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Riot in Denmark: Partying hard at Distortion Festival

In the summertime, the Danish capital of Copenhagen is among the most beautiful cities in the world. The deep blue northern skies add a serene glow to the perfect straight lines of the city streets as the impeccably dressed locals commute elegantly on bicycles. Coincidentally, summer is also the time when one of Europe’s most orderly societies decides to throw all common sense to the wind and hit the streets to get really, really wild for a few days.

The annual Distortion Festival is aptly described as “a week of emerging dance music and orchestrated chaos.” As many as 300,000 partygoers storm the streets for a series of sprawling parties, conjuring the kind of exhilarating energy you’d expect from a wide-scale act of revolution.

Not that there’s much to revolt against in Denmark. The serene vibes are largely thanks to some of the world’s best living conditions in terms of universal healthcare, education, etc. Danes have a rock-solid sense of community and mutual obligation; which is surely part of the reason they’re able to hit the streets in stupendous numbers, drink an unfathomable amount of Carlsberg Beer, party like wild animals, and then clean everything up impeccably afterwards. After a week of partying Danish-style at Distortion, here are five things we learnt.


#1 The Danes know how to take it to the streets in style

Copenhagen is, generally, a blissfully beautiful city defined by its impeccable sense of order. And it’s that same sense of order that contrasts so perfectly with the chaos that comes with the massive street parties during Distortion week. Tens upon thousands of the city’s young ‘Copenhipsters’ spill out into the streets at any one time, and you’re entertained by nearly 50 different stages and soundsystems during the two main evenings of street events.

The first big party is on Wednesday and takes place in the Nørrebro district. It’s the more modest of the two street events, beginning at the bridge that crosses the picturesque Søerne lake and crisscrossing through the narrow streets in every direction, with a range of smaller stages playing an eclectic and varied mix of house, electro, hip hop and beyond.

However, it’s the Thursday night party in the Vesterbro district that truly has a sprawling feel: a street gathering that’s epic in scope. The main Søndreboulevard street in particular stretches as far as the eye can see, teaming with an unprecedented amount of people, with each street intersection hosting a different soundsystem.

As you might expect, the vibe is electric, offering an altogether different sense of scale and collective euphoria than what you’d ever get at a typical festival in a convention hall. Distortion really offers its own unique brand of revolutionary excitement.


#2 They keep the party going all night

In line with the oh-so-Danish notion of playing by the “rules”, the street parties are concluded and politely packed up at the sensible time of 10pm. If you’re keen to continue partying all night, though, in the more conservative setting of a nightclub, then you are well catered for.

The music at the street parties is a sporadic affair, with the focus definitely on the excitement that comes from having so many people on the streets. However, the evening gigs take over some of Copenhagen’s finest clubs to offer a much more focused musical affair.

You want techno? Legowelt and Cosmin TRG took over Culture Box on Thursday night, while Boys Noize and Skream threw down tough disco at Klatrehallen on Friday night. Want rip-roaring drum’n’bass and dubstep? Noisia provided the thunder at Pumpehuset that same evening. And this was just the tip of the iceberg of a week-long schedule of party options.

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