After the first full day of walking around and seeing bands, and talking with several Danish people about what Roskilde means, I’ve had some revelations, (not drug-induced.) Basically, Roskilde is a small town, you run into people you know, you start conversations easily, and when you walk around you say hi to strangers. Taking place in country that is top-ranked for quality of life, Roskilde Festival provides eight days for visitors to cut loose and push all kinds of boundaries. Maybe in their daily lives they are teachers, lawyers or parking lot attendants, but here every man, woman and child can reinvent his or herself. Is it the effect in living in such a comfortably society, where social safety nets make it impossible to really screw up? Roskilde could be described as the after-effect of living a life that is in so many ways close to perfect and ideal, that motivates so many people to come together and make a ersatz city where anything goes. For this week all the valves have been released, and NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION is on the scene to see what explodes.
Sort of gray and rainy Thursday started with a visit to the pit of grandfathers of hardcore thrash, Venice Beach, California’s own SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. I showed up to this wondering if they really matter and yes they still bring the fierceness. Hefty frontman Mike Muir (the only original member of the band that formed in 1981) amped up the crowd, and brought out some classics like War Inside My Head. With multiple mosh pits going, it was hard to keep track of all the fists and legs flying through the air, and it’s only 6:30. Walking over to see THE LUMINEERS at the Odeon stage, I caught Danish disco-pop act VINNIE WHO covered the TALKING HEADS Life During Wartime. The dominated the Orange Stage, the biggest of the seven stages at Roskilde. THE LUMINEERS stage was packed, and as it started to rain, I followed Julie, a Danish girl wearing an army cap that read “General Slut” as she pushed her way to the mid-front. The band played their blend of folk Americana rock, and while they are not necessarily doing anything new, they do it well, with lovelorn lyrics over acoustic guitar and a string section. The highlight was when lead singer Wesley Schutz asked the crowd to clear a path, he walked out and sang a few songs from the back of the tent. They get props for covering Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues, and bucking convention and playing their feel-good hit Hey Ho early in the set.
I tried to catch KENDRICK LAMAR but the stage was incredibly packed, some people totally killed my vibe. That gave me plenty of time to get in line for the front section of ANIMAL COLLECTIVE. In the line, I was charmed by some drunk Danish fans. Things that came up included whether artist Olafur Eliasson was more Icelandic than Danish, blow jobs, and whether JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’s album Psychedelic Pillow is the best thing to come out of San Francisco. When I tell him it’s actually called Surrealistic Pillow he tells me he doesn’t really care.
With ANIMAL COLLECTIVE , it’s inspiring to see a band that brought something original and new and has managed to stay together and stay faithful to a creative vision. This show was a stand-out, with the band getting on stage at 11:00 pm, and giving the crowd a solid hour plus show. ANIMAL COLLECTIVE started with more droney, ambient recent stuff, then branched more into their back catalog, playing Brother Sport and My Girls. The tracks were loud, pulsing and borderline noise jams that pushed the limits of traditional song structure. They let the fans have it with a frantic version of The Purple Bottle.
To end the evening I headed to the Orange Stage to see Swedish/American musical collective INGRID. It’s kind of a indie and electronic super group, with band members from as diverse at LYKKE LI, MIIIKE SNOW and PETER BJORN AND JOHN. Starting at 1 AM, the band comes out similarly cloaked in creepy hoods with winged shoulders, imagine what Death would wear if he were in a band. The frontman from MIIIKE SNOW sang with LYKKE LI, and the entire time it was obvious that this is a group of like-minded musicians getting together to experiment and have fun.
It’s about 2:00 AM and my legs are tired, crawling into my tent is sounding like a good idea, and INGRID already performed versions of Paddling Out and Black Tin Box. Here’s the thing about Roskilde: you never know what to expect. As I start walking to the exit, who comes onstage but rock legend CHRISSIE HYNDE (of new wave rockers THE PRETENDERS). She dons a hooded cloak to fit in with the rest of the band, says “Happy Halloween,” and leads them through renditions of I’ll Stand By You and Don’t Get Me Wrong. She finishes her guest spot with the ROLLING STONES cover, Under My Thumb. The whole time she is playing a member of INGRID is gyrating in the black cloak like some hooded spectre. The set ends with PETER BJORN AND JOHN playing their mid-2000s hit Young Folks, with the male/female portions sung by MIIIKE SNOW sang with LYKKE LI. It made for a huge, crowd pleasing ending on a cool Danish evening, with light already peeking around the edges of the sky and dew gathering on the grass.