Festival season is underway in Denmark and my first stop this year will be NorthSide. Here are ten reasons I’m excited to make the journey west.
1. It’s in Denmark’s hottest city
No, I don’t mean temperature (this is Denmark after all, and the weekend forecast looks rather dismal). Aarhus is hot in another way, suddenly finding itself the subject of rave reviews in a number of international publications. I happen to agree with the praise so I’ll head over to Denmark's second city, where I’ll be hosted by long-time Aarhus native and unabashed fan Michael Barrett.
See also: Why Aarhus is worthy of all the hype
2. This will be my first time at NorthSide
NorthSide can accommodate 35,000 guests. Photo: Morten Rygaard
NorthSide began as a one-day festival in 2010 that featured a solely Danish line-up. It expanded to two days the following year and adopted its current three-day format in 2012. As it now gears up for its seventh go-around, it has clearly established itself as a serious competitor to Roskilde Festival both in terms of top-name bookings and drawing power. This year’s festival is likely to be a complete sell-out with 35,000 paying guests.
3. I’ve heard good things
Photo: Bea Brix
Most of the people I know in Copenhagen are guilty of københavneri (I suppose I am too), the sense that everything outside the capital either doesn't exist or is inherently crap. So I haven’t met too many people who’ve actually been to NorthSide, but those who have gone have said they really enjoy it. A few have even said that they strongly prefer it to Roskilde Festival (more on that later).
4. … but I’ve also heard plenty of bad things
Can a festival be so well-run that it is boring? Photo: Johanne Teglgård Olsen
An oft-repeated critique of NorthSide is that it is too sterile and almost too well-run. It seems unfair to criticize organizers for doing too good of a job, but the sense I’ve been given by reviews like this one calling it ‘SnoreSide Festival’ is that NorthSide feels more like a series of concerts than a wild and cathartic festival experience.
A recent preview by Politiken journalist Ditte Giese didn’t exactly paint a wonderful picture either, as one could almost feel the disdain dripping from her fingertips as she wrote NorthSide off as “a good beginner festival for drunk children”.
“Just as ambitious people move to Copenhagen while the rest move to Aarhus, the ambitious music lovers go to Roskilde Festival while the mainstream people go to NorthSide,” she wrote. Ouch.
5. I want to see how it compares to Roskilde
Rather than let others’ opinions form my perception of NorthSide, I decided this would finally be the year to check it out. I’m very curious to see for myself how it stacks up to Roskilde, which is not only the largest in Denmark but in all of northern Europe. I’ll be at Roskilde later this month for what will be my sixth consecutive year, and I have found it to be far more fun than the US festivals I’ve attended. It brings out a different side of the usually rather-reserved Danes and I want to know if the same will be true at NorthSide.
6. I want to know if it feels “too Danish”
Photo: Thorsten Iversen
Before going any further, I should clarify that I’m not implying that ‘Danish’ is in itself a bad thing. It’s clear that NorthSide is very ‘Danish’ in the good sense, with its focus on sustainability, organic food and innovation
But one of the things that makes Roskilde is so fun is that you end up running into a lot of other non-Danes. In fact, international music fans accounted for 16 percent of all Roskilde ticket sales this year. By comparison, organizers told me that NorthSide typically draws just three to five percent international guests, with most of those being Norwegian.
7. I don’t have to camp
Look, I’m no spring chicken any more so crashing on Michael’s couch sounds infinitely better than sleeping in a disgusting tent. And at my age, it takes all the power I can muster to make it through the Roskilde gigs that begin at 2am. Call me boring if you must, but the fact that each night at NorthSide will end with a roof over my head at a somewhat normal time goes down as a plus in my book.
8. The music, duh
Deftones. PR photo
I have admittedly rather nationalistic music preferences, but I suppose that’s hard to avoid when you are from the States. Thus, a trio of American rock bands tops my must-see list at this year’s festival: Deftones, Wilco and Puscifer. But I’m also looking forward to seeing the legendary Iggy Pop (oops, another American), Refused and Sigur Ros (hey, there are some Nordic acts), among others.
9. Return of a conquering hero
Lukas Graham is back in Denmark after taking the world by storm. Photo: Torben Christensen/Scanpix
With two Danish kids in my house, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard Lukas Graham’s ‘7 Years’. And even though his music isn’t completely up my alley, there’s no denying that it’s a terrific song and I have to admit to sharing Danes' national pride in seeing the band find so much success around the world. It will be fun to see the new global superstars on Danish ground. Plus, my kids will be super jealous.
10. The intangibles
Photo: Simone Nygaard Madsen
Any festival worth its salt needs to have more on the agenda than just concerts, and NorthSide definitely has some interesting items I’ll want to check out. There will be a life-sized robot band, a superhero named ‘Garbage Man’, drones flying overhead, a wide assortment of organic food and drinks, Augmented Reality installations, artist talks, and even Sunday morning yoga (which I am absolutely certain I won’t make it to).
It all begins on Friday.