Rukatunturi Fell, Ruka
Solstice Festival takes place over midsummer, bathed in the endless glow of a sun that never sets. An intimate gathering set on a rocky fjeld rising half a kilometre above sea level, the combination of stunning views, crisp Nordic air and nightless nights proves to be a magical location.
Based in the small ski village of Ruka, the Solstice Festival site sits atop of Rukatunturi Fell like a sparkling jewel in a mountainous crown. Access is by ski lift, or for the more athletically-inclined, a steep climb up staircases that meander past the luge circuits and imposing ski jumps dotted across the neighbouring hills. Scheduled across three days and three stages, the remote Finnish festival feels like a glimpse of heaven. Easy-going, like-minded punters share a collective sense of giddy delight as a cutting-edge soundtrack of vibrant electronic beats from international DJs, local talents and emerging names ring out across a vista of pine trees, deep lakes and golden skies.
On the opening Thursday Lauren Hansom immediately kicks the party into high gear with eclectic, bubbly selections that draw a packed crowd to the Valley stage. The bouncing wooden open-air platform decorated with glittering disco balls is the perfect home for Hansom’s jubilant two-hour slot, which winds euphorically through house cuts old and new.
Up on the Peak stage, which true to its name takes prime position inside a ski lift terminal with jaw-dropping 360-degree views of the horizon, two homegrown heroes demonstrate just how dynamic Finland’s techno scene is right now. The multi-talented Emkay – aka DJ, producer, singer and designer Maria Korkeila – not only fills the dancefloor during her acid and electro-geared set, but also stays behind the decks to cover D. Tiffany’s last-minute cancellation. She then hands over to fellow Helsinki local and Post Bar regular Sansibar, who delivers an hour-long live set full of wicked locked grooves and galloping rhythms.
On Friday both the mood and the skies continue to brighten, as the summer sun radiates across the site with unseasonable warmth and Solstice’s top-notch programming comes into full effect. Down on the Valley stage Vladimir Ivkovic holds the fort with a sublime extended set full of squelching, low-slung industrial beats as he flies solo following his regular b2b partner Lena Willikens’ inability to play due to illness.
We’re spoiled for choice with Powder and then Ben UFO rounding out the Peak stage. The former is all smiles as she shows her inimitable knack for building an unhurried, hypnotic vibe, while the latter delivers a triumphant sonic odyssey through house and garage, breaks and dubstep as everything winds up bathed in the smouldering orange flare of the 2am celestial sphere.
No darkness can easily equal no sleep, but for those who are feeling weary by the time Saturday rolls around there are plenty of opportunities to recharge. The sculptures and installations that form part of the Solstice 2022 art programme are beautiful and intriguing site-specific works, designed for moments of quiet contemplation. The Kelo tent, the festival’s third stage, is a place to sit down and enjoy live music in a cosy and chilled-out environment.
It’s hard to sit still though when a packed final day line-up beckons, including a live set from Finland’s own Jimi Tenor and a bumping early evening appearance from Antti Salonen. Raphaël Top-Secret’s sultry disco set culminates with the perfectly timed tones of Prins Thomas’ S.O.S; and Mama Snake and Spekki Webu whip up a high-octane techno back-to-back, before a spectacular four-strong secret closing set of Plo Man, Hashman Deejay, Vladimir Ivkovic and Raphaël Top-Secret brings the festival to an unforgettable close.
Rave culture may have become synonymous with nocturnal hours and dark dancefloors. But with a focus on environmental sustainability, appreciation of nature and a carefully curated music and art offering, the team behind Solstice have delivered a beautifully unique, otherworldly sun-soaked event that proves that electronic music isn’t just the realm of creatures of the night.