This article originally appeared on Noisey Denmark.
Club bathrooms are a dirty means to a filthy end. At best, they’re a safe space, a serene zone of reflection and a refuge from the fray, a sanctuary for contemplation where you can relax and take a vital mental inventory, or a place where you can escape the bouncer’s prying eyes. At worst, a club bathroom is a living, breathing cesspool of primal urges, regrettable decisions, and human waste.
No one wants to visit them. Sticky floors, the stench of other people’s excretions filling your nostrils and mouth—you tolerate it because you have to. You’re out, seeking new experiences and stepping outside your comfort zone, and so the more you numb your senses, the less daunting a trip to the bathroom becomes. If these places stay open for long enough, untouched by gentrification, they become a tapestry of years and benders gone by, a three-dimensional portal into countless wild nights.
In the face of our cultural heritage increasingly transcending the physical world and entering the cloud, the collective consciousness of a club bathroom is honest, real, human. These places are disgusting, yes, but also magnificently rock and roll.
With that in mind, photographer João Botelho and I visited the bathrooms of some of Copenhagen’s most iconic clubs and venues to document the crude energy accumulated from years of fucking, puking, sniffing, pissing, laughing, crying, shitting, passing out, stickering and tagging. We ended up with a set of images that reek of crotch sweat and industrial detergent.
In the heart of pisserenden (“the piss gutter,” as Copenhagen’s high street is known), between trendy second hand clothing stores and doughnut shops brimming with millennials, lies Floss, one of the few remaining bastions of Copenhagen’s punk scene. Frequented by such legends as Steen Jørgensen and Sort Sol since the late 1970s, when the band were known as Sods, the two-story, smoke-friendly bar is often hailed as the birthplace of Danish punk. Floss has become famous with punks and non-punks alike for its liberal approach to posters, stickers and tags, and its popular two-for-one beer deals. But it’s not adored for the hygiene in its closet-sized bathrooms, which are coated in graffiti from floor to ceiling, shrines to the years of rowdiness.
The Jaguar Bodega on Holmbladsgade in the city's Amagerbro district is synonymous with a night on the town for the neck-inked and the tramp-stamped. As far as Copenhagen music venues go, Jaguaren (“the Jaguar”) is a bit of an underdog. Despite probably being better known for its frequent scuffles and no-bullshit bar staff dressed in cordial bellhop attire, the bar was the setting for dancehall-turned- dansktop outfit Humørekspressen’s first live show, and regularly hosts rap battles, often making it the site of oddly satisfying and intrinsically Danish nights out that you won’t find anywhere else.
The labyrinthine Nørrebro club boasts the most varied and exciting hip-hop bookings in the city, meaning you’re almost always guaranteed an utterly mental night out in a jam-packed venue. But even the briefest time spent in the queue in Rust’s dimly lit lower hallway, which funnels both male and female toilet-goers and desperate coat-checkers, is long enough for the one-two punch of its turquoise walls and the putrid stench of piss to be burned into your senses for life.
Bakken is the unholy mother club of Copenhagen's Meatpacking District. After the construction of an actual stage, guests are no longer in the middle of the mayhem during Bakken’s numerous electronic, rap, and trash concerts, whose popularity often warrants a larger venue. Ground zero for the nightlife excesses of the city's hipster mob, Bakken’s bathrooms are as trashy as they are debauched. The ladies’ room allows for sisterly two-person pissing while in the gents’, despite not being built to house more than one visitor, several partygoers can often be found huddled behind the eternally ajar stall door.
There’s nothing quite like the mixed feelings of excitement and dread elicited by waiting in the early-morning line to enter the techno safari of dilated pupils that is KB18 after 5:00 AM. It’s the last club in the Meatpacking District to kick its guests out. In this final holdout of many a depraved night, the intense electronic music is minimalist and crudely industrial—and so are the bathrooms.
The cradle of Copenhagen’s now-extinct RubA’Dub Sundays, as well as a landmark venue for rock, punk, and basically any relevant Danish live act in the mid-90s, Stengade actually closed down in 2009 only to reopen a year later. Its very presence in the capital today is a testament to musical subcultures past and present, just as the layer-on-layer visual history of its bathrooms are a tribute to gig-goers’ decades-long indulgence. Have a piss and take in the history. Just don’t bring a blacklight.
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