Made it alive to day four. It gets harder and harder every year as we ignore our own ‘we should pace this’ advice, getting sucked into the irrepressibly positive mood of the festival and the late, late social options. We surprise ourselves by not just getting on site for 1pm, but actually being early enough to drop into Norwegian rock’s Skambankt, expecting nothing. Black-attired they have the feel of QOTSA, guitar work is all right angles and not an excess flourish in sight. Ducks-ass tight, they force melodies out of raw materials, all three guitarists do a walk off mid-song for a not-unpleasant, or over-long drum solo and then grouping back to chop out the last of it.
This great elevation of our Sunday is added to with it’s polar opposite, Toumani Diabaté and his son Sidiki and the wonderful instrument they built are bringing a pastoral African moment to the morning. After a heart-warming solo beginning by Sidiki, Toumani is helped on and walks unsteadily on a crutch the last distance to his seat but his fingers are alive and move at a frenetic pace once he begins. A vastly different sound to anything over the last three days, it’s an inspired booking slot and small family histories are spun between the music, which is soothing and intricate.
Always a bafflement to us is the extreme metal included in every Roskilde’s Sunday morning line-up. What Carcass would have done to the grey matter of your reporter is anyone’s guess but we weren’t taking any chances and waited till the more peaceful sounds of Deerhunter filled Arena tent before we went near it. While we could have listened to the Diabatés noodle all day, the tracks of open space in the Deerhunter set made us easily distracted and dumb questions like how much data roaming we used since Thursday floated in and out of our almost empty minds. A long twisting intro into ‘Helicopter’ provided some sort of pay-off, the slip-slide of minor chords nothing less than a balm.
Julia Holter has packed the Gloria stage and by Christ it gets hot in there. A tin-roofed barn in 28 degrees, full of people sweating out three days of excesses is not where you want to be for long but Holter is charming, bigging-up a song with Minor 7ths in it, and gliding through her somewhat discordant melodies. But if we’re going to get truly sweaty today it won’t be in this dead-air sauna, it will be because of excitable jumping to the biggest Danish act of the weekend. MØ is about to dominate the Arena again, essentially the unwritten Scandinavian pop stage. Unlike many Danish cohorts who remain big only locally, MØ went around the western world gaining plaudits abroad first, working with Diplo and getting on big festival bills when locally she was still playing to campers before the festival proper had opened its gates. It’s still a dead, dusty heat even at 6.30 in the evening, but inside there’s a cool breeze blowing through the shady tent, and the girl on stage in a tennis skirt owns every square inch of it. Not as girlish as Icona Pop before her, she’s even more in charge of this tent. Bounding up to a riser way above the band, she stands in the spotlight in front of a scrolling movie screen, stamping her box-fresh Nikes over every corner of the stage. This not being enough, she casts herself adrift in the crowd (which looks 80-90% girls) at least twice, maybe more. She brings the curtain down with her belter ‘Don’t Wanna Dance’ and with it brings down at least a few tonnes of white confetti, a fairy-tale hour for a local hero.
Cup of coffee from the excellently served press tent, eyes on the road and hands to the wheel for the final furlong, it’s Mr. Sunshine himself Stevie Wonder who draws pilgrims from all over the site and age spectrum to the Orange stage for an evening sunbath. Impossible not to smile at his shirt alone, he’s a line-in to a pure source of soul. There’s quite a bit of thanks-to-God some fill-in bits, and hand-overs to the crowd that they don’t quite pick up on. He admits that he’s using us to warm up his vocals but there’s almost too many hand-offs when we just want him to sing it out. Ah yes, though – to have ‘Sir Duke’ wash over us today feels like a blessing but we have to cherry pick these moments and enjoy them, as the meandering fill-ins, albeit it the stuff of a Stevie show, just puts too much of a gap between the gold.
‘Not bad for a Sunday’ acknowledge Moderat who know themselves that they should have been tearing up a tent the night before instead of the graveyard shift at the end of a four-day bender. Allowing for this, they are actually right, and though tired and by no means even half-full, Arena is pulsing to what would be the second-best German performance of the week. Impeccable and intoxicating visuals aid the warmest, smartest dark electro and if we were to wish for a three-in-a-row from them we couldn’t have asked for more than ‘Rusty Nails’ into ‘Bad Kingdom’ into ‘Damage Done’. Elation is keeping the last nail from being driven in to the box around our shattered frames.
But there’s no avoiding the undertaker now. Clad in black, it’s Mr. Jack White who replaces a sick Drake to box it all up and nail it down. A last minute draft-in, for those who sit more on the side of six-strings than twin-turntables it was a stunning booking coup, but even the Drake-sad could not have argued with what became an unadulterated masterclass in stagecraft, musicianship and adrenaline-generating highs. White delivers an all-meat Atkins diet of rock. A Detroit weaver, he spins from various pure sources of the wide genre into his own form. The White Stripes are now almost a side-story in his own story, however it’s a Stripes-heavy set he tears through, backed by a band that are so very far from putting a foot wrong. We could spend another evening just looking at the drummer play. Not a minute on-stage is wasted, the only breaks come when Jack jokes about himself and Drake sharing a doctor and gushes effusively in his joy at getting the last minute honour to close the festival. No encore arseing about, it’s straight through to what we knew was coming. Since he’d been announced as the replacement, at lulls during other gigs the crowd often piped up with that unmistakable riff, and finally, as White stood front and centre and licked out the immense opening to ‘Seven Nation Army’ we had it in our grasp, for reals. 100,000 people sing a riff, not a lyric, goaded by White. The risen dead with the last living moment of the festival by the almost-hoarse throat. An impeccable moment of festival heaven, born of a main-act cancellation, and with a master in charge. 100,000 arms aloft like lightning conductors to the very end.
Bekker has the car packed and ready. We burst out of the site, into the Volvo and get on the road ahead of the festival traffic. We leave Jack White’s riff hanging over the site like a passing storm in the rear view mirror as we drive towards Copenhagen, far from this opera forever more. Or for a year anyhow.
Jack White photographed by David James Swanson