I’ve never tried heroin but I hear that it is heaven in a needle. I’m not a fan of narcotics, nor is Roskilde, their slogan this year was “against drugs” yet the Roskilde experience is like being on drugs. Here I am, the 26 year old virgin to festivals of this magnitude, it is like entering the belly of a giant beast, being thrashed around the digestive tract and vomited out in one piece. You come out with a new perspectives asking yourself, what the fuck? The Roskilde environment is one of controlled chaos. You have what seems like unlimited freedom for a short amount of time. It goes by quickly and it’s tough to live every moment to the fullest. There are ups and downs, moments of positive energy and moments of exhaustion, feelings of community and loneliness, excitement and enlightenment, wonders and hungers. The waves of energy would look like the seismic activity of San Andreas fault on a bad day. It’s a utopia from civil society where big ideas are presented and opinions are acknowledged, challenged or accepted. It is a beautiful expression of the human condition. For me, the Roskilde metaphor is we are here for such a short amount of time that we should live and love to the fullest.
The music started for me while I was unpacking batteries at Volt headquarters. It was a Monday and I heard music coming from a near-by tent. After soundcheck and midway through the first number I thought I would take an early lunch-break and see this out. It was an unofficial live show in a backstage tent attended by a dozen or so volunteers by a band known as HÉRÖ, a gypsy surf ensemble with foot-stomping bass lines, balkan beats, surf guitars, and soloing violin. Intense melodic lines from strings interjected with shouts and one-liners by a front-man donned in a sailor cap. It only went downhill after that performance with all the house music that pounds you from every angle of camp. It was like everyone was armed with sub-bass weapons and attempting to mug you for your patience. But patience is a virtue, it’s a trait that no one can take away.
First big stage experience was with soul brother, Bobby Womack. All the little girls are sitting on the floor reserving their space for Rihanna and I’m dancing like an old ass man to the chunky funky realness. I’m loving it, the musicians on stage are making their rounds with Bobby leading the show. “Bring it down boys, let’s bring it down so we can here my brotha blow that brass.” From open to close it was a soul-shake down and I was brought back across 110th street. And then it was the wait for Rihanna, 15% of the Roskilde budget and it was what it was. Kids screaming while this black cat struts with sexy gyration and street beat humps. To go along with image is a GQ band, a really awesome black drummer and overall good pop songs. I’m just not buying into the whole package, a bit too gangsta for a young lady like her who is one year younger than me. Crystal Castles is a drug without drugs. The music, lighting, and performance is a methamphetamine without taking the damn thing. Alice Glass is rock n roll, thrashing around stage, screaming, fucking, drinking whiskey, smoking weed while the two other fellas are holding it down and keeping the energy way up. You need to be totally absorbed or your tank will run out quick. Caught the last 2 songs of The Blue Angel Lounge coming down off the Meth I had just experienced and it was a nice change of drug. It was like coming to see Peter Gabriel back from a safari with Joy Division vocals, tribal rhythms/percussion and post-rock guitars. I was running on fumes and passed out in my tent in seconds flat.
Henry Rollins Spoken Word was a pleasant surprise and had a lasting impact on my festival experience. I think there should be more spoken word events mixed in with music events. This guy has some awesome stories being a punk rock frontman for decades and has met more people than any CEO, politician, or president. He’s really down to earth with his fans and continues to work-hard on his performance. He touched on topics of suicide, drug abuse & politics with the main point being take care of your body, keep pushing forward no matter how hard your struggle and become a catalyst for changing the world. Wake up every morning with a goal to kick ass and make a difference. Efterklang had my attention until the heat drained me of energy. I needed the relief of shade and a cold beer. They have a great band with a charismatic front-man opposite a female who takes lead every so often. A top class indie act that has risen from grass-roots Copenhagen to the world stage. Kris Kristofferson has balls the size of Denmark getting up on the main stage with nobody but his acoustic guitar. I hadn’t payed much attention to his music being a few beers deep and wrapped up in conversation. He was playing for the people chilling out in the sun, resting from a week of party, and fans who sat-up with ears fixed towards the stage. Quadron, the main squeeze for many danes with her latest 2013 release, is an artist who became big in America before gaining popularity in her home country in Denmark. Quadron is also what you get when black and white have a baby. My female partner was really feeling the sensual sounds and interpreting them in a sexy way while I stood there blank eye in desperate need of an americano. Lead singer Coco O can really sing a tune and her backing band was really tight, babies are definitely made to her music. Fast-forward with coffee, liquor and Metallica! From the first note I had been rocking out like that same kid who played air guitar on a tennis racket or air drums in the back of my fathers car. These guys are middle-aged but still having fun and really enjoy putting on a good show for the fans. Huge enthusiasm from the crowd and great sense of camaraderie amongst everyone there rocking out. Opening up with Blackened and playing over 2 hours of material from almost every album went by in a flash.
I caught Ensiferum for a song when I heard a double-bass drum pounding at high noon while going for a walk. It looked like a bunch of vikings on stage with their so-called axes singing songs of norse mythology. I thought it must feel silly to be an older dude wearing outfits like that and shredding on stage. So I left with that funny thought. Than I ran into what I thought was the best band of the afternoon, Wintergatan, a rocking swedish Sigur Ros with folk instrumentation. They put on a really sincere performance with personal anecdotes in between songs that had charmed the audience of all ages. Over on the stage next door, The Heliocentrics had set up a groove and let jazz inspired vocalist wail like a saxophone over the grooves. You could feel a bit of awkwardness within the ensemble but the audience was entranced in hippie-dance bouncing around like pogo sticks. The Sword was nice, but the sound wasn’t mixed very well. It was like seeing Black Sabbath in modern times but after about the 5th or 6th song I started to get riff nausea and decided to head over to James Blake, the a master of new-wave electronic trios. James Blake is in control of his music and leads with his vocal melodies mashing them up with electronic effects and loops. The backing band follows his lead providing a down beat and rhythmic textures to move the listeners body. The set climaxes at appropriate moments with huge bass pedal lines that reverberate your entire skeleton and noise crescendos that can probably explode a babies soft head.
Everyone asks me, how was Roskilde? or if you’re in the know with Copenhagen slang “How was Ros?” I say it’s beyond words to explain what it is. It’s mayhem in the camps. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are. You are present, in the moment, in the chaos with your thoughts. Doesn’t matter what your intentions are… you just do what you have to do. Some of my fondest memories has to be the generosity of the people you meet. You never know who your universe will collide with so you take everyone at their word. And the word is the good enough for me. I’ve known a lot of people who bullshit with words but I’ve got a renewed sense of trust in a strangers word. We’re all strangers trying to find a common ground and everyone just wants to have a good time. When you get home there is loud silence. It seems that maybe it was just a dream? Recently, it’s been hard to tell the difference between all these experiences . One way I can distinguish the difference is that there’s always a feeling of dissatisfaction in reality. How can I be satisfied when I’m always hungry, thirsty, and looking for more. I’m not really sure how to satisfy myself but it helps to satiate these basic needs and forget they were there. The hunger is always there, it’s like a black hole that keeps eating and cannot be full. In reality, there is a sadness when you know about the higher pleasures of music, imagination, and different worlds. When that’s not readily accessible it’s hard to cope but you choose your sacrifices and wait for the next opportunity you lose yourself. Forgetting your existence for a few moments is that feeling of wasted bliss. It’s that feeling I’m always chasing. Roskilde is accessibility to that feeling we’re all chasing.