"We were going to rent camels, but the city was afraid they'd get scared from all the people." -Distortion Festival organizer Heidi.
BATSHIT. CRAZY. That's the best way to describe the first day of Copenhagen's Distortion Festival. It's not just that the booking is awesome, the city's spirit is uniquely suited for something so bananas that just renting a bunch of camels to walk around the city center and chill out doesn't seem like such an off-the-wall idea. Each day, a different neighborhood in the compact, clean town essentially shuts down, lending itself to blocks-full of different DJs, art happenings and ludicrous amounts of drinking. At night, everyone stumbles over to the spot where the headliners are performing and raves at least until sunlight.
By the time I'd had a fitful, jet-lagged power-nap and wandered from the hotel around 5:30pm, the streets surrounding it were already thumping with warring DJ booths and throngs of inebriated Scandinavians. In New York, this would be a prescription for a cop beatdown, but the drunkards were low-key, everyone more interested in putting their hands in the air than putting their fists in someone's face. "We don't have guns here," one Dane explained between spliff hits. "The worst thing that can happen for a man is he gets slapped, and for a woman, she gets called a ho."
First stop after picking up a Distortion festival wristband and casually saying what up to former FADER feature subject/art-fashion world dudeHenrik Vibskov (NBD!) was the Jaegermeister rave bus (yes) where young Dane Kasper Bjorke was DJing a mix of oonce-oonce techno and textural jams from groups like Delorean. From then on it was a blur (no Jaeger): as my stateside cohort Matt and I pressed through the crowd, we heard 13 different types of music wafting from booths including hip-hop, "chill" (wave) and a quiet room so PEOPLE AND THEIR BABIES could enjoy the festival, and witnessed about 150 people raving atop a bus including two dudes wearing panda suits (later I discovered this was the Klashy Tjekno Tank, advertised as RAVE RAVE RAVE with headlining DJs Geiger/Lawaetz and Black Kitty).
But spectacle is second nature at this festival, it seems, and the crowning moment came when a man by the name of Snow Leopard—performing from atop the city hall adjacent to the historic Tivoli building—belted outergalactic birdcalls and guitar shreds through a giant sound system reverberating across the city. Of around 300 people gathered in the town square, half were dancing, despite Snow Leopard's performance having no discernible beat—one girl just laid down on the ground and kicked up her feet, making psychedelic Burning Man dances with her hands. Obviously sanctioned by some kind of government (it lasted long enough there was no way it was illicit), it confirmed my notion that Copenhagen is full of freaks, god bless them.
Closing the night out at the nearby club Pumpehuset (The Pumping House), local moustachio'd dance-punks Whomadewho charmed with jagged funk riffs, juicing up a trillion dudes with backpacks for the headlining DJ set: James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco. Though the trance was enchanting for the kids in the crowd, my booty rejected the minimal techno and I whisked off into the night, beats ringing in my heart, my love for this city surging.
Tomorrow: A 30-metre painting, Ghanaian party jams, Danes getting down to cumbia and "Triple Bass Night" featuring Kode 9, Madlib and Buraka Som Sistema's J-Wow and Kalaf.
(pic via Anywho)