Always fascinated by the fun and frivolity to be had in the Scandi states, i-D online dispatched bright young thing Harriet Verney to report on infamous Copenhagen fiesta, Distortion. Here’s what she found…
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Denmark’s Distortion Festival is one of the few where rules are kept to a minimum and frankly not needed, it’s a five-day street party where if one genre of music isn’t your kettle of fish, then merely ten metres away a different party with a different genre awaits. Beginning in 1998 as a one night only celebration for a crowd of around one thousand, the festival has since expanded dramatically with an estimated two hundred thousand people attending 2012’s festival. Founded by party monster Thomas Fleurquin, Distortion celebrates controlled chaos and revelry from buses to rock climbing centres and everything in between. It’s fearless and completely free-spirited…
Day One: The City
Stumbling through airport arrivals like a lost Jack Russell, squinting as I’m blinded by the sea of blonde Scandinavians, three pairs of hands, hanging above three 6ft-something gorgeous pairs of never-ending legs are waving in my direction. I check behind and look again. I point at myself and mouth “Me?”. “YAR!” they scream. And so it begins.
Helle, my nanny-cum-tour guide, is one of the core twenty-five volunteers of Distortion, who collectively help run, organise, police and clean up at the festival. This core group expands to around eight hundred during the weeks leading up to the festival.
Arriving into the city, chaperoned down a cordoned-off street, we follow the music and find ourselves in central Copenhagen, an area known as ‘The City’. The City is to Copenhagen what Leicester Square is to London, but any potential negative connotations of this comparison mean nothing when the city is smothered by two hundred thousand gorgeous, twenty-something Scandinavians. Festival-goers are balancing on church spires and straddling 50ft high figureheads to the sound of ‘Still Dre’. We slowly grind our way through the crowd and turn another corner. A man standing on a box with miniature turntables has the crowd silenced, frozen in anticipation, waiting for the bass line to explode. About a thousand people are intently waiting on his eyebrows to float upwards and… BANG! Its like everyone has just whipped out their pogo sticks and I’m caught up in the middle. We continue our travels, around the next corner a DJ has set up camp on some scaffolding. Here stand the most delicious looking hipsters I’ve seen. Human orangutans are dangling off the scaffolding poles. Welcome to the jungle!
Next stop is the official after-party for Distortion’s opening night. This takes place at Copenhagen’s Royal Theatre. Thanks to the volunteer’s relentless social networking, there’s over five thousand people in attendance. American electronic band Chromatics play an adrenaline-fuelled set to a drooling crowd. Tomorrow, we will wake-up and start this all again.
Day 2: Norrebro
Festivities begin at 4PM in the area of Norrebro. Some dub this area as Copenhagen’s Brixton, but it’s not to be compared. Buggies (with children in) are left on the pavement unattended, bikes unlocked and scantily clad women walk undeterred down the street. After leaving a bar decorated with dolls heads as lampshades and a family of foxes, we venture out.
The surrounding hum of music is slowly getting louder. A beanie wearing man is body popping on a statue, five hours later he is still cemented there, stuck on repeat.
Next we head towards a stage blaring hip-hop, Beyoncé and all things Ludicris. We are situated outside the infamous ‘RUST’ club. Supermodels grind beat-boxing street dancers here, tonight a dance-off is taking place, an MC raps along to various songs as he commentates on the contestants. We plant ourselves here for the majority of the night…
Officially all the street parties end at 10 o’clock. It is then that Copenhagen turns into Cattle Country as hundreds of thousands of people make their way to one of the many after parties.
Day 3: Vesterbro
A 2-minute walk from out hotel, Vesterbro, is tonight’s destination. We are invited to a champagne reception by Thomas Fleurquin, Distortion’s founder, here I am introduced to one of the most surreal experiences I will ever encounter.
My champagne flute is grabbed out my hand by a trombone player as I watch six middle-aged, white wig wearing, nipple flashing women dance through the hotel lobby. My hand is grabbed and I’m dragged outside to a waiting bus… Aptly named, ‘The Devil Bus’.
Bus route number 666 has an on board DJ, journalists and cattle class conditions. We pull up at an abandoned underground train station. At this point a van is setting up a sound system and around twenty people are crossed-legged on the floor awaiting… something? Within five minutes a train pulls up, faces pressed to the windows. As the doors open two thousand or so partygoers pour out. The marching band returns and kegs are wheeled in on skateboards. A two hour rave is instigated and then we’re back on the bus. This time with forty extra passengers, including the marching circus band WITH their elephant sized instruments (priority for seats was given to the instruments).
I am riding a trapeze-like, fire-breathing excuse for a bus. Andy, a saxophonist, and his over excited hips have straddled me. One of the dancing girls has her tongue down my throat before the engines starts, her wig is slightly skewiff. Chants of “THIS IS SO DISTORTION” echo through the bus until out arrival at the night’s final destination, a street party.
Day 4: The final party. Refshaleon
The full moon tonight is creepily exposed in a fuchsia pink Danish sky. We arrive at an industrial estate. As we walk across the concrete ground towards erected tents, a crane can be seen in the distance. Hanging off the 200ft crane is a strikingly familiar bus… The 666.
‘The Devil Bus’ is now dangling against the backdrop the pink sky. Later on a 3-minute rave, followed by a mimicking helicopter would happen, as fireworks spurted out the buses wheels. A mini Glastonbury can be found through a small dirt track with several opposing music tents hosting an array of parties. R’n’B, techno, art disco and dark house are just a few of the genres available on this night. The full moon dominates the rest of the evening and the revellers go on for hours.
Surreal, memorable, unhinged, a fantasy. That is SO Distortion.
Row 1: Thorbjørn Gudnason
Row 2, 3 & 4: Sarah Buhtman
Row 5 & 6: Nedim Husic