roskilde festival 2013 lights

We are knee-deep in Roskilde, does it sound good. I am writing this on Sunday, sadly the last day here. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE and KRAFTWERK are the big headliners tonight, but before that I will be seeing surf-punkers FIDLAR, rapper AZEALIA BANKS, KID KOALA and whatever else wanders across my path. First, let me tell you all about Saturday, where a Danish guy in the capacity crowd atMETALLICA asked if he could use my cup to piss in. My answer “No, it still has beer in it.”

I started the day with a talk with in-your-face rock sensation BABY IN VAIN. Andrea, Lola and Bene met to talk about their first time playing Roskilde, what the festival means to them, and what you have to do to have a really awesome experience. First, we all agreed RIHANNA the night before was disappointing. I asked them for their favorite Roskilde experience, and Andrea mentioned that for her it wasn’t separated into discrete experiences, but the festival week as whole is one long story. Read the full conversation in the next few days, here on NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION.

roskilde festival 2013 arts
ron english at rostkilde festival 2013

Saturday I began by joining one of the several tours offered for international press. On the art tour we were lucky enough to have artist RON ENGLISH join us.  An American artist who explores the relationship between branded images and culture, ENGLISH has created a 90-meter long wall on the back of the grandstand that subverts traditional advertising imagery with tongue-in-cheek slogans. Gregarious and well-spoken, he told us about generating ideas for the wall, and aiming for images that would be recognizable for a European audience. (My personal favorite was the Rush Limbaugh Oxycontin ad.) From there, we were led to the Velvet State, a wooden construction that houses a “sensuous society.” This piece is too sprawling and cerebral for me to break down in a few words here, but let’s just say it is an immersive art experience (and a welcome oasis from the festival’s in-your-faceness) that incorporates performance, audience participation, installation, and sound. The idea is that this is a completely aesthetic experience, represented by nine essential archetypes (The Dictator, the Killer, The Fetishist are a few examples.)  People wait hours to spend a few hours or even days in here, taking part in rituals, observing and generally being. The idea is intervention and transformation, and the two art groups Fiction Pimps (DK) and Collective Unconscious (UK) have realized a very special place where you can challenge and explore your own and others bodies and boundaries.

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After that experience, I chilled out with songwriter legend KRIS KRISTOFFERSON. Just one man and a guitar on the huge Orange Stage, he delighted the crowd with hits like Me and Bobby McGee and Best of All Possible Worlds. Then it was off to see native sons ICEAGE, who played to partial-capacity crowd. On a stage festooned with white lily flowers, Elias and his band tried and failed to bring a show that is normally ear-splitting, raw and primal. I have seen this band before and they are unique, and deserving of all the hype they seem to hate. Due to the removed and elevated nature of the stage, the combustible and adrenaline-inducing feel of their live show was lost. There are rumours they were reluctant to perform this latest of several Roskilde appearances, exhausted from months of touring.

metallica fan at roskilde festival 2013

The headliner Saturday was metal supergods METALLICA, playing their only European date. As expected, these veterans of arena rock gave the crowd everything, with pyrotechnics, stage banter, and favorites like For Whom the Bell Tolls, One and Master of Puppets. I skipped out on them a bit early to see Allentown, PA punkers PISSED JEANS. They had a decent crowd under the Pavillion tent, and cracked jokes about people who came to see them instead of METALLICA “I hear DAVID GROHL is over there. DAVID BOWIE just showed up and is jamming with METALLICA, and DAFT PUNK is playing a dance set of METALLICA songs.” This four piece gave it their best shot, providing some hair-raising punk and hardcore.

Now it’s midnight, time to walk over to see Icelandic post-rockers SIGUR RÓS. Seeing this band in the dark in Denmark is pretty near perfect, an ideal soundtrack as the temperature drops. The very last act I saw was Danish electro-poppers WHEN SAINTS GO MACHINE, who seemed genuinely touched and surprised with the crowd and energy that greeting them at their 2 am set.

Which brings me to another Roskilde reflection: it is the crowd that makes this event. KENDRICK LAMAR noted privately that he had never experienced a crowd like the above-capacity one on Thursday. Live music has an energy, and at Roskilde people in the audience are not just passive recipients, they are reflecting it back and adding their own spin on it. Infant bands and old bands can play here and be renewed, reborn and reaffirmed. You can go from classic folk rock, to metal, to ambient, to noise, all within a few dusty and sunny kilometers. Roskilde Festival is an oasis of insanity, with plenty of way-stations to recharge.