Along with the return of the summer nights comes the plentiful options of outdoor drinking and clubbing. Wearing a smile we visited Trädgården’s opening night of the year.
words: Koko Ntuen
On a dusty underpass below Skanstullsbron leads a path to the club that has used avant-entertainment to breathe new life into the gray and historic landscape of this part of Stockholm. Trädgården sits in the middle of what used to be an empty asphalt yard right next to an abandoned railroad track. The neighborhood has grown a lot since then, but it still maintains a makeshift industrial aura hidden on the edge of the city.
Concrete beams separate the space in a gritty and haphazard manner, metal rods are entangled with wires and lights, drink specials are written on massive wooden boards behind the bar, and in my peripheral vision there is a tiny green house built into the trees which hosts an art gallery.
For the last few years, Trädgården has become known as the hottest indie club in Stockholm. When I arrived for the club’s 2015 premiere the line zig-zagged around the trail, buoyantly spilling out into the dark. In a crowd one reveler described as “obviously good looking,” Swedes are dressed in a variety of fashionable threads that would be fitting of any festival dress code – flowing tops, utilitarian silhouettes, jeans shorts, heeled boots, tank tops and hippie sweaters make up most of the attire. One blonde woman in a silver sparkling dress laughs with her head tilted all the way back, her cigarette glowing in the night sky. Another young couple is fighting about whether they should stay or go. I’ve been in the line for almost 30 minutes and I’m on the list – most have had to wait an hour or so but that’s how it goes at Trädgården – no matter who you are you wait in line, you get in, you have fun.
On any given day the 3,600 square meter space holds 1750 at capacity. This is a number that is important in the summer, a space large enough to hold the Stockholmers emerging from their winter solstice. The winter is notoriously tough for all of us residing in grayer pastures and when the fog lifts Trädgården is there to open its doors with a cold beer and a bustling atmosphere. During the colder seasons from October through April the club is utilized as Under Bron, “It’s a bit like the evil twin of Trädgården,” says Leo Forsell the booker of the club. The music and scene during these months, a time where Leo says most Swedes are creating or vacationing to escape the cold, is a bit darker and the art on the walls a bit edgier.
When I meet up with Leo it’s the first weeknight after the 2015 premiere. Tall and gangly like a skater out of a movie, he opens the rusted and barbed fence at the entrance and leads me into the vast space. It’s so different from last time I was here, high on Cava and standing back to back with others, the whole place packed to the brim. Now the empty lot has an almost serene, artsy vibe to it, something akin to where a kindergartener might want to play when they grow up.
I instantly recognize Leo from the other night. Back then, he was talking to everyone, or everyone was talking to him. I thought he might be a celebrity and in a way he is. A well-known man about town who some peg as the face of Trädgården. He’s not entirely comfortable with that term – he doesn’t want to be called the “face,” but he is the one doing the interviews, booking the acts and promoting the venue.
“I don’t want to be a night club,“ he says, stopping to think for a moment, “You know. It’s my job. I work office hours. Nine-to-five people think that if you are working the clubs your job is just to show up and get drunk, but that’s not how it is. There are ten people here every day and we work our asses off to have a working club”.
Trädgården was founded by Jakob Grandin, a man with his roots in the nightclub industry who has been running clubs and venues since he was 18. Jakob has now spread his mover-and-shaker skills to the communications firm he founded, Grand Flying Circus. In 2003 Jakob opened Trädgården and in 2009 moved to its present Skanstull location with the idea of being innovative with the space. Last year he was quoted saying,“We wanted to find a unique place that filled our needs but also a void that inspired and gave us energy, I have worked for a long time to convert the physical locations of experiences, and it is about being able to see the physical location based on movement patterns that are not yet there.”
The fluidness of the space is something that changes from year to year, depending on how people move in one area, where traffic seems to stop the most or where people tend to congregate. “Since we have so many small different spaces we can be a bit un-commercial in what we do” Leo says. They are very hands on, building and tearing down structures, painting, and excitingly collaborating on all the ideas to do with the space.
The club itself might confuse you – is it Brooklyn, Barcelona or Berlin? The influences of the space come together much like a community quilts from all of the members of the Huset Under Bron family. Right now the club has about ten people working for them, including Leo, who cannot recall if he met Jakob while DJing or through friends. Leo, an active member of the music and club community in Stockholm, was DJing travelling from venue to venue before becoming head of programming and promotions a year after they opened on Hammarby Slussväg.
Much like the space, the club is a schizophrenic house of ideas in which Leo describes as “something for everyone.” The artistic underground location encloses several food areas and bars, and there are several Alice In Wonderland moments to be had while visiting. The sprawling building has everything from a red and yellow striped hip-hop room to a disco club. There is a space they call “The Back” that hosts up-and-coming bands on a wooden stage with a bridge for a roof, there is an alternative church with a confessional booth and a trippy plexiglass-stained imagery that makes it more like a place for dancing than worship.
There is also a cocktail bar located on the top level, a blue room, and a custom photo booth from Canada with real film, the only one in Europe.
On top of that there is an art gallery, two major dance floors, a Vietnamese sandwich cart, a burger stand modeled after their love of In-And-Out Burger. There is also Växthuset (The Green House), a high-end vegetarian restaurant run by Elin Ahlström serving creations such as beluga lentils with poached egg flavoured with chilli ginger and Earl Grey. It sounds completely flipped, but Leo assures me it is amazingly good. If you know where to navigate there are little surprises everywhere.
Aside from the club, the drinking and the good times, the Daytime Sessions are something that are something to look forward to his summer, which will be populated by everyone, from two year olds with big headphones to older couples having a glass of wine and enjoying the sun and music.
Despite its huge commercial success Leo still considers Trädgården to be indie. All around town there are signs for countless other clubs in Stockholm, but something about Trädgården feels special.
“I think people can tell we are doing it from our hearts,” Leo says. Its true the space is like a mind map from someone who has been there seen it all and want something a bit different.
On a final note I ask Leo for the #1 the ultimate guest etiquette for going out in Stockholm. He stops and looks at me and says simply looking around the place. ” A smile.”