LIVE! Review: Three Days at ROSKILDE 2016, Cophenhagen

7/24/2016 T4L 0 Comments

“Bro, this a” —my newest Norwegian friend Victor paused while he reached deep into his English vocabulary– “circus.”  Yes it was, Victor.  Despite the conversation being conducted in my mothertongue and despite my possession of an English degree which my father grossly overpayed for, I could not come up with a more fitting word for the scene we saw upon entering the West Gate of Denmarks’ Roskilde Festival, a music festival and transient tent city that exists for 8 days every late June into July in Roskilde, a rural suburb of Copenhagen.  It wasn’t a circus because the sheer number and variety of tatted, pierced, dreaded, skin-headed, gothed, underaged, handicapped, hideous, and beautiful festival-goers evoked in us a sense of a can’t-look-away wonder that a bearded lady, midget, and sword-swallower might have stirred in a mid-western farmboy during the turn of the century when P.T. Barnum and Co rolled into town.  It wasn’t a circus because of the soaring tent towers enveloping four of the festival’s seven palatial stages, including nearby Avalon (adjacent to us and where Action Bronson had just begun rapping for the disgusting Euro-mass under the tent).  The brilliance of the comparison lays/lies in the magnitude of the spectacle we had just joined.  Standing by a tree at the back of the Avalon crowd with Roskilde unfolding around us, our Norwegian/American crew of 7 felt about as small, insignificant and out of place as Ted Cruz during his visit to the Bronx.  
The Orange Stage, Roskilde Landmark

Hammered 16 year olds stumbled by, costumed Danes stood on bizarre, futuristic art installations chain smoking cigarettes.  Concert goers dressed as a yeti and tweety bird danced by.  Over my friend’s shoulder, not five feet from us, a man whipped out his uncircumcised penis and pissed into a trash can*.  Within twenty minutes of being in the festival grounds, I had seen dozens of men basically standing on the main pathway and watering nearby trees, while several women eschewed toilet lines and squatted under the same tree.  Like a three-ringed simultaneous performance under the big top, we simply couldn’t take in everything at once.  All the while Bronson egged on the chaotic scene “Mom, I love you you lucky slut.”  Welcome to Roski.    

*It should be noted here that an immediate and persistent takeaway from the festival was the ease with which one could take a piss.  Four-sided urinal pyramids dotted every pathway.  Long metal troughs flanked stage fronts.  Banks of  (clean and luxurious in a minimalist Scandinavian way) port-a-potties were ubiquitous.  There were actually trees with temporary urinals complete with drainage hoses strapped to them.  It was a binge drinking, small bladder possessor’s dream.  Despite the amazing convenience of pee spots, it appeared as though every wall, tree, (and apparently garbage can) was fair game for Tuborg-binging relief.  As long as you didn’t pee directly on someone, it seemed to be ok.   

I did manage to overcome my initial shock enough to take in a few sets, and I should point out that the same overwhelming fracas I experienced during Action Bronson’s performance ended up enchanting me.  The festival is staffed by volunteers, and all proceeds go to Danish charities, making it truly a festival for the people.  I didn’t know as much at the time, but I did notice and appreciate the absence of sponsor messages being shoved down our throats.  Ticket prices were a reasonable ~$320 (for eight days, we showed up when the big acts get there on day 5), and I even bought a keeper raincoat (I’m an idiot and assumed the Danish sky wouldn’t dump on me...for three consecutive days) at the festivalgrounds for ~$45.  Tuborg was a festival-fair ~$7 for 0.5L, meaning that we really never felt taken advantage financially.  The refreshingly unregulated and unsupervised (read unamerican) culture encourages the 130,000 people to look after one another.  This meant everything from passing out water in the concert pits to sharing supplies in the camping areas (to get an idea of the tent cities surrounding the festival ground, imagine a refugee camp but replace the wailing of infants with the bump car-battery-powered stereos).
Tent Sprawl

The openness the Danes and other attendees (many Swedes, Germans and other Europeans) actually buck the cold, reserved, Scandinavian stereotype.  Everyone I spoke to was interested and friendly (and spoke perfect English). PIERCING BLUE EYES EVERYWHERE.  It’s an eight day party, but I never once saw any Tuborg-fueld anger or hostility.  Hammeredness mostly manifested itself in wild displays of public urination and dancing.  Roskilde goers have an almost familial loyalty to the festival, so that most of the Danes my age that I spoke to were on their 8th 9th or 10th Roskilde.  I was told that it’s not uncommon to come to Roskilde by yourself and meet your significant other or spouse, and that every year before the festival starts, a handful of couples get married in front of the landmark Orange stage.  By the third day, my compatriots and I had committed to returning and getting the full camping experience (we were repeatedly scolded by friendly drunk Danes about out opting out of camping for an air bnb).  OK I’ll STFU and talk about music.


We heard his whole set, but having just gotten through the most lax pat-down I’ve ever experienced at the gate, were way at the back and were still overwhelmed with the amount of peeing people around us.  Seeing rappers live can always be a gamble, but the songs I knew from Mr. Wonderful came through really well.  His hard-hitting vocals and ADD beats provided the perfect soundtrack to our “lolwat” first impressions of the festival.


We lined up at 8:00 for the 10:30 RHCP set on the festival’s mainstage rather than catch somebody else first and then belt along to Anthony Keidis’ supposedly wavering voice (the Danes I talked to had negative reviews, which I vehemently disagree with, although being directly in front of the stage might have compensated for any vocal missteps, and to be fair, I have been on a personally redemptive quest to see them since 2013 when I passed out during their set at Firefly, so I might not have been completely unbiased) at the back of the 70,000 person crowd.  The wait was fine tho b/c of these genius 6-pack draft beer caddys.
 Their set was great.  They’re undeniably professionals that know how to put on a great show and rock an enormous outdoor stage about as hard as it can be rocked.  The new guitarist (is he still new if he joined in 2009?) Josh Klinghoffer is the man, complete with guitar shredding and amazing vocal harmonies.  
During this twilight set (there was still light in the sky when they finished at 12:30) I was reminded just how powerful and nurturing music can be. After a long, nearly sleepless two days, in which I had spent the prior two nights on a ship and a plane, I was exhausted and admittedly a bit bewildered by the scope of the festival we had just joined.  The band opened with “Can’t Stop” followed by “Dani California” and during these two familiar songs I felt hugged by the music in a way that I can’t describe other than saying it’s like being held by your mother and told that everything is gonna be ok.  I had a huge second wind, carrying me through the rest of the set and the rest of the week.  (I hope I don’t get blog-fired for talking about feels but I think it’s important cuz it’s why we all listen and why maybe one of you finished reading this tome of a post).  


Blick Bassy
We saw this dude during day two on the smallest and only indoor stage at the festival.  I had never heard of him but was instructed by a friend that his song on the festival spotify playlist was dope so we gave him a chance.  He’s from Cameroon via France and has a sultry AF voice and plays kinda like African-inspired Jazz?  He was VERY polarizing to our group (we mostly stayed together b/c we had close to 0 cell phone ability, how did ppl handle festivals before phones?  Did they just get separated and then throw up their hands and not worry about it?  Simpler times). It’s hard to be open minded when the friend standing next to me is visibly over it. I wasn’t awestruck but he’s different and worth a listen.   


Courtney B
CB was one of our more anticipated acts though in truth I knew two songs well enough to attempt to sing along, BUT I WANT TO KNOW MORE.  The Aussie’s live performance was true to her dirty-rock sounding studio recordings… Hiding between her sweaty mop for hair, she didn’t say much between songs, almost too shy to speak without her axe. But as soon as the first teeth biting chord found its way through the speakers she shook her mop and squeezed her lungs, making us all do our best Aussie head bop. A festival may not be the best place to swim through CB’s wandering lyrical short stories about percolators, margaritas, and real estate searching, but her and her two other mop-headed bandmates rocked hard enough to shake us all. Her songs blended together like a milkshake made of four chords, but her voice cut through crowd just like it does on the record: sweet and familiar like the girl down the street who just wants to rock out in her garage.  My friend Trevor was disappointed to learn that she’s gay.

**MVP of this set goes to the can-collecting lady (empties are worth a lot in Denmark I guess) risking a cracked rib to fight her way to the stage front during the show to collect cups and cans on the floor.**


Jk, Carl and a Danish Rando
The most fun set of the festy.  Ringleader/Norwegian tour guide Carl descended from a  daytime Tuborg buzz into CHVRCHES’ most hammered enthusiastic fan.  All spectators within a 15 foot radius knew him and knew to watch out for his haphazard dancing.  By the end of the set we had pressed forward from about 15 people back to just five or six from the front.  It felt a bit like hero worship of the lead singer—  she danced on the monitor above us, and the disgusting, sweaty clamoring crowd shrieked and pressed forward, in an apparent effort to, as one companion phrased it, “suckle from the teat of the mother we share.”  I liked Chvrches.  I love them now.    


My aforementioned friend Victor hadn’t heard of the D and was blown away by the idea that a fat, bald, middle aged man (KG) had any business being on a stage.  A 12:30AM set might not be the most convenient time to first experience Jack Black’s humor rock, but they sounded great.  You either like Tenacious D or you don’t, and unfortunately the heavily salted popcorn we devoured at the back of the crowd only kept the haters in our crew silent for a few songs.  After about half the set we began the long trudge through the refugeecamp/tentsite to the car.  I was only ok with this because we at least heard/belted Wonderboy.  JB and KG and the dude running around stage in satan costume rocked.  


"The higher the man bun, the closer to God"
The best music that the festival introduced me to. Get on it now and listen to them.  The indie-rock/psychedelic pop (genre description stolen from wikipedia) group out of Chicago is seriously dope.  Carried by clean, high vocals and shimmering guitar, there’s no sound quite like theirs.  The lead singer/drummer and bassist (both male) had a steaming make-out session mid-set that went completely unexplained.  Google searches about their sexuality were inconclusive.  Maybe they’re dating, maybe they were supporting PRIDE week, or maybe they wanted to give me notes to write about so I could ignore the difficult task of describing their sound.  


Someone thought it’d be a good idea to get a stagefront spot for Foals.  I supported the decision because Bombay Bicycle Club is the top of the list in related artists per spotify.  BBC is dope AF.  Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was unrealistic expectations, maybe my back hurt, but I couldn’t help but think Foals sounded boring.  I knew “My Number,” which is catchy in an annoying jingle kind of way.  After that, no other song stood out to me.  People around me seemed more concerned with throwing confetti and slamming Tuborgs than paying attention, and I’d have to say that’s for good reason.  Usually I’m down to give someone a chance til the end of their set but I wasn’t upset when we dipped early.   Probably the only set that even my low standards and open mind couldn’t enjoy.

Setlong friends Tone and Matteus.
They were at their 9th Roskilde.

The Roskilde site says “Fiery Guitar Pop Magic from Madagascar.”  Damily and his band were exactly that.  Maybe 300 people showed up to watch him and his band at the festival’s smallest stage.  It was so different than anything I had experienced before, my friend remarked “I don’t know how to move to this.”  We figured it out by basically jumping and conga-lining for an hour.  I’m not about to start blasting Damily in my headphones on the walk to work, but I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun jumping and dancing at a show before.  Festival magic is sets like this—coming in with no expectations and leaving blown away.    


I have a dad.  I knew I was supposed to see Neil Young.  I like “Heart of Gold,” “Southern Man,” and I really love “Harvest Moon.”  During the hour + that I sat and rested during his set, I heard none of these songs.  He was wailing away on the guitar in 10-15 minute jams.  Which was great, but in hindsight I’m resentful because I didn’t get to hear any of the hits that I learned on my dad’s living room stereo and I sacrificed my ability to take part in the stage front mayhem of Tame Impala.  He really did rock though.  It also kind of felt like we were watching a historical figure on stage, so that was cool.  


We didn’t know much prior to his set, and still don’t know much, but intend for that to change.  I was chopping it up and ripping cigs (idk why, sorry mom) at the back of the crowd, but out of the corner of my eye I saw a really fun set and I liked every noise that I heard coming from the stage.  He’s on the to-listen list.  I think I had just eaten my fourth or fifth Big A’s burger (of the week, not the day, jesus christ) prior to this set so I was really focused on digesting that.  

Awesome View of the Band

People around me have been high AF on Tame Impala for a while now.  I’m definitely not a hater but I think I didn’t understand til I watched them from the Jagermeister stand a quarter mile away from the stage on our final night at Roskilde.  Festival organizers underestimated their popularity, because even though I was far as fuck from the cathedral like tent they were playing, everyone around me was very much watching the show.  My initial thoughts on the lightshow and synths was to imagine a daft punk show.  Apparently I was not alone in this association.  Between the ridiculous turnout of spectators, light show, confetti cannons and general musical dopeness that I now recognize, I wish I had dipped out of Neil Young earlier so that I could have nearly hyperventilated at stage front with my friend Albert (he escaped to the jagermeister stand mid-set).  I can’t say anything else except apologize to the handful of people I eyed suspiciously over the last few months when they got worked up about the new Tame Impala album, I get it now, I’m thick.

Well taken photos and banner courtesy of Justin Bellucci. First post without photo-theft woot!