The corner of Europe’s heatwave is perfectly timed to brush off the west side of Denmark, throwing perfect blue skies over the festival site as we approach. A lucky weekend, the festival is now synonymous with good weather but you won’t beat mid-20’s and cloudless. This year, the festival has been been pulled back to run Wed – Sat instead of the Thurs – Sun of previous years. It means one more day to take off work for the salaried wanting to go, but means nothing to the tens of thousands of fresh graduates who have been queuing over last weekend to just get onto the campsite on Monday.
Giving an ear to the official Spotify playlist for the festival last week, we liked the sound of locals Communions and walked through the warm site to the furthest stage – Pavillion – to let them open our long weekend. Picking up every ’90s trope from Slowdive to Chapterhouse, it’s a combination that works fairly well, if a bit unfiltered and while the songs they write are anthemic to some extent, they do fall a little flat without recognisability.
Perhaps we need King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard to psych us into this sprawling festival. Long, almost endless wig-outs from the off from four or more guitars licking away. The Australians just disappeared into a swirling sea straight out of the traps and while there were some already-swirling young Danes lost in it completely, we were cheered but had yet to click in. We first saw them in a cinema in wintery Iceland and were overjoyed, but in the early evening heat we left them for the reliability of a burger and beer nearby and were happy listening to them on the breeze instead. We did a walk-past Noel Gallagher who was mid-‘Masterplan’ – yet these days it’s hardly enough to steer you into the tent with so much else on offer.
An unfortunate clash was what we faced next, as we were keen to see both Honningbarna and Pharrell. The State team split and as one half was approaching the Norwegians there looked to be some security issue. The stage was full of audience members and one was climbing high up the rigging on one side. On closer inspection it was frontman Edvard Valberg doing the climbing and the crowd were being beckoned up by the band. When he descended and grabbed his cello, the band burst into action and the whole stage just went loo-la. These guys have never let us down and will deserve statues built in their honour some day.
Meanwhile, the perfect summer high is pouring out from the Orange stage. Pharrell, with his polite, take-home-to-your-mother attitude, has tapped into the rich seam of gold at Roskilde. While he hasn’t brought a Dubai-sized stage show, he has brought dancers having fun, a small stage invasion of boys, a large stage invasion of pretty ladies and he covers enough ground to look everyone in the whites of their eyes – shouting-out to the back and sides and bringing everyone into the party. There’s a burst of ‘Milkshake’, of ‘Hot in Herre’, and there’s the throwback party favourite of N*E*R*D’s ‘Lapdance’. But if you want to even imagine the extent of the summery lift that he brought in the second part, just feast on the idea of ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ falling into ‘Hollaback Girl’ through ’Drop It Like It’s Hot’, ‘Blurred Lines’, ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Happy’ and a confetti gattling-gun fired up and over the tens of thousands.
While this was happening the War on Drugs were giving a fairly intense show but through sound so muddy that you could barely recognise the beginning of songs, and the guitar lick at the break of ‘In Reverse’ was completely lost. Having seen them three times now, we stood there while Pharrell was painting colours across the site, somewhat sad at our decision to move. As so often at festivals, where choice and FOMO will eat you up, it’s better the devil you have never seen before. Still and all, it’s hard to feel anything but warm and fuzzy as the bars bustle till the early hours, and you feel that it’s only at Roskilde where you’ll meet a Dane, with a mother from Belfast, who looks for all the world like a white Forrest Whittaker. It’s never boring here, that’s certain.
Pharrell photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen.