In the first week of June each year, Denmark’s favourite street festival turns picture-perfect Copenhagen into a party playground. After eight months of winter hibernation, hordes of festival-goers will from June 3 – 7 line the streets, dressed for combat and ready to brave the pandemonium of thousands of Vikings in their party prime – at Denmark’s creative bender, the Distortion festival.
Launched in 1998 as an experimental mobile streetparty, Distortion has slowly but steadily matured into one of the largest and wildest annual festivities in Europe.
In its humble beginnings, Distortion was nothing more than an intimate party crawl, and although it grew into a multi-day festival as early as 2000, it didn’t tend to draw more than 200 people at each event.
Seventeen years later, and the festivities have grown to include around 166 dance- oors and 44 streets per day, attracting a loyal tribe of up to 100,000 followers at any given event. Partnering with Red Bull, Jagermeister and Royal Beer, the festival showcases a range of the country’s best DJs, as well as a number of international acts.
Creative collaboration THE MASTERMIND behind the madness is Parisian-Dane and self-confessed party animal Tomas Fleurquin. His idea was simple: create a multi-location party endorsing the positive values of freedom, liberality and respect that Denmark is renowned for.
“When I go out, I rarely like to stay at the same club all night,” he told the Weekly Post.
“I like to cruise around, keep the freedom in my plans. at’s what Distortion is all about. It’s a crazy journey that takes you from the pre-party to the after-party all in one big, fucked-up adventure.”
After a succession of successful years, Fleurquin and his entourage soon saw the opportunity to expand on the festivities, setting up Nus/Nus as a 100 percent not-for-profit network of entrepreneurs. Nowadays, the organisation works for nine months of the year in collaboration with the police and Copenhagen Municipality to tailor something that is not just stellar, but also lawful.
“What is unique about Denmark and Distortion is the way that the police, the politicians and the public all work together. We’ve come to some sort of mutual respect,” he said.
Since 2008, Distortion has morphed into a “perfectly legal” business venture, funded vby donations from sponsors, gadearmbaand sales (a voluntary donation of 100kr, for which you get a band) ‘turpas’ Festival Passes (570kr), and ticket sales for the festival’s final party, Distortion Ø, located on the island of Refshaleøen just south of the city centre.
While the street parties remain free, the final party costs 350kr – a price tag that has sparked outrage among penny pinching party-goers.
In response to this, Fleurquin said: “It’s essential we charge for this party. Without it, Distortion would never survive.”
Keeping CPH clean
With a large percentage of the budget allocated to the hefty job of restoring Copenhagen to its former beauty, the festival somehow manages to maintain some order.
Hundreds of portaloos are installed, and Distortion’s volunteer clean-up crew is set in motion as the sun goes down – their sole purpose is restoring Copenhagen to its pre-festival perfection by 8am the following morning.
Yes with, crowds predicted to reach over 100,000 this year on both Wednesday and Thursday at the Nørrebro and Vesterbro street parties, it seems the public is torn over the sheer magnitude of Distortion’s party mayhem.
David Piffre, a chef and Vesterbro resident, lives right in the centre of the action. Having grown up with Distortion, he misses the smaller street parties and the innocence and spontaneity of it all.
“I love Distortion, but in the past few years it has become too big,” he told the Weekly Post. “It has become too commercial and there are far too many people.”
Despite the crowds, he is quick to praise organisers for the increased regulation.
“ They have become much better at cleaning up after themselves. I no longer have to wake up to vomit on my doorstep and beer cans up to my ankles,” he said.
“But I can put up with one crazy, dirty, chaotic day of partying each year if it makes people happy.”