Roskilde used to be the start of our year of festivals. Now it seems more like a test of endurance to make it there. With home-based events such as Forbidden Fruit, Body & Soul and Drop Everything clamouring over the early summer evenings and Primavera Sound becoming a bigger draw for Europeans than ever before, you might understandably be fairly frazzled by the time you touch the grass, 40 minutes from Copenhagen. Two weeks beforehand (ludicrously close to be fair) the ever-enlarging city-festival of Northside in Arhus is now a fairly big draw on the Danish festival scene but ticket sales for Roskilde aren’t feeling the pinch yet, though our bodies are.
The overarching blessing is that Roskilde still remains one of the best organised music festivals you’ll ever engage with. The food section is ramped up again this year with local, fairly high-end Danish restaurants developing a simple and cheap three plate option for the event days. Un-nannyish, the bars run until 3am, there are plenty of places to sit and converse and the flow between stages is crazy easy for a festival of over 100,000. And this year, the first thing State did was sit, download the excellent app and psych ourselves for FOUR days of what we realised was our 10th Roskilde.
A now-regular fixture, Damon Albarn brought the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians to open the main Orange stage while big rock was spooned out in the ever-excellent, 13,000 person Arena tent. These gigs were marked in the programme as ‘high energy’ gigs where moshing would be allowed, and policed at the same time. Such progressive thinking is a hallmark of this festival. One of the staff told us that they believed the safest place to be in the whole site, was in the pit at the Orange Stage – so well have they designed and managed it in the wake of the Pearl Jam crowd tragedy years ago. Slayer and At The Drive In were like a brick through a window and truly kicked off the festival. It also made the trip to the small indoor Gloria stage for Anna Von Hausswolff a little harder to process. What sounded like an intro went on for two songs, and while that stage is an admirable showcase for the more avant garde selections, we hadn’t engaged in the headspace just yet.
The fly-by to Pavillion to catch Spanish band Hinds was so fun though – the girls delightedly overwhelmed at the thousands of fresh first-dayers out to get some fun punky pop. As the sun went down, it was Red Hot Chili Peppers who were the night’s big draw. Alas, even Flea’s ever-busy antics couldn’t hide the phoned-in feeling. Anthony Kiedis no longer stomps around shirtless like he owns everything to the horizon. A mild yet solid new single in ‘Dark Necessities’ is great to hear boomed out of the system here, but ‘Under the Bridge’ and ‘Scar Tissue’ lose resonance and we disengage, to sit and drink some cold Tuborgs and catch up with Danish friends. It’s almost half past midnight when we spot a text from one of State’s regular fringe-dwellers who suggests a trip to see Chillean cosmic rock dudes Föllakzoid. BLOWN AWAY. Ten minute sprawling, pulsing tracks, the suitably odd silhouettes on stage extract the essence of 1am and catch us just when we need to start moving or go home. Your two State representatives nodded and smiled at each other and we moved closer and closer to drink it in.
Starting Thursday with a night-time headliner from Body & Soul is a bit of a flip but it is Santigold who opens Arena today. We use the time beforehand to explore more of the delicious food stalls in the dedicated hall, peaking with a beef and béarnaise brioche sandwich from Copenhagen restaurant Madklubben. We’d have three of them before the festival was over.
Danish band Choir of Young Believers have an epic way with their scandinavian pop. Each member of the band look like they were collected from different bands and thrown together though the androgynous dude in the white vest who just danced oddly about the equipment might have been a visual distraction too far. ‘Hollow Talk’ is clearly the big hit judging by the rise of the crowd – always good to watch the Danes rise to their own in a complete reverse of any begrudgery.
The weather treads a line between scattered clouds and scattered showers but the good action today is in the tents. Grimes is handed Arena and it’s wedged to the back poles. Squeeky, and giggly between songs (and fairly ignorant of the Danes ability to speak English), it’s all moot when she slams into her set. Essentially a one-woman-band, she has no problem engaging from the off and is one of a rare breed who can take on a 13,000 space on their own and dominate it. Full tilt crowd dancing as ’Kill vs Maim’ closes it and you could box off the day right there and be happy.
Skirting the back of the site through the huge group leaving Grimes to get to Courtney Barnett was a worthwhile mission. The intimate Avalon stage really suiting her, coming across as bold and confident and beefing up the album tracks in this live setting. But time runs short and PJ Harvey must be seen back in Arena. She is marched on by her band of music stalwarts (Mick Harvey and John Parish are permanent fixtures now) and brings a dark theatre with her. The politics match with Roskilde’s inclusion of a live Edward Snowden talk earlier in the week and PJ walks that information/entertainment line without being too heavy handed. She cherry picks from the new album and its sister album Let England Shake, with very little revisiting before that (sadly nothing from our favourite, Stories from the City…, but it isn’t the right stage for those New York love songs perhaps). Faultless in her performance, it may have been us at fault to be drudging around a music festival, ducking in and out of a variety of music before we see this and diluting the effect of a PJ Harvey show. Really to be seen as a standalone.
There’s a fatigue that can get you, especially as you’re planning surviving four days. Good food and cold drinks are always on hand so some time must be taken to enjoy them. Common areas around the site encourage sitting and chilling and taking stock (areas mostly missing from any Irish festival – ever found a group of benches that were NOT near some sort of entertainment/revenue stream?). Later in the night, when we’re prepared again we visit the glossy black mood of Savages, all Berlin Bowie and just the right side of an assault.
Ladies ruled this day, start to finish.
Savages photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen