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Visiting The Family: Norðanpaunk Assembled Iceland’s Underground Scene

Visiting The Family: Norðanpaunk Assembled Iceland’s Underground Scene

Phil Uwe Widiger
Words by
Photos by
Alma Líf Þorsteinsdóttir

Published August 9, 2018

There are very few events like Norðanpaunk. In fact, I’ve never been to one that even comes close.

Norðanpaunk is an annual gathering of the Icelandic punk community and, aside from being an opportunity to meet (un)familiar faces from the Icelandic underground scene, you also get to enjoy three days of music from both local and international underground bands. Located roughly two and a half hours north of Reykjavík, in Laugarbakki, it is the epitome of DIY culture. Nobody gets paid; instead, volunteers help out providing food, setting up the stage, checking wristbands and cleaning up. Everybody can help and I’m sure almost everybody does. Even though the police might have a look from time to time, I reckon they just come because they are jealous. In the past three years that I’ve attended the festival, I haven’t seen a single fight. And for a BYOB gathering, that means something.

A small family

A fair amount of the 450 attendees are also perform at the festival, with quite a few of them appearing in several bands. The people you are hanging out with at the camp site are sure to be blowing your mind on stage later on.

“The whole underground family got together to enjoy three days of great music without the pressure of authority.”

Actually, there are two stages—there’s the main stage, and then there is the hallway, which more often than not becomes a mosh pit. Conveniently, the first aid room is located right next to it. More frequently used, however, is the drawing space next to the main stage, where paper and pencils are provided. The resulting artworks of the attendees is hung up all over the venue for everybody to admire.

Weird and extreme

The line-up ranges from punk, to hardcore, to black metal, to electro, to indie, and so on. Really, everybody who makes extreme or weird music is welcome. I delved into the darkness of Hekla’s theremin, got bruised in Dead Herring’s mosh pit and accepted the neck pain after Morpholith’s insanely heavy doom performance. I also travelled back to the ‘70s with Lucy In Blue’s marvelous psychedelic prog-rock (where the hell is the second album?), attended NYIÞ’s satanic ritual, and got my ears stabbed by Wiegedood’s sharp-as-a-knife black metal riffs. When the programme for the day is over, people wend their way to the bonfire right next to a huge wooden sword, where, if you are lucky, you will be able to attend a secret music ritual (spoiler: a performance by masked lo-fi duo Madonna + Child).

Nothing but love

As you can guess, Norðanpaunk’s fifth edition further secured the festival’s place in my heart. It feels like the whole underground family got together—relatives from near and far—to enjoy three days of great music, having fun, and helping each other without the pressure of authority.

And it just works. It sure as hell fucking does. Even the sun came out to celebrate. Norðanpaunk, I love you. See you again next year.

Norðanpaunk is an annual three-day DIY gathering “for difficult people who listen to difficult music —i.e. the Icelandic punk community. It took place in Laugarbakki from August 3rd-6th 2018.


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