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These Are the Pains of Running a Music Festival in Denmark

Taking Copenhagen Psych Fest from chaotic D.I.Y. project to Scandinavia's biggest psych event wasn't easy.

Photo by Niels Fabæk

I got involved with Copenhagen Psych Fest in October 2014 at Republikken in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro, where the first meeting prior to the 2015-edition of the festival took place. CPF had already had its inaugural festival six months earlier at the venue Stengade, where Kasper Fjord - the man behind the entire CPF movement - had been in charge of everything on his own. Exhausted by the enormous amount of work he had put into CPF 14 - which, to be fair, was a messy D.I.Y. project - he accepted the fact that he needed some additional help if the festival should ever return. I was asked to do some simple PR work, and about four months later I was in charge of everything press-related.
Twelve months after the initial meeting, Copenhagen Psych Fest 15 filled Huset-KBH last September. It was arguably the biggest get-together for the Scandinavian psych scene ever.


As with most successes, CPF 15 didn’t come without its own serious set of challenges. The biggest challenges arranging CPF 15 were both defining our own goals for the festival and creating an aligned consensus between ourselves and the venue itself, Huset-KBH.

Although both parties were amazed by the large turnout, uneasy vibes created by the vast amounts of problems surrounding the festival still echo inside our organization today.

The Courettes - Photo by Josephine Marie Lind

Putting smaller details aside, the biggest issue was that nobody had bothered to sign contracts from the get-go—which naturally blew up in our faces. All of a sudden, we found ourselves with a budget cut in half and the responsibility of taking care of stage managers, stagehands, door security and bands—all because neither we nor Huset-KBH had clearly agreed on who was in charge of these key elements.

Lesson #1: Sign contracts. Always! Make sure that both you and your partners (venues/bands/etc.) know what’s what, so that - at the end of the day - nobody questions the final agreement. With many bands signed for CPF 15 already, our lack of contract and resulting budget cut was a definite setback—but luckily, we managed to gather around eighty volunteers over a couple of days to make sure those key elements ran smoothly. Seriously, we are forever grateful for their help during those three days.

One of the reasons we were able to find eighty people in the first place – people who were willing to work for no pay, a free meal and some beers - was because of Kasper’s incredibly large network, mainly inside the Danish psych community. He knows everybody—and I truly mean everybody. Hell, I even got a friend request from Kasper way back in 2013 while studying in Aarhus and writing for Danish music site Undertoner. It seemed that Kasper really wanted - and to this day still wants - to know every single person who might have even the slightest, most peripheral connection to the psych scene.


White Hills - Photo by Baijie Curdt-Christiansen

So we got help. Fast. Kasper’s band, Måneskjold, provided some of the gear. Other bands, Skifting and Helmet Compass, provided some other gear. Artistic friends of Kasper's spent days creating the decorations in and outside of Huset, and numerous volunteers age 17-50+ worked wonders. They made sure that concerts went as planned, records were sold, band contracts were signed, the entire venue was cleaned afterwards. Because of them, everything just worked.

Turned out that it’s easy to find helpful souls in September, when the weather is somewhat acceptable and the bands are plenty. Fast-forward to an unimaginably cold weekend inside an old meat locker in November for Copenhagen Psych Fest's Winter Edition, though, and it’s a different story. Suddenly, we had trouble just making sure beers were being sold.

The Winter Edition also gave us a new hurdle to get over, too: a run-in with the law. During the first night, the police and Københavns Kommune showed up due to noise complaints from the neighbors. Apparently, the venue didn’t have the necessary license to host an event this big so we had to turn the volume down (unideal for a psych fest) and shut down the bar two hours early. Although everything worked out the following day, we were dumbfounded by the whole ordeal.

Photo by Nanna Klith

In the end, only fifteen of us were involved with the winter event. Since we had agreed that Kasper’s only job was to make sure that the artists and guests were having a great time, everybody else had to work double time—and so we did. I ended up working a total of 45 hours during those three days, even though all I really had to do was the usual, press related stuff. Yet all of the volunteers – including Kasper, who even slept at the venue to prevent burglary, and myself - knew that all of this was absolutely necessary. If we were going to succeed in establishing Copenhagen Psych Fest as the largest psych event in Scandinavia, we had to really work at it.


Lesson #2: You can’t just rely on the Y when creating a D.I.Y. event. You have to get to know people, and - if possible – meet every single person who might be helpful. Make them care about your cause and let them know that you care about them even more. We're still trying to find the golden equation when it comes to further activating our network of volunteers. One thing’s for sure, though: you can’t start a festival from scratch without some dedicated people supporting it and giving it their all for little to no pay at all.

The Love Coffin - Photo by Jacob Hansen

Since CPF 15 and CPF 15 Winter Edition, our latest move has been establishing Foreningen Copenhagen Psych Fest with monthly board meetings. The point behind it is to help us define the future for CPF—which includes coming up with a clever funding model for our next festival, taking place in July 2016. So far, we haven’t had funding for our events—we'd just rely on eventual profits coming from ticket, record and beer sales. The CPF brand has come too far to stick with that, though; hence, we’ve begun looking more and more into funding opportunities.

Ultimately, we still have a long way to go and we still struggle with keeping a consistent group of decision takers. Out of all the participants at the meeting back in October 2014, only Kasper and I remain. D.I.Y. events are a tricky business. You need lots and lots of people to make them work—and most importantly, some serious dedication throughout the entire process. At this point, we’re mostly for two things: for Copenhagen Psych Fest’s challenges to continue to decrease in the future—and for more and more people grow passionate about what we do and the psych scene we’re doing it for.

Helmet Compass - Photo by Baijie Curdt-Christiansen