From Iceland — School Of DIY: Norðanpaunk Is Back

School Of DIY: Norðanpaunk Is Back

School Of DIY: Norðanpaunk Is Back

Published July 1, 2022

Photo by
Joanna Pianka

With three days of music from underground Icelandic artists and several favourite foreign bands, Norðanpaunk is the place not only to get your punk on, but to experience Iceland’s “DIY” culture at its finest. Here—at a cosy venue in North Iceland—event organisers, musicians and festival goers unite under the belief that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself.

Anti-consumer mindset

“If you sit around to wait for things to happen in Iceland, there wouldn’t be much happening,” says festival co-founder Árni Þorlákur Guðnason. Norðanpaunk exists because music lovers decided to take things into their own hands, stepping beyond the all-too-common commercialised festival scene. “We wouldn’t have those special, unusual acts without people committing to the inherent value in that happening. There are certain things that are only possible when people are engaged because of passion.”

The people who do the work make the decisions, which is extremely empowering, Árni says. The crew members are extremely dedicated, returning year after year, because of this.

When it comes down to it, Árni believes DIY-ers are creative problem solvers and community builders. “It’s a school for learning important skills. There’s a different atmosphere that grows out of it,” he says.

At Norðanpaunk, if you aren’t part of the DIY community when you arrive, you will be when you leave. On the first day of the festival, people often have what Árni dubs the “consumer mindset,” littering at the campsites and not taking responsibility for their surroundings. But after seeing organisers and musicians—who don’t get paid for their work—picking up trash between shifts, their attitude changes. “By the third day, they’re fully integrated into this way of living and partying together,” Árni says.

With this culture of responsibility, Norðanpaunk may well be one of the cleanest festivals…ever. “It made me very happy to see the woman who owns the venue and campsites taking pictures and posting them on Facebook, asking people, ‘Does it look this clean at your festival? I don’t think so!’” Árni says.

Welcome to the underground family

With around 400-500 people attending each year, the event delivers a strong sense of community. About half of the attendees during any given year are returning from a previous time, while the other half are new—friends of friends, welcomed into the “family of underground,” Árni explains.

The bands are hand-selected, and many are considered too unconventional for other venues, resulting in an event that’s truly all about the art and the community surrounding it. “Nobody wants to listen to standard stuff,” Árni says, “and the different scenes are constantly enriching each other.”

Despite the name, the line-up at Norðanpaunk spans a broad range of genres—from death metal to electronic to techno—because, as Árni says, “The Icelandic scene is too small for people to become entrenched in only one.” The result is a family celebration of the “year’s harvest,” where everyone can gather to witness the art created in the last twelve months. Whether that’s drawings or paintings created in the ‘art corner’ and hung around the venue, or music performed during the event, there is a place for it all at Norðanpaunk.

The social experiment

Norðanpaunk is a social experiment and creative process, evolving each year to become what the community wants.

“It’s kind of like a flower,” Árni says. “You can’t tell it what to do, you can only tend to it and hope the wind and sun are in your favour. That’s how we approach Norðanpaunk each year, with liberty and art as our objective.”

Be careful, Árni cautions, lest you miss some of the excitement. One of his favourite memories, oddly enough, was missing a surprise show from one of his favourite bands. He was called away to deal with an issue, and when he came back, he had already missed the performance. Árni believes this is a reminder to live in the moment and an important lesson about DIY values.

“If you missed it, it’s gone. It’s not replicable,” Árni says. “It’s a series of special moments—you can’t buy that.”

Norðanpaunk will take place July 29-31 in Laugarbakki. Tickets are available at nordanpaunk.org; no tickets will be sold at the door. Bring your own food, alcohol, and supplies.

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