From Iceland — The Humans Will Turn Into Slime

The Humans Will Turn Into Slime

Published July 27, 2023

The Humans Will Turn Into Slime
Photo by
Torfi Þór Tryggvason
Andrés Rein Baldursson

The MBS Collective Highlights Akureyri Talent With Their DIY Festival

Akureyri is Iceland’s only major township outside of the Reykjavík capital area. Just like the Reykjavík music scene, that of the so-called “capital of the north” is facing big challenges – including a lack of venues where aspiring and up-and-coming artists can take the stage.

Countering this development is the grassroots, DIY-focused festival Mannfólkið Breytist í Slím (The Humans Turn To Slime), which focuses on highlighting the musical talent that Akureyri offers.

Jón Haukur Unnarsson is a member of the underground Mannfólkið Breytist í Slím (MBS) collective, the group responsible for the festival. Jón, who has been involved since the group’s inception in 2010, is one of the festival’s forerunners and bears the distinctive North-Icelandic pronunciation of accentuating his Ks and Ts.

A festival in a ship-building factory

Since its initial beginnings as a group of teenagers with similar interests and access to a rehearsal space – called Kleppur, Jón says – MBS has hosted informal shows and performances, and even functions as a record label, MBS Skífur. “It’s directly linked to the experience of being in a band from Akureyri. It’s difficult to make a name for yourself,” says Jón. “All of the action happens in Reykjavík. If you wanted to do something, you had to seek out alternative ways. And that’s where the idea came to establish a record label.”

“Only our friends showed up. And some of the passengers from the docked cruise ships.”

Over the last two years, the group has taken over a former ship-building factory in Akureyri, where they host their festival. Back in 2018, the festival lasted a single day and was located behind MBS’ headquarters, Gúlagið. “We started very small, with only eight acts, and called it ‘An Open Day in the Gulag.’ We emptied everything from the building so we could make room for the bands. Only our friends showed up, plus some passengers from the docked cruise ships,” Jón reminisces.

By Andrés Rein Baldursson

Even more so than Reykjavík, there is a dearth of venues in Akureyri for grassroots acts to perform and introduce themselves to locals. This lack is what led to the festival’s current form, while also serving as a feature of its uniqueness – MBS’ organisation team is adamant about fostering the event “outside traditional music venues,” in Jón’s words. Hence the unconventional choice of hosting Mannfólkið Breytist í Slím in a ship-building factory in Akureyri’s Óseyri industrial park.

Focusing on local acts

MBS’ main focus is on elevating local artists in the area, devoting two-thirds of the lineup to bands and musicians from the community. “When we did the 2020 and 2021 versions of the festival, I thought we went through every underground band in Akureyri,” Jón says about the perceived challenge of finding fresh talent to perform. “But there are more bands in Akureyri than we can accommodate at the festival and a lot of growth happening in the grassroots scene.”

“I think it’s important to create something like this in Akureyri, which is a fairly conservative community.”

Among the Akureyri artists performing are Á geigsgötum; Poets, Bullets, Society; and Hugarró, to name a few. Making the trek from Reykjavík are Kælan Mikla, Madonna & Child, and cult favourites Graveslime, who are playing their first post-reunion gig.

With its thriving underground scene, Akureyri has the potential to be a cradle of musical innovation in Iceland. However, if not for MBS, there would be no other platform showcasing northern talent. “I think it’s important to create something like this in Akureyri, which is a fairly conservative community. If you look at other festivals in the countryside – LungA, Norðanpaunk, Aldrei fór ég suður – all of them happen in smaller towns than Akureyri,” says Jón, “but Akureyri hasn’t reached the same level of cultural significance,” he continues, wondering about Akureyri’s cultural ballast to Reykjavík’s dominance in the music sector.

Mannfólkið Breytist í Slím takes place in Akureyri (Óseyri 16) July 28-29. Ticket pricing follows a pay-what-you-can scheme. For the full lineup and showtimes, visit


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