Words: Alex Maiolo / Photography by: Peter Kirkegaard, Markus Glavind & Magnus Hyltoft
"Nothing like this has been done before... The only reason we call it a ‘festival’ is because it’s hard to say ‘would you like to buy a two day ticket to my experiment.’” Sigurd Hartkorn Plaetner (Haven Festival)
*This is part 2 of an ongoing series about HAVEN Festival. You can read the first one HERE.
I’ve been covering music festivals for over a decade now, yet I’m still amazed that they generally go off without a hitch. There are so many moving parts, ranging from infrastructure and people management, to unexpected weather and performers’ egos. It’s a wonder the majority of them don’t descend into a disaster just shy of Woodstock ’99 level.
I came to Copenhagen this time for the usual reasons. I know it well enough at this point that I’m comfortable here. It’s my other home. I’ve made good friends, I’m watching their kids grow up, I'm even having lunch with their grandmothers.
The main purpose of this trip, however, was to go to HAVEN festival, a two day food, music, beer and arts festival started by Claus Meyer, co founder of NOMA, the world's #1 restaurant, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø of Mikkeller Brewery (voted top 3 in the world ) and Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the band, The National. You can read more about the festival in my last article HERE.
First year festivals usually have unforeseen hiccups, usually involving small stuff, like bathroom lines, or flat beer. Probably due to the experience of the organizers, HAVEN was super smooth all weekend. To get from one area to the next, festival goers had to cross a bridge, which could be a little congested before featured performances. However, the biggest complaints I heard were from people who got antsy waiting 15 minutes for a sandwich. With some perspective, though, when someone is slicing roasted goat off of a spit and hand making a sandwich it takes a few more minutes to prepare. We’re not talking about ballpark hotdogs here.
Sigurd Hartkorn Plaetner (HAVEN Communications):
"The organizers are entrepreneurs, but also great friends, who have always made something unique in their respective fields. They create things that might seem exclusive, in some ways, but that word implies a closed concept, when what they want to do is present new things to anyone who may be interested in them. In this way HAVEN is actually as much an experiment that comes from their surplus of energy, as anything else. They want a space for collaboration, including what may happen on stage."
Photo of Saints Go Machine by Peter Kirkegaard
Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller):
"The beer side of HAVEN will be better than most beer festivals. Rather than just quickly grabbing some beer and food in between seeing bands, that will be an equal part of their experience. Maybe a lot of people don’t know that yet, but it will become clear. We haven’t had to struggle to sell tickets because Bon Iver and The National just do well in Denmark, but what this all means is next year we can focus even more on the food and beer because it will be part of the story once it has happened. People will get what we’re doing once they have been here.”
Xenia Grigat (Music promoter, Beatbox Entertainment):
"We wanted to create a collective feel - a haven for artists and audience, where you can see one-off collaborations with members of The National, Bon Iver, This Is The Kit, Kresten Osgood and rock out to legend Iggy Pop and Ragnar Kjartansson doing his marathon strip show at the Dope & Korruption Bar. That was the collective feel we wanted to present, and why we chose to bill everyone equally. I feel we succeeded and that the audience embraced it in full. Next year, there will be even more in the details and we promise to adjust and improve what did not work as expected.
Speaking from the music perspective, it’s been an absolute pleasure working with Aaron and Bryce, who are extremely dedicated and examples to follow. We’ve been bouncing ideas, having fun and seeing the festival take shape in they way we would like to present the first edition of HAVEN. We are very proud and eager to get going for next year".
A TRIP AROUND HAVEN FEST WITH MIXEN LINDBERG ON A BIKE
Claus Meyer had a giant food stand on site, featuring lovely sandwiches and plates of food, plus a fantastic apple cake, but their smaller stand was the one I favored. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” ostensibly named after the Michael Pollan book, only featured two things: a vegan plate and a pastrami sandwich. Meyer is known for doing a variation on the classic Flæskesteg (pork roast) sandwich that is so good it can make an atheist reevaluate their philosophies regarding the existence of a divine being.
I’ll admit I was surprised that it wasn’t at any of the stands, but then again, we’re talking about a guy who closed his world famous restaurant when it was at the top of its game, because he’s always moving forward. In its place was the pastrami and kimchi sandwich. Neither New Yorkers, nor Koreans, would recognize either component, as they were a new take on both, but suffice it to say it was utterly fantastic. The vegan plate was a beautiful selection of Meyer inspired tastes. At roughly $7 for either it was a screaming bargain for a healthy portion of all natural food.
The festival was held in an area of Copenhagen called Rafshaleøen, which I will go into more detail about in a guide to the city WWW will publish soon. It’s an up and coming, off the beaten path old industrial site, much like the way Red Hook in Brooklyn is. Mikkeller has led that charge by opening a bar out there, called Baghaven ("back garden”). Of course it was in full swing during the festival, but there were pop up tents featuring their other beers as well. Each one had a theme: Dark, Sour, or Hoppy, and featured 14 taps per location. Other brewers from around the world were invited too, 18th Street Brewery (Chicago, IL), Tired Hands (Ardmore, PA), and Other Half (New York, NY) were there, as well as craft cider makers. In all, there were over 100 different beers on tap.
"We created this festival to celebrate the variety of beer (and other beverages for that matter) and to showcase just that at a Danish festival... we gave the audience the chance to try no less than 120 different beers at a festival with 20,000 guests in attendance".
The whole thing was soundtracked by a diverse range of acts. Band of Horses played a gorgeous set in the afternoon sun. Tinariwen ended day one with a string of hypnotic songs that lent some otherworldly ambience to the cool night air. Saints Go Machine captivated a field full of people with their blend of electronica and Nina Simone style jazz. Iggy Pop had over 10,000 people gobsmacked and thinking “there is no way my 70 year old grandfather could be doing this.” Nelson Can kept the party going with their brand of dance pop. Kate Stables, of This Is The Kit, moved from instrument to instrument with ease. There wasn’t one act that left people cold.
As We All Know, You Don't Buy Beer, You Rent it,
so when Mikkel and Jacob were making room for the next round, they overheard some fun conversation.
As told by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø / Pic of the men of Mikkeller (Mikkel, Jacob (The Major) and Mixen (M.M.M.)
High on music and happy after The National’s show on Meadow stage, finishing Haven, The Major (Jacob Gram Alsing) and I overheard three dudes at the urinal as well. The following conversation took place.
Dude nr. 1 (big red fancy beard and all): "Shit, I really don't like that Mikkeller beer. I've only had their Pilsner and it is almost undrinkable"
(Major and I trying not to laugh. The Major was right there, even wearing his festival radio setup, looking like a damn security dude)
Dude nr. 2: "Really? I like it. What would you rather drink?
Dude nr. 1: "You know, just a Tuborg or a Royal"
Dude nr. 3: “Nooo, really?"
Dude nr. 1: "Or perhaps a Brandbil (mixed Jägermester/red soda drink) or something"
At this point we had to leave, because it became too ironic and we never managed to come up with a clever response, and we were about to burst with laughter.
Dude nr. 1 is the coolest ever. It takes balls to say you don't like Mikkeller beer at a Mikkeller festival, and I really wish I knew where Dude nr. 1 lives, so I could send him a mixed case of Tuborg, Royal and some of our most mellow beers (tough job, I know).
Aaron Dessner joined a surprising number of bands on stage, without ever stealing the spotlight from the acts. After two straight days of this, plus a set of songs with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver), under the name Big Red Machine, he took the stage with his band, The National, and played his heart out for two hours, no worse for the wear. The guy deserves an MVP award.
Alex Maiolo is a Senior Contributor at Tape Op Magazine. He also contributes to Reverb.com, Premier Guitar, Shed Shreds, and Tom Tom magazines. He is an advisor to The Future of Music Coalition, South By Southwest, owns Seriously Adequate, the recording studio that hits above its weight, and plays guitar in the Psych Rock band Lacy Jags. You can follow him on the gram @alexmaiolo
Special thanks to Xenia Grigat, Lewis Preston Colston, Keith Lemmon