Denmark is not famed for its clubs, bars and electronic music. And they hardly came up in conversation with friends who had gone before me. My messy days may be over and clubbing not the main reason for my trip into Scandinavia this year, but I found a city, in Copenhagen, whose after-hours antics feels just as vibrant and exciting – albeit on a much smaller and more welcoming scale – as a world capital tens of times bigger.
Music-wise, the bulk of contemporary music is Danish and not imported from the charts and clubs of the UK or USA. Local electronica, rock, dancehall, hip-hop and rap as well as stuff one can’t quite define – Panamah: a band I was introduced to just weeks ago – dominate its music scene, making all the Dizzee Rascals, X-Factors and Rihannas seem far, far away.
Sound of Copenhagen is an electronic music record label that produces some outstanding compilations made up of tracks from producers – mainly Danish – all with their very own distinctive offering. Think of it as a more up-tempo, slightly grimier and edgier answer to Hotel Costes’ albums, signaling just how thriving and alive with innovation this genre is over there. While only Sound of Copenhagen Vol. 8 is available in full on Spotify in the UK, you can hear snippets of my personal favourite S.O.C. Vol. 9 on SoundCloud.
The First Night in Denmark welcomed me with the Trailer Park Festival, set in Enghave’s Skatepark. Compared to an average UK summer festival this was miniature in size – a completely inconsequential feature, however. Very good experiences had at festivals in The Netherlands and Germany taught me that festivals need not be dirty, chaotic and unpleasant experiences. Trailer Park only reaffirmed this prejudice about European parties.
A huge blank wall space invited partiers to inscribe it with whatever graffiti they felt like. Spray cans and boards were even there for kids to get creative with.
Spread over three evenings (Friday to Sunday), Trailer Park got going around 6pm and carried on for the next twelve odd hours, until recommencing later the same evening. The music warmed up with some bands and acoustic-esque sets and then built up momentum to the stuff you want to shake your booty to. Yummy food stalls and lots of drinks at very reasonable prices – £6 for a proper mojito is a darn good deal at a festival. It turns out Denmark makes some pretty good cider, too.
One of Denmark’s most renowned producers is Anders Trentemøller, aka Trentemøller. I seem to have an uncanny knack at timing my trips to coincide with some incredible events (or perhaps the city is just constantly incredible), for on the evening of 14thSeptember, the Church of Our Lady (Von Frue Kirke) played host to Anders for two hours. One way to get people praying!
The ambience was anything but stuffy and religious. Being the main church in the city, Our Lady’s interior is expansive and white-marbled, making it an almost perfect backdrop for projecting psychedelic visuals onto the high ceiling. Mood lights that changed colour created that festival feeling, but the church location lent a hush and peace that would not be possible in a normal club environment. Beanbags were set up around the DJ – under the statue of Christ and around the pulpit area. The rest of us chose a pew and were left to wander off into ourselves, aided by some Doors remixes – The End and Bird of Prey – which compounded the hazy, hallucinogenic mood.
My second outdoor festival took me further north to Nørrebro – Copenhagen’s Shoreditch if we are to start making comparisons with LDN – where a smaller skatepark hosted an even tinier, more intimate and make-shift event. Beat-boxing and hip-hop were the focus here and a UK rapper even jumped on the mic for some impromptu rhyming. Sadly, an impending cold chased me home and I missed the majority of the fun.
Copenhagen is small but still manages to pack so many pockets of activity with their own feel. Nørrebro – mentioned already – is hipster and more wild than the cute and cobbled Strøget. Nyhavn is to this city what Soho is to London: more gaudy, commercial and touristy (or as gaudy, commercial and touristy as CPH will ever be when compared with London).
Not far from Strøget, is The Jane. Mad Men is the inspiration for the interior décor of this bar – wood paneling and furniture suited to sipping an Old Fashioned in. The crowd is young and energetic and the cocktails decent. Past a certain hour the bookshelves that line one wall open up to some stairs that take you down into The Jane’s club portion.
Move from Mad Men to something a little more bohemian and well-worn: Bo-Bi bar. Slightly “bodega” (see below) in appearance, Bo-Bi has been open since 1917 and has a very hyggelig feel to it. Red walls with plenty adorning them, smoky air and unpretentious crowd – you can easily spend hours and hours talking and sipping their wide range of beers and observing the very mixed clientele.
Madame Chu’s is for the more discerning cocktail palate. Décor this time is à la Shanghai circa 1924: its colonial heyday. Think burgundy walls, opium dens, plenbt of oriental ornaments and posters of Shanghai Girls. Drinks combinations here are unusual and delicious and on a quiet Wednesday evening their playlist is not bad either – just that breed of electronic music promoted by Sound of Copenhagen.
And then there is the meat-packing district – Kødbyen – which attracts all sorts. The bars here are going for the no-frills package. The drinks range is simple. A G&T is as fancy as it gets and matches the white-tiled butcher’s shop walls and parking lot outside. The adventurous out there can try shots of Fisk: imagine Fisherman’s Friends in brown, liquid form. Wash it down with some Somerby cider.
The Danish equivalent to the Old Man’s Pub would be the Bodega. You will see plenty of these around the city, and my first experience in one was Café Mexico, half way between Enghave and Kødbyen. Most people are very pissed – but in that good humoured, unintimidating way the Danes manage – and when we arrived Rammstein was being played and I tried caraway snaps. Beer for a chaser this time. Apparently snaps were an odd choice to make here as the landlady had to search around for some. Besides Carlsberg and Tuborg, Denmark does loads of beers, including the light (for an ale) and tasty Aegte Fynsk, or Ale No. 16, served chilled.
Outside the city centre in the leafy, affluent neighbourhood of Fredriksberg lies Psykopaten – the Psychopath, as it has been nicknamed. This drinking hole stays open way, way late and garnered its name for a reason. Despite being an alcoholic’s dream, the interior is remarkably cosy when compared with other “dives” I’ve explored before.
And if you don’t feel like staying indoors and knocking back the bevvies, the harbour front makes for a stunning night-time stroll or bike ride. The old fairground Tivoli is open late for the adrenaline junkies and those partial to the fruit machines. And every Friday night the amusement park holds concerts.
I only have two weeks until I get to indulge in Denmark again. My visit coincides with Culture Night on Friday 12th October where many of the cities museums, theatres, libraries and churches stay open late. The next evening Sound of Copenhagen is organising a gig at the city’s Koncerthuset. Excited much??