NESTLED ON THE BORDER BETWEEN NØRREBRO AND ØSTERBRO LIES A NEIGHBOURHOOD KNOWN ON THE ONE HAND FOR ITS PEACE AND QUIET – PLUS YOUNG, WEALTHY PARENTS – AND ON THE OTHER FOR THE WELL-NAMED VENUE MAYHEM.
Founded in 2009 by musicians and activists Maria Bertel, Johannes Lund, Sune TB Nielsen and Tobias R Kirstein, today it’s run by a different crew: record-label owner Martin Schacke, experimental producer Jesper Bagger Hviid and musician Bjarke Rasmussen, who try to keep it Copenhagen’s most iconic DIY music venue.
Housed in an old industrial bunker, complete with graffiti-splattered walls, a “stage” on ground level and various music-related detritus lying around, it’s just as vital for the city’s musicians as it is for concert lovers. “I believe that Mayhem plays a significant role for emerging musicians, labels and other artists within the community,” says local musician Anton Funck. “Show nights at Mayhem are usually organised by the artists themselves or friends of the artists. And people are only there out of pure interest, free from the ties of commercial interest, the laws of taste or hype. It gives the listener the opportunity to immerse themselves completely in the music.”
Perhaps it’s this humble atmosphere that has enabled Mayhem to play a big role in cultivating some of Copenhagen’s most successful bands, like Iceage, who used the venue to hone their craft. For many years, Mayhem served as their practice space but was also where they’d play shows for the Copenhagen community. Naturally, this drew other bands affiliated with Iceage towards Mayhem. The most interesting thing, however, is that the bands who have called Mayhem home are the ones who have made it beyond Scandinavian borders, consistently receiving positive international press through publications like Pitchfork and Noisey. Communions is one of those internationally beloved acts that have graced the Mayhem stage numerous times. So has experimental noise musician Puce Mary and synthy, dance-appropriate duo First Hate. And today, Marching Church, an experimental rock band composed of members of Iceage and Lust for Youth, call Mayhem their practice space. Even Danish pop sensation MØ cut her teeth in the music scene at Mayhem. Before she became known for club-ready collaborations with Diplo, she was part of a rowdy punk band that favoured this venue for playing shows.
The best part? It seems that musicians don’t see Mayhem as a stepping-stone venue while they’re up-and-coming. Instead, the venue is viewed as a timeless and attractive symbol of an anti-establishment mentality and as a lighthouse for Copenhagen’s rich music history. Despite the fact that Iceage have had success on the international scene, it is still possible to catch them for no more than 50 DKK at Mayhem when they’re in town. And they’re not the only internationally notable act picking Mayhem over some of the more established, traditional venues in town: Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame is also known to grace the stage here, as it is his favourite in Copenhagen. “I believe Mayhem has a non-hostile environment where all creatives with ambition and vision can flourish, whether it’s their first show ever, their only show ever or their 100th show,” says Funck. “At Mayhem, genres play a secondary role to sympathy and inclusivity.”
Despite the undeniable rock ’n’ roll spirit of Mayhem, its music programming doesn’t shy away from the more experimental route. In the mood to engulf yourself in a symphony of dystopian strings and avant-garde jazz? Mayhem has you covered. Your best bet is to head there on a Friday or Saturday, when the crowd feels like letting loose after a week of work, rendering the venue lively, crazy and absolutely unmissable. And if you feel like nursing your Sunday hangover over an art-house film, head over there for a screening.