Bags packed and car loaded with fine wine, an electric fridge and two bikes (well, it’s Denmark and accommodation is almost a kilometre from the entrance) – we’re off to Roskilde, Denmark’s annual four-day festival. Our memory of last year is all music, sun and cold Tuborg – except on the drive out of Copenhagen a creeping cloud cover turns to a light rain and the week’s previously warm temperatures drop, but it’d take more than this to dampen the spirits. Campsites are open from the Saturday before and with the school exams over many have come for the week and for their trouble were treated to some smaller bands playing at the campsite, a cinema plus the fine weather. But now the gates of the festival site proper have opened and in they stream with a vast majority heading to the main stage to see local boys Veto open things. The Danes are nothing if not loyal to their own, and their could be up to 40,000 singing along and pumping the air to Veto’s crowd-pleasing-yet-dark electro rock. They are tight and polished beyond their years and an ideal opening act.
Over at the Odeon stage Tame Impala have filled a tent with eager punters drinking wine from tetra-pak cartons. With minimum chemistry between the band and crowd, their shoegazey rock set never takes hold and the rainy weather is perhaps what keeps most people in the tent till the end.
No such problem for Foals who fill the large Arena tent. They’re electric from the off, and with the Thursday crowd eager for some action, they chop their way through the set – all white rolled up shirts, skinny black jeans and great delivery.
Denmark’s Oh Land is a returning hero, and playing the relatively small Cosmopol tent has no problem in having it absolutely rammed. Unlike a lot of Danish bands on the bill, she’s had success outside of the country and only The Raveonettes playing Friday can also lay claim to this. She makes a grand entrance in a long white dress, and a huge all-white Indian head-dress. No surprise that she looks amazing, though equally amazing is the stage, or more to say the tent itself. Stretching far beyond the sides of the stage, and covering an entire wall of the tent is an array of spotlights lending a spectacular look to proceedings. Add to this a vast mirrorball and you have one serious-looking show. No pretensions, she was bounding around the stage, reaching to the crowd. The large band behind her gave her a big live dark pop sound and when the headdress finally came off she was beaming ear-to-ear.
Also wearing a white feather headdress, all be it more spartan (about 6 feathers in total) was PJ Harvey on the Arena stage across the other side of the festival site. Having seen her Let England Shake tour earlier in the year, there was a question of how she was going to translate this to a festival crowd but it was no trouble to her. When the guitar came on we knew it was time for the classics and hearing ‘Angeline’ again, delivered with all the power of early PJ, made us realise the right at the moment when she sings “…and come to me” could be one of the greatest chord changes ever. Mick Harvey is stoic, as you’d expect, and John Parish just blends in so it’s all PJ. It’s a pleasant surprise to see how well the new, darker songs work on the crowd, ’On Battleship Hill’ for one, is perfectly pitched to engage the captive audience.
All that’s left to do is take off to the main ‘Orange’ stage to check in on Iron Maiden. The festival’s headline act are surely more of a nostalgic curiosity than a serious headline act. Sadly there’s no actual huge head of their famous Eddie creature on stage, and it’s quite spartan accept for Nicko McBrain’s impressive drum kit. At least two of the six on stage are wearing their own Iron Maiden t-shirts and Bruce Dickinson is a good cross between a metal singer and a cabaret MC, goading the crowd to cheer louder. There’s a chorus line of rock guitars, and lots of power chords. Yep, it’s a metal show alright.
Unlike similar festivals in elsewhere, the bars are open long into the night – cocktails, Tuborg, and some shots of ‘Gammel Dansk’ and a gap in our memory from soon after Iron Maiden had waved us goodbye for the night.
Photo by Jakob Bekker-Hansen