Wherein we pay respects to the first of (hopefully) many Norðanpaunk Festivals to come...
The first weekend of August is known as Verslunarmannahelgi (“Merchant’s Weekend”), a national holiday that sees numerous festivals taking place around the island, with plenty of drunken debauchery on offer. Scores of folks make their way to festivals such as Vestmannaeyjar’s Þjóðhátíð and Akureyri’s Ein með öllu, to name but two, with a handful of stragglers remaining in Reykjavík to party at Innipúkinn.
Given the general popularity of established festivals like the above, any new contenders on the scene face an uphill battle. Norðanpaunk (“Northern Punk”), however, isn’t any ordinary festival—indeed, its debut this year saw it carving a place for itself by appealing to an untapped niche market. In short, Norðanpaunk managed to unite alienated fans of fringe music that wouldn’t be caught dead at the other festivals, offering a solid line-up of extreme, punk noise and avant-garde bands—in other words, everything but the elfin indie pop Iceland is known for.
Norðanpaunk went off without a hitch in the village of Laugarbakki (pop. 89), 190 km north of Reykjavík, a place so remote that it has no place to buy food, booze or condoms—leaving the 200-plus attendants responsible for bringing along anything they might need, in true DIY fashion. The funny thing is: it absolutely worked.
Thirty-three bands played in the town’s community centre, a venue that felt at once small enough to make an audience of fifteen feel like a crowd, and big enough to accommodate all the guests at once. There were plenty of great gigs to be found, and due to the campsite’s proximity to the music hall, it was impossible not to hear what was going on at all times. This led to all in attendance being exposed to the whole range of bands, with fans of poet-punks Kælan mikla seeing garage rockers Pink Street Boys tear up the set, and the hardcore moshing crowd of Muck experiencing the atmospheric electronic doom artist Krakkkbot.
For the bands themselves, that may have been exactly why they showed up: to find a new audience for their music. One of Norðanpaunk’s organisers, Jonathan Baker (of the band MASS), says this was one of the reasons they decided to group the different music genres together.
“After we played, lots of people came up to us and congratulated us,” he says. “They were exposed to our music, something they wouldn’t otherwise have heard, which is great for the band and the scene. We hope Norðanpaunk can be exactly that—a family gathering in the sense that people meet up one a year, see the bands they want to see and check out what else is out there before returning to their own familiar scenes.”
It’s a community
Despite at times looking very stressed out, scrambling from one place to another and making sure everything was in working order, Jonathan says things worked out very well. “Before the festival started, we did a lot of organising and running about,” he says. “But as soon as the music started, everything just sort of worked and took care of itself, leaving us to enjoy the show.”
Árni Þorlákur Guðnason of Norn, another of the festival’s organisers, says that it didn’t take long for people to get behind the DIY ethic of Norðanpaunk—that there wasn’t a big company behind the festival, just a bunch of music enthusiasts, so the guests were quick to volunteer their help. As a not-for-profit venture, Norðanpaunk isn’t about making money, but rather about the music, and Árni is quick to point out that all proceeds will go into supporting the next edition.
“I personally don’t want to become a promoter,” he says, “but promotion is still part of being in a band. The festival was our own idea, and we got our friends to help out, making it the collective effort of the bands that were playing. It wasn’t organised by a centralised board or money-makers, it was more like an anarchistic cooperative with the performers making all the decisions.”
After three solid days of rocking out, the crowd nursed their last few drops of booze before falling asleep content. Árni and Jonathan looked absolutely knackered the following morning, and voiced a few niggles, like the need to delegate their tasks better and have more bins spread out around the venue, but seemed very pleased with the overall result.
They said they’d love to have Norðanpaunk again next year if the people of Laugarbakki will have them.
As far as we’re concerned, we really hope they will, because we’d love to go again.
A total of 33 bands performed at Norðanpaunk, including local acts Börn, Caterpillarmen, Döpur, Godchilla, Icarus, Kælan Mikla, MASS, Muck, Norn, Pink Street Boys, Rán, RVNES, Saktmóðigur, Skelkur í Bringu and World Narcosis, in addition to international bands such as Chainsaw Demons, Deathseekers and Spermafrost.
Accommodation provided by Hotel Edda Laugarbakki. The hotel is located at the base of the Midfjorður fjord, halfway between Reykjavík and Akureyri. It has a total of 28 double and triple rooms with in-room washbasins and shared bathroom facilities. Sleeping bag accommodation is available as well. Book rooms online or call (+354) 444-4000.