From one island to a peninsula
From one island of Denmark to a half island of Denmark (otherwise known as a peninsula); a total of 116 miles, on a train that goes under the sea in a tunnel as well as above the sea on a bridge, we travelled from Copenhagen to Aarhus for this year’s NorthSide Festival.
We arrived at our AirBnB, a plush student digs, with all the specifications that 4 lads from The UK would need to furnish our needs during our stay. It immediately felt like a lads’ holiday. But we were there for the serious business of getting the shot!
One of the perks of the job is that I can write this review whilst casually sipping on a beer; I joked with Matt and had a lot of banter about making our review of the festival in the vein of Gonzo journalism, pioneered by Hunter S. Thompson who was renowned for his wild benders when reporting, but to be fair, I’m still trying to come down from the high of the festival so I’m just chilling with a cold one (it’s 11:30am, by-the-way, but, hey, like Sheryl Crow sings, I like a beer buzz early in the morning).
Racking up a tab
More banter ensued as we arrived to meet our fellow journos – I could say Gonzos but you have to be a Doctor of Journalism to earn that kind of reputation, man. They were waiting for us at the aforementioned apartment, a one-bedroom one-living room with kitchenette area and a bathroom, but you could see from the style of how it was all made up that there’s a reason that Danes are considered to be one of the happiest people in the world. Like I said, it was plush, and more than comfortable for an affordable budget price, even though Matt can claim it back through the business (don’t ask me how that works, “just send me the bill,” I said).
Thursday afternoon was already upon us and we were eager to get our press credentials and enter to feel the place out in terms of what the protocol was for getting into press junket areas. It was a bit different for me since my role was only auxiliary and most definitely glorified, but, alas, here I am to tell the story. The plan was to get in for 2pm so that Matt and his colleague Joe Miller could snap D/TRIOT on the secondary blue stage but we ended up at a checkpoint being confronted by resistance at the security gates. All Matt’s hardwork putting the hours into his Danish lessons over the past year or so came in handy at that point as he was able to negotiate fluently, although, I did hear him drop the word “checkpoint” into what was otherwise all but perfect Danish. The sun was blazing and we didn’t appreciate that until what would come to be much later when we all looked like a spanked lobster. So, after waiting 20 minutes at the security checkpoint for some official or other to finally let us in we were ferried across to the Blue Stage where Matt and Joe entered the junket and myself and Joe’s auxilliary, a burly Scot with a placid charm called Lee, were left to our own devices.
So, naturally, with the sun shining we decided to get a beer and listen to D/TROIT from the site whilst Matt and Joe were in the press junket area (tucked in at the front in between the crowd and the stage). For the first band of the festival they sounded like bog-standard funk n’ soul and the people there were ambling about, buying drinks, or playing Klask (which is supposed to be the national game of Denmark!). We didn’t know what would happen to Matt and his colleague Joe after that but we had a rally point so all was well and we found out after that as soon as they’d had their 3-songs-worth of shots they had gone down to the smaller red stage area to photograph a new up-and-coming band called Findlay, a band that after he had seen them Matt was raving about saying things like: “you know when you’re just really grateful for a band like that to come along? Well, they’re one of those bands.” Must’ve been ’cause they’re from my birthplace Stockport, England. What a Viaduct! Next up was a personal favourite of mine – Warpaint. I’d seen them before in Portugal and their sound is perfect for the big stage setting, but the other lads, now re-united as a foursome, said they sounded a bit too dreamy for their tastes so unfortunately for me I was dragged away before they could finish their set as we headed back to the apartment for Spag. Bol..
Thursday night festivities
After some good food and a few beers back at the apartment we found ourselves back on site in time for Future Islands, who I’d heard about when I was doing my MA back in 2015. I recommended to the others that we see them because they had such an unusual style owing to their frontman who would dance in a captivating way or suddenly growl down the microphone at the audience over parts of songs that should hold a melody. Tell me you haven’t seen a frontman behave like that before! However, they were merely OK, but that owed to the fact that we were several beers deep and we were quite far away from the front this time and if I hadn’t have been familiar with them already they could have sounded like just another band. Matt thought that the growling thing was a bit funny, though! Immediately after seeing that band with us, Matt and his colleague went to the press area – a relaxing and comfortable area where you could get free refreshments if you had your press pass like we did – and were told to follow the junket leader around to make preparations to follow Bjork. Little did they know that when they got there that Bjork’s manager insisted that no photographs were to be taken and so Matt and Joe were censored. I was in the front rows with Joe’s assistant Lee for the Bjork set and looking back on the whole experience of NorthSide Festival she was clearly the best act and easily my favourite – that distinctive vocal was offset by the deepest of bass grooves, a concerto of flute players joining in for one particular song which sounded magical and her outfit was just surreal!– she was wearing a very flattering red dress and had this peculiar red face mask on complete with a black-feathered headdress.
The War On Drugs were to be Matt’s last assignment of that day and they took to the stage 11:15pm and played an hour and a half set – by this point, I was definitely trying to compete with Hunter S. Thompson in terms of how much I thought it was appropriate to drink, promptly got lost for about half-an-hour before being rescued and we went home after that, leaving Joe and Lee to see out their night having a boogie to The Internet in the smaller red stage area.
The morning after the night before
Next morning came and it was Friday. I’d completely crashed out the night before and was feeling sad that my advances towards a plethora of women had been unrequited so I made the resolve not to drink that day and help Matt out as much as possible. Rival Sons and Aurora were the first two assignments that he tackled but it wasn’t until we saw N.E.R.D that the crowd began to seriously move! Of course, there he was down in the press junket area for the allotted 3 songs-worth while Pharrell Williams got the crowd going with his entourage like nothing I’ve seen before in my time as a festival goer. Arms were swaying from side-to-side, people were crowd-surfing, and whole swathes of people were crouching on demand only to jump back up and pogo when the beat kicked in again. I departed from the N.E.R.D set a bit early to go and take up a place in what would be the Liam Gallagher crowd awaiting his appearance with anticipation. It was a good job I did, too, because although the crowd was sparse to begin with by the time Liam Gallagher came out they were throngs farther back than the eye could see. He began his set with the lead track from Oasis’ debut, Rock N’ Roll Star, to which he introduced it: “there’s not many of these around today,” before resuming his usual arrogant swagger as if to embody the title of the song. Its epitome! A lot of what he said in between songs could have been seen as rude and arrogant but the crowd lapped it up and the more the set went on the more you realized that he was living off the back of the reputation of Oasis and the set promptly became a hit-parade of the Oasis back-catalogue, which was to be expected, naturally. I stayed until the end of the set to which I’d sang along in parts and found that I’d really enjoyed it. But, just check out Matt’s masterful photography!
After it was over I made my way to see A Perfect Circle because I am a massive Tool fan I have a lot of respect for their singer, Maynard James Keenan, who has a great vocal range, but I found myself a lot less inspired by the APC set and left to retreat to the press area for some much needed relaxation and found the guys there gathered talking about the photos they had taken. It was at this point that Matt had published an interview with his colleague Joe about what being an exclusive photographer at this type of festival meant to him, and Matt said to me: “this is our festival.” And that was it; the exclusivity of it, the prestige of having access to the artists, mingling with all the other journalists. It made you feel important, and if it wasn’t for people like Matt, making sure the world can see these stars they simply wouldn’t have the recognition that they have today, so we owned it.
Headliners … Over, Under, and Out
We took a break in the gap between what would be Queens Of The Stone Age headlining that Friday night. The National could be heard grooving along on the breeze in the background as we ate some Danish fish n’ chips, better than traditional English fish n’ chips in my opinion but I don’t think I was convincing Matt about that. Since QOTSA frontman, Josh Homme, had gotten into trouble recently for kicking a photographer in the face from on stage there was tighter press-controls for their headline set and only a select number of photographers were given a specific wristband for that show. Matt was on the list, a fact that added to his prestige. They headlined the Friday night at 11:15pm and played and hour and a half set; they were tight, the guitars sounded good, and the vocals were excellent. At one point, the drummer broke out into a drum solo and ended it with a rimshock on the snare drum that was so hard it blew out the left-hand speaker box and killed the visuals on the televisual displays. The set raged on but it wasn’t until after ten minutes of technical difficulties that the sound on our side of the stage came back to life, to a great cheer from the crowd. QOTSA could still be heard playing as we left that night and arrived back at the apartment where we had a nightcap and reminisced. Joe and Lee were to stay on extra for the final day, but, for Matt and I it was over and under the sea and back to Copenhagen, sunburnt and satisfied!
Words by Elijah (Content Marketer).