Truncated report from days three and four of Distortion Festival: Almost died!
After Thursday’s off the charts crunkosity in the Nørrebro neighborhood, the day happenings in Vesterbro seemed about half a notch tamer. However, I might have simply built up my tolerance for outdoor pre-apocalyptic dance parties, because the Klashy tank was still raging, the Tuborg was still flowing, and I found myself feeling a wave of relief at the “Copenhell” corner, where two be-pentagrammed DJs named Dr. Evil and Rusty Needle were serenading a half-pipe with a barrage of metal. (Of course, the calm feelings could have also come from the accompanying Copenhell beer someone handed me, alcohol level 6.66%).
The chill factor was a must, though, because that night’s line-up was the one I was most pumped about: set on the massive Carlsberg beer factory compound, nine separate stages were booked with varying degrees of insanity, including a ZZK Records showcase, sets by Booka Shade and Mock & Toof, and a “Copyflex Bootyworld” tent featuring Schlachthofbronx, Spoek Mathambo, Gnucci Banana, Douster, Uproot Andy and Beardyman. The sheer scale of it was overwhelming, plopped on a couple-miles long concrete campus, something like Lollapalooza if Americans knew how to get down like the Euros. (I took about 350 photos over the last two days. Yeah, I’m no Diane Arbus, but it’s got to mean something that most of my shots consist almost solely of peoples’ hands in the air).
An impressive intergalactic space-dub set by Germany’s Tikiman was a chillaxed, spacious segue into the cumbia and fizzy house tracks purveyed by NYC’s Uproot Andy and Douster. The latter’s set was surprise-hyped by South African MC/magician Spoek Mathambo (below).
I’ve waxed plenty ecstatic on Schlachthofbronx’s latest single, “Ayoba,” which features vocals by Mathambo and his power-collaborator Gnucci Banana, so it’s probably no surprise that hearing that jam live smack in the middle of Schlachth’s set was maybe my favorite moment of the week. We’ve got video coming later, but have a look at this incredibly composed, well-focused, practically award-winning photo for a taste:
Friday bled into Saturday. I trod the cobblestone streets to the Knippelsbro Bridge, where the crowds were waiting for a “two-minute rave” to shut down traffic, and a fleet of “Raverbusser,” four buses on which even more raving would occur. To reiterate the motto of the Klashy DJs, RAVE RAVE RAVE. RAVE RAVE RAVE. RAVE. RAVE RAVE. RAVE!
At precisely 10PM, thousands of people walked up to the bridge, someone turned on a sound system, and we were all dancing together at twilight.
Not to get all 1992 candy-hippie on you, but there was a certain comfort and beauty in the togetherness and the light. (No Tiesto).
Raverbussers were boarding after two-minute rave and, caught in the throngs, my compatriots Matt and awesome festival planner Heidi Hardgrove hopped on the first bus we saw, the one belonging to Kompakt. Given its overcapacity, it was impossible to tell if any Kompakt DJs were actually providing the music—Tobias Thomas? Justus Kohncke?—but I did manage to capture the essential chaos of the experience: too-packed dance-a-thon, some dudes’ hands in the air, and Matt behind an iron curtain of Tuborg.
The Raverbus drove to the Carlsberg compound’s nine-stage party carnival, where the Kompakt tent, Breakage and Ramadanman were my desired destinations, but I had an early flight to consider. Got berated by my cab driver for going home so early (2am, and he gave me his card in case I wanted to go back out). Packing the next day, I regretted not staying up: Distortion felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience, an impeccably booked, citywide party that went off in a way I’ve never seen before but nonetheless managed to be completely peaceful. Even the cops thought they did a good job. And while I’m psyched to be back in New York for an approximate two-week-long sabbatical from dancing my face off to some of the world’s greatest DJs before I GO THE HELL IN AGAIN, I already miss it.