I’ve always felt that Copenhagen had a slightly seamy, dark vibe to it. There is an underbelly that isn’t always apparent to the tourists gawking at the Little Mermaid or strolling through the Tivoli Gardens. Today we spent our day deep within its bowels, in Christiania: a very surreal day.
Christiania is a community that grew up around an abandoned army base, a few minutes walking distance from the center of Copenhagen. When the army moved out in the 1970’s the squatters and self-labelled anarchists moved in. It’s gone through many changes over the past few decades and the community has fallen in and out of favour with the local governments and the “straight” citizenry, but today it is a thriving community (it seems to be run much like a housing co-op) with its own restaurants and schools and hardware store and all the mod-cons that your average anarchist comes to crave as he or she grows older. It also has its very own thriving hashish market…and this is where the sleazy underbelly begins to expose itself. When I say “hashish market” I don’t mean that there are a bunch of guys standing around with their hands in their pockets whispering surreptitiously to passersby. This is a full blown market with stalls set up so that the consumer can see the various bricks of hashish for sale, as well as jars of various strains of marijuana and all of the necessary accoutrements for your smoking pleasure. The market has a heavy atmosphere with lots of tough young punks looking on with lots of ill tempered dogs in hand. Large signs everywhere scream of a “no photography” policy. There are oil drum fires every dozen feet or so, so that the goods can be quickly disposed of when the police make one of their fairly regular raids on the compound. We were told by the locals that this area is run by the Hells Angels and it certainly has that feel to it. It seems that drugs have always been the Achilles heel for this community. Back in the late 70’s when the police would pick up a junkie they would simply dump him or her in Christiania because the heroin problem was so rampant in the community that they figured it was easiest to corral them all in one location. Today they have been able to establish a “THC only” policy within the community, but it’s the market that gives this place a bit of a freak show vibe. The general aesthetic is also a bit Mad Max-ish. It kind of has that post-apocalyptic vibe with lots of open fires, strung lights, large iron works, odd-ish sculptures created from found materials, graffiti on every possible surface and lots of facial hair and dreadlocks.
We played in one of the communities’ venues, a low ceiling, narrow, pit of a club. The promoter never showed up and there was a general who-gives-a-fuck vibe to the day. Despite that, the people who worked at the venue were very nice and as helpful as they could be and the show was sold-out. It was a standing gig, with people crammed up against our foot high stage. So we tried to crank it up a bit and blow through the bodies. We had fun and I think most of the audience did too.