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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 25, 2024
Copenhagen music
Courtesy of Grace McKinstry

An insider’s look into music communities in Copenhagen

We know Madison’s music scene is one to beat, but can it compare to a Eurodance empire?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the city in which it is nestled has long been a utopia of school spirit and self-expression bolstered by a steadily diversifying population and a wide range of academic offerings. 

Much of Madison’s artistic prowess is evident across campus — just venture into the Chazen Art Museum, tune into WSUM 91.7 FM Madison on your car radio or admire the fashion feats hidden in the School of Human Ecology. 

Madison is rich in artistic and cultural diversity, but how does it measure up against a major center of techno and fashion in Europe?

Copenhagen has garnered a massive reputation for its nightlife, street fashion and music — this is particularly evident in viral TikToks showing accessory-clad people walking the streets of the Danish capital like a runway. The city is an international hub for talent and creative expression, which might just contribute to its No. 5 ranking on the World Happiness Report

Both provincial centers have pronounced strengths and weaknesses. However, my semester abroad has given me the opportunity to go undercover in Copenhagen and determine how it compares to Wisconsin’s capital.

Madison’s music scene is composed of an impressive network of audiences and artists, making it almost too complex to describe. For instance, Madisonians enjoy concerts in a number of theaters scattered around the area. 

The most popular of these, The Sylvee and the Majestic Theatre, have hosted performers ranging from Hippo Campus and Adam Melchor to Lana Del Rey. Many notable shows also occur at High Noon Saloon and The Rigby, especially performances from up-and-coming Midwestern bands. 

Additionally, a number of Madison residences host multi-band shows for residents, their friends and anyone perceptive enough to find the address amongst flyers and social media exchanges. These shows, similar to those played at The Nottingham’s “Arthurfest,” offer a wide range of musical entertainment in the genres of emo and pop punk, indie rock, funk and fusion. 

As someone who has experienced concerts both big and small in UW-Madison’s backyard, I find Madison’s DIY scene to be the most impressive and unique. Its shows are intimate and inclusive with hosts, musicians and listeners uniting over a common passion. Madison’s DIY scene is home to memories of many evenings I’ve spent with friends seeing Madison bands.

On one such evening last spring, I dragged my twin sister through the snow to a grunge/post-punk show on State Street with earplugs in hand. Although she has always been skeptical of my music taste, she ended the night with a smile on her face and some local music added to her Spotify playlist. 

Long story short, the diversity of Madison’s music is incredible, and the ultra-involved nature of its varied audiences has formed a scene that is curated to the desires of modern Madison listeners. 

A trip across the Baltic Sea later, I have suffered a desperate longing for those valuable aspects of Madison’s music community. Here in Copenhagen, I’ve made it my goal to find a Danish equivalent. 

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Of course, my identity as an American student in Europe set my progress back. I felt alien to the musical culture here.

Still, I have found that Copenhagen and Madison, although quite distant from one another, share a multitude of similarities when it comes to music and art. 

My first encounter with music here in Copenhagen began quite literally the moment I left the airport. Walking along the cobbled streets, I was met with sounds — both impressive and not — of street performers entertaining passers-by. 

Often, these performances were limited to a one-person band, an acoustic guitar and a microphone. Otherwise, performers played more traditional instruments such as the accordion or the oboe. These are pleasant to experience in passing, but it’s not quite what I hoped to find. 

As night fell on my first day in Copenhagen, I began to understand more about its culture. The city, known for its nightlife, was alight with clubs bumping techno and popular music. Jazz bars along quiet streets offered a wide range of performers nightly. Again, these facets are uniquely fun and interesting. But I sought something a little different.

Denmark hosts concerts in the city year-round, with Vega and Loppen representing much of the rock- and techno-loving community. Big names regularly take to these stages as well as highly anticipated artists such as Wednesday and Inhaler

These two venues most closely resemble Madison’s theaters, and both offer an intimate experience between the performers and their audiences. On top of this, Danish music festivals are known for being some of the largest in Northern Europe. For example, Roskilde Festival and Copenhell are music events offering a wide range of music and cultural expositions. However, these options diminish as the weather gets colder. 

These musical offerings left me pleasantly surprised, but the scene in Copenhagen is still incomparable to the innocence and passion that pulls Madison’s music community together. 

I say innocence not in the way of purity, but in the novelty of it all. Everyone involved is actively learning how to build a culture of art and togetherness. This, I’ve found, is something that is unique to Madison’s student-heavy population. 

Furthermore, Copenhagen boasts a diverse range of genres for the public to consume. However, listener experiences appear to be highly curated. Unfortunately, this characteristic roots out the sense of rebellion that gives a true underground music scene its charm. 

Even now, temperatures are dropping in both of my cities, and listeners like me may opt to do so in heated bedrooms with headphones snug over our ears. Instead, I implore Cardinal readers to venture out into the wind and snow, wherever they may be. They’ll find just as much warmth in front of booming loudspeakers.

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