Subversive entertainment at Sideshow, recycled plastic cups, fierce parties at night, a massive donation for a new festival site, jawbreakers, and Gnags are among the many success stories in NorthSide’s 10th year

Saturday night, Danish rappers Suspekt closed the 10th edition of NorthSide with a fiery show, which rounded off three incredible days in Aarhus that included musical highlights from New Order, Bon Iver, Tame Impala, Nas, Idles, The Blaze, L.O.C., The Minds of 99, and Gnags as well as numerous new and innovative projects. Overall, this year’s festival was one long success story.

When NorthSide 2019 opened the doors for the festival’s 35,000 guests and volunteers Thursday afternoon, music was not the only thing on the program. In the festival’s anniversary year, focus was also on eliminating both disposable plastic cups and bottled water from the festival, and both projects were successfully completed.

The same can be said about the 40 concerts on the festival’s three stages, the about 20 events in the nearby allotments (presented under the name Kolonihaven), 25 different pop-ups events on the road to and on the festival site, and not least the plethora of bizarre, fun, provocative, and colourful performances in the circus area called Sideshow. The atmosphere was glorious in Ådalen all the way through, even when the weather acted up Saturday, and the excitement was palpable, when acts like Major Lazer, Mark Ronson, Suspekt, and Bikstok brought shows that focused on the first four letters in “festival”.

More than 90,000 recycled plastic cups were filled with beer, emptied, and then returned on the opening day, as part of NorthSide’s initiative to replace disposable plastic beer cups with better quality beer glasses that can be washed and returned to the site for new servings. There was a return rate on the cups of over 95% on the first day, and the 14-meter-long washing machine washed about 9,000 glasses per hour from morning to evening. The machine will now be sent on a tour of Danish festivals including Tinderbox and Roskilde as a true success story, and will of course return to NorthSide next summer as part of the festival’s sustainability program.

The same strategy for sustainability meant that for the first time at NorthSide, it was not possible to buy spring water anywhere on the site. Instead, everyone was invited to bring their own refillable bottle, which could be filled free of charge at the festival’s many water posts. The policy applied to everyone at the festival including the performers. They used refillable plastic bottles just like everybody else, which the audience noticed at concerts with everyone from Khalid to New Order. The new initiative was praised from the stage by Justin Vernon from Bon Iver, who was thrilled that NorthSide had eliminated plastic bottles from the festival (“We’ve been to about a hundred billion festivals and this is the first one, where there are absolutely no plastic bottles. That seems just a little bit more important than drums, guitars, and bass”).

Waste sorting and the new plastic recycling system were also directly responsible for the fact that the NorthSide space has never been cleaner and nicer. In fact, the place was left so beautiful by the guests on both Thursday and Friday night that the festival chose to give the clean-up crews new assignments, as there was no need for the planned number of volunteers on clean-up duty.

This year, there was also a lot of focus on being present at the concerts and showing consideration, and in collaboration with the HiFi Klubben, NorthSide had therefore launched a “Just Listen” campaign with an accompanying jawbreaker sweet (in Danish called a “shut-up candy”). The campaign was met with great positivity from the guests and massive media attention, and was thus successful in the effort to shine a light on a general problem at Danish festivals.

Friday at NorthSide offered both glorious sunshine and a wonderful surprise provided by Mrs. Karin Salling and Jens Bjerg Sørensen from the Salling Foundation, who before the concert with Gnags handed over a check for DKK 11 million to the two city councilors Bünyamin Simsek and Rabih Azad-Ahmad. The money will go to the financing of Eskelund, which will, in addition to becoming both a public park and a concert venue, also become the permanent home for NorthSide from 2021. The donation is an important help in the development of a fantastic new green area in Aarhus and was received with great gratitude by both Aarhus Municipality and NorthSide.

After the generous donation, the city’s happiest beat orchestra went on stage and created a party that you do not experience every day. Gnags had NorthSide singing along to their biggest hits and gathered the entire site in a massive celebration.

The stars subsequently rained down on Gnags from enthusiastic reviewers, who also agreed that acts like Bon Iver, New Order, Tame Impala, Foals, Michael Kiwanuka, and Idles had delivered excellent concerts during NorthSide 2019. Among the audience praise was heard for Jonah Blacksmith’s film concert, which had put a lump in the throat of most of the many thousands present. And Oh Land, who replaced the First Aid Kit, included the Swedes hit “Fireworks” in her concert, which brought the house down. And finally, Bon Iver was praised by everyone, who attended the festival. The American songwriter has been the most requested act in the lifetime of the festival, and on Saturday night he delivered an exceptional concert that brought together the whole place for a both visually and musically challenging show, which also included hits such as “Skinny Love” and “Creature Fear”.

We are incredibly satisfied with the way NorthSide played out this year. We have seen excellent concerts performed at a beautiful and festive site, and it has been wonderful to see the support for initiatives such as Sideshow, Kolonihaven, and the many crazy and weird pop-up events that took place all around this year. It is our feeling that our guests had three fantastic days, and we have to give huge praise to all those who have helped ensure that our new beer cup system and the festival in general have been a tremendous success.

Next year is last year for NorthSide at the current site, and this is celebrated with a favorable ticket price for the festival’s faithful guests. From Sunday June 9th at until June 25th, there will be the opportunity to buy Early Bird tickets for NorthSide 2020, which will be held in on the 4th – 6th of June 2020. A limited number of tickets are available at DKK 1,495, – and tickets can be purchased here.

Photo: Morten Rygaard