I partied at an Icelandic festival in 96 hours of continuous sunlight
The sun never sets on Secret Solstice
The strangest thing that happens under constant sunlight is that your body just gives up. “If there’s no darkness”, it seems to say, “I guess I don’t need sleep any more”.
You may doze off for an hour or two, but wake up shortly after as though you’ve just had a proper sleep. If you don’t keep an eye on your watch, you can miss the night entirely and not realise.
I spent a while the other week in Iceland for the third Secret Solstice Festival – a four-day rave in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet, where the sun never sets in the summer. So what’s it like to rave in a sunny land of Elves and volcanoes?
It’s weird, but kind of amazing.
As about the only internationally-known festival going on in Iceland — that isn’t based around EVE Online — Secret Solstice knows it has to put on a bloody good show to justify the flights. To achieve this, they seem to have given creative control of the festival to an excitable child and the results are something to behold.
A rave in a glacier. Another in an active volcano (that ended up having to be emergency airlifted out as a storm rolled in). A million dollar ticket. Plus, most importantly (because I went to it), a three hour set by Kerri Chandler at the Secret Lagoon, about two hours inland. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year they announce some sort of party in space.
The other star of the show, alongside the actual land of Iceland, is the Icelanders. The festival is hugely popular with locals, and they come down in droves. Someone described Icelanders to me as “the Italians of Scandinavia”, and after Die Antwoord’s show was delayed due “air traffic controllers at Keflavík airport not showing up for work” I fully appreciated what they meant – but with this relaxed attitude comes an absolute loveliness. Even the bouncers were friendly.
The Icelandic sense of humour can best be described as a mix of goofy dad jokes and incredibly dark jokes, and it’s a joy to see. There were also a lot of kids around, and not just during the day. When I asked this girl’s mum if I could take a picture (in the drum ‘n’ bass tent, at 22:40), she started shuffling away and it put my own abilities to shame.
But the most unique part for the majority of people going (except other Scandinavians) would be the endless sunlight. One festivalgoer, when asked to sum up how it felt, described it as “emotionally draining but really cool”.
It takes a little acclimatising to – waking at 2am I was bricking it thinking I’d sept until the afternoon – but as I said above, your body doesn’t take a lot before it throws in the towel and stops bugging you for sleep.
One of the strangest elements of it was the night I went clubbing with a bunch of Italians. The sun streaming through the club windows at 4am was a bizarre experience, but nothing compared to the slap on the face that leaving one club to move onto the next was.
There were all the sights of a normal night out (particularly with all the Brits having coming over): takeaways dashed on the pavement, girls crying, lads chanting. But they were all doused in full, shocking, terrible sunlight.
So, Secret Solstice: a wonderful, dizzying festival in some of the most stunning geography on Earth, populated by amicable Vikings, with daylight all day and daylight all night.
I can’t wait for next year’s. But I think I need to sleep first.