Popaganda is a music festival in Stockholm which has been going since 2006. I’d only heard of three acts from the lineup – Angel Haze, Jungle and James Blake. The other bands were Nordic pop acts, apparently Sweden’s own Robyn (think Swedish, lesbian Britney Spears) was pegged to perform a secret set. In the past acts like Lily Allen, MGMT, The XX and Damien Rice have played – so they get their fair share of ok-ish acts. We bought tickets under the impression that it would be full of hot drunk teens… and it was.
The night before Popaganda we checked into a hotel at the other side of Stockholm. I was busy compiling images and text for DSSK but naturally as the night closed in we grew restless and decided we should go out for a drink. Googling around for the best place to go we found a gay bar called Side Track which advertised itself as a place for “faggots, freaks, fuckups, and their friends”. Excited by the idea of finding like-minded people, or at least some interesting people to speak to we decided to go there.
We found out that it was full of faggots, freaks, fuckups and their friends but only because it was a bar. Nobody especially fitted the criteria better than ourselves. I challenge anyone to find a bar across the world which doesn’t have faggots, freaks, fuckups and their friends – except maybe in ISIS-ruled Syria. Thy had a pride flag tiled across the floor and dildos on the beer pump handles (gay AF), aside from that it could have been any bar with Scissor Sisters playing too loud and cocktail names which punned on LGBT rights activism, and penises.
After trying all the cocktails advertised, we shotted absinthe and went out in search of another bar. Sadly, because of Timmy‘s choice of clothes (bright Adidas tracksuit and matching trainers) we were refused entry to everywhere else. Before long a moody-looking asian chap approached us with the exciting opportunity to purchase cocaine by the gram from him. Not wanting to look like squares – and also wanting to buy cocaine – we took him up on this brilliant offer. We paid him in dollars and realised quickly after he’d scuttled off that it wasn’t cocaine. It wasn’t even MKAT. It was just a plain white powder. We had been diddled.
We drunkenly searched for the grifting little bastard. It was plainly obvious that neither of us could remember what the guy looked like, except that he was asian looking and that he was a wanker. We walked past a chap who fitted his description but we weren’t sure. (Later we both agreed that it was probably him, he did seem quite warm when we walked past him. So we cursed ourselves for being too drunk and foolish not to have not realised at the time to demand our money back, or genuine IRL cocaine.)
By that point in the night we understood it was time to go home and set about walking. But first Timmy needed to take a slash. He started pissing in a doorway and I looked in through the adjacent shop window at some nice tan leather shoes. An asian guy walked past thought I was worth pickpocketing and dived for my pocket. I guess it wasn’t his lucky night because the silly fucker had tried the only pocket I didn’t have anything in. He’d have been better off grabbing for my cock for all the use that pocket was to him.
Alarmed – but mostly confused – I shouted WTF at him. Timmy had stopped pissing and was stood next to me also shouting WTF at him. It seemed like minutes of time passed as we stood there in a street in Stockholm shouting WTF loudly at that man before he lifted his top to show us a stab wound. A big gnarly scar across his belly. I’m not sure if this was to intimidate us but I didn’t work. I started to wonder how inept this man must be, I knew he was clearly a bad pickpocket but now I also knew at some point in the past he’d lost a knife fight. He seems almost tragic. Realising he’d made an error he offered cigarettes as a redeeming geture. Timmy snapped the cigarettes and threw them in his face.
He ran away. We decided to go back to the hotel.
Popaganda started on the Friday at 2pm. Around the same time we located out AirBnB rented apartment round the corner, set down our bags and wandered down to the festival. Scanned our QR code tickets and received wristbands. The music had just started and barely any people were there.
The music was divided between 2 stages either side of the area. Whilst an act was playing on one they set up the other for the next act. Everyone shifted between them seamlessly. To drink at Popaganda – and you really do want to drink at Popaganda – you must be over the age of 18 to get into the special drinking areas.
We had several beers and small bottles of wine. Before Elliphant played I was stood at the barrier at the front of the crowd desperately needing to piss. I noticed by the side of the stage there was a portaloo but it seemed only crew and security were allowed. Not wanting to piss my pants I went up to a security guard, waved a camera at him, pointed to the toilet and said something like: “Can I use your toilet, I’m BBC British Press”. He looked at me, shrugged and let me in. Surely it wasn’t that easy.
After voiding my bladder of all the crappy rosé we’d drank I set about trying to lie my way into the backstage. With only a camera, a terrible beard and a British accent I walked up to the backstage area and walked straight in past a girl who was supposed to stop people like me from walking in. Guessing I had a limited shelf-life before someone would ask me for credentials I walked straight up the backstairs to the stage.
I was there for a good couple of minutes, taking pictures of the crowd and Elliphant. I even got a stage-side selfie. Seconds after my selfie, large hands gripped by soldiers and walked me off the stage into the backstage earlier and told me I wasn’t allowed to take photographs. The backstage manager walked up to me and asked me where my press credentials were. I told her I was from the BBC and I hadn’t been to the press office yet to collect anything. She told me to leave the backstage and go get credentials.
Undeterred and mostly pissed I walked to the press office. They told me nobody from the BBC had applied for press credentials to which I laughed. “The BBC don’t make administrative errors like that. Clearly you’ve got BBC on your list. Call my editor, he’ll vouch for me.” It didn’t fly. They basically told me to fuck off. I can’t blame them, I was half-cut and probably reeked of wine.
I went back into the festival, watched James Blake and drank more wine. The bartender was a nice gentleman who was easily coerced into giving me the bottle tops from the wine so I could sneak it out of the drinking area. Timmy had decided to fuck off back to the apartment by this time but I was in no mood to call it a night yet.
I drank more wine and checked the lineup schedule. Jungle were about to start back on the stage I’d been on an hour previous so I went to see them. The crowd was too big for me to enjoy it (Swedish people are notoriously tall) so I gave it up as a bad job, and began walking out. On my way out I walked past the backstage entrance again, it was the same girl as before. I smiled at her and she smiled back. Clearly she hadn’t seen me be ejected earlier but she had remembered I was allowed in for all she knew.
I walked past her back into the backstage area again. I stood for a second pondering where else in the world I could walk into if I just smiled and had enough liquid encouragement. The angry backstage manager lady was about 30 feet away and she hadn’t seen me yet so I darted for the stairs and walked up on the stage again. I started taking pictures. Seconds later, four or five pictures in the same familiar hands grabbed me as well as a new pair. I was being wrestled by two guys. A security man and someone else – a tall dark-haired man. They were not happy.
They took me to the backstage manager, she looked angry but also embarrassed that a member of the public had managed to walk on the stage twice without any issue. They all walked with me to the backstage exit. At this point the tall dark-haired chap told me he was Jungle’s tour manager. He asked me who I was, I shook his hand and told him I worked for the BBC. He seemed surprised. I told him someone had made and error with my press credentials. He requested that I do not publish pictures of the band from the stage because it’s against their photographing policy. I told him not to worry.
Later, we tried to steal a boat but Timmy was too fat to fit under a fence.