You’re in a dimly lit community center. It’s 14:00. On stage, a masked man bashes on a drum kit while another screams into a megaphone in Finnish. They bow to an audience composed of oddly dressed individuals eating vegan soup, before grabbing paintbrushes to help a group of pastel-haired poets work on a abstract mural of Cthulthu. Outside, a janky grill sits surrounded by cardboard signs that read “FREE MEAT.” Next to it, twenty leather-clad peeps make bizarre poses and aggressive facial expressions to each other. They’re playing a game called, “What black metal album do I look like?”
Although this might sound like a hallucinogenic nightmare, it’s no fantasy. Welcome to Norðanpaunk.
Punk, pinko, and postmodern
“Norðanpaunk isn’t a music festival, it’s a community gathering,” Ólöf Rún Benediktsdóttir, one of the organizers of the DIY extravaganza, says. Árni Þorlákur Guðnason, another organizer, nods: “It’s a place for artists that might be, how do you say, too difficult for other places to showcase themselves. At Norðanpaunk, the boundaries between the performers and the guests blend and wash away. The performers are the viewers and the viewers are invited to be performers.”
If this whole thing sounds weirdly communistic, you’re on the right track—but think punk, not pinko. There’s no money involved in Norðanpaunk—no sponsors, no vendors, nothing. No one is paid—not the organisers, not the artists, not the workers. “It is entirely volunteer,” Árni says, “which means that everyone who is there are the ones who believe in Norðanpaunk and want to be a part of it. The bands, the nurses, the security—they all want to be part of the social experiment.” Ólöf smiles. “They want to join the family.”
Family is the key word here, and truly, the festival often feels like a family reunion. Whether you like metal, noise, hardcore, drone, or experimental electronic post-stoner doom country, Norðanpaunk is the place to let your freak flag fly with no fear of judgement. Imagine the Gathering Of The Juggalos for the Icelandic fringe community—minus Faygo, hatchets, and the Miss Juggalette pageant—and you’ve got the idea.
“Every year Norðanpaunk has changed just because people came forward and wanted to add to it,” Ólöf says. “Last year, one woman wanted to create a quiet open workshop space to take a break from the crowd and just chill and draw. It worked really well and helped the festival be enjoyable for her.” She smiles. “A nurse and harm reduction specialist, who have been at the festival before, also made a safe space room that year in case you bang your head or have an anxiety attack. This year we are adding more art workshops and a poetry show. Norðanpaunk just grows into what the community wants it to be.”
Membership and impromptu art
The entrance fee is 6,500 ISK, but, as Ólöf emphasises, “You’re not buying a ticket to a festival, you’re buying a membership to a community. We have private events all through the year for members, but this is the biggest one.” This year’s iteration contains not only performances by bands like Bölzer, Wormlust, Kuldaboli, Nicolas Kunysz, and Skrattar, but also poetry readings, art workshops, and as many impromptu performances as attendees want to participate in. “If you’re interested in organising or doing something, just contact us. It’s not exclusive, it’s inclusive.” Árni nods. “Whoever or whatever—Norðanpaunk could use you.”
Norðaunpaunk will take place this Verslunarmannahelgi (“Merchant’s Weekend”) from August 4 to August 6 in Laugarbakki. Bring your own food, alcohol, and anything else you need. Nothing will be sold on site.
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