From Aural Innovations #12 (September 2000)
Well, this was the second year that I have attended the most amazing music festival in the world (www.roskilde-festival.dk). Now, I really believe it! 160 bands on 7 stages in 4 days. There is music for everyone, no matter what your tastes. Pop, heavy metal, death metal, stoner rock, folk music, Indian music, African music, techno, ambient, you name it. The organization is top notch and everything runs smoothly. It was quite tragic what happened with 8 people dying during the Pearl Jam concert but I will not dwell on this as it was a fantastic festival this year and this was a totally freak accident that will never happen again. Enough said.
They had some really special events happening this year in the technology area, as well as this really cool, 4 story high pyramid they had made out of 1000 painted doors. You could climb to the top and get a fantastic view of the whole festival site! The graffiti wall was very cool this year with many great artists painting interesting things that would line the outside walls of where many of the stands that were selling clothing, musical instruments like drums and digeridoos, etc, jewelry, tapestries, you name it... lots of cool stuff. You could get pierced or tattoos even. Anyway, the technology area had special displays set up by various Scandinavian people as well as the minute robots you could play soccer against. There was special light and sound displays, a tent where they slowed your shadow, as well as an internet café where you could surf for free. You could also try out the latest WAP phones available. Pretty amazing stuff.
Weather is something you always have to worry about and this year I understood what they mean by the rain and the mud as it was rainy and muddy and cold on Friday, like I have never seen. The weather was quite good the other days but Friday it was shit and the rain was blowing vertical while some bands were playing and I am sure it was the coldest concert Ziggy Marley had ever played! I did ok, as I was quite prepared with boots and leather pants and jacket, but this is the end of June and it is suppose to be summer... but then this is Denmark.
Ok... what about the music? On day 1, I decided to check out the Royal Beat Conspiracy first and they did not really have the sound right in the yellow tent as this was the first band to play and they also were not quite what I expected. A bit too much pop punk sort of feel. I left to catch the opening band on the orange stage (60,000 people can watch here). This was the Danish band, Tremolo Beer Gut. I have a 7" by them and they were quite ok. It is mostly instrumental surf music with an attitude. They were pretty cool and they had a 6 man backing choir or background singers on a few tracks, a theramin, organ player, plus two guitar players using plenty of tremolo... Quite ok... After they played I headed over to see the Swedish version of Anthrax called Lok. These guys play very angry aggressive music like Anthrax but not quite as tight or mixing the riffs up as well and sounding all too much the same, but quite cool. They sing all in Swedish as well and the tent was completely packed (15,000) with mostly Swedes. Heavy aggressive stuff. I got a bit of food and then went over to get a good space to see Nine Inch Nails, who I had not seen since they put out their first LP. I found the material to be much darker and heavy now, but with the same feel. They opened with Hole in my Head from the first LP. They were all painted up in black and gray paint, looking as if someone had dipped them into a big ashtray. Quite a good crowd had gathered for them and they really fed them what they wanted with a excellent hour long set. I was quite impressed and the sound was fantastic… Next up was Iron Maiden, whom I had last seen in 1991. This tour would have the return of Adrian Smith and Bruce Dickenson. The band played a lot of new songs, which were very much in the classic Iron Maiden style. I would have to say that their style is very recognizable and they stick quite close to it in the same way that AC-DC do. I guess you could say they play it safe. It was a fantastic set with classics like Wrathchild, Sanctuary, Iron Maiden, # of the Beast, Hallowed be thy Name, The Evil That Men Do. I think that was all the songs from the 80's. It was a huge crowd and the band had a fantastic time running around and getting great audience feedback. The most impressive song that I had never heard was Braveheart. That was the end of day one.
Iron Maiden Set List: Time will Come, Ghost of the Navigator, Brave New World, Wrathchild, 2 Minutes to Midnight, Blood Brothers, Sign of the Cross, Nowhere to Run, The Trooper, The Dream of Mirrors, Braveheart, The evil that men do, Fear of the Dark, Iron Maiden, Number of the Beast, Hallowed be thy Name , Sanctuary
Day two started crap weather (50F), windy and light rain. The first music I saw was a really excellent rock band from Pakistan called Junoon. This is a band that is banned in their home country! The two tabla players and singer who sings in a Qwawali like style fit so excellent in the rock format. The guitar player was quite good and I enjoyed them a lot. I had to rush over to catch Nebula next, whom I was going to interview after the gig. I found Ralph and got my pass for after the show. A quite large crowd had gathered for Nebula in the Yellow tent The band started right on time with fog pouring out from all sides of the stage. The guitar sound was a bit muddy but over all quite good. Eddie was ripping it up on the guitar and the bass sound was so heavy. Rubin has become such an excellent solid drummer. He had this great GONG which he did not have the last time they played here. The band played a mix of songs from all their records and EPs and even one new song called Giant. I met up with the band later for an interview. The crowd totally was into the band and Eddie played some great guitar. When he changed to the SG in the middle of the set after breaking a string, his sound improved and he really took off. He is a great guitar player. Excellent 60 minute set!
Nebula Set List: You Mean Nothing, Too the Center, Welcome to Reservation?, Down the Highway, What your Looking For, Freedom, ?, Giant, Fly On, Let it Burn, Devil's Liquid, Smokin' Woman,
Next I went over to get some food in the ethnic area and eat my dinner while listening to the excellent drum circle they had going on. Up next was Ziggy Marley on the Orange stage. A good crowd had assembled when I got there but the weather continued to be total shit, with a heavy wind, light rain and the place was beginning to get muddy. This was probably the first concert ever that Ziggy had to wear long underwear in the summer!!! It was getting cold and miserable. Anyway, the sound was spectacular and the band opened with Trenchtown Rock. I was totally amazed at how close Ziggy sounds to Bob and he has the look as well. Wow. Next up was a song called Beautiful Day (which it was not!) but Ziggy said he thought it was a Beautiful Day anyway. He had an excellent band and played mostly his own numbers some of which were roots reggae, one had a real electronic-techno beat with sort of hip hop like features... pretty unique, whether you like it or not. The highlight songs for me were Rainbow Country and Africa Unite. It was quite an excellent diverse set. I of course would like more pure roots reggae but I can understand that Ziggy must do his thing and not just copy his dad. Very conscious lyrics as well and he was having a great time despite the misery of the audience in the rain.
After Ziggy I went over to catch a few minutes of Willy Nelson and Family on the Green Tent and was completely packed and the crowd was chanting Willy and was totally into it. I personally found the two songs that I saw a bit boring but the crowd was blowing him away. I think he was quite surprised about the response. I was glad that they enjoyed him. I was off now to catch Koneveljet, a techno three piece from Finland. The band were all dressed up in surgical white garb including face masks and had their equipment on three sides of a square. Two of the 3 guys had Nord Lead 2 synths (the same that I have) so I had great interest to see what they were up to. The first songs were quite ambient and totally spaced out and they mixed in a few beats but then they really started to turn up the trance power and beats and work up into some very cool spacey music with a beat. I loved the way you could tell that most of the stuff on the synths was completely improvised and weird sounds would be produced out of nowhere all the time. Fantastic band. Next up was Pearl jam..
A lot of people had assembled for Pearl Jam and I ran into Bo (singer in On Trial) and we talked and had a few beers. The band started a few minutes late and I was completely surprised by the lack of volume. The band seemed quite laid back and the people were streaming up towards the stage like crazy. Where we there the volume was way too low and this was just to the right of the soundman's large black box. Something was strange as Ziggy Marley, Iron Maiden, all these bands were very loud. It must have been a conscious effort to have a lower volume. I complained to Bo and he agreed. I actually headed over to try to tell the soundman but it was so totally packed around the box, it was impossible. I was not familiar with or impressed with any of the songs until they played Even Flow. The band was not really talking to the audience, not getting them wild or anything. Around 45 minutes or so there were some pauses and then Eddie announced that they needed everyone to step back three steps and he repeated it and then that was it. The band stopped playing and you could tell something had happened up front. It was not until 2 hours later it was heard that some people had been killed. It was not known what the reason was until Sunday (they were physically crushed). The CURE were cancelled who were to play on the Orange Stage after Pearl Jam. Anyway, lets move forward from this. Well, now I went and caught a few songs of Underworld and they were so underwhelming and I was very unimpressed. The crowd at the Green Stage was huge and really into it though. I went back to my tent in the backstage area and was going to come back and see the North Mississippi Allstars at 2am on the Green Stage. It turned out that they were now not letting very many people in and out of the backstage area so I was not allowed out to go see NMA and had to hear them from the backstage area where I had my tent. I did not get to see NMA but they sounded like they played a great set. After they finished I heard part of the set by In Extremo, a German band who reminded me a lot like the harder stuff by Skyclad. They sounded very good. When all the music was over, I finally was able to sleep.
The next day it was a complete mud bath as it has been raining for like 10 hours and was pouring down earlier this morning. A lot of people were walking around in a daze when I emerged to cruise the site. The whole Orange stage area was roped off with police tape. I ran into the guys in Gas Giant and we had some breakfast and then headed up to the Ballroom Tent to see the Danish band Serras, which play all instrumental folk rock (violin, sax, guitar, bass, drums). One or two of the guys play in the band Sorten Muld, whom I had seen before. These guys played an excellent set of mostly violin driven uptempo folk rock, but a few of the songs were quite jazzy due to the style of the sax player. We enjoyed the set a lot.
Now, I was off to catch Spiritual Beggars, walking over with the guys in Gas Giant. Most of the festival I was by myself so it was nice to be with friends. I met up with Michael at Spiritual Beggars. They opened with a cool Come to the Sabbath, Satan's their intro music theme and then ripped into their first song at massive volume. I was really blown back but the sound was great. The Green tent probably has the most powerful PA system of all in the festival but not all bands blow you away. Next up was Wonderful World. SB for those who have not heard them are like the modern version of Uriah Heep, Hammond organ, powerful vocals but with a heavy Rickenbacker bass and metal guitar sound. They write great songs as well. The band just need to improvise a bit more and they could reach the level of incredible live. Still the band played a 70 minute set of ass kicking numbers that were great and I love the mix of guitar and organ. I think it a long shot to compare the band to Deep Purple as none of the guys are nearly as good at their instruments as Deep Purple, especially the Hammond player. Next up was Angel of Betrayal. I thought that the band was excellent and so did the small crowd that had gathered (still several thousand but this tent holds like 18,000!). I don't think that band played anything off their first two LPs at all. Excellent set.
Set List: ?, Wonderful World, Angel of Betrayal, Monster Astronaut, Sedated?, Until the Morning, Betrayal, ?, Ad Astra, ?, ? (has nice jam in it!), Euphoria, I'm Going On
Next up was Youssou N'Dour from Senegal... by next up I mean for me, as there is always someone playing on one of the 7 stages, so I could have gone to see In Flames, Calexico, Moloko, DJ Tiësto, Funkstörung or Gjallarhorn! Youssou was the first band to play on the Orange stage after the accident on this cool gray but not rainy day. I had not seen Youssou since 1992 and I had heard his new material was more commercial so I did not know what I was going to hear. They were great! He did play two pop numbers but the rest was killer African rhythms and he has this fantastic drummer who plays the talking drum. He only played one song that I recognized and that was Set. Many of the songs were 8 to 10 minutes long and quite good. The sound was fantastic. I think he had a sort of healing effect on the audience and his singing was so powerful and moving. He sings in his native language as well as French and English. They played a fantastic 85 minute set. This was the last music that I would see although I did hear a little of the Danish punk band the Burnouts and they were very entertaining. What I missed this night was Rollins Band, Chumbawamba, Flaming Lips and a great trance techno guy called Lars Holte. But I was beat and needed a good night sleep at home with my family.
On to the final day of the festival. I went to see Lou Reed. I am not very familiar with his music but he is a legend and I thought I should check him out. There was a much older crowd as it is Roskilde Festival policy that all people over 50 can come for free on the last day of the festival, which is always Sunday. I did not know any of the songs that Lou played except for Vicious. The crowd really dug him a lot but I thought it was just ok. Rock and roll songs that tell stories and some are funny, some are serious and others stupid. He played for 85 minutes and really never spoke to the crowd. Once he asked the Techno tent to turn down and he said thank you, those were his only words to the crowd.
Next I went to get some food and then to meet up with WE, whom I was to interview at 7 before they were the last band to play on the White tent at 8:30. Very cool band. How were they live?? I think they were the best band I saw at the whole festival. I was completely blown away. But before this I should mention that on the Orange stage I heard and watched a bit on the huge video screen Goran Bregovic Wedding and Funeral Band and Orchestra. This was very cool. It was a 45 piece band which had a very dark, moody, style, similar to maybe scary movie soundtrack music. It was extremely good but I had to go see WE, this was more important.
Before the WE set, I did a small interview with the singer from the band who was very cool. WE hit the stage right on time and kicked the set open with Carefree from their new 7" on Underground Records. I was hoping to hear a lot of material from the latest From the Spaceways 10" on Drunken Maria Records (see review in the last issue of AI) and they did play 3 of the 4 songs. They had excellent very loud songs and a dedicated crowd showed up for them. I was disappointed as nearly all my friends whom I had recommended they must see them never showed up and that was a pity as they were super hot and really jammed hard and had a few cool space outs. Their motto is Face the Space. The played songs mainly from the Livin' the Lore CD and Flyin' was a real highlight of the set. They also had a massive jam in Wooferwheels. The band was called back for an encore and did a super new song that they had never played live called 1971! Killer stuff. They did not do the Blue Oyster Cult cover from their latest 7" but that was cool as they did play a killer version of Cherry Red from the Groundhogs!
WE Set List: Carefree, Red Morning, Full moon with a Label, Peddler, Flyin', I and I, Cherry Red, Boom Boom Apes, Wooferwheels, 1971
That was it for me. I was beat. I could have seen some other cool music if I had stayed on but I was simply beat and planned to go to work the next day. Desmond Dekker was playing, as did DAD, Stars of Ska and Hoven Droven closed the festival at 3:30 in the morning… I had a great time once again this year and I hope to cover the festival again next year.