Foo Fighters’ family affair – how the band warmed up for Glastonbury at Iceland’s quirky Secret Solstice festival

Not long now

At the weekend, Foo Fighters warmed up for their long-awaited Glastonbury headline slot with a very unusual performance at a very unusual festival. On the part of the band, it was unusual because they performed a treasure trove of brand new material, Dave’s daughter Harper made her live drumming debut for 20,000 fans and their set included two Queen songs. On the part of the festival, it’s because this was Iceland’s Secret Solstice, a three-day event held on the outskirts of the capital city of Reykjavik at which the sun never sets. Literally, it is always light at Secret Solstice. Add in a stage framed by giant, gnome-like Vikings, a program of UK grime artists realising they’re massive in this far-flung part of Europe and an after-hours indoor superclub called Hel, and it’s clear this is not your average festival.

Dave Grohl’s love for Iceland, it turns out, runs as deep as a geothermal hot spring. Describing a visit in “2003 or whatever”, Grohl told the crowd, “This country became my favourite fucking place on earth.” Grasping at his necklace, he said. “I bought this necklace and I’ve never taken it off for 14 fucking years. I think your country is a perfect example. Strong, independent, smart. You respect nature, you respect each other. Some day, if I ever want to move me and my family anywhere else, I hope you’ll have me.” Strong praise from the official nicest man in rock, and – of course – warmly received by the crowd.

Foo Fighters secret solstice

Credit: Birta Rán Björgvinsdóttir

The band’s set felt like a friendly affair full stop. After opening with ‘Waking The Dead’ and ‘Times Like These’, Foo Fighters drip-fed new tracks into the set, beginning with the performance of new track ‘Run’. With just 90 minutes of stage time on their hands, Grohl told the crowd about his plan to make sure they got bang for their buck. “Tonight we only have a short period of time to play,” he said. “We’ve been a band for 22 years so we’ve got a lot of fucking songs. Sometimes I like to talk and if I start talking it’s a long show – so I’m gonna try not to talk… We’re gonna go bam bam bam bam!”

It’s a good intention he swiftly failed to uphold for much of the show, which saw the band in a playful mood throughout. During a bluesy breakdown in ‘The Pretender’ he started riffing about his love of rock ‘n’ roll mid-track, “Once I get rock ‘n’ rolling, anything can happen,” he said. “This is what I’m talking about! I like this shit!”

Foo Fighters secret solstice

Credit: Ásgeir Þrastarsson

Soon after, he was in full showman mode, introducing the band: Chris Shiflett is “good, he’s clean, he’s got nice shit on – I like the way he looks.” Nate Mendel has “some junk in the trunk”. Keyboardist Rami Jaffee improvised a techno track and Pat Smear received a personal appeal from Grohl for a place in Reykjavik’s Punk Museum – which occupies a former underground public toilet in the city centre. “I was walking around town yesterday, I saw you have a punk rock museum. Pat, were you in the punk rock museum? I don’t know who runs it, but you better put Pat Smear in the fucking punk rock museum…”

Then things got really special. Grohl introduced his eight-year-old daughter Harper to the stage. “About two weeks ago my daughter said, ‘Daddy I wanna play the drums.’ And I said, ‘OK, do you want me to teach you?’ She said ‘yes’. And then I said, ‘do you want to get up in front of 20,000 people in Iceland and play?’ And she said ‘yes’. So ladies and gentlemen, welcome the next generation. There’s another Grohl on the drum set now… And this is the first song she learned.” The band – now backed by Harper, with Taylor Hawkins in support, proceeded to play a cover of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’, to rapturous applause and some wet eyes in the audience.

Seeing Foo Fighters play on a smallish stage at a smallish festival in the light – no lasers, no special effects, no tricks – it emphasised that, at heart, they’re just a damn great, crowd-pleasing rock ‘n’ roll band: one minute, there’s Grohl, on his knees, screaming during ‘Walk’, next he’s pointing out two newlyweds in the crowd: “Oh, you’re on your honeymoon – I heard about you fuckers! Congrats, it’s awesome!”

As the set hurtled to its climax, Grohl and co appeared to be having more and more fun, dropping in the first full-band performance of ‘The Sky Is A Neighbourhood’ and the global debut of another new track, the stomping ‘La Dee Da’, as an unplanned bonus (“Fuck it, I just wanna play new stuff,” he declared).

‘Best Of You’ and ‘Everlong’ rounded off the set, Grohl promised to come back and “play for three fucking hours” next time, and the show closed with young Harper back on stage for a final bow. No messing. No fuss. No darkness – just a rollicking, fast based masterclass in festival headlining. Glastonbury, you’re in for a treat.

As was Grohl, who was spotted dancing with Harper to fellow headliners The Prodigy the next night…