June 7, 2018

Heartland Festival: journal from the kingdom of chill

Heartland Festival – journal from the kingdom of chil

Erika Balint


A few weeks ago, I declared my love for Heartland Festival, calling it the musical equivalent of a soulmate and vowing to return to it every year.

As the Universe would have it, my love turned out to be requited. Mihaela and I received press passes to this year's festival and we're here to tell and show you all about it. Buckle up for some mushiness.

Heartland Festival celebrated its third year on the 31st of May 2018, together with 6000 more guests compared to 2017, amounting to 18000 people who came to experience music, talks, food and art in the garden of Fyn's Egeskov Castle.

Day 1

On a scorching May afternoon, a smiling senior ushers us towards the castle grounds at Egeskov Slot. Preteens on cargo bikes, whose vests read 'baggage crew', pass us as we make our way to the camping area, beyond the “Welcome home” sign and straight into the silent zone. How do these people keep finding new ways to be hospitable?

The wind has picked up and is carrying Marie Key's voice from this year's main stage, Greenfield. The festival has officially been kicked off. By the time we pitch our tent, Coco O. and her string-heavy band have taken the Highland stage. She is softly welcoming us, in awe of having been invited to play her music in front of a festival audience. She confesses that in a world where everything seems to become faster and louder, she chooses quiet. It isn't long before I experience the first goosebump moment of Heartland 2018. Coco candidly tells us about falling in love and having her heart broken within the past year, the result of which is music of the best kind: out of need. The same way the wind moves the tall grass, “Bled for you” has the audience swaying.

"Around me, people hug each other or themselves and smile with recognition."


Thursday's golden hour catches us with our jaws dropped at the sight of a fierce Lykke Li. The Swedish 'so sad, so sexy' singer takes command of Greenfield with her icy looks and tireless dance routines, which turns out to be an early sign of a festival full of contrasts. With a drumstick, she conducts us into Heartland 2018's first singalong: I, I follow, I follow you / Deep sea baby, I follow you / I, I follow, I follow you / Dark doom honey, I follow you.

After an unsuccessful attempt to see Jada open the intimate - and always packed - Prxjects stage for the first time ever, we settle for food. The options are endless: oysters? fish and chips? sushi? soup? one of the world's best burgers? Heartland's got all that and more (much more) covered. We eventually settle for a crispy chicken burger and Fyn's Albani beer in the grass, while Grizzly Bear can be heard in the background. It will soon turn out that you can never be too far away from the music at Heartland while still on the festival premises, which allows for nearly no overlap in concerts - yay!, but also guaranteed lullabies in Dreamland, the camping site.


Patti Smith and Her Band are the act I’ve been most looking forward to experiencing and so have a few dozen pensioners and all the millennial hopefuls, it seems. Patti delivers not only musically, but also provides hilarious banter between songs featuring peacocks and self-deprecation, tear-jerking calls to action and a goosebump inducing singalong of “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. As an orange moon looks over Heartland, neither can I.

Day 2

Friday starts with brunsviger – Fyn’s traditional cake – and shampoo being handed out in the shower queue. Who said Danes are not hospitable?

There isn't any music until 13:00, so we decide to enjoy a slow breakfast from the Depaneur bakery on the camping site, while the trumpeter takes his place on Dreamland’s hilltop to awaken the late sleepers.

A peaceful morning allows us to explore the many outdoors nooks meant for daydreaming and head resting: there are beds under trees and by the lake, swings hanging from the many old trees, libraries hidden in old furniture, haystacks in the sun, benches by the campfire and by the pétanque lanes. We find our place on a wooden deck built around a gigantic oak.


 It’s soon time to check out the Icelandic Kiriyama Family, who swoon us with their endearing shyness and encourage us to cuddle to their electro-pop beats in the warm summer sun.

The temperature has indeed risen significantly as we stumble toward the Talks tent for the first time this year. Pussy Riot's Nadya Tolokonnikova is in conversation with Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon about art's transformative potential. Salman Rushdie is clutching his white cap and dozing off in the row in front of us. I unfortunately can’t blame him.


"Rushdie’s isn’t the only familiar face we encounter among the festival audiences. Heartland is a festival where we run into Van Morrison by the merch stand, write in the guest book after Søren Huss, squeeze past MØ in the crowd at the Liss concert or find a patch of shade next to Gents."


Friday's golden hour finds us before the Highland stage, where a sea of floral prints and stripes dances to Danish pop band Liss. The youngest Heartland crowd I’ve seen so far wields draught beer and cigarettes as they heartfeltly sing along.

It’s time for another dinner and we enjoy our Vietnamese pulled pork baguettes while Van Morrison charms the main stage audience.

Due to sound issues, we have a hard time sticking around for Slowdive. Instead, we catch our only intimate concert of the festival, delivered by none other than Copenhagen's very own Gents.

It’s nearly 23:00 as The The starts playing their first concert in 16 years. We keep warm by the fire and try to stick it out for MØ, who’s due to take the stage an hour past midnight.


The DJ trio AV AV AV wakes us up with a rave at the Highland stage and it’s probably the most lost in the moment experience of the whole festival.

"As the beat drops one last time, the two sides of the audience smash into each other proving that Heartland can also party hard."

By the time we finally make it to MØ, half the festival already has. We’ve been standing through a handful of songs when our backs give in and we decide to go to sleep. The Fyn native, however, looks tireless as she kicks the air, jumps into the audience or goes through the motions of one of her dizzyingly high energy routines.

Day 3

Saturday is the day of big talks and people have started to line up at the festival gate at 9:30, half an hour before opening time. As we head towards the Talks tent, people run past us. Writer Salman Rushdie is about to have a conversation with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist on whether a sense of belonging is crucial to our identity. 50 minutes before the talk begins, we are checked with metal detectors. Police officers can be seen in the room. A roar of applause fills the tent when

"Rushdie reminds us that art is a place you can belong to, but hopefully not a refuge. Art should be accessible because it has transformative powers."

When the two are asked to describe each other in four words, we get the gems:

Rushdie about Obrist: Creative circus master. Great shoes.
Obrist about Rushdie: polyglot polyphony which is rightful and dense.

Cory Henry and The Funk Apostles attract a dancing crowd, which makes it difficult to join late, but oh so enjoyable to listen into while enjoying a walnut ice cream.


Later on, Soren Huss is on the main stage, sporting a cap he got from the merch stand. We catch parts of his songs and recognize the poetic qualities that had our friends recommend his concert.

Pussy Riot is one of the acts that tickled my curiosity the most. I had no idea what to expect with regards to sound or performance. What we get is pre recorded list of reasons why capitalism is a bad idea and four ski mask and sports outfit covered performers. The audience is split between utter ecstasy and disappointment. As my friend whispers: “It’s annoying how easy it is to not take them seriously”, I join the latter group.       

Saturday’s golden hour gifts us with Rag 'n' Bone Man. Heat took its toll on the equipment and the concert starts late, but it pays off. The Brit’s vocals might be the best of the festival and his authentic interaction with the audience is plain loveable. As we sing ‘love is all you need’ over and over again, genuine overwhelmedness can be read on the lead singer’s face, who negotiates a couple of more songs and proceeds to rap, smile and throw his hat in the crowd through his last few minutes on stage.

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Mew can be heard in the distance as people are enjoying Puglisi's banquet behind the haystacks that serve as our dining table for hot goulash and sourdough bread.

The moment to close down the main stage has arrived and what better band for the task than LCD Soundsystem? They let us know that they prefer to play more songs rather than talk too much and soon lead us into reckless abandon with their impressive sound machines and elaborate light show, featuring a gigantic disco ball and strobe lights.


When all is said and done, Heartland Festival remains a tiny Denmark concentrated on a hilltop, by a lake, under an oak tree, in a castle's garden - breathing togetherness, love of quality and ultimate chill.

When all is said and done, Heartland Festival remains a tiny Denmark concentrated on a hilltop, by a lake, under an oak tree, in a castle's garden - breathing togetherness, love of quality and ultimate chill.

[post-views] Photos: Mihaela Yordanova

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