We kept a lid on it the previous night so our heads are good but our legs are already feeling the effects of a walking/standing routine. Yet today is a marathon of good things. We spend the morning sitting, sipping some Danish fizzy orange and watch our friends drink their newly invented cold press iced Irish coffee, which is surprisingly drinkable at 2pm. The skies are still cloudless and with the weather climbing into the mid-to high 20s we are keeping whiskey off the menu for the moment.
Taking a punt on one song we heard, we land over to the small Gloria stage. An intimate room, it hasn’t quite gotten as sweaty as it can do and Ezra Furman also takes a little warming up. From Chicago, his croaky, high voice and giggly theatrics bring a little of vaudeville to, say, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Lipsticked and skinny, in a little red dress, he does settle into the show as he rolls through the long set. The sound is big and brassy thanks to a rock-solid band and a saxophone powerhouse beside him, a buff fellow with shocking pink hair. It’s cheery, and somewhat carnivalesque in its indie slant and like a waterslide into the day. Plus his ‘My Zero’, the song that tempted us there, is storming.
As smartly attired, yet in the more traditional rock star’s black suit, Father John Misty goes straight from nothing to feverish in the Avalon tent – a place bejewelled with huge squares of rigging and lights which we’d see at full effect later in the day. The sound is as close to perfect, a big warm enveloping thing. Misty is similar. He’s straight into the crowd from the off. On his knees for half of it. He’s up on the drum kit too, and faultlessly bringing the wide, rammed tent into his room.
Outside there’s a cold beer to be rescued from the many queueless Tuborg bars and as we cross the main field it’s Ryan Adams filling that gap in the day when traditionally only mad dogs and Englishmen stand out under the unrelenting sun. It’s either a breeze or Adams balmy rock but we have a chilled moment of pause, leaning on a barrier with with ‘Come Pick Me Up’ washing around us.
It’s six and as the day slightly cools St. Vincent’s stage awaits, with close to 13,000 people in the Arena. Our favourite festival tent anywhere, when you hit it right here you feel it all the way to the back of your neck. Annie Clark is sight for sore eyes, she appears in a perforated black cat suit, white guitar and a look you could set your watch by. She rules this guitar like a monarch and within minutes has shredded all the mornings music to pieces. She floats about the stage on heels, like a perfected android. She knows all about show, yet is above a cheap thrill and so far beyond a rock gig. Completely given over to her, she clambers onto a security guards shoulders before taking in a tour of the front row with guitar – picking up inflatable headwear on the way before having a feint at the closing. Insert row of heart emoji here.
But the heart was to be fed more. First of the Irish interest was Soak in Gloria’s cosy setting. There’s lines and lines out the entrances, a few fellas with a tricolour disappointed at not getting in. Inside, the place is packed and the polite Danes are at their best. But though Soak’s songs have that gentleness to them, the expert live band set-up and meatier sound of the new album. Through a great venue sound and lights, Bridie just captivates and from ‘Blud’ onwards everyone is rapt. ‘B a noBody’ is shivery. We’re flushing and smiling too and it plays out so well, this full tent in the middle of Denmark’s rock festival and everyone swooning to Soak.
Florence Welch knows how to dress for the weather (white linen) and also has her festival crowd-pleasing down to a T. Some of ‘Lungs’ big hits make early appearances on the main Orange stage and she’s another one straight into the pit, and the crowd. Maybe it’s a way of getting out from under the hot lights but whatever it was it spurned a thousand selfie-with Instagram posts from the Danish front row. From the extrovert to the introvert, Mike Hadreas has before hidden behind his piano, sitting low on stages but now he it bringing a bolder Perfume Genius to the fore and he’s standing tall. Still, he twists his mic lead nervously and you can’t tell if his facial expressions are because of feedback or his inner on-stage demons. All this is overcome throughout, to an audience both jocks, nerds and the middle ground of young, pretty Danes relaxing in the sun just outside the tent. (Lots of references from the stages about the attractiveness of the gen pop today.) Hadreas coaxes a cheerier festival feeling from his often heart-wrenching songs, and it was ‘Hood’ whose pounding peaks and bare-piano drops encapsulated it, warm and strong.
Back in Pavillion and Jungle have use a curtain to cover the stage pre-show. Packed back to the tent pegs there’s a we’re-ready-to-dance-now excitement around. When it openes and they pour into ‘Platoon’ it’s a party. The huge lighting rig is a stunning array of searchlights and all manner of beams on chase patterns that you could dance to on their own. It’s the palms-up hour of the day, every single corner of the tent dancing – modesty is nearly always the first to leave – and when ‘Busy Earnin’’ brings its inevitable peak you can feel a tent of endorphins kick right in.
At least the three lads with rather more success and money than you might expect put that cash back into a stage show and hiring the best lighting engineer you can get. Muse have what looks like the best rock show. They have the biggest confetti bombs and even throw out huge black balloons to bounce about the crowd. They are still a bit ‘everybody now’ in parts and have stuck to a tight formula from day one but your eyes won’t be bored. Plus, that kid inside State that still puts up band posters gets a sort of Cirque-du-Soleil-with-guitars thrill out of ‘Starlight’ and ‘Time is Running Out’, bombastic and loud across the vast site.
A true test of the kind of person you are appears when you face Die Antwoord. We were fascinated but very, very scared. They make Slipknot look like a kids party. Displaying true tattooed commitment to his concept, Ninja appears in a yellow animal suit, tying it off to reveal his torso, inked like DeNiro in Cape Fear. Yolandi is up and down the stepped DJ desk where their cartoonishly deformed dj mans the music. It’s seriously polarising but there’s tens of thousands along for the ride at the Orange stage. No Muse-like come-all-ye action here, you’re in constant threat of Yolandi physically hurting you and Ninja providing the coup de grace. They certainly bring their hardcore take on fear through harsh-accented hip-hop-of-sorts to the main stage expanses, though it might be a bit too conceptual to engage with. Still, you can’t deny the fun of ‘Rich Bitch’ etc. and the theatre at work behind it.
Out of nowhere our second wind comes just in time for the last call. Spilling into Arena we’re off to catch Hot Chip close down Thursday, which at 2am on this packed day is just what we need. It’s a Hot Chip Dance Classics set. Over an hour of dancing, everyone in amazing form. The band are cannoning out the hits ‘Over and Over’, ‘One Life Stand’, ‘Ready for the Floor’. Their touring drummer Sarah Jones is a fulcrum, and the happiest sight, smiling from under her baseball cap and raising the beats of the more tempered songs up a level. Nothing lest than the perfect closing act, they never drop the ball and for next level joy to box off the night, it’s a cover of Springsteen’s ’Dancing in the Dark’. We are set up for either tents or more cocktails, common sense and carpe diems and after a show, and a day, like that – who could be sensible.
St. Vincent photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen