Nothing if not creatures of habit, the State team make the pilgrimage to the bleak campsite landscape to see the annual Festival Radio Naked Race. It really wouldn’t be a Roskilde proper without it and our arrival is perfectly timed with the starters orders. There’s a wall of water this year, sponsored by the very visible Drink More Water team at Roskilde – probably one of the smartest ideas at the festival. You can’t even go near a stage without a volunteer handing you water and despite how easy getting beer is, and the amount going around, there’s very few sights of the blind drunk.
Anyhow, the race is over before you know it – lots of boobs and willies flying around but it’s a hoot. Hans Christian Andersen wins it for the boys for the third year running and both him and the young lady winner secure free tickets to next year with a combination of athletic prowess and no shame.
With a pastry in hand from a tea-and-scones stall we are off to the tiny new Gloria stage. We’re here to see John Grant having heard no music from him before, just praise about him from many quarters. With just himself and one accompanist he pours out some expertly written, harsh songs of broken love complete with picturesque stories and well chosen swear words. It’s compelling to watch him in this small, very warm setting. He describes his song ‘Outer Space’ as his “one attempt at writing something positive”, and it’s actually notable for not working as well as the others. Despite its tenuous connections with the land itself, the biggest cheer is, naturally, for a flooring rendition of ‘Queen Of Denmark’ and with those three words as the intense closing line, the tent erupts.
If we could even get close to the tent where OFWGKTA are hanging from the rigging we would gladly file a fuller report but from where we took position it seemed to be a heady mix of fast-fire rapping, crowd-frenzy and songs about titties. It was so hot and packed that there was the unusual sight (at this crowd-safe festival) of sweating girls getting lifted out of the heaving audience into the pit. For god’s sake it’s only 4pm, but in the tent next-door DJ /rupture has slipped a mix of ‘She’s Lost Control’ into his set. More sweaty craziness going on in there but we’re not so brave and we want to stay out in the beautiful sun.
There’s more than 5000 people out to see TV On The Radio take to the Arena stage though it seems they give us way to little from the recent album (three at our count), yet they get the big cheers. It’s a set that gives an odd feeling. There’s detachment and you get the feeling it’s a gig by numbers. They have some great power in their songs but seem to kill it live. Only for ‘Repetition’ do the crowd (and lighting engineer) look really alive.
Arctic Monkeys are already on the main stage doing exactly what you’d expect them to do of a midday festival performance. It’s extremely hard to make anything more of yourself than just blasting out your finest songs when you’re a daylight main stage act but it suits a band like the Arctic’s just fine, and that’s pretty much their arsenal. Crowd pleasing to the last, but no one OMGing or anything of the sort.
Last time Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano was at Roskilde she was singing to 60,000 as a vocalist with Gorillaz but it’s the mid-sized Odeon tent for them today and it really suits their laid-back electro sound. The stoned are particularly impressed (yeah, you Nic) and for the rest, well it’s a perfectly pitched evening vibe though there is something about the onstage wanderings of Yukimi that seems to drag things out a bit for the non-stoned. The new songs are sounding great, like a beefier version of ‘Machine Dreams’ and if they sound this good live, the album should be well worth seeking out later this month.
We have to leave Little Dragon early to make sure we fit in the tent for James Blake – his popularity in Denmark soaring following much airplay for ‘Limit To Your Love’. Being early is of little help though as the crowd are three metres deep outside the tent – not the best spot if the slowly creeping clouds turn to a spot of rain. The Danes are more polite with their personal space though, so with some persuasive moves we end up inside the crammed, sweltering Cosmopol tent just as Mr. Blake arrives on stage. You can barely see him with the back-screen looping saturated, coloured patterns, and himself and the two other members of his band hide in the dark much of the time. It’s a zone-in and zone-out experience, superb sound and a magnetic visual show for an audience relishing everything happening. Then something outside his control raises the game ten-fold.
Back in Copenhagen, text messages were sent warning of a deluge that had just drowned the city, heading our way. About 20 minutes in and thunder and lightning suddenly erupt overhead and people shift away from the huge metal tent poles. The promised deluge promptly follows and what had earlier been the single biggest rainfall in 30 years in Copenhagen, falls on Roskilde and on Blake’s tent. It’s an unbelievable place to be when it happens. Blake goes on as normal and there’s cheers for every clap of thunder during the songs. When we finally get that quick piano intro to “Limit…’ it’s the most stirring moment of the weekend, the crowd ignite and drown him out word-for-word as the rains pour around. “That is the most amazing thing I have ever seen” claims a clearly floored Blake and leaves us while, timed to perfection, the rain turns to drizzle as we eek outside.
Mud is forming and we are seeking the shelter of our designated meeting-place bar when we are drawn to another strange and wonderful sight. French pop lady Yelle is on stage in Odeon and has not only packed the place but left many revellers outside, now completely soaked. The combination of a we’re-all-in-this-together feeling plus Yelle’s smart, summery and uplifting French pop has every dripping punter dancing right back to the organic cocktail stall. It’s quite likely that no-one knows any of these songs but feel that they can trust this lady to put out exactly the sort of pop you need after a storm, There are about four acres of people just dancing the weather away. We walk towards our bar after a few songs smiling ear to ear, barely getting to it before the second deluge of rain arrives.
Luckily the rain came in just after the Arctic Monkeys had finished and with a small delay the weather has cleared for The Strokes. To be honest, we’re still a little worried about leaving our roofed shelter to see a band who in the past have tried to get by with too much swagger but when we arrive out to the main stage the post-downpour cheeriness and The Strokes warm demeanour, and know-every-song set seems to be succeeding. Casablancas riffs a bit on how he’s half-Danish, but when he throws out the Danish line “ikke mere kartofler, Julian” referring to his Danish grandparents telling him to “go easy on the potatoes”, well you could float a boat on the cheers that rise up. With the audience now fully on side we get a whistled intro to ‘Winds of Change’ (“we’ve really got to learn that one for next time”), a rocked up version of ‘I’ll Try Anything Once’ and endless Strokes’ classics to feast on. A band following up a thunderstorm could go either way and thankfully the New Yorkers raise their game, our expectations and the mood of the evening considerably.
Luckily a tip from one of our editors not to take too many drugs before going to see promo-video maestro Chris Cunningham’s audio-visual-laser show had us prepared somewhat. Much like ourselves, the large tent was full of people rolling on a high from The Strokes and watching about 10 minutes of disturbingly real looking video footage of contorted humanoid shapes and god knows what else. The whole thing was made more disturbing by the sort of soundtrack you’d expect (Squarepusher at his eeriest) and hats off to the brave who could take more than those 10 minutes. The circus freak-show of the weekend.
While Deadmau5 is bringing 50,000 to a dancing frenzy at the main stage, we’re in early for what must be now The Swedish Evening Show of Roskilde (Robyn & Fever Ray took to this stage at this time over the last two years). Lykke Li is mixing her ’60s pop rework with a dark stage set up. Suiting the all-black affair she never lets her mask slip (constantly looks a bit moody actually) but instead of cheery banter we simply get pure-grade, expertly performed dark pop. She seems to slip in a bit of Fever Ray’s live electronic wig-out at some point and with the most flexible and tightest band of the weekend behind her, never lets up on the pace from opener ‘Jerome’ through to ‘Youth Knows No Pain’. Youth also knows little of relaxing for the rest of an evening like that on a soft chair in a beach bar with mojitos, but we do and it’s bright at 5am when the bar sends us home.
Photos by Jakob Bekker-Hansen