Standort: / Meldung: "Distortion Diaries 2015"

Johnny Bliss

Disorderly artist, journalist, and late night moderator, with a fetish for microphone-based hooliganism.

9. 6. 2015 - 17:18

Distortion Diaries 2015

My visit to the electronic music festival that envelopes the Danish capital of Copenhagen for the better part of a week. With live acts including Sirius Modeselektor, Actress, Fritz Kalkbrenner, Elijah Wood (wait, what?) and Trentemøller, the festival musically has a lot to offer... even if you don't make it to the concerts.

Distortion Street Party-1

K.R. @ Distortion, 2015

After hearing rumblings about this festival for many years, I finally made it to Copenhagen's Distortion this week, to see what all the fuss was about.

My friend Christian (pictured below) is an Austrian graphic designer, who has been going to Distortion annually for the last five years and considers it to be the best festival in the world. (He also is the one who suggested that I visit Iceland for the Airwaves festival, and we all / know how / that turned out, so I take his opinion on such matters very seriously.)

Distortion Day 1

Christian Witternigg, 2015

Also, he does a FB-blog called 'Distortion Diaries'. I pilfered the name for this article.

There were several things that I was personally looking forward to:

There were the outdoor street festivals, which enveloped two entire districts of the city on Wednesday & Thursday. There were the headlining acts (many of whom performed over the weekend at Copenhagen harbour), which included Sirius Modeselektor, Trentemøller, and, intriguingly, Wooden Wisdom, the DJ Team of Elijah Wood - best known for his role playing Frodo in the Lord of the Rings films - and his buddy Zach Cowie.

And then of course there was the whole social experience as well, which is the number one reason Christian loves the festival, and has been pestering me to join him there for so many years. Every festival has its own unique quality that epitomizes it, and at the heart of Distortion that quality is chaos, in all of its colourful and unpredictable glory.

Distortion fatigue

Daniel Daensn Brandstätter, 2015

Here I am, looking pretty exhausted just a couple days in

Losing your friends

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that I have never been to a festival where I spent so much time separated from the friends I came with. A group of us would hit the streets, and within a matter of minutes eight out of ten of them will have disappeared within the bustling crowds, leaving you and some Macedonian girl you only just met, to navigate the streets on your own until you too have lost each other... half an hour later, you've somehow found your way onto the roof of a van right above a mobile techno stage, and there, in the distance, you catch sight of one of your people dancing crazily with a group of Danish girls.

Party on a van-Distortion

K.R. @ Distortion, 2015

You try to text your friends but the network is down, because everyone everywhere is texting their friends and having the same experience. You receive a text to meet at a certain stage. But by the time you arrive, twenty minutes have passed, and by the time your friends receive the SMS from you saying 'I'm here!', it's an hour later and you're all long since departed.

That's not to say it's a lonely experience - not at all. It is an experience everyone at the festival can relate to. We were constantly making new friends, and running into those an inordinate number of times. Perhaps I only saw Christian himself a couple of times every day, but there were something like a dozen new people who I became close with in the interim.

Distortion Afterparty

Daniel Daensn Brandstätter, 2015

Missing that artist you wanted to see

It's almost a cliché - you and your friends come to a festival because the line-up looks so amazing; you have a lot of fun but ultimately miss most of the bands you came there to see. If you've ever been to a music festival, you know what I mean. Well, at the Distortion, it's like that times ten!

I missed all of the headliners' sets. All of them. Well, except for about fifteen minutes of Wooden Wisdom, which I then voluntarily left because the set frankly wasn't all that great. The music was decent, sometimes even great, but the transitions themselves were often rather sloppy.

Elijah Wood DJing

Johnny Bliss, 2015

Unexpected Highlights

On Thursday, there was the so-called Distortion "Classic" stage, which featured, amidst all the house and techno and dubstep, a whole afternoon and evening full of classical music.

* - also because, classical music. And Austria. And schnitzel. And stuff.

I thought this was really interesting, because it provides such an unusual contrast to literally everything else going on at the festival*.

Unfortunately, it took my mate and I hooooooours to find it, even with the help of Google maps.

The small stage was located in a humble little park, Distortion's stormy little green eye, quietly tucked away from all the sound and the fury surrounding it. We arrived just in time to see the latter half of a concert from a Danish man named Jeppe Just Christiansen.

Band mit Werkzeugen

POLFOTO - Joachim Adrian

Pictured center, with the saw.

Interview with Jeppe Just Christiansen

* - and because, well, he's the only artist I actually saw performing at the classical music stage. That too.

He is a classically trained composer who performs his own musical arrangements, using a variety of homemade instruments and repurposed household items, like saws and egg slicers. Because his concept was so interesting and unusual*, I decided to ask Jeppe what it's like to perform classical music at an electronic music festival!

JEPPE: Sometimes I come here [to] play with my kids at the playground, so it's [also very] nice to just play music here, in my own neighbourhood.

ME: How is this different from the ordinary atmosphere that you expect at your concerts?

It was really hard to 'sense' the audience, to find out how the audience are, and I couldn't do it here. So actually I just forgot about the audience, and figured I'm just sitting at home and playing. Then I played better and better, because then I was not nervous anymore.

Interview with Jeppe Just Christiansen-1

Daniel Daensn Brandstätter, 2015

In a way it's not the most obvious marriage, 'classical music' and outdoor electronic music festival vibe.

I really think that it's a good idea to have Distortion, but also to have other things than just the techno beats and all that. You have the classical scene here... but classical in a broader sense, I think. It's not Mozart and Beethoven quartets, people are trained classical but they are moving around in other areas.

So in a way, although it's not electronic music, the concerts here embody the spirit of the festival. The festival provides the opportunity for unconventional compositions in all sorts of styles.

Yes, exactly. There [were] a lot of people listening to it! And if you can move just one person, then it's fine for me.

Interview with Jeppe Just Christiansen-2

Daniel Daensn Brandstätter, 2015

Spontaneous, unofficial party

This was not the only time that Distortion would manifest itself to us as something larger than a type of music or an event.

Because of the sheer number of people who were sharing in the spirit, the zeitgeist, and the experience of the festival, Friday we missed all the "official" daylight activities.

What happened was, we popped by the home of some friends to pick them up on the way into town. Instead, we ended up being part of an amazing rooftop-terrace-BBQ-and-DJ-party that simply manifested itself, unplanned, and perhaps to the chagrin of the girl whose bedroom was adjacent to it.

Lots of people showed up; this turned out to be the highlight of the day.

Spontaneous, unofficial party crash

Saturday night, meanwhile, I found myself with two of the regular recurring characters I'd become fast friends with, over the course of the festival... an Austrian sea captain (Dani) and a Danish wizard of sorts (John).

Sea captain, wizard, maniacal journalist

Johnny Bliss, 2015

From left, Sea captain, wizard, maniacal journalist

We were upstairs watching some DJ or another spinning electronic music, and feeling a little bit aimless. At some stage, John and I shared a 'Johnny moment' (as they call it in France), when we both looked at a big glass door behind the bar leading to some stairs going outside.

What if we went out that door? Where would it take us? And if we didn't find out, would we spend the rest of our lives wondering about what lay behind that door?! In short, we reasoned that if we didn't try to go through that door, it would become Schrödinger's door - as long as it remained unopened, either something fantastic or lame might be hiding there.

We went through the door.

Distortion @ Night

Daniel Daensn Brandstätter, 2015

* - Why are certain lifestyles considered more acceptable than others?

Are we not in fact being conditioned by a kind of societal dogma, that tells us to conform to altogether illusory ideals?!

Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves hanging out in the volunteer-worker area, in the company of an Italian named Dario. We, all of us, were enjoying a deeply philosophical conversation about the subjectivity of normality*, but also feeling the inexorable pull of the backstage-artist area, a mere one hundred metres away.

At some point, our conversation turned to how class systems create artificial barriers between people.

A couple minutes later, there we were, in front of the backstage-artist area, trying to talk the security guard into allowing us through.

* - What do you call a Danish person who takes a lot of risks?

Dane-gerous. Get it?! DANEgerous??


I don't think it was going very well. I was in the process of telling the security guard yet another of my hilarious jokes* - perhaps in the hopes of distracting her long enough for my friends to sneak through the fence - when Distortion's amazing press attaché Barnes arrived.

In a burst of excitement, I explained to him how important it was for my web coverage that I get through to the backstage-artist area.

He heard me out, and before you could say "press pass", Barnes waved his magic wand, and the gates opened before us, like Moses parting the Red Sea. Within minutes we were all back there, nursing cold drinks, patting each other's shoulders, and relishing our shared success.

And what do you know? I made another friend back there!

Johnny Bliss, Elijah Wood

Johnny Bliss, 2015

Just some hobbits hanging out backstage.

Oh, Distortion. You confounded all expectations. I'll be back. ♥