Copenhagen Nightlife; It's A Gas

Copenhagen Nightlife; It's A Gas

The Danish capital may have a small town vibe, but the city has a close knit underground scene that continues to grow, new labels, nights and parties are popping up all over.

And it starts weird. Our meeting point is Vibes Apotek, and by way of introduction I’m handed a can of beer and a laughing gas balloon. Opened a couple of years ago by a guy known for turning up to clubs dressed as a gorilla, it’s something of a den for hippy crack. It also sells absinthe. It’s all about the vibes, y’know.

Having a gas: Vibes Apotek
Having a gas: Vibes Apotek. Photograph: Jonas Kjergaard

It’s also a good place to kick off an evening. We sneak into a small back room with a persian rug for a door and slump into the antique furniture. I ask Najaaraq how the scene compares with Europe’s more prominent clubbing cities. “It’s small but very fruitful,” she says. “It’s hard to navigate, but if you want to see the new generation we have all these weird spaces where events are going on. And the DJs are fucking good.”

Jolen Outdoors
Jolene’s pink neon sign beckons. 

Face tingling, we head out to the city’s Meatpacking district (Kødbyen). Inspired by Manhattan’s own historic butcher zone, over the past decade the low-rise industrial area has developed into a creative neighbourhood. Or as Daniel puts it: “Restaurant, restaurant, bar, slaughterhouse, restaurant.” We stop at Mesteren & Lærlingen for a couple more drinks. The busy corner bar is illuminated outside by coloured bulbs and inside a DJ spins reggae and funk from a tiled booth. It’s always rammed by 1am, I’m told, but that doesn’t stop people filling the street outside to drink and smoke till late.

The area is primed for bar-hopping. We make our way around the corner to one of the district’s rowdiest venues; kitsch, colourful, bar/club, Jolene. With a pink neon sign beaming through the humid windows, the always-free always-dancing venue is also host to a residency by Daniel’s crew, the Copenhagen Underground Posse. That night, however, it’s another regular at Jolene, Fyraftensboogie, a “raggadiskotek” party, with local producer 2000F spinning classic disco and boogie tracks, punctuated by dub sirens and spin backs, while partner JG hypes the crowd. Luther Vandross smoothes his way out of the sound system and people spill their drinks barging through the dancefloor. It’s sweaty.

Graffiti covered techno club, KB18
Grafitti covered techno club, KB18. Photograph: Andris Bergs

Around 2am we tear ourselves away and go to a completely different club on the other side of the Meatpacking district, Kb18. Dark and dingy – the toilets look like what would happen if Jackson Pollock did tagging – it’s a metal venue during the day before switching to techno after midnight. Inside Najaaraq, who DJs under the name Courtesy, and Emma are spinning bouncy techno along with all-girl Apeiron Crew. Often open until 8am, the seating in the main room consists of wooden pallets and old sofas, illuminated with candles, adding to the dungeon feel and making it the inevitable final stop for the night.

Kb18 copenhagen
If Pollock did tagging: the toilets in Kb18. 

The following evening starts at one of the small, alternative venues Najaaraq described earlier. Palmspree design shop, back in Nørrebro, is hosting a showcase by Rare Nights, another young collective making an impression on the city. Beers are normally priced, which is amazing (even a Londoner can feel hard done by in Copenhagen) and around 30 people are there to pay attention to the first live sets of a pair of up-and-coming producers.

After the show we cycle to Log Lady. Just behind the city’s main shopping street, the Twin Peaks-inspired bar is dolled up with stuffed owls, chandeliers and lots of gold things. “It’s a good place to see a lot of the DJs that could play at Culture Box, but not playing techno … they’ll play disco, funk, bar-friendly weird music,” says Najaaraq. Behind the decks local legend Steen Kong is DJing rare grooves with a well placed touch of Keith Mansfield as the bar quickly fills up for the evening.

If this was still the 90s...Blue Velvet
If this was still the 90s...Blue Velvet. Photograph: Dennis Morton

Part of Log Lady’s success is down to its discerning owner Henriette Hartmann Petersen and booking agent Josefine Winding. It’s not just a classy bar – the DJs who play there are carefully curated. The same goes for the pair’s latest project, Blue Velvet, a small-capacity basement club also in the city centre that opened last November. “They spent a lot of money doing it up and making it not creepy, like it was before,” says Najaaraq as we enter. “Now it’s like somewhere people might have gone to take coke in the 90s.” Inside, Daniel – aka Dee Brown – is playing soulful, nostalgic house, which fits superbly with the smooth, kitsch, Vice City-style venue.

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