155. Carpark Drinks

While northside may have been super cosy/hyggeli, it came at a price. And drinks most definitely reflected that price. On the Saturday afternoon, after getting there early to see The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, and subsequently realising (along with some fellow Studenterhus volunteers) that there wasn’t anything good on until later that evening, we decided to have a little break from the festival and go have a few (cheaper) drinks somewhere else. It also happened to be bucketing down with rain, which was getting a little uncomfortable.  Festival monopolies are  bad enough in NZ and Australia, but in Denmark it was truly exhorbitant and my LIthuanian/Estonian friends were even more insulted, being from countries where they might as well just pump beer through the water system, it’s that cheap. We headed to the supermarket, and sure enoguh, it seemed half of Aarhus was there too.

The covered carpark and entrance to the supermarket was just teaming with people sitting on milk crates enjoying some shelter before heading back. The supermarket was attached to an apartment complex which had a large covered area and there we joined the unofficial festival pre-drinks party. Most entertaining! I also learned a great deal about pricing in Eastern Europe and will most definitely be heading there soon for some relief from the expenses of Denmark! It also provided yet another example of how instead of local councils raising prices in an attempt to curb drinking habits (as they do in NZ), they are only going to create more problems – uncontrolled drinking in bizarre places and outragous amounts of rubbish everywhere.

152. Discover Danish Music

Northside Festival was a great chance to discover some Danish bands I hadn’t really heard of before. One of my favourite acts of the entire festival was The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, who are gathering a bit of fame after one of their songs was on an iPod commercial. Their music is great – really fun and upbeat, and they put on a great show, too. The main singer is a tiny little girl with gigantic blonde hair and a voice to match, and I definitely recommend checking them out!

Oh Land is another really popular Danish singer. Her father was a famous composer, and her song White Nights is on every other commercial on TV (Gotye/Kimbra’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ features on the rest). She had a particularly fabulous brightly coloured spandex jumpsuit on. Anyone that can pull that look off definitely deserves a high 5 in my books!

Lukas Graham was another favourite, with some very catchy tunes. Although I can’t stand Bruno Mars, he definitely reminded me of him. Freja Loeb and Emelie Sande were pretty good Scandinavian singers with great voices, though I didn’t get to pay much attention as I was working through their sets.

Finally, worth a mention even though I really was not a fan, was Maijke De Koln a pair of Danish rappers. Not only is rap really not my thing, but I find it quite absurd that they would be singing like they were in the ghetto in one of the most wealthy countries in the world with the strongest social welfare system. It’s just ridiculous, and totally unoriginal. They should maybe go find some real problems in the world and sing about them if they want to gain some respect.

151. The Hives

The Hives just deserve their own post! Their set at Northside was great. From the backdrop, to their Top Hats and Tuxedoes, to the stage hands in ninja outfits. Add to that I was in the front row for most of it, and they played all their classics brilliantly! They put on a marvelous performance with all kinds of theatrics. Even the lead guitarist sitting on the edge of the stage and pulling Antony Dixon eyes.

150. The Cosiest Music Festival

Danish culture tends to be very focussed on being “cosy.” Well to be fair, the Danish word for it doesn’t quite translate. “Hygge” (pronounced hu-geh) is a term that originated in Norway, though the Danes “embraced it like a fat baby.” Which kind of sums the term up. Hygge is used in many ways, as an adjective, whose best approximation is “cosy”, as a verb, to say something was really nice/friendly/cosy for example saying you had a nice time, as a noun – “tak for hygge” is often said to say “thanks for the nice time” and also as an adverb (hyggeli).

If you could combine a music festival with that term, Northside would be it. A relatively small festival near the centre of Aarhus, everything was laid out in a large circle – bars and restaurants around the edges, two main stages that alternated performances, and the part that really made it particularly hyggeli was all the seating areas, activities (like ping pong tables, art installations, creations made of recycled wood) and interactive tents of activities – from lego to photo booths. It was a relatively intimate seeming number of people with barely any queues for food and minimal ones for drinks.

There were two main stages, though only one band on at a time, meaning you never waited more than 5 odd minutes to hear more music and there was no need to prioritise who you did and didn’t want to see. The other aspect I particularly enjoyed was how environmentally friendly the festival was. From the giant Hollywood-esque ‘Northside’ sign that was powered with the same amount of electricity a toaster would require, to the fact that all drinking vessels (except for shots) were recycled, it was definitely a step in the right direction, and probably almost as good as you can get at a festival.

Another particularly cosy and considerate moment was when the screens flashed with a message asking everyone to please stop pushing and move backwards, so no-one would get injured. Supposedly it was as a result of a horrible incident at Roskilde, definitely Denmark’s and possibly Europe’s biggest festival (an 8 day fiasco) where some people where badly injured in a crowd a few years back. It seemed about half the bands were british, the other half Danish, though there were a few from other countries (like Justice).

The Kooks, The Hives, and Kasabian were definite highlights that I was really looking forward to seeing. The Hives were particularly good as I was front row! And pleased to see they still perform in top hats and tuxedos. Though by the end of their set most of them removed their jackets and waistcoats at the very least! I had never actually seen Kasabian live, or even really watched the videos even though I love most of their songs, so I found it particularly entertaining that they completely conformed to the brit-rock sterotype: looking like the unkempt version of the beatles. Except for the guitarist who was exactly the kind of person Russell Brand takes the piss out of. Justice really exceeded expectations, as I had assumed it would be just another DJ set, but they had a pretty fantastic light show. It started out with two giant walls of speakers on either side of the stage, and later on i was revealed that the fronts of the speakers were all LCD screens. There was also what I think was meant to look like a giant mixing deck or audio equipment, but kind of looked like the CPU of a public school in the nineties. Still looked very cool!

Noel Gallagher and the High Flying birds weren’t bad, but should really just call themselves Oasis Lite. Snow Patrol was actually a lot better than expected too. I’m not really into their music, but they put on a pretty good show! Bat for Lashes, Noah and The Whale, James Blake and The Stone Roses were also great. I was really looking forward to seeing The XX, but they were actually a bit of a disappointment. They were on pretty late on Friday Night, and for some reason (possibly having heard some of their remixes) I thought they might put on a bit more of an upbeat show, but alas they were really mellow. On the upside they sounded really good – as though you were listening to their album. I think they would have been much better placed earlier in the afternoon instead of right before Justice. The final surprise was the Eagles of Death Metal. WIth a name like that I had written them off as not my thing at all, but it was a very misleading name and they were actually really good!

148. Bartending in Danish

In return for my free ticket to Northside Festival I volunteered for a few hours on one of the bars. A few less than normal, as I had helped design/set up one of them. I had worked at the bar at Studenterhus Aarhus (the student bar) a number of times and didn’t think anything of it. What I didn’t realise was that at Studenterhus it is a lot easier as the clientele knows most of the bartenders are exchange students. No-one expects the bartenders to be speaking English at a festival though! It was a real test of my Danish knowledge, particularly when people started asking specific questions like how many litres the jugs of beer are, but by the end of the weekend I felt my Danish had improved significantly! There were only a few hiccups, like right at the beginning when someone asked for what I heard as ‘a can of beer’. As it turned out ‘can’ is how to pronounce ‘kane’ which is actually a jug. Only minor confusion!

The bar was right in front of the main stage too, so I still saw all the acts that were on whilst I was working. Finally, the highlight was surprisingly enough late on Sunday night when the weekend was nearly over and I really wanted to go to bed. There were a whole bunch of opened boxes of shots (they come pre-packaged in test tubes) that needed to be sold, so eventually we were selling 15 for 100Kr (around $20). No host responsibility rules on how many can be sold in one go in Denmark it seems. Some lovely young gentlemen who were in a relatively sober state when they approached the bar found this deal so exciting that by the time they left (after multiple rounds of 15 shots) they thought I was the best bartender in the world for giving them so many and were serenading me with “Call Me Maybe.” Great entertainment.

145. Design a Bar

As a total sucker for saying yes whenever anyone asks for help and any opportunity for a creative project, I volunteered to help design/decorate the Studenterhus Aarhus bar that was featuring at Northside Festival. The festival has this great system where sports teams and student associations can man bars in return for free tickets and exposure for their causes and they of course get free labour. On the food side of things, local restaurants and caterers provided the food, leading to fierce competition for the best food. So much deliciousness, hands down beating any festival food I have ever encountered.

The theme of the festival was sustainability, and Studenterhus wanted their bar to reflect that. One of the other great aspects of the festival was that there were a whole bunch of activities and initiatives throughout the whole area, not simply music and drinking. From the University having a tent promoting innovation and business ideas, to novel seating areas, to art projects, to Ping Pong tables from by favourite bar, Shen Mao. So of course they were being all very Danish and promoting sustainability.

My original proposal was to have the bar covered in grass – a really bright, visible way to promote the bar and the green theme and a relatively simple way to decorate it. What was a simple idea quickly became the kind of occasion where sayings like “a horse is a camel designed by committee” come from. From the festival continually changing how the bars were to be set up and all the measurements, to being accused of greenwashing and having to go through a process of investigating using real grass, to brewery reps who shat themselves the day before because they didn’t have enough visible branding, to having to include the city’s branded “with us” campaign.

Some of the inspiration:

The main issue was the sustainability/greenwashing one. Initially I had thought that a sustainability theme at a music festival was more a talking point than actually making the entire festival an environmentally friendly one. As it turned out, they did make a huge effort to have as many cups/bottles etc recyclable, though I’m not sure they could do much about food production, power usage etc. So the grass covered bar turned to investigating “environmental grafiti” – where you make a moss mixture and it grows exactly where you paint it. Unfortunately timing and logistics meant that one didn’t work either. I would still love to do something with it though!

Finally, with the help of the University gardener, we discovered the ivy that grows all over the main campus buildings was about to be cut down from one of the buildings and we could use some of that. Perfect! It was also fitting that being the University student bar, we would then be covering it with the University’s iconic ivy. So the day before we spent an hour or two hacking away at one of the buildings, and attached the ivy to chicken wire that was around the tent poles. When getting hardware materials we came across some grassy carpet that we used to cover the front of the bar (as instructed by the festival organisers), only to have a Royal Brewery Rep have a giant tantrum over covering their logo. Some quick thinking managed to smooth over that problem and we were good to go! The final touch was a hefty dosage of fairy lights, and I must say, we definitely had the best looking bar at the festival! And as predicted, everyone was too busy drinking and enjoying the music to care what materials it was made of. Nonetheless, I had a lot of fun, from coming up with the idea, dealing with all the various interests to come up with something that worked and actually installing it, despite it being quite different from the original vision.

One of the iconic Aarhus University ivy covered buildings

Running off with our spoils

Ivy: From campus to Northside

Keeping with the City’s “With (Aarh)Us” campaign

Some quick thinking to keep the sponsors happy

The end result, minus the fairy lights in the evening

The neighbouring Innoside tent decided they quite liked our ivy too

The bar in action

…And with the lights at night