Distortion is a street + proper spring festival based in our lovely (almost) home Copenhagen. While we can find online such descriptions as a celebration of the “Copenhagen Street Life and New Dance Music”, the official website preferes qualify its baby as a way to turn “the city of Copenhagen into a party heaven”. With an estimated 100,000 guests per day, the festival got the ambition to become one of the largest annual gatherings in Europe, and is already the craziest party of Scandinavia. It looks like it’s already smoothly going across the continents border : we can definitely meet the world at Distortion. Experience talking. Because yes, we participated to this party marathon. So, is Distortion really what it claims to be, and does it worth it? Keep reading to know!
1 – CONCEPT
Nowadays, the festival is split into 3 different concepts allocated from Wednesday to Sunday : the free street parties in the Nørrebro and Vesterbro districts are usually the 2 opening days of the festival. With an “anything goes” music profile – symbolising the Copenhagen nightlife and the party culture – it’s mainly a massive heterogeneous crowd partying with free scenes and different kind of electronic music on every corner of the district.
Then on Friday and Saturday, the week ends with the Distortion Ø festival with 6 to 10 stages on an industrial island in the Copenhagen harbour – with focus on new dance music: hiphop, trap, world, house, experimental and techno. This part of the festival is more usual to what we can imagine of that kind of event, with a charged entry, a closed area etc…
Finaly on Sunday goes a secret afterparty ending at 12:00 followed by a chill afternoon to relax and recover from the final party, still with more “groovy” live music.
Thirdly, some dance venues in local clubs complete the whole festival on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Distortion often invites local and international shops, labels, nightclubs, promotors, magazines to host their own party through the week. Over the years this has included: Vice Magazine, Fabric – London, Resident Advisor, Adidas, Ed Bangers, Kompakt, Trouw – Amsterdam, Fact Magazine, Red Bull Music Academy…
2 – HISTORY
The idea of ultra-mobility festival in the capital city of Denmark to honour the Copenhagen nightlife was born in September 1998 as an experimental party project, a one-night party in the nightclub Mantra in Tivoli. This initiative has been established by Thomas Fleurquin, a French man married to a Danish woman, living in Copenhagen, who’s obviously passionated by the music and its street life and party/sharing culture. Distortion became a 5-day mobile festival going through one Copenhagen district per day in June 2000. Even if in the period 1998-2007, Distortion was a small, and not-fully-legal festival, it was the fact that Distortion was a travel through the city that created the special atmosphere. It was mainly deticated for the local underground art & music scene and club culture professionals, which always pushes it to be semi-responsible facing the cleaning after the party and respecting the neighbours…
2007 has been the turn of Distortion : after gathering 1.500 guests at one single street party on Enghaveplads and almost 3.000 guests at Final Party for the first time, Distortion decided to go professional and entered a collaboration with the Copenhagen City Council and the Copenhagen Police. The Distortion Secretariat was born.
In 2011, Distortion broke into the mainstream and had 80.000-100.000 visitors per day. In 2012, Distortion established Fonden Distortion København (the Distortion Foundation) which is a non profit organisation.
Through the most famous artist which has already joigned the Distortion adventure, we can count Carl Craig (2009), Daniel Avery (2013), Diplo (2005) *, DJ Snake (2013) *, Fritz Kalkbrenner (2015), Hudson Mohawke (2014), Jeff Mills (2013), Kaytranada (2013) *, Len Faki (2010) *, M.I.A. (2005) *, Maceo Plex (2017), Nina Kravitz (2010) *, Seth Troxler (2011), Skepta (2015)* and Tale Of Us (2014, 2017) *(* marks Denmark debute). The kind of family every electronic and modern music festival in the world can be jealous of and show respect for.
3 – DISTORTION 2018
This year, Distortion happened from the 30th may to the 3rd of June 2018 and it was a special venue for the event because of the 20th anniversary of the festival. We could count among the main artists Acid Pauli, Acid Arab, AV AV AV, IAMDDB, Princess Nokia, Solomun, Charlotte de Witte, Yxng Bane, Ghostface Killah or Ekali.
I have personnaly chosen to buy the full pass ticket, which was really convenient according to me because it gives access to absolutely every event of the festival : good facilities during the street parties, free enter in club events and, of course, the passe for Distortion Ø. The full pass is just 50 kr more than the Distortion Ø pass, which I think really worth it.
So I went to the street parties on Thursday, and the less I can say is that it was fun, but really messy. I think it is the biggest event for Distortion, because of its free aspect. There was thousand and thousand people in the street, just dancing, singing and drinking all together. With not a ot of limits. It makes me think a little bit about the Fête de la Musique in France. I found out the Culture Box stage in the street, which is normally one of the most famous electronic club of Copenhagen. You can definitely find the whole nightlife of the city during the street parties. My opinion on that part is that you definitely have to try it, to experience it, because it’s out of the ordinary and you definitely want to see Copenhagen at its craziest. But considering the street parties are begining at 4 pm and end at 10 pm, you have to manage yourself and know what’s your goal there. Don’t expect to find to many sober people.
Then I went to the full Distortion Ø on Friday and Satuday. This year, there was 4 main stages : The Rave Stage was playing massive and pure techno, the Disco stage in collaboration with the magazine Vice + Jägermeister was more into tech house, deep house and all that kind of more groovy beats. The Live stage was more commercial if I can say, with different type of nowadays artists, but still with an electronic touch. Finally, the Red Bull Stage was dedicated to Hip-Hop and Rap/Trap music. We can add to this show 2 other smaller stages : the tekno tunnel which was welcoming more local djs, playing all forms of electronic music including transe, techno, minimal… And finally the 185 stage which was focused on EDM and dubstep. I definitely was looking for the Rave stage and the Redbull stage even if the tekno tunnel was really surprising at some points. It’s mainly because of the artist which were playing on these stages. But my biggest surprise is the Disco stage, I didn’t know any of the artist but I spend a lot of time at this place. It was into the forest with a really alternative decoration and atmosphere, really enjoyable.
I even met some of the volunteers friend that I made during the first traning in Vejle. I spend my saturday night with them from the sunset to the sunrise. It was really good to see them again on that special occasion. Distortion is also about it, meetings and discoveries.
In general way, I loved this festival because I felt like the organisation was pretty good : no fight, no big accident, no out of control things happening during the festival. I felt safe all the time, which is I think, considering the size and the concept of it, really professional. Even the control at the enter of the area was smooth. Sometimes you feel so controled that it’s too much and the queue is stuck for hours. Here, the timing was really good. Even the crowd and the individual people partying there was respectful and responsible. I would give a plus one to the decoration of the festival which was really interesting and matching a lot with the atmosphere of every scene. When you enter at Distortion Ø, you enter in its bubble and universe.
4 – Volunteering at Distortion
Considering that the cost of the ticket is expensive (as everything in Denmark…), there is an alternative that you might consider : being a volunteer at Distortion. So yes, technically because of already being an EVS volunteer, you may not be able to volunteer in another association. But actually, between us, the Distortion team is not really regarding on your status from the outside. You can easily say being a student at IPC or just realising a gap year in Denmark.
Personaly, I have bought my tickets because I wanted to be able to enjoy the full show without any duty and compromise, to be able to do everything I want, at anytime. But a lot of IPC students has volunteered to attempt the festival, so I can share a little bit about it.
Usualy, by atempting 9 hours shift on any day of the festival (that you cannot choose), before, or after it, the organisation then gives you freely : 1 Distortion t-shirt, the Distortion Ø pass, a professional recommendation, a card with 100 dk of drinks to use at the bars of the festival and a meal card. It also gives you access to all the facilities and advantages of the volunteers area and the volunteers camping.
Even if you can’t decide of your shift day, you can apply for a particular time period, task and team : bar, cleaning, electric, fence, partnerships, people, posters and informations to neighbors, production, sales, sign placement and trafic, special parties on the streets, ticket, toilet placement… The whole description of every team is available on the website.
I know that a lot of my friends at IPC who has volunteered are satisfied by this experience : team managers are really cool and comprehensive, a real team spirit is growing during the shift, it’s a good experience and also a nice way to meet new people from all around the world. The only regret that some could have is that it is really exhausting, and for thoose who has work on the friday night, it was really complicated to then enjoy the festival on saturday because of the tireness. So in the end, they didn’t enjoyed a lot because working on friday and sleeping on saturday.
But anyway, while being a volunteer or just a festival-goer, Distortion is for sure an integral part of the Copenhagen Culture, even maybe the Danish culture, and I more than recommend you to live that experience.
Lucile, 2018 spring term volunteer