ATH Abroad: Secret Solstice Festival

solsticebannerAfter an 18-hour ocean crossing trip, followed by a brief power-nap, I finally found myself at the Secret Solstice Festival in Reykjavik, Iceland.  To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as I was very unfamiliar with most of the artists on the lineup and I don’t speak a lick of Icelandic.  Of course what we worry about most never happens and I ended up being treated to a great festival experience that could rival most anything we can offer here stateside.  Click read more for words and fancy photos.

Before we proceed, let’s go ahead and thank the friendly staff who were kind enough to allow a Texan abroad like myself to cover their festival.  We were met with many “wows” from staff members as they heard we were from Austin and had traveled so far.  This festival was top notch and clearly the powers that be know how to run the show.  So thanks again to everyone who put on the Secret Solstice Festival and making this a real pleasure.  Nice to meet you all.

Having some extreme jet lag from living in an airport/plane over the last day or so made the wekend a bit of a rough outing for my wife and I.  After some major coffee injections, we managed to get out to the festival to take in the sights and sounds.   Two over sized viking warriors guard the entrance as they lead all festival goers into the lush, green landscape of Reykjavik and Secret Solstice.  All three days of our festival experience were filled with similar Nordic themes and overcast, chilly weather.  The cool breezes and soft grass were a welcome change up to the heat and dust storms we are used to in Austin.  Who knew you could rent out one of the biggest soccer fields in the city for a music festival?  Not a bad idea.

As far as artist reactions and opinions go, we were most impressed by Hip Hop artists Original Melody who would be most reminiscent of a modern day Beastie Boys.  They even brought on a Sisqó look a like who turned out to be Unnsteinn Stefansson from local pop group Retro Stefson.  Check out their super catchy R&B laden single for “Glow”.

Reykjavik based Gluteus Maixmus also impressed with their dark, electronic style pop music.  They brought out several local artists to feature on guest vocals and we left mesmerized by their showmanship and style.

Johnny and the Rest provided us with some rock n roll music that seemed hard to find at this festival.  The sound was sort of a blues based, garage rock theme that could be likened to a mix of The Black Keys meets The Black Lips.  Their slick guitar playing was a welcome change up to the mostly DJ/electronic/producer filled weekend.  Take a listen to their most recent effort Wolves in the Night over on Soundcloud.

Múm was another Icelandic favorite that delivered on their local hype.  Apparently the band has been around for 10+ years and most Icelanders will site them as one of the best groups currently make waves across the pond.  Expect experimental, atmospheric pop music that will leave you in a trance.  Finding a copy of their most recent release, Smilewound, should be easy enough.

Due to some minor language barriers and confusion getting around the city, we missed a few other acts that were promised to be great.  The buzz from local record stores tells us that Moses Hightower, a re-united Maus, Hjaltalín, and Mammút are even more Icelandic bands that we should be paying attention to.  We’ll certainly be checking those out and keeping you posted on what we find.  We’re hoping to catch Mammút at a local club this evening.  A full report is on its way.

Once again, many thanks to Leon and his mates for giving us this opportunity.  Iceland has a great local music scene with a whole lot more to offer than Sigur Ros and Bjork.  Don’t even get me started on Of Monsters and Men…. Apparently we don’t go there.

Vacation mode resume.  See ya’ll next week.

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