The Distortion festival in Copenhagen is one of the largest music events of the year, and once again I had the pleasure of shooting the Red Bull Music Academy stage at the Distortion Ø festival for the wonderful people in Red Bull Denmark. In this two part blog post I take you along for the ride. In the first post I covered day 1 Friday – including which gear I brought – in this second post we tackle day 2 – Saturday!
Being the second day, I now know exactly the setup of the stage and ligt etc. so really, for this old grumpy man, the main preparation is to try and get enough sleep. That is never an easy thing for me as my body refuses to sleep during day time, and one day I really will quote countless movies and say “I’m too old for this shit!”. But for now, my love of music totally wins out in the end – I must thank my magic better half for putting up with one pretty grumpy sleep deprived boyfriend during events like this!
My Saturday morning can be boiled down to inhaling 2 liters of coffee, develop and upload the pictures to Red Bull, make food, have a little afternoon nap and it is off to festival again at around 7pm in the evening, ready for the 8pm opening act.
Saturday – the first beat
The young artist Drippin from Norway was tasked with opening Saturday night in the Red Bull Music Academy tent. This was no easy gig, the sun was shining, it was a warm Summer evening and none of the hungover ravers really felt like being inside a tent. Drippin possibly played a little too aggressive for a warmup anyway and as a result, the tent was empty. Drippin fortunately got a second chance later, DJing back to back with Eloq at 2am, a time more suitable for his bassy beats.
Next up was a much anticipated 3 x live performances by Empress Of, Kelela and Lido. Empress Of was first and they were truly wonderful, their dream pop electronica was a pure homerun.
With live bands back to back there needs to be a changeover, which the crew handles remarkably fast. It is still an interesting organic thing to see almost the entire crowd flow out the tent towards other stages during the changeover and then flow back in for the next performance, sometimes quite a different crowd.
I had high expectations for Kelela thanks to a Kelela fan and fellow Fujifilm shooter from New York that we bumped into while waiting in the tent for the gig (shoutout to Thinh Vu for coming to the show, so nice to meet you!). Kelela did not disappoint with her alternative r&b and was probably my highlight of the night. The stage light was changed to a more minimal classic spot lit concert for Kelela, and it looked amazing, purely putting the spotlight on her strong performance.
Once again, the tent emptied and back in (a bit later) poured a fairly young crowd ready to worship their hero, Lido. I am not quite sure how to describe this young Norwegian’s music, except to call it grand EDM-like teen-pop tunes. Not quite my cup of electronic tea, but he certainly puts on a great animated show for his many fans.
Alongside Eloq, Drippin now got a chance to play his beats at the 2am slot, more suited to his style. The duo played for nearly two hours and clearly enjoyed playing together and rocking the party deep into the night.
It seemed like it would never happen as we sat backstage but 4am finally came around and it was time for one of my favourites, Kasper Marott. The Danish techno DJ has come a long way quickly, from organising his own parties in his parents pig farm at age 16 to now being a RBMA alumni.
I shall just venture slightly off topic and say that, granted, I like the music and love vinyl DJing so I am somewhat biased, but the dynamics, the organic sound and “air” that was suddenly apparent in the soundscape was a welcome change. CDJing has a tendency or possibility at least to become a wall of sound, that tires the ear quickly. Kasper’s techno sounded outstanding. Vinyl definitely wins hands down in being photogenic, the decks are gorgeous, the records are big shiny beautiful things, and there are so many interesting physical activities to shoot that a vinyl DJ does.
I am somewhat kicking myself now looking back that I was so tired at 4am and with the looming deadline of delivering pictures meant that I only heard about 30 minutes of Kasper’s set before we left, exhausted, desperate to sleep before developing pictures.
What I heard I totally loved and I did manage to get a few pictures I really like. I may revisit Kasper in another post with more as I shot a whole essay of him playing.
And the beat stopped
Once the beats stop and the last pictures are delivered, just like that, it is over. Two days of mayhem, done and dusted. Sometimes, after having spent the better part of 48 hours inside this type of intense event, it can feel like a dream (or dream within a dream, Inception style). Did it really happen at all? Then I feel how utterly exhausted I am and think “yup, it must have!”.
To be perfectly honest, recovering from the exhaustion after an event like this, I have this strange mix of “never doing this again” and “cannot wait for the next one” feelings. Like a crack addict. But then I also remember the pure magic (for me) of working in music, the music I have loved since a kid, the fun and challenging shooting conditions, working with a lot of great people, and all the wonderful new musical experiences from great artists I got to meet and capture. There is nothing quite like music and working in music.
Let me say simultaneously, “I am too old for this shit” and “I will never be too old for this shit!” and then quote the late great Prince:
Movies are real! Music is real! It affects people, it’s real. … The other night I went to a club and I watched a DJ control an entire room. Even politicians can’t do that.
My gear did not change much from the description in my first post, click here to check out the detailed description. Charlene and I did swap some lenses around again, and I ended up using the Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 lens a lot on the Saturday night. I had not used this in a long time, and had forgotten how amazing this lens is.
All my gear performed really well during the 2 nights, as usual my ten thumbs kept dropping lens caps everywhere backstage (rolling around on the stage, it is like my calling card) but somehow managed to find them all again. Again, one of the most valuable additions to my bag was a sandwich (rugbrød!) for fast refueling at 1am!