Emmaboda Festival reveals some very disturbing facets of Swedish culture.
Emmaboda Festival. The name alone can sometimes send a chill down the spines of fully-grown adults, or a tingle of excitement in the pants of teenagers on their journey to sexual discovery.
It kinda depends on how old you are.
This year’s lineup was nothing short of epic. It included Psytrance titans Infected Mushroom, Astrix and Ace Ventura, and the gods of Hardstyle Headhunterz, Showtek and Wildstylez (I don’t know why hardstyle DJs like to end their names with a Z, feels really 1990s).
And because we’re suckers for those big names, we decided to ignore all advice of the adults and step in, for the very first time, into kiddy sex and alcohol wonderland.
Yes, we heard that the minimum age for entry is 13. That’s disturbing. When we were 13, all we cared about was whether the evil witch Rita would finally manage to destroy the Power Rangers in the next episode. We never knew what a rave was. We’ve never even heard of that word.
But fuck that. Doesn’t matter if the crowd is young. We’re gonna dance to Infected Mushroom, not with my colleague’s pubescent daughter.
1st Discovery – Everyone’s here to fuck.
We pitched our tents in an area we would like to call “Raging Hormones Headquarters”.
Clearly overage, we were surrounded by boys who pride themselves by how much beer they can drink, how well toned their bodies are, and how many tits they can grab at this festival.
Girls wore Guns and Roses t-shirts without knowing who Slash is (well, they were born in an era after Axl Rose got his disastrous dreadlocks). Their shorts were properly short, exposing half their asses and their wide-eye naivety to the lusting mass of sex-hungry high school boys. In those young and innocent eyes, we saw Justin Bieber fans who proclaimed loudly that they hated the Beliebers because it just wasn’t cool enough for them.
Everyone talked about sex and alcohol, and they worshipped that older dude in the group who knew how to roll a joint.
Our aged presence attracted a certain amount of unwanted attention. As we downed our beers and enjoyed our hand-rolled cigarettes outside our tents, a small crowd started to gather around us as if we were endangered creatures that were about to engage in a ritualistic heathen orgy.
And everything we did became cool.
Rolling cigarettes? Badass. Having a tattoo? Badass. Wearing torn hippie pants? Badass. Eating tuna from the can? Badass. Dancing beside the tent? Badass.
They attempted to establish contact with us through a peculiar method that consisted of DJ name-dropping, claims of smoking weed sometimes, telling us that they too, have an Asian friend, and trying to impress us by re-enacting the fateful evening they lost their virginities.
We just smiled awkwardly. We realised we weren’t here for the same reasons. We didn’t come to get drunk, get high or get laid. We were here to dance.
That must have been mind-boggling for our newly acquired entourage. And they couldn’t hide their fascination.
2nd Discovery – The festival vibe was extremely sexist.
At Emmaboda, the word “Gay” was used openly as an insult to fellow males. And if you told someone that he was a homosexual, you’d expect a violent protest followed by a “No, he is straight” testimonial from a female friend.
Boys did stereotypically boy stuff. Like flexing their gym bodies, strapping on beer cans like Rambo, wolf-whistle at girls, and spit obnoxiously.
Girls did MTV-influenced girl stuff. Makeup, mascara, short shorts and dresses, peeing in pairs, winking at boys, giggling, and resting their tired heads on a muscled boy’s shoulder.
There was zero tolerance for the feminine male and the masculine female. Well, we saw a few, and they were usually left alone, protected by a blanket of political correctness. However, the kids didn’t seem to think they were cool. Here, gay is OK, but gay is not cool.
It was a giant meat market where the boys are the greedy buyers and the girls were strutting their stuff.
It was abhorring.
Sweden has long claimed to be one of the most gender-equal country in the world. But what we witnessed at Emmaboda was a loud display of gender stereotypes, both in terms of looks and behaviour.
Maybe it’s all that pent-up frustration of being politically correct and doing what you’re supposed to do in a first-world society. Maybe for these 4 days, they took a break from being ‘correct’ and just went full carnal.
Whatever the reason, it was very scary to me.
3rd Discovery – Herd mentality is everything.
No one walked alone on the festival ground. It meant that you had no friends. It meant that you weren’t cool. It meant that you weren’t the popular kid in school.
Everyone had a clique, or a gang, or a crew, or whatever term you would use to describe a group of similarly dressed people behaving in exactly the same way.
Very loud, very bad behaviour can only be exhibited when you’re with your group. If you’re walking alone to the bathroom, you better be well-behaved, look proper and not talk to strangers.
It felt as if the individual festivalgoer at Emmaboda adopted his or her identity from the group. They’ll say, “I’m part of this gang” or “This is my camp”, rather than “Hey, my name is Bob, nice to meet you.”
It felt like these kids were the most honest portrayal of the Swedish mainstream. They had nothing to hide, they didn’t care. Hipsters hang out with other hipsters and listen to some experimental band that’s too cool to make normal music, the metal crew helped one another polish the spikes on their jackets, the emos provided comfort and new razor blades to their friends…
Everyone’s different, like everyone else.
4th Discovery – The dance floor is not for dancing.
There’s a reason why the dance floor is called that. It’s for dancing.
You don’t. Ever. Try to strike a conversation with someone when Infected Mushroom is playing. No. Especially not me.
Even though some purists have expressed their displeasure at Infected Mushroom’s venture into dubstep in the recent years, their performance was nothing short of phenomenal. And all I wanted to do, amidst the 7,000 crowd, was to close my eyes, and listen the shit out of the live set. And dance fucking hard.
So there I was, letting myself fly to the Cities of the Future as the Messenger that was Deeply Disturbed and Becoming Insane, chanting “You are so fucked” over and over again. It wasn’t the most psychedelic performance, but it was certainly nostalgic, and powerful.
“Hello, can I buy your bead necklace?”
What the fuck. Why would you buy a necklace from someone in the middle of the dance floor? What do I look like? Second-hand?
One-word answers were not enough. He felt the need for an explanation, he couldn’t deal with not knowing the reason why.
“I can pay you. Just tell me how much you want.”
In the background of this one-sided conversation, the beats were speeding up, the strobe was picking up its pace, the tension in the tunes was rising. Shit, they’re about to peak. Come on, give me the drop! Feed me your bass!
“Hey, hey, excuse me. How much do you want for these beads?”
I swear. I wanted to murder this dude. But no, I’m a law-abiding citizen. I stared at him straight in the eyes and calmly told him, “Boy, these are not for sale. They mean a lot to me because they are all gifts from people I love. Now, can we just not talk, and dance?”
Peace. And hard hard bass. Yes.
“Hello, do you wanna dance with me?” This time, it was a pretty 17-year-old that wore nothing more than tape around her nipples. Lord, why do you choose to test me at a time like this?
I smiled. Pointed to the stage. Nodded. And continued flailing my arms wildly, slapping my sweaty hair into her innocent, almost model-like face. I mean, this is Psytrance my friend. We’re not doing the cha cha here. That’s how you dance.
I think she got bored and left promptly as I flung myself 2 metres into the air and soaked in every decibel of the genius sound waves.
And a minute later, some sweaty dude in Billabong shorts was hard at work running his hands up and down her waist and pressing his groin against her left thigh. Ok, so that’s what they mean by ‘dancing’.
Nope. Not my thing. Sorry.
I guess it would be nice to have my neck sucked on while the chorus of “I wish” hit. But screaming wildly and letting my eyes roll back while throwing my body around? That’s true bliss.
Because the dance floor is for dancing.
5th Discovery – All Asians look the same. Some look like native Indians.
500 times. I was grilled about my origins. I was asked if I was a native Indian. I was questioned where Singapore is. I was queried on why I could speak English.
A longhaired Asian who kan inte prata svenska and wears a bindi on his forehead was very confusing for the festivalgoers.
“Oh, you have a nice costume.”
Cool. So now, the shit I usually wear to the office is now regarded as a Halloween costume. I’m not sure if that was a compliment. But I smiled and said thanks anyway.
The very white festival crowd was extremely concerned by where, and which parts of the country people came from. Coming from a small city-state, I never quite understood that.
“Oh you live in Malmö? I’m from Malmö too!”
Oh, cool. So suddenly we’ve got something in common now? We’re brothers from different mothers? Just like the other 300,000 inhabitants of the 3rd biggest city in Sweden?
“They’re from Umeå, they’re not so cool.”
What the fuck did you mean by that? Shit, I better be born in the right city, if not I would be condemned to the hellish abyss of eternal un-coolness.
At that instant, I realised that I’ve been living in the politically left, very feminist, very racially equal bubble called Malmö. Malmö’s not Sweden, it’s a heavenly melting pot of world-travellers, different cultures, great ideologies and all-out equality.
The real Sweden, is trying to fuck as many times as possible at Emmaboda Festival.
6th Discovery – Cops have a certain “arrest-quota” to meet
I heard this from a hippie over a 7am post-dance masala chai. He happened to know some of the organisers and he overheard them saying that they have agreed with the police to help them fulfill their arrest quota.
We’re not sure of how legit this claim was. But if it were true, it would be very disgusting.
Even though Buddha Mag is not pro-drug use, we’re pro-choice people. You can put anything in your mouth, as long as you don’t harm other people while doing so.
And when festival organisers know that there’re people consuming these mind-enhancing peace-enforcing love-inducing substances, they should offer emergency help, instead of handcuffs.
If the cops want to make arrests just to show that they’re hardworking people, arrest the drunks that are punching one another, not the dreadlocked dude sitting quietly in a corner smelling a flower.
Arrest the kids for being disrespectful to others. Arrest the boys who try to grab someone’s ass on the dance floor. Arrest the inconsiderate ones who fling beer cans into the mosh pit.
Don’t arrest the hippie.
We weren’t sure what the cops were looking for. But if they were looking out for people to arrest, we were looking to see how they made their choice.
For the first few days, they didn’t do much. They were basically standing around in their uniforms looking angry and shit.
But the closing night was also their final performance. I saw people being pulled violently out of the crowd, kids being screamed at in their faces, drunk and semi-conscious party animals being dragged by the armpits. Oooooo, look, the police are enforcing our safety.
We were sceptical. Especially after talking to a Turkish youth who claimed that he was punched in the face by one of the security guys.
Look, the Swedish society already imposes fuck loads of unspoken, unseen restrictions on its people. The way to act, speak, and even dress. That’s why Swedish festivals are so wild. It’s like a once-a-year escape from all that Jantelagen (Law of Jante) nonsense.
Why not leave them kids alone for a few days?
But of course, the law is always right, right?
Why we would never go to Emmaboda again.
Yes, some people swear that it’s the best festival in Sweden. The lineup is, indeed, fucking impressive. But that’s all that there is to the festival.
The culture wasn’t about PLUR (peace, love, unity and respect). It was a lot of teen bravado, binge drinking, tit-grabbing and senseless fucking.
The crowd didn’t care about the music. They watched an artiste because it was cool to do so. They didn’t get turned on by the subtle sound effects in the music, all they wanted was bassline.
Cops were everywhere. Not that we had anything to fear. But we just didn’t like the vibe that it created.
Showtek sold out. The godfathers of Hard Style have resorted to playing David Guetta shit that sounded like Disney Channel soundtracks, to cater to the crowd. Sorry man, I used to love them. Used to.
Everything was kinda expensive. Ok, I know this is Sweden. But, c’mon, let’s have a festival, let’s have fun. Don’t rip us off.
The sound system was not a system. Two speaker towers at the front of the dance floor. Nothing else. So if you were standing somewhere in the back, you’re better off listening to your iPod.
And to all the haters, we didn’t say that Emmaboda’s a shit festival, it’s just not our cup of tea (or glass of whisky).