Camp Greensky Iceland 2023 Review: Music, Culture, Adventure in Land of Fire and Ice
Camp Greensky Iceland 2023
Camp Greensky took place in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 2-5, 2023. Greensky Bluegrass was joined each night by Holly Bowling and Fruition, with Neighbor and The Lil Smokies each playing a late-night set.
Music, Culture, Adventure in the Land of Fire & Ice
In the early days of June 2023, a truly amazing thing occurred.
Hundreds of like-minded humans traveled around the globe on a pilgrimage to a foreign land in celebration of life, love, and music.
Among many brilliant awakenings, we discovered that Camp Greensky is not a place. Camp Greensky is a feeling, an emotion, a movement.
Camp Greensky is US.
When Camp Greensky Iceland was first announced in December ’22, it made quite a stir. Moving Greensky Bluegrass’ annual festival from its home in Michigan was a brave call. We weren’t sure what to make of it, or how to react.
We weren’t seriously considering traveling all the way to Iceland to see Greensky, were we?
That would be crazy.
But then again, we’re not Festy StayHome.
Lucky for us, we also have a lot of crazy friends. And some of them like to throw parties on the other side of the world.
Campers leaving their mark all over Iceland.
We are few but courageous.
Camp Greensky was scheduled June 3 – 5 in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the iconic Harpa Concert Hall.
So, after pulling the trigger on tickets, we began planning a trip to Iceland.
Like many of the Campers that decided to take the Arctic plunge, we weren’t planning to go all the way to Iceland and not explore this unknown land. And it was seriously unknown. I mean, really, what can you tell me about Iceland? Is it icy? Actually, I think that’s Greenland. That’s confusing. There are puffins! And Bjork!
We realized we didn’t know what we were getting into.
And that was part of the beauty of Camp Greensky.
None of us knew what to expect. We were all jumping into the unknown, but we were going it together, following a crew that has never let us down before.
So, we all just held on and hoped for the best.
Why aren’t more roads paved?
(seriously. get gravel insurance)
We decided to do some exploring before hitting Reykjavik and getting the party started.
After an overnight direct 7-hour flight from Denver, we landed in Iceland in the morning, hit the duty-free, grabbed our rental car, and started the adventure!
Look, we could write pages about the things we saw, the places we went, and the things we did.
We could go on and on about the magically majestic surroundings we explored – the black sand beaches in secluded coves, the gorgeous moss-covered huts built into hillsides, the countless rainbows exploding in epic proportion all around us, the sheep of all colors and sizes frolicking in lush fields of green, yellow and purple, the waterfalls.
Oh, the waterfalls. Let’s just say, we did not listen to the advice of TLC.
We could wax poetic for days about all the wonders of Iceland.
But really, you had to be there! It’s just indescribable, the vastness of the beauty you can discover on this fairytale island, literally around every corner and throughout every nook and cranny.
So, after several days of driving from dreamscape to dreamscape, we descended on Reykjavik.
T-Boz be damned. We’re not sticking to the rivers and lakes we’re used to!
Yes, it really is this beautiful. Everywhere.
The sun is the same in a relative way…
Reykjavik was not at all what we expected.
To be fair, we spent slightly less than zero minutes researching what would be our home for 6 nights. We imagined a tiny hamlet of gnomes and fisherfolk, with puffins wandering the streets and whales spouting happily in the distance.
Reykjavik is an extremely modern city that has been around for 300 years. Historic brick buildings are joined by all glass and metal additions that look like an art museum inside an Ikea.
And that’s how the whole country really feels. Very modern. Very advanced. Very hip. But also very old, with tradition, history, and culture.
And then there is the sun.
At the time of our visit, the sun never really set. There may have been a few hours of dusk-like semi-darkness, but for the most part, it is always daytime in Iceland in June. This makes for some interesting times when bars are open late and the streets are crawling with friends.
And the sun was in full attendance at Camp Greensky.
Contrary to the predicted weather, we had sunny days mixed with pleasant overcast, and just a few showers – but nothing to dampen the spirits and not at all the cold and wet experience we had prepared for.
So that’s the scene that brings us to the start of Camp Greensky in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Nothing but sunshine and rainbows in Reykjavik.
No matter how far we’ve come…
We learned just a day before that, in addition to the planned Holly Bowling show on the evening of June 2, we were being treated to a ‘pop up’ Greensky Bluegrass performance at the Ægisgarður Brewery. (No, I never learned how to pronounce that.)
According to the Icelandic-to-English translation on the brewery’s Instagram post, we were preparing “to blow to non-electric interplay.” Sweet!
The walk to the waterfront brewery in Reykjavik was a steady pilgrimage of campers – some just arriving in Iceland, some having just completed the most epic of adventures, and some zipping along on the town’s easily rented scooters – all ready to get down to some “non-electric interplay”!
The excitement in the brewpub was electric – even if the interplay was not – amongst the crowd and the band members, who had all just arrived in Reykjavik after spending a week in the isolated Floki Studios recording a new album.
Greensky and Holly Bowling spent a week in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the island, seeing no more than a handful of people and hundreds of sheep, and then walked into a brewery filled with hundreds of friends and fans from across the globe. They were admittedly a little freaked out!
So, after many heartfelt greetings, filled with buzzing anticipation, Greensky Bluegrass kicked things off, and we got ready for 4 fantastic nights of music in Iceland!
The acoustic brewery set was the perfect welcome party. The boys were loose and having fun – the crowd danced and hugged and enjoyed the brewery’s collaboration Greensky Lager, and the smiles stretched from sea to sea.
Camp Greensky Iceland was officially on!
If you plant ice, you’re gonna harvest wind…
Still buzzing from the non-electric interplay and the Greensky brews, we grabbed a Fish and Chips and headed to Harpa Concert Hall for an intimate Holly Bowling show.
Harpa Concert Hall is an architectural wonder, with a gorgeous glass facade that seems to change colors with the light, overlooking the water, right in downtown Reykjavik. The landmark building houses several floors and many gathering spaces, including the glass-walled rooftop that was used for the Holly Bowling show.
We sipped on Aperol Spritzes and sat together on the floor like we were in a camp pow-wow, watching and listening in awe as Holly delivered an amazing performance of Phish and Grateful Dead tunes, with a healthy dose of Greensky teases thrown in to remind us why we were there.
Holly Bowling’s entire performance was set with a panoramic background that stretched from the gorgeous birds-eye-view of downtown Reykjavik to the ships in the harbor below, and all the way to the sea and the majestic mountains beyond.
After the Friday night opening show, many campers hit the town, which is definitely an all-night party on the weekends. With eternal daylight, it can be tough to call it a night!
Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Holly Bowling performs in a rooftop room in Harpa Concert Hall.
The sun stayed up just long enough to make it clear just what we are doing here.
The next day, Saturday, June 3, when the campers converged once again at Harpa in the evening, we were all ready to Go Nuts!
Most had hit their stride and become comfortable in the new environment and were ready to party.
The main shows of Camp Greensky were held in Eldborg Hall within Harpa. Eldborg has the feel of a very classic and old theater. Completely seated, but with plenty of room to stand and dance, the sloping floor allows a perfect view from every angle.
After more meeting-and-greeting and hugs in the lobby – where the bars were located – we all found our seats and got ready for Fruition!
We couldn’t think of a better band to join Greensky on this incredible adventure.
Personally, for Festy GoNuts, our journey as fans of Greensky is completely interwoven with our journey following Fruition, and we know that many other fans share in that sentiment.
And Fruition did not disappoint, hitting the ground running and playing an amazing set. All three nights were started with the mix that only Fruition can deliver – incredibly high-energy jams intertwined with sensitive ballads and uplifting sing-alongs.
On each night the band broke it down to the ‘Fruition Trio’ for a few, and we were treated to the unparalleled harmonies of Jay Cobb Anderson, Mimi Naja, and Kellen Asebroek.
Fruition welcomed guests – including “Smokin’” Jake Simpson, who joined the ‘Trio” for an unforgettable performance of Death Comes Knockin’.
After each opening set, we were more than warmed up for what was to come.
Fruition opened up all three nights of Camp Greensky in Iceland.
Find your way through the world, Let your dreams come true.
There are few moments in life when everything is perfect:
When the convergence of planning and dreaming and fantasizing flawlessly aligns with the reality of time and space and energy.
When your dreams come true.
Greensky Bluegrass took the stage in Eldborg Hall, and the dreams of every person in that room – fans and artists alike – were finally realized.
Months of planning, saving, and arranging to navigate the challenges of traveling around the globe – in the hopes that we had made the right decision – in the hopes that we weren’t too crazy – were instantly validated when Paul Hoffman uttered “Good Evening,” and the crowd erupted.
Greensky Bluegrass then did what Greensky Bluegrass does.
Along with Holly Bowling, the 6 took us on an incredible ride, starting with the debut of two brand new songs, including the fittingly titled opening number, Solstice.
We heard old songs, new songs, rare songs, and all of our favorites. There was absolutely no rust on the band, no signs of weariness after their insane schedule of traveling and recording, no hesitation in delivering never-before-played songs, just straight fire from 6reensky Bluegrass.
And if it happened to be your birthday show, you definitely had no complaints.
The magic went on for 3 nights.
Along the way, Greensky and Holly brought out guests from Fruition, Neighbor and The Lil Smokies. There were more WHAAA????!!!! moments than we could count. The band clearly had the time of their lives, and the energy flowed throughout every soul in the hall and back onto the stage. It was simply amazing.
And the lights…
Andrew Lincoln was like a kid in a candy store with the incredibly high vaulted ceilings in the hall. While we may not have timed the Icelandic trip to see the actual Aurora Borealis, Lincoln created his own dance of the sun on the walls of the theater that had us awestruck throughout the entire Camp.
It was everything you would expect out of a 3-night Greensky run.
Dancing, laughing, crying, singing, floating, grinning, and spinning, while camping out in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Holly Bowling joined 6reensky for all three nights.
Be thankful for the road you’re on and that home is where you are today.
When the music in Harpa came to a close on Saturday and Sunday evening, we were far from done.
Along with Fruition, Greensky also invited their friends Neighbor and The Lil Smokies to join in the party. It wouldn’t be Camp without a bunch of friends!
Neighbor kicked off the first late-night show – both of which were held at the IÐNÓ theater.
From the description on VisitReykjavik.is, “IÐNÓ is a place of curiosity. An attractive, accessible, and inspiring place for ideas and stories. The building combines in one place history, tradition, and culture…” See a theme?
From what we heard, many Campers were seeing Neighbor for the first time. From what we continued to hear, it definitely will not be the last time. Neighbor delivered high-energy jams that maintained the dance party in the room through the wee hours. They were joined by Dave Bruzza and Anders Beck for a portion, and the show definitely had a festival late-night vibe. Of course, it was still light out when we finally left, so we all might have just played through.
On Sunday evening, The Lil Smokies took the late-night reigns. Paul Hoffman and Michael Bont joined for the majority of the show. We were treated to many crowd-favorite sing-alongs and some beautiful jams, as the talent on stage was immense.
Neighbor played the Saturday late-night at IÐNÓ in Reykjavik, Iceland for Camp Greensky.
The Lil Smokies played the Sunday late-night at IÐNÓ in Reykjavik, Iceland for Camp Greensky. Here’s the newest Smokie, Sam Armstrong-Zickefoose gettin’ down with Michael Bont.
Someday we’re gonna travel together
Make this world our own escape
Camp Greensky concluded on Monday Night. For all in attendance, we couldn’t recall when we had last – if ever – seen Greensky on a Monday. All we can say is, if Wednesdays are casual, Mondays are fire!
The entire show was incredible, especially a second set that will go down in history as one of the band’s best. With Time and Breathe serving as bookends, the rarely played Let it Grow weaved its way through the amazing set alongside a dirty Kerosine. When the set eventually concluded with the closing bars of Don’t Lie, everyone’s cup was overflowing. When The Reverend finally delivered the encore, there were many, many tears on and off the stage.
As the band said their farewells, Anders left us by reflecting on the number of amazing people he had met throughout the adventure.
He reminded us that we were ALL awesome. If we made it to Camp Greensky Iceland, we had done more than a few things right. We were surrounded by incredible people filled with unbounded love.
We had done it.
Collectively, Greensky Bluegrass, their crew, their friends, families, and most importantly, their fans, had brought Camp Greensky to Iceland.
In doing so, we came to realize that Camp Greensky is not a place.
We are Camp Greensky. All of us.
Camp Greensky is a feeling, and we can take it anywhere in the world.
And no matter where Greensky Bluegrass decides to take Camp next – be it Iceland, Michigan, Mexico, Spain, Antarctica or Zimbabwe – we’ll be on board.
Thank you, Greensky Bluegrass. 💚 🙏
“Let it Grow>Breathe Reprise>Don’t Lie” by Greensky Bluegrass in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Video by YouTube Channel @funkcaptmax
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