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...
Fleet Foxes! Fleet Foxes! That was the cry I heard in 90-degree heat as people ran to the Arena Stage to see the Washington natives. I have seen Robin Pecknold and company several times and was excited to see them in such a different venue. Under an enormous dirty blue circus tent with people crammed all the way to the front and spilling well out of the sides of the four-posted tent into the grass, this certainly was a different local. The guys started slow and precise, as they usually do, to show off their vocals and immediately shush anyone who doubted their skill. The crowd was getting a little antsy (Did I mention the heat? Where were the cup of water throwers when you needed them?) and sensing it, the boys really started cranking it up. "White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood" were perfect back-to-back sing-along songs for the crowd to get behind. Once the flow started, the Foxes started to have some fun with the long time slot they'd been given. "Should we do it?" asked Pecknold. That meant, should we play Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams?" Answer: "YES!" Fleetwood Foxes, what? For the first time ever, the guys played this old school gem and everyone loved it. They were laughing through the whole song, commenting that they had officially become a 'jam band' and that they were taking over for Phish. I don't think that translated to the crowd, but I appreciated it. Speaking of appreciation, I have to say that Pecknold's beard has gone to a new length of amazingness. He was sweating profusely up on stage and it's no wonder. Between the excess hair and the long flannel and jeans, there was bound to be some water works happening on this blazing hot afternoon. All in all, they had a really great time on stage, kept talking and laughing with the crowd, commenting on the bizarre flags that people were waving (as Walt pointed out, it looks like we're either off to war or to a soccer match), thanking everyone over and over. The first lines they sung perfectly summed up this day, "What a life I lead in the Summer." Amen to that.
|Robin Pecknold - Fleet Foxes :: Roskilde Festival 2009|
The Mars Volta was another highlight of the day. These progressive rockers annihilated the Arena Stage just when the sun was starting to set and the pre-stay-up-all-night energy was being released. I had never heard them play before and my overall impression was simple: these guys are crazy talented. Read Kayceman's recent feature on the guys to get a better feel for what they are about. I couldn't keep my eyes off the drummer Thomas Pridgen (just check this clip out), with his dreads flailing around and his ripped arms beating the crap out of his instrument. Lead singer Omar Rodriguez Lopez was in perfect form, extremely energetic and wildly spirited. A sound that fits in no genre, these guys are worth seeing live for sure.
|The Mars Volta :: Roskilde Festival 2009|
I left Mars Volta before the set was over and ran to the Orange Stage just in time to hear, "Hi ya cock-lickers." That was Liam Gallagher's warm welcome to the huge crowd Friday night. Ahhhhhh, Oasis. This was the show I was most looking forward to Friday and I was not disappointed. In fact, they blew me away. I've seen them before and I'm used to the tantrums, the drama, the lack of enthusiasm. This was not the case tonight. Liam and brother Noel had played Roskilde back in 1995 when they had just put out Definitely Maybe, the fastest selling record in U.K. history. Tonight, they got an upgrade to center stage at prime time and they rocked everyone silly for over two hours. "Live Forever," "Wonderwall," "Lyla," "What's the Story Morning Glory?," "Slide Away" and "Roll With It" made the crowd go nuts and at one point Liam said, "Are you having a good day? Well, it's about to get better." He might've even smiled when he said it. No, strike that. He did, however, stick his tongue out and put his tambourine on his head. He did this repeatedly as he blankly stared out into the audience, which apparently meant he was having a grand old time. "It's been a real joy to play for you. It takes a lot to put me in a good mood, but you've fuckin' gone and done it." He put us in a good mood, too. Noel was left on stage alone a few times to serenade us with acoustic gems, the highlight being "Don't Look Back in Anger," where he stopped singing and let the audience carry the entire song. Chills. Many people singing at once is pretty amazing but 100,000 people singing at once is... wow. Tears were flowing all around me. They ended the energetic set with "Champagne Supernova" followed by "I Am the Walrus." All in all, the highlight of the festival to this point. They're cocky, but they have reason to be - they're really fucking good.
I caught only a little of NIN because I wanted to get a prime location for Röyksopp in the Arena tent. Trent Reznor, although older and now engaged, can still rock his audience into an absolute, mad frenzy. People were going bananas as per expectations. Röyksopp, however, was a musical collective I had never seen, yet have been enjoying for a while now, so I wanted to see what they were like live. For newbies, they are an electronica duo from Tromso, Norway. Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge have been producing underground electronic music since 1998 and have amassed a major following (hence the enormous crowd for a 2:30 a.m. set). You might've heard their song "Remind Me" in that annoying Geico caveman commercial? Let it be known they are much better than that one song. Tonight they had special guests join them on stage (including Euro star Robyn) throughout their very theatrical, high energy performance. Costume changes, power punching, dance moves and moody smoke waves coupled with high octane, sweat-producing songs made for a wild set. When translated, Röyksopp means "smoke mushroom" and I can see why after watching their hallucinatory performance.
|Oasis :: Roskilde Festival 2009|
Continue reading for Saturday's coverage from Roskilde...
The Dodos were high on my list of must-see shows this weekend. Even though I had seen them at Sasquatch! and was completely under-whelmed, l love their music and wanted to give them another chance. They played at the Pavilion Stage, where most newcomers played, but they sure as hell didn't sound like newcomers. They were absolutely on point. Meric Long (guitar/vocals), Logan Kroeber (drums) and Joe Haener (xylophone/toy piano) absolutely blew the audience away. If you don't know these guys yet, you at least might know their song "Fools" (currently in a Miller Chill commercial). The folk-indie rock group opened with this song to a pumped up crowd. From there they kept it going fast and strong for the whole set. Long has this clean, buttery smooth voice that coasts on top of hard hitting drum beats and xylophone notes. They go from sweet and melodic to playing their instruments so hard you think strings will break and drums will burst - a head banging moment and then right back to the sweet goods again. I know they're categorized as 'folk indie' but it's important to say that you hear a little ska in them, with a slight hint of a marching band touched with rock. Their performance was really fun to watch, not because of theatrics or special effects, but because each of the guys are really good at their craft. Each instrument plays a vital role in these songs. The crowd was yelling so loudly at the beginning of each song that they guys looked a little taken aback. Either everyone over here really, really likes their music or they just recognized that a song was going to be great based on the first couple of notes. Either way, they were right. The band kicked ass today. Tight, fluid, catchy, heart hitting, and foot stomping, The Dodos are back for me.
|Roskilde Festival 2009|
I wanted to check out a show at the Odeon Stage, so I headed over in time to see the beginning of Klovner I Camp. There was so much commotion before the show that I thought I was in for a real Norwegian treat. Then finally, a hip-hop band came out in tracksuits and started playing what seemed a complete rip off of the Beastie Boys. When I noticed they were all older white men, I got outta there. Sorry! From there I went over to the main stage to see Slipknot, which I was sure I was going to hate. I looked up at the big screen to see nine men dressed in red and black jumpsuits with the scariest fucking masks I've ever seen. Then it hit me. THIS is why I can't sleep at night. Seriously, check out this picture of them before reading further. I had an immediate core shake upon seeing them. So scary, oh my god! However, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about so I stuck it out. Holy amazing show! I repeat, holy amazing show! Besides the insanely addictive visual lure of the masks, they had pyrotechnics, guys climbing on equipment, some of the best head banging I have ever seen and tons of energy. The part I wasn't expecting was that the lead singer Corey Taylor couldn't have been more moved and appreciative to the audience, constantly talking to us between each heavy metal head swish. "I'll tell you what Roskilde, there isn't a festival like this in America!" I wanted to scream, "Maybe not, but it's Independence Day, Corey, cut us some slack!!" But that would've meant I'd have to look at that mask close-up and no thank you. I digress. Every song was beyond loud and wild and the audience from front to waaaaaaaay back was jumping up and down in unison. "You have no idea what this means to us. Thank you so much. We fucking love you guys. Best crowd ever." I can't say I'd ever buy an album, but I'd see them live any day. These guys are really great, scary as shit showmen.
|Roskilde Festival 2009|
I went back to the Odeon to catch German hip-hop/electro group Deichkind. Jumping gyms, trampolines, garbage bag costumes covered in neon tape, weird structures on stage, all fantastic! And with their dance funk jungle beat, I was in. They make what they call 'tech-rap' and it makes total sense. They mixed songs like "Thriller" with "Satisfaction" and then would go super amped up reggae on us. A really fun dance atmosphere.
Continue reading for Sunday's coverage from Roskilde...
This day started off really slow. Sunday's are tough days for both festival-goers and performers alike. However, there were four shows I was amped to see. First off, White Lies, a four-pack of 21 year olds from London, absolutely blew me away. Lead singer/guitarist Harry McVeigh is a treat to watch. Although he is much younger, he sounds a lot like a combo of Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears, Tom Smith of The Editors and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand. McVeigh, along with Jack Lawrence-Brown (drums), Charles Cave (bass) and Tommy Bowen (keys) play really ear friendly, dance friendly, lyric catching indie rock. Moody and dramatic, but completely appropriate, I can see what the hype is all about. They came out and absolutely killed their set, and the audience sang along to every word and danced wildly while McVeigh bellowed out his dramatic lyrics. He's a fist-clencher and I totally subscribed to it. Not only did they play all of their hits but they treated us to a Portishead cover as well. I will 100-percent see these guys again. A great performance and really great songs.
|Crazy Danes... Roskilde Festival 2009|
Whitest Boy Alive surprisingly turned out to be a great dance party. I love these guys, but think of them more as a relaxing summer day, chilling by the pool, cocktail in hand, kind of band. Not so. Well, yes they are, but they're also really fun to dance to. The crowd at the Arena was huge and everyone was feeling these guys, who by the way look like the nerdiest, whitest boys alive. I was not expecting lead singer/guitarist Erlend Øye (also of Kings of Convenience), a tall, skinny guy with glasses, to have a major stage presence. He did. Although they described their sound as being an electronic dance music project in 2003, they are currently happy to be a band with no programmed elements. Their music is jazzy, funky, jamband-like, dance provoking, sing along friendly and laced with synths. Øye interacted a lot with the audience during the performance as well, making for a really fun show. They're playing several festies this summer so I'm eager to see them again.
Next up at the Arena was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They definitely put on a high energy, exciting and visually stimulating show (the giant eyeball is a nice touch). Lead singer
Karen O is a ball of fire and rocks OUT on stage. I felt like I was watching the Pat Benatar performance I never got to see growing up. From what I saw, Miss O is a dramatically fantastic performer and if you like the alternative, garage punk scene, this is the band for you. I only caught a couple of songs because the lines to Coldplay were literally 1000 people deep and I was not about to miss being up front for that show.
|Roskilde Festival 2009|
Coldplay. Holy Coldplay. So, there is a reason they are insanely popular. I think people love to hate this band because of their success, but I think they are 100-percent worthy of it. They've been popping out amazing song after amazing song since 2000 (remember "Shiver," "I'll See You Soon," "Trouble," "Yellow"?) and they haven't slowed down. Viva La Vida, their latest, was at the forefront during this performance, but they pleased everyone with older hits. They actually opened with "Clocks," which immediately put everyone in a great mood. They also played "Green Eyes," "God Put A Smile Upon Your Face," "The Scientist," "In My Place" and "Politik"... not that you could hear anything Chris Martin was singing since the crowd was so loud. They did a couple of songs off stage as well, including a five-song set in the middle of the audience. The highlight of this journey to the center was when they played an acoustic "Billie Jean" and had everyone singing along, accompanied by a cell phone light wave from front to back. The moon was full and stunning, which might have something to do with the restless, enthused crowd. Every time there was a quiet moment, the audience would chant the middle part of Viva La Vida - "oooooh ahhhhhooooowaaaah" - and throw their hands into the air. It was not lost on the guys and they kept amping it up more and more for us. Confetti flying everywhere, huge bouncy balloons floating above us, a rousing encore, a solo song by drummer Will Champion - it was unreal. Nobody left after the show was over, just more and more chanting both towards the stage and up towards the full moon. What a way to end our first festival overseas!
This was an absolutely stunning festival, any way you slice it. It will be really hard to beat this one, in terms of size, energy, friendliness, performances and green awareness. Denmark has done it right and I will be back again. Mange Tak!
Continue reading for a few more pics of Roskilde Festival 2009...
Lindsay and Walt are finishing up at Germany's Melt Festival right now, check back soon for coverage.
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