Words by: Lindsay Colip | Images by: Steven Walter
Roskilde Festival:: 07.02.09 – 07.05.09 :: Copenhagen, Denmark
What a wonderful time of year! Big fields, loud rock, sunblock, sweaty tents; yup, we are smack-dab in the middle of summer festival season. I, alongside music photographer Steven "Walt" Walter, have dedicated our summer to covering the best of the best music festivals in Europe. We're letting you know which ones are worth the trek overseas, which are the top international headliners for the summer, which of our favorite artists have made the leap across the pond, and any and all highlights from the festivals we attend. Our first stop was Roskilde Festival in Denmark, a few miles outside of Copenhagen. First off, I have to say this is the most people and planet friendly festival I've ever seen. The fact that Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Dr. Muhammad Yunus had the full attention of 100,000 people the last night (before Coldplay no less) when he spoke about peace, helping the less fortunate, global warming and how we can help, is astounding in itself. Additionally impressive, the festival teamed up with climate project Green Footsteps this year as their charity and between audience participation and festival donations, amassed well over $480,000 to the cause (read more on the website here). They also had fun things around the grounds, including a huge Ferris wheel powered by audience members riding bikes below, updates on how much we had recycled per day and specifically how that amount will help. The security guards and 25,000 volunteers were ridiculously nice and even handed out water to dehydrated fans (um, what?). They also had signs up all over the grounds saying, "Take care of your neighbor," and, "Is the person next to you doing okay?" These simple, honest gestures were really appreciated and made me want to see a more compassionate vibe come to the States.
|Roskilde Festival 2009|
The setting, just in terms of size alone, is unlike any other festival in the States. The grounds are massive. The crowd reached near 100,000. There are seven stages, including the Orange Stage (past performers include Radiohead, The Stones, Dylan, Talking Heads, U2), Astoria Stage (tented venue that feels like an underground club in London), the Cosmopol Stage (designed to look like a grimy, graffitied NYC - complete with hot dog stands and tagged skate parks - where more hip-hop/funk/underground artists play), the Odeon Stage (the hip-hop/dance tent), the Arena Stage (an enormous Barnum and Bailey tent), the Pavilion Stage (smaller space where newer acts play) and The Lounge (where you could cool off and chill out). There were plenty of other things to keep us entertained as well including the aforementioned Ferris wheel, hot air balloons, a swimming pool and lake, art installations covering the grounds, encouraged graffiti areas, chairs/benches/seating areas that look straight out of The Standard Hotel (white square seating blocks included) and round the clock shops and restaurants. A nice bonus is that they not only sell beers (Tuborg) in these nifty 6 pack carrying cases if you'd like to drink in larger quantities but the food is really tasty - veggie options (if you go, you have to try the falafel), organic options, and, of course, Danish specialties. Another cool thing to mention is that the pits are emptied and filled per performer so that fresh audience members are in the front each set. The enormous crowd is diverse (however, there's a 90-percent chance if you throw a pebble you'll hit someone with blond hair and blue eyes) and everyone is genuinely really happy and friendly. Okay, onto the music...
The first show I stumbled upon at the Orange Stage was Volbeat, a native (Copenhagen) metallic-pop band whose influences include Elvis, Social Distortion, J.R. Cash, Iron Maiden and Fats Domino. They describe themselves as metallic pop with a side of '60s melodies but I describe them as deliverymen of power anthems. If you were a WWE wrestler, this would be the catalog of music you'd flip through for your walk out into the ring jam. Every song was powerful and heavy, supported by numerous fist pumps and call-responses from the crowd. In fact, almost every song had the lead singer/guitarist Michael Poulsen chanting something to the audience and getting enthusiastic remarks back. Now, nothing was in English, so I can't really tell you what the commotion and upheaval was about, but I was enthused nonetheless. The language barrier didn't exist here. And, to be fair, I am not really a head banging, guitar slashing, scream metal kind of gal, but man, I was in. Poulsen was accompanied by Jon Larsen (drums), Anders Kjolholm (guitar) and Thomas Bredahl (guitar), everyone covered in tattoos and wearing 45 shades of black. It rocked. I appreciated when Poulsen did an Elvis impersonation and then followed up by telling a Johnny Cash story. He was definitely emulating the swagger of the King and had an enormous crowd to prove his skill. Great opener.
|Roskilde Festival 2009|
Another random highlight during the day was experimental electronica DJ Rumpistol, aka Jens Berents Christiansen. When I walked into the Astoria Tent, he was unfortunately finishing up his set, but what I did catch was that he would first set the tone at the board and then once the jam was going he'd come out front to play various instruments throughout. In the short time I was there, I saw him play guitar, flute and melodica. He had a cellist and violinist on stage with him as well, filling out his ethereal sound. It was definitely soothing, dreamy, synthy pop, with an added beat to occasionally encourage your head to bop. Not particularly dancing music, but just really cool "if I were a music supervisor I'd get on this immediately to score a scene" music. He had a screen behind him with floating clouds, colorful triangles and other dreamy peaceful images. A nice compliment to what we were hearing. Having no clue who this person was before I stepped in there, I'm intrigued now to check out his work. That's what these festies are all about! New music, wahooo!
Returning to music that isn't new, but is still impressive, enter Kanye West, headlining Thursday night at the Orange Stage. I have nothing new to report on Kanye except for he's still Kanye. He's a really talented performer, hate him or not. I was impressed with the show, enjoying songs like "Flashing Lights," "American Boy," "Heartless," "Gold Digger," "Lock Lockdown" and a lil' "PYT" for the first of many Michael Jackson nods. West had performed here in 2006 and was definitely welcomed back. The crowd was really excited to see him and equally as jazzed when he finally came out on stage. People knew every word, danced their faces off and threw lots of cups full of water into the air. Why does the audience do this? The nice security guards hand people cups of delicious Danish water and then they chuck them into the air and laugh wildly. I spent half of the show helping Walt shield his camera. Overall, it was fun(ny) watching 30,000 blond haired, blue eyed 20-year-olds rapping alongside West.
|Kanye West :: Roskilde Festival 2009|
To close the Orange Stage, we were treated by the super talented Copenhagen-based DJ Anders Trentemoller. What an amazing producer! I would like to know how many people showed up for this show to rock out from 12:30 - 3 a.m. It seemed like thousands and thousands of people. They'd show shots of the crowd and it was beyond overwhelming. I can't imagine what it must've looked like and felt like for Trentemoller. He had a huge raised platform out in the middle of the massive crowd, where he started spinning songs and then finally ended up on stage with various special guests. Besides the music, he had a Cirque du Soleil vibe going, including masked figures, floating sacks of light, enormous blinking eyeballs, and a giant caterpillar. The music flowed from one song to the next like one cohesive story. It was moody, sexy, heart pumping, familiar (we heard a snippet of "Billie Jean"), completely mesmerizing, hand throttling, body flailing, entertaining and exhausting. Well done, Trentemoller. You are hands down the best DJ I've ever laid eyes/ears on.
Continue reading for Friday's coverage from Roskilde...