, but as soon as the band stepped out, they moved closer and cheered them on. Rightfully so! They absolutely rocked! It is certainly harder music than the stuff I listen to at home, but was pure fun live. They were really into it, fling hair and all. 😀 Towards the end of the show the singer even sat on the edge of the stage and stepped down where he shook hands with a fan who stood at the front and held out his hand. Overall they delivered some great tunes and looked cool as fuck doing it. 🙂

Back to Valhalla where Auður was still performing as I arrived. Once he was done people left and I easily made it to the front, ending up next to a guy who had stood next to me at Icleand Airwaves for Gus Gus. Small world. I was there to see Svala. I honestly had no idea who she was, but had seen on Hálfdán Árnason`s Instagram that he was playing with her so I decided to check her out. Before they hit the stage, the all huddled together by the side – it’s always nice to see a band’s pre gig ritual. 🙂 The music was good, I really liked it or as we decided after “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” – I mean that in the best possible way. Even though I don’t know how to describe it, the music varied enough to keep me interested and not only did I like Svala’s singing, but enjoyed the band as well. On one song, ‘Trinity’, she had a guest, Unnsteinn, singing with her. 🙂 It was a good set overall.

My last band of the day were Pussy Riot from Russia, famous not only for their art, but also for their activism and going to prison for it. I was pretty sure their music would not be my thing, but I was curious about the performance. The too did a pre gig huddle before walking on stage, all but one of them wearing masks. They powered through their songs, singing partly in English and partly in Russian, using the screen behind them for projections to underline the message of their songs. Sometimes words and sentences flashed on the screen. I assume those were the translations of the Russian songs. The band had great energy, they certainly were angry and had much to criticize. I thought it was good and effective, even though the music really wasn’t for me. The images on the screens were quite disturbing and a few songs into the set, the singer, who had not been wearing a mask at first, pulled one over her head as well. I can’t really say I enjoyed their performance, but I liked their attitude and powerful message. As my front row neighbor said “These women and badass”. Hell yeah! Still, after 30 minutes I had enough and took a break.

Returned to the festival later, planning to see Jonas Blue, then realized it wasn’t going to be for me and left again, taking a nice walk and watching the sunset instead. 🙂

day one pictures

DAY TWO (June 22nd)

The second day of the festival was going to be the busiest one for me. I had planned to see so many bands that once I got here I would not leave the festival area any more. I started with a good night’s sleep and a morning at the pool though. 🙂

the first artists I had planned to see far the day was Ása, whom I knew from the house concert with Magnús Þor. I arived early so and caught almost the full set of Konfekt. I really enjoyed their music, all good pop tunes. The band consisted of three girls in their 20ies on bass, drums and guitar and played their hearts out to a virtually empty field. The small audience that was there, however, cheered for them and rightfully so. Once again I was happily surprised by a new Icelandic band capturing my interest. Hopefully I’ll get to see them again.

Ása was up next and I loved her from the start. Her songs were beautiful and she had a great voice. She made all the announcements in Icelandic, but all of the songs were English. I liked each one of them and some were really great. So good in fact that I need to find out more about her music. If she has an album out I want it. The band she had was good too and combined with the sun shining on my back everything about this gig was as good as it gets. There  were a few kids around that she obviously knew and waved to and for one song she invited a little boy up to the stage with her. They danced together. It was all sorts of cute. Eventually he decided he had enough and just left. Aww. She’s definitely someone I will put on my list of people to see again when I get a chance.

I moved over to Gimli stage where The Pink Street Boys were still playing. I had not liked them at Airwaves and they still did not appeal to me. Not a bad band, just not my thing. The band I’d come for was Grúska Babúska whom I’d liked at Airwaves last year and wanted to see again. I had since learned that one of the members is Una Stef’s sister and now that I knew I could see it too. The band was just as good as I remembered them, if a bit “harder” music wise than than I recalled. At first they had a bit of trouble with the sound and we could not hear them on the main speakers, but it got fixed soon. They played us one song called ‘The Fox’ and then their full new album. Watching them was fun, especially seeing the multitude of different instruments they used. I also liked their style with colorful clothes and bright dots on their cheeks. Only the bass player was dressed all in black and had black dots on her cheeks as well. In the end they even got to play an encore, a lullaby of sorts or so they said. I was glad I’d decided to see them. 🙂

because I had time until the next band I really wanted to see and finally wanted to know what all the fuss is about, I returned to Valhalla stage in time for Hatari. It was quite crowded, but i still made it close enough to get a good look at them. What I saw of the show and their costumes was entertaining, but i did not like their music at all. After two or three songs I’d had enough and left. I can now claim I have seen Hatari and got a confirmation of what I knew all along: This band is not for me. Back at Gimli, Rokky was playing electro dance music. This was not for me either, but it was fun watching a bunch of kids of elementary school age dancing and jumping like crazy in front of the stage. Glad they enjoyed it.

We Made God were up next. I’d seen them at Airwaves before, but could not really remember them. I knew it was metal, but other than that I had no idea. They were not my favorite band o f the day, but I liked them a lot better than I expected and had fun listening to them. Ragnar showed up, said hello and watched with me for a while before going backstage to get ready. Eventually I moved closer to the front to be in a good position for taking pictures. K. came along and said hello too. This was a good way to pass the time to the acts I really wanted to see. 🙂

Soon it was time to change the stage and I watched Árstíðir set up their gear. To my surprise, Ragnar was on the right this time and Daníel on the left. Unnur and Sigrún were playing with them instead of Guillaume and Jean-Samuel. I was happy to see them again so shortly after the concert in Duisburg and wondered how much of the setlist they would keep, knowing they had less time here. A small crowd had gathered when they started and I was already smiling. Sadly, the sound was really distorted at the beginning and ‘Himinhvel’ did not sound good at all. 🙁 It got better a few songs in, but was less than ideal for the entire set. Considering they had been so happy to have the sound engineer who’d been mixing their first album, I was a bit disappointed. Hopefully it was better for those who were not as close to the stage as I was. They choose good songs though and people liked it. For the first time in a long time I heard them announce everything in Icelandic, at least until Ragnar asked (in Icelandic) if there were any English speakers in the house and none of them replied, because nobody understood. 😀 Then he switched to English briefly to tell us it was the tenth anniversary of their first album. Other than that they kept to more playing and less talking. Overall it was really nice, but not one of the better concerts I have seen. I might be too critical though as several people walked up to them after and said how good it was. One couple had come from Canada just to see them. They scored the setlist too. I’d had my eyes on that, but decided it would make them happier than me. It was a good thing they guys got to play Secret Solstice and it is always fun seeing them. 🙂

Árstíðir pictures


Things You Said
While This Way
Þar sem enginn fer

There wasn’t much time to talk because the band needed to get their gear off the stage to make room for Sólstafir. Again I was surprised, because the keys were moved to the left side. It felt like everything was backwards that day. 😉 Anyway, it made me happy to see them again, they always put on a great show. The first thing I noticed when they walked on stage was that they had a different drummer. Everyone else was there though and as soon as the had all taken their places the proceeded to rock the stage and the audience. As usual I just had a ton of fun watching them play and interact with each other, see flying hair and hearing them play. It was wonderful and the sound was much better than it had been for Árstíðir. I still can’t sing along, but I rocked with them and ‘Bláfjall’ moved me as it always does. The rest of the set was magical as well and when they ended with ‘Goddess of the Ages’ there were no bounds to their craziness any more. Just before it started Addi gestured to Raggi “Do you wanna sing?” and he gestured back “Na, you do it.” He was busy enough carrying the Hammond around, in the end, even with just one hand. That as fun, can we get more of this please? After the show I got the setlist from Ragnar before he disappeared backstage.


Goddess of the Ages

The last Artist of the day was Högni, whom I finally wanted to check out. It was nice, I liked it, but it didn’t really move me. He played multiple instruments and the music was certainly good, as well as his singing. Only the final spark was missing for me. At least now I have seen him and have an idea what his music is like. 🙂 K., who really likes him, wasn’t happy with this show for one reason or another. Maybe I should give him another chance.

After he was done I met up with Ragnar and we chatted for a long time before saying goodbye. Overall day two was just about as perfect as it gets. Tired and a little bit cold I stumbled home and fell asleep dreaming of music.

day two pictures

DAY THREE (June 23rd)

On day three it looked very much like rain and shortly before I was going to leave for the first act of the day I received a message via the app that her show was postponed from 3:35 to 4:40. Good for me. So I got to rest a bit more and made it to Valhalla stage around 4:30.

Una Stef was the first name on my list for that day. She is always fun to see. Her full band was there with her and as soon as they started I forgot all about the missing sunshine. Their set was great as always and they even taught us some goofy dance moves. It was a small audience but we stepped, clapped and shook our booties with them. I very much enjoyed this start of the day and left smiling, taking a break at my hotel. It turned out to be a good move since it started raining just as I left.

Got back to the festival in time for Vök and had no trouble getting to front row again. Chatted a bit with the woman to my left who’d been there since they opened to see Robert Plant. Vök are far from being my favorite band, but they were entertaining. I considered them a good warm up for the woman I’d really come to see and enjoyed listening to them.

More chatting while they changed the stage and finally I got excited to see Patti Smith. She was the reason I’d come to this festival in the first place. I finally wanted to know if she was really as good live as several people had told me. She was better than that! The moment she stepped out on stage she had everyone’s attention. Her mere presence was enough to achieve that.
I don’t really know her catalogue so I can’t say for sure which songs she played, but I loved each and every one of them. Afterwards I tried to piece together a setlist, but I am sure I am missing a few songs. Her band was great and I could hardly look away from her as she stood there and sang for us. She played some of her own stuff as well as two cover songs, one of them being Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds are burning’ – that came unexpected and I recognized it immediately.
I can’t really remember everything said either, but her words rang true for me. At one point she leaned forward, hand behind her ear and we screamed in response. She started laughing and explained that she was just listening to hear if there was another band playing. There was, we could hear soundbytes from the Gimli stage. As soon as she continued playing we could not hear that any more though and I forgot all about it. Her performance was mesnerizing and when she told us to raise our hands and wave, we all did.
Later she looked at a piece of paper and the rummaged through all of her pockets, apparently not finding what she was looking for. I wondered if she was looking for her glasses. She played another song and then explained that she had written a poem to read, but had forgotten her glassed, so no poem. 🙂 It all felt very natural and down to earth. She was ver much into the music and at onepoint it was almost as if she was praying. In the end she introduced her band, played  one last song and left. I was deeply impressed and needed some time to digest it all.

Setlist (as much as I could figure out)

Are you experienced? (Hendrix)
My Blakean Year
Ghost Dance
Beds are Burning (Midnight Oil)
Dancing Barefoot
Pissing in a River

At my hotel, an hour or so later I didn’t really feel like going back. I was tired and had already seen everything and everyone I wanted to see. Yet my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check out Robert Plant after all. When I arrived Morcheeba were still playing and I liked it a first, especially when someone left and I managed to score a front row spot. However, when it didn’t look like they were planning to stop with their slot already having ended 15 minutes ago I got a bit annoyed and I wasn’t the only one. They weren’t bad and their music was colorful, but I had not come to see them and could not really enjoy it knowing that everything was gonna be later now.

Finally the stage was set for Robert Plant & The Sensational space Shifters and they started about 25 minutes later than he was supposed to. I tried hard to get into it, but I have to admit his music did not appeal to me at all. It wasn’t terrible, but it bored me. Neither his own stuff, nor the Led Zeppelin songs got to me and while I recognized that the band did a great job I kept waiting for the magic to happen and it just didn’t. Everyone else seemed elated though, maybe I was just not in the right mood. After about 30 minutes I realized it wasn’t going to change and left. I am sure the girls behind me, who sang along to every word where happy when I did 😉


When the Levee Breaks (Memphis Minnie & Kansas Joe McCoy cover)
Turn It Up
Black Dog (Led Zeppelin song)
Going to California (Led Zeppelin song)
The May Queen
Carry Fire
Little Maggie ([traditional] cover)
Fixin’ to Die (Bukka White cover)
Gallows Pole ([traditional] cover)
In the Mood
Ramble On (Led Zeppelin song)
Immigrant Song (Led Zeppelin song)

day three pictures

Thus Secret Solstice ended for me and while I had fun, it feels very much like any other festival to me and not like something so special I have to go there again. I might, depending on the line up, but this won’t become a regular thing in my calendar.

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