Vega, Copenhagen, Denmark
It’s no secret that Copenhagen’s alternative music scene is in formidable shape.
In recent years the fast techno promoted by the likes of Euromantic, Fast Forward Productions and Kulør have seen the Danish capital garner well-deserved recognition as a clearinghouse for boundary-pushing club tracks, celebrated DIY label Posh Isolation have just marked their tenth anniversary and bill-topping exports like Smerz and Iceage continue to fly the flag for the Danish capital at festivals across the globe.
While the city is a hotbed for homegrown experimental sounds, the city’s Journey Fest adopts a wider gaze, inviting artists from outside who share a similar restless vision.
The event series, still in its infancy, aims to inject life into the city’s off-season. Its first festival took place in February, inviting acts including Octavian, slowthai and Yves Tumor to a rough-around-the-edges former workers union in Christiania – the dishevelled free town commune-slash-tourist attraction which sits in stark contrast to Copenhagen’s typical Scandi chic. Tonight’s instalment of Journey Fest, a more intimate one-nighter before the festival’s return early next year, feels more in line with the Danish capital’s stylish sheen. That’s mostly down to the venue Vega, a luxe art deco concert hall with statement light fittings and earthy-smelling wood panelling – evoking the feeling of a school hall with an otherworldly, vintage glow – as well as its 1am cut off. But tonight’s curation draws a line from the ethos of their first event and the city’s scene at large: music with a certain distinctive character.
Offering up disparate acts, who aren’t easily tied to a unifying scene or brand, isn’t always easy to pull off. But Journey Fest draws a modest crowd who seem receptive to the evening’s varying moods. The night gets off to an atmospheric start with Norwegian singer Hôy la, whose spectral vocals spool out amidst a smoke-filled stage, moving from swirling dubbed-out reveries to a crashing crescendo aided by her razor-sharp band. Tonight’s Danish act is Awinbeh, formerly of Copenhagen pop outfit Silvester. He makes an impression with his fledgeling sound, flexing unfurling vocal tangents à la Frank Ocean with an eager warmth, to the kind of crisp electronic R’n’B destined to disseminate across Spotify-chill playlists. It’s not a perfect set – the crowd is slow to liven up, and at one point a tripped lead cuts out the system – but Awinbeh’s persistence and magnetic charisma keep us hooked, and he leaves the stage beaming.
Another prodigious talent is Atlanta soul singer Baby Rose, whose raspy vocals carry moving songs about romantic turmoil, vulnerability and Instagram stalking. As she introduces her track Borderline, she muses on that feeling of being in an in-between space. The idea carries across the event, with acts either on the cusp of various worlds or something bigger in their career. The latter feels particularly true for Kedr Livsanskiy, whose seductive, rave-inflected electro-pop is easy to get lost in. The rising Moscow artist gets the most love from the crowd, who break a sweat for the first time in the evening. It’s hard to deny that the set feels bound for bigger audiences, and as Livanskiy’s vocals ring out over a hint of hardcore nostalgia, there’s a muted euphoria (about as much as the grand settings will allow).
The night closes out with Norwegian trio Sassy009, who appear to have found a sharper image since breaking through with 2017’s Do You Mind EP. With sleek but powerful electro-noise thrashing out ideas of identity, the lead singer’s angular drama is contrasted by the two other members stood stoic behind synths, like Lydia Lunch meets femmebot Kraftwerk. Another intriguing act heading towards something as yet unknown, it’s a fitting closer for an event that’s forging its own path and figuring things out in the process.