With the blazing good weather this festival gets more often than not, it’s a hot room we wake up in. However it’s nowhere near as hot as the thousands of tents must be from around 8am. To be dehydrated and waking up in an oven with the only respite outside being dust blowing around in the dry morning, well, you need some commitment. Especially as it’s just day two of four.
It’s also hot in the smallest stage, Gloria, but it’s soothing bluegrass from Aoife O’Donovan that keeps the dust down. She is super charming, confidently chatty and it’s easy to pass the time with her. For our troubles we get a whistling solo from a band member too and a silky smooth intro to the day of music. Dilated Peoples are today’s big hip-hop offering and have no problem getting more that Arena’s 13,000 capacity bouncing with them. Even at the back of the tent, about 100 metres from stage everyone is lined up bouncing hands at the end of outstretched arms. At the risk of damage we keep out of the tent because four sirens are calling from across the site.
Friday is a day of eagerly-anticipateds and first up is Warpaint (who together with I Break Horses and Future Islands later have us vibrating with excitement). The girls are as confident and solid on stage as a marble pillar – in charge and alluring. The nuanced sounds of the album, subtle chord changes, and stacked layers doesn’t quite come across at first. Theresa Wayman’s dreamy American vocals are a little too lost in the mix but half-way through something clicks in, and it gels. Sadly ‘Love Is To Die’ has already been spent in the first half but it’s still a pleasure to get lost in some old tracks such as ‘Undertow’ and watch the band themselves get lost in a vocal-less, guitar-led road-trip of a finish.
How could Haim mess up today? The answer is there is NO WAY they could. The magic of the Arena tent always seems to blow the bands away every bit as much as they might do the same to us. The ever-chatty Esti is lost for words to begin with but soon comes the pleasant goading, Alana strutting back and forth with a tambourine, Danielle chewing it up, up front and Dash and Tommy keeping the blood flowing at the back. It was a simple ‘come with us Roskilde’ and we did and they took ‘Falling’, ‘Forever’ and, in the snappiest call-and-response we shouted ourselves hoarse to “it felt right – RIGHT” for ‘The Wire’. Everything 1000% bigger that the recorded versions. Drums were shredded. Hair was whipped. Faces were bassed.
The most negative thing you could say about Damon Albarn’s return to Roskilde was that the Danes just wouldn’t shut up about how good it was afterwards. Instead of reading a nuanced balanced review of it perhaps you might just dial a random Danish number (+45…) and you will probably get an effusive verbal essay on his genius. A set mixed from all his incarnations, we have fought somewhat with enjoying everything he’s done but the pure joy sweating out of him flows side-by-side with some finely crafted, affecting music. We’ll trade the mass pleasure of enjoying ‘Clint Eastwood’ for the more pastoral ‘Out of Time’, stripped back to mostly just Albarn on piano. Those quieter darker corners were always our preferred go-to places but what is Albarn’s ‘genius’, to quote the Danes, is how many places, both corners and wide-open spaces, he inhabits.
The Scandinavian sun, like an errant child, refuses to go to bed so in order to wheel in the night we have to use Sweden’s I Break Horses’ dark pop. From the opening fuzzy synth and Maria Lindén’s jet stream vocals we’re cloaked in a dark envelope. The three on stage are set back surrounding an empty centre as if waiting for a guest, or someone to teleport in, but it works perfect not putting anyone up front – Maria’s backlit rising and falling flowing sleeves enough of a visual distraction. This Pavillion tent at the far reaches of the site becomes a little ethereal pop bubble for the hour, and we leave both star spangled and dazed completely unaware that we are going from a frying pan into an inferno.
Paying cursory attention to the Darkside album and Nicholas Jaar’s remix work does not prepare us for the immersive assault on the senses. Tucking in to the right of the stage we have a line of sight into the monochromatic smoke of the stage as Jaar and guitarist Dave Harrington emerge and merge within it. Jarr leads the music from his bank of tools but it’s Harrington’s guitar that hits the shivers, such a sweet layer. What’s emerging from the misty stage seems to be one step ahead of your mind, and straight to the DNA. Independently your body reacts to it before you have realised and it just flows like water in and around you. It’s safe to say, hardly anything has ever quite possessed your State representative as this complete immersion, and you can feel strips of your soul just tear away when ‘Heart’ goes through its drops.
No beer-and-a-sit-down has ever been more needed. Not so much talking goes on, just a shaking of the heads and some swearing as we come down in the bar. Right there we may have clocked out and gone home punch drunk but if anyone can follow that it’s surely Baltimore’s freshly lauded Future Islands. We return to the same Avalon tent, to the same spot protected by a pillar behind us well in advance but with maybe too much expectations.
If a man can perform in a TV studio as if it was Madison Square Gardens, surely Samuel T. Herring can do wonders on the Avalon stage here. The humble, dimpled Mr. Herring points to his heart a lot, and is clearly being driven purely from that organ. The band behind him are visually anonymous and he has the full girth of the stage which he wastes no time in chewing up. From “I wanted you to know…” in ‘Back in the Tall Grass’ his primal moves add huge weight to the punch of his delivery. An anti-hero of style, he stands almost alone amongst all the hot air of ‘doing it your way’. Future Islands have the songs, but they have had to wait till this album till they really had the songs to support this intense live lynchpin. If ‘Seasons’ affects you on record, live it’s adrenaline into an artery, Herring crouching on speakers, wide-eyed, possessed and the very embodiment of passion in performance.
It’s 2am. There’s nothing more to ask for from this hot dusty day. The bars never seem to close so Friday’s depressurisation takes a few hours of gentle sips, and still, we would go to sleep singing ‘Seasons’.
Future Islands photographed for State by Jakob Bekker-Hansen