How does that old saying go? ‘Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.’ I remember George W. Bush getting himself all in a tangle when trying to recite that once, too many long words I suppose. Then again his Vice President struggled to spell ‘potato’, so maybe I should cut him some slack. Either way after what happened to us on Sunday, I can safely say that the second part of that saying now very much applies to us.
I kind of knew from the get-go that things weren’t going to work out how we’d expected. I don’t mean that in a grumpy face way, it’s just the way things are with us. It doesn’t matter how optimistic we are, or how much preparation we put in, if there’s the slightest chance of anything going tits up then it usually will.
It was Saturday afternoon and my other half (Pernilla) was trawling her way through Facebook (as she does), when she came across a picture of the two beardy men from Museum of Love. Nothing too shocking about that I know, but stay with me for a minute. The caption underneath the photo read ‘Day off in Denmark… Viva Copenhagen!’
Now just to quickly rewind a second for those who don’t know, Museum of Love are Pat Mahoney, ex LCD Soundsystem drummer and possessor of a singing voice to die for, and Dennis McNany, who as Jee Day put out two of my favourite ever 12”s on DFA. The MoL (as I’m going to refer to them from now on) debut album was one of the best, if not the best album of last year. Okay, so now we’re all on the same page I’ll crack on.
So we both flipped when we found out they were in Copenhagen, since that’s just down the road from us; well alright a thirty minute train ride across a giant bridge/tunnel into a different country if you want to be pedantic about it. So what the hell are they doing in Copenhagen? Both of us slipped into Columbo mode and started scouring the interweb for clues as to just what the fuck was going on. Day off suggests they were about to or had just played a gig or something. A quick trawl through their own website and a few gig listings turned up nothing. Good at making music MoL may be, good at updating their own gig listings they most definitely are not. So Pernilla fired off a quick message to them to ask what was happening. The sort of direct approach that Columbo never bothered with, at least not until that last second when he’d tap his forehead and spin around for his ‘one last thing’ moment. They got back to her that night saying they were playing at some festival or other in Copenhagen and that was that. It was one of those ‘too good to be true’ moments. True, we weren’t sure if they were DJing or actually playing live. In fact, we wondered, do they even play live? Two minutes later and YouTube proof of actual live instrument playing prowess was ours. Yay. So we looked up the festival and saw that it was free and in Copenhagen. Double yay. They have to be playing live, don’t they? It’d say if it was just a DJ set. ‘Yeah, that’s right’, we convinced each other ‘has to be live’. That’s it, we’re fucking going.
The festival is called Stella Polaris, I’ve never heard of it. Pernilla thinks she might have but isn’t sure. It’s been going for almost twenty years. All of a sudden I feel very old and more out of touch than I usually do. According to their Facebook event over thirty thousand people are going to be there. That’s a lot of people. Especially for someone that doesn’t like crowds.
So MoL are playing at six o’clock after a few people neither of us have heard of and bizarrely, Jimmy Somerville. That’s festivals though isn’t it. Eclectic line ups are all the rage, that’s just the way it is. Besides seeing wee Jimmy belting out Small Town Boy could actually be good.
It’s a sweltering day, and we head off early enough to be able to get in a good position to watch MoL. We find the massive park with ease, grab ourselves a programme and proceed to weave our way around the thousands of bicycles that are absolutely everywhere. We follow the crowds towards the high-pitched squeal that signals that La Somerville has hit the stage. He’s got quite a set of pipes on him.
There’s a lot of people here, it’s slow going, but the surroundings are nice, lots of greenery, all sorts of flowers and trees, albeit flowers and trees that every now and then reveal people emptying themselves of booze, making space for that all important refill.
Eventually we find ourselves in large clearing. Somerville is belting out one of his hits and I have a stone in my shoe. We both look around for the main stage, squinting in the direction of the music but we can’t see anything vaguely stage like. The music must be bouncing around I think. We’ll turn a corner and all will become clear. What I can see is a gentle slope leading up to a giant yellow stately home type of affair. Behind us is a lake and beyond that a park filled with people. In fact everywhere you look there are people. Lots of them. All over the place. Like ants on a discarded ice cream. We spot the beer tent. Result. We’re both gasping for a beer, but agree it’s better to find the stage first, since navigating a festival site with a plastic glass of beer can result in problems best avoided. We make our way up the hill towards the direction of the music and that’s when it hits me, the little red tent that I’d presumed was a food or merchandise stall is in fact the main stage. I know this for a fact because I’m now close enough to see that Jimmy Somerville is quite small and despite having a voice like an angel in leather chaps, looks like a bit like a potato.
Oh well, as knowing mothers tell their sons, size isn’t everything. Still, now that we know where the stage is we can grab ourselves a beer and find a small patch of grass to call our own. My throat feels like it’s lined with sandpaper. Nothing a cool beer won’t fix though. We get in the queue and with typical Scandinavian efficiently soon find ourselves at the front. The Danes know how to drink. I order a couple of plastic beers and hand over my credit card, but there’s a problem. I don’t get it at first, I hear what the barman says, he even says it in English for me, but it doesn’t make any sense. Then it slowly sinks in. They only take Visa cards and both me and Pernilla have MasterCards. “Sorry man” shrugs the barman, as we slope off to lick our wounds.
Being modern types we don’t actually have any folding money on us. Who carries actual money around with them anymore? Except old people who feel sorry for muggers I mean. That’s why credit cards were invented, wasn’t it? We try the wine tent, hoping like fuck that they take MasterCard, but of course they don’t. So there we are in the middle of Copenhagen, warm and then some, desperate for a drink, and to make matters worse we’re surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people all of whom are kicking back and drinking as if it was the big new thing to do.
Pernilla’s not happy. Neither am I, but we can’t both get in a bad mood about it, so I have to try and remain a bit chipper so that we don’t form some sort of suicide pact before the day’s over. Plus if I’m honest I’ve already had my stampy feet moment. After the beer tent debacle I moodily declared that I was never coming to Copenhagen again. E V E R. I meant it too. For a minute or so. Thing is I never chose to have a MasterCard, or not to get a Visa card, it’s just what the bank sent to me. It’s not my fault, I’m innocent, society’s to blame. These are not the sort of things I think about. My head is full of films and music, credit cards aren’t really on my radar.
So the thing is like I said at the top of all this, this isn’t the first time this has happened to us. A few years back we went to see Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells play in Copenhagen. We were excited. There was some kind of problem with our bank, it was offline or something, so we couldn’t draw any money out when we arrived. Sod it we can use our cards we naively thought. Turns out we couldn’t use our cards. The venue didn’t accept MasterCard. So after arriving well before nine p.m. we had to sit there and wait. And wait and wait. We couldn’t even hang in our coats. It was well after midnight before Moffat and Wells rolled out on stage. We were so thirsty that we’d started looking at molten candle wax as a possible option. Worse than all that though I was working the next day, which meant I had to get up at six a.m. so we ended up leaving before the concert finished in order to get the one o’clock train home. We were not happy bunnies that night. God alone knows why they came on stage so late when the doors opened so early, but like I said before if something can go wrong then it usually will.
So anyway back to our sweltering Sunday, we’re sitting down amongst hordes of tattooed kids, laughing about the situation (well I am, Pernilla has a face of thunder), but really desperate for some form of liquid refreshment. Jesus, even a warm discarded can of sickly-sweet Coke would do us. But it’s not to be. Jimmy Somerville is surprisingly good, it’s funny to hear that he has quite a gruff voice when he talks between songs. I guess I kind of expected him to talk in falsetto too. Anyway our spirits lift somewhat when we spot MoL mooching about backstage. It’s nearly six, they’ll soon be on and any thoughts of being thirsty will drop away once the music starts. I daren’t tell Pernilla that I’m actually really hungry too.
The people around us are typical of the sort of people that you find scattered on the ground at free festivals. Lots of parents with kids, everyone has some sort of ink on them and wears suitably weird shaped clothes to show that fact off. There are lots of straw hats, there are beards galore but more than that no one here seems particularly interested in the music. It’s all background noise to the fun of having fun. The group of back-slicked haircuts in front of us pay more attention to their phones than their surroundings. I have a flick through the programme I picked up at the entrance. 18.00 - Museum of Love (DJ Set). Ah. I show Pernilla. She’s not happy. Some Danish guy with a dirty beard, headband and feather combination grabs the microphone and gargles at the crowd to put their hands together for Jimmy Somerville, even going as far to state that what we just witnessed was ‘a once in a lifetime event’. Me and Pernilla look at each other, unconvinced, making sure that what he said wasn’t some dehydration induced hallucination.
A DJ plays some old Underworld and all of a sudden the soundsystem sounds awful, really bassy, as if the sound-man has gone for a beer. The crowd doesn’t notice though, or maybe they do but they’re too cool to show it. So they go back to doing what the crowd does best, namely taking selfies and playing keepy-uppy with everything from lighters to coins. Not long now. Then MC Shit Beard is back blathering away in Danish. I hate him. He looks stupid. I’m uncomfortable on this slope, my body is being forced to lean in a direction it wasn’t meant to lean in. I want to stand up but no one else is. I can see right up the skirt of the girl in front of me, and feel like I’m trapped in a lift with a bunch of men with face tattoos, I don’t know where to look. I feel English. I’m thirsty and secretly hungry.
Beardy man is gone and now Pat & Dennis are alone on stage. They start building their set with a lone organ sound that is gradually joined by a junk-shop drum break. It sounds pretty good, if you ignore the fact that the speakers are farting more than Grandad after Sunday dinner.
“Just say when you want to go” Pernilla says after ten minutes. We end up staying for about ten minutes more, but the fact that no one is showing the slightest bit of interest in MoL and even worse two twats are actually playing tennis in front of the stage makes the decision to leave all the easier.
We wind our way out of the park and past the huge homes that surround it, wondering to ourselves what sort of jobs the people that live in them must have. We find a café and tentatively ask if they take MasterCard. The woman behind the counter looks at us as if we have asked the most touristy question ever. Something along the lines of ‘do you sell coffee’ in a broad New Yoik style accent. So we heave down a perfect black cup of coffee along with a sublime rhubarb sponge cake.
Pernilla is happier now. “Why does this always happen to us?” she asks. Looking at me as if I have an answer.
“I think this sort of thing happens to everyone, but they tend not to mention the bad things on Facebook/Twitter.” Is as good an answer as I can think of. We head off into town to have a beer and some food. We plan to walk to Christiania, but walk too far in the wrong direction and miss the bridge. So we have some awful Indian food instead down by where the boats to Malmö used to leave from.
It’s late and we stroll back through the side streets of Copenhagen towards the train station. I point out the bridge that Hitchcock used in the opening shot of Topaz to Pernilla, but she’s not impressed. Once we get to the station we find that our luck has changed, the train will be along in a few minutes and isn’t delayed.
“Excuse me, can you speak English?” I look up and see the question has come from a frantic looking bearded man in front of me. I think he’s from New Zealand. I tell him that I can, and he proceeds to pour out the fact that he’s supposed to be travelling to Berlin and isn’t sure where to get his train from. He shows us the ticket on his phone. We look at it and check the board, before coming to the conclusion that his ticket is for a bus, not a train. Problem is the bus station in Copenhagen is currently a building site and I haven’t a clue where he should be catching his bus from. Plus he only has twenty minutes to sort it out. He thanks us, and I see the panic in his eyes as he turns and rushes off as fast as his flip-flops can carry him.
How does that old saying go? ‘There’s always someone worse off than you.’