by / July 3rd, 2009 /

State @ Roskilde 09 – Day One / Thursday

Quite what we have done in the last year to deserve it is anyone’s guess, but Mother Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has seen fit to grace Roskilde with the most stunning conditions again this year. Cloudless skies and temperatures in the high 20s greet us, as well as the festival staples such as low-key security, ample supplies of free water, hardly any queues for beer or food and, as we are in Scandinavia, lots of attractive, bronzed folk lounging about. State’s pasty white frame looks somewhat uncooked as we wind through the dust on our way to start the weekend in the best way we can imagine; that being with New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band. Like a warm up for the next four days they had us ‘hey-ing’ and ‘ho-ing’, waving arms about and punching the air on queue as they filled the Cosmopol tent with relentless, uplifting urban big-band sounds. They were at their best when they slid into -Sexual Healing’ and an impressive conga line snaked its way through the crowd as they played.

Meanwhile Lucinda Williams was bringing country to the early arrivers. Her choice of sunglasses make her look a bit more wrecked than I’m sure she is, though we are somewhat distracted by a drummer who looks, and plays, like he’s driving a truck. Pure gold. Her’s is not so much pure country as a place where country is just about to meet up with rock n’ roll (with Band Of Horses, who played the same stage on the same day last year, looking on from the other side of that gap). The melodies are perfect in every song and different factions of the crowd cheer as their favourites get an outing.

On the way across the fields to St. Vincent we pass the pace-setter for -most fucked human of the festival’. Imagine the army neighbour from American Beauty only more gaunt, and dressed to star in Escape From L.A., gurning into thin air in slow motion and leaning against a generator for stability. Bravo sir! To be fair, while moderation isn’t necessarily obvious (one person can buy 10 beers at the bar and get a carry-case for them too) nobody (‘cept our friend above) is out of control. So into Astoria tent and the aforementioned St. Vincent are a primary colour-attired blast of freshness so much so that they probably smell like a new car. Alternating between the cutesy vocals and some seriously thrashy guitar, Annie Clark puts a lot more angles on her quite polished debut album and it’s disparate but engaging. We also get a lot of instruments for our money with sax, a violin and a flute all appearing during our stay. 

Now maybe State hasn’t been to the optician since we passed the driving test but is that Kanye West performing on top of a two metre-high metal iceberg in the middle of the stage? Close inspection seems to indicate so and one of his backing singers is even dressed in an outfit that seems to have been made of the same iceberg. The height West stands at certainly focuses you on the well-heeled gent and everyone gets a good view of a heavy-hitting live performer, bolstered by ego. At one point he trails off into a rhyming monologue seemingly triggered by a ‘negative sign’ someone was holding up in the front. The cameraman controling the side-screen projections focuses for a minute on a sign saying -Gay Fish Camp’ so that may be the root of Kanye’s problem – a South Park reference and merely a light dig at the man. He then goes on to apologise for not being able to sing so well (perhaps a response to the heavy use of the Auto-tune voice filter on his album) but claims that ‘if you can shout you can sing’. He spend a bit of time saying how seeing all of us makes him stronger or similar (eh, thanks K.) and then we may have drifted off for a bit.

When we get back we hear him claim ‘Michael Jackson died for the sins of the media’ and then get a nicely observed section (our English teachers would have called it a poem) lamenting MJ and noting that now he’s free from the pressure of the world that fed off him, the gruelling series of concerts and such. Coming straight after his initial voice-related comments we were caught off guard but it was beautiful and emotional and a big step above some cover version of Billie Jean or the like. All that out of the way the rest of the concert was flawless – the lighting (and Kanye floating two metres high above the stage) made it quite intimate and there must have been over 40,000 hands in the air for -American Boy’ and the closer, -Love Lockdown’.

When it comes to supporting their own the Danes are first up, best dressed and by the time we got to Arena tent to see Mew it was clear we weren’t getting anywhere near the stage. These Danes, who had a fleeting affair with London audiences through Epic Records, are in the throes of a very spectoral rock moment when we arrive and find them complete with an arsenal of visuals which included a cat playing a violin. They create a sound you often hear described as -widescreen’ and that’ll do us. The crowd are enraptured and the band seem knocked sideways by the sea of hands they look out on during the last song.

We were hoping to knock it on the head yet we swung back to the Orange stage to have a look at Copenhagen’s DJ golden boy Trentemøller play his records. We weren’t expecting a lot, especially as you can catch a DJ set by this chap almost any weekend in the city. But no! He began with a none-too-impressive set of party numbers but by the time we found a good spot we were looking at an array of artists coming on to support the songs and he seemed to switch from records to live programming of his own music, joined by singers and musicians and yes, a chorus line! Said chorus line were somewhere between Moulin Rouge and Daft Punk but the costumes and props were super-impressive and the stage boasted two huge parasols onto which were projected video and lights. Next thing we notice our boy running out a ramp to another booth in the centre of the crowd and the chorus line following him as one dark Chinese dragon. Add to that a string of strange lanterns appearing from backstage and floating out over the crowd to the lighting rigs and we were impressed and beaten at the same time. As we walked home Mr Møller played on and we slept to a bassy thump. And only day one. Lord above.

Photos by Martin Rosenauer

Kanye West

Kanye West


Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams