From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
There were a few things different this year at the Roskilde Festival. First, the new security structures that were in place at the main stages to insure that no accidents occurred like last year at Pearl Jam, the fantastic summer weather (no significant rain and no mud!), and lack of really big names in music. It was an excellent festival this year and I learn more each year about what makes this festival such a special event. This is a festival that is totally about personal freedom, music and just having a good time. It is huge, nearly 100,000 people with the staff employed to make it all work. In America, a festival like this would have 5000 police in the festival, but in Denmark, they have 4. That is right, 4! They are mainly here just to look after petty crimes and things and not to police you. Here people are free to golf in the nude, pass out drunk in the grass, sit and roll and smoke a joint, no one is arresting people and making them have to hide from being who and what they want to be. It is wonderful to just observe all the people in this free environment.
The basic structure was the same as was the placement of the stages. There was one less techno tent this year. They maintained large areas for the vendors to sell their things. You could buy jewelry, clothes, heavy metal T-shirts, musical instruments like digs and congas, shoes, jackets, tattoos, and a lot of other cool things as well. The food places were very good again and you had Cajun, Thai, Indian, African, pizza, Greek, Danish and your standard hotdog places. Ice cream was sold from little vendors all over the place. No problem with the alcohol, you could buy beers, regular (17 Danish kroner, about $2) or strong (21 kroner and 6% alcohol), wine by the glass or in a small box and they had special racks of 5 beers for 100 DKK. Everything is recyclable that is sold in the music areas. You get 1 dkk for a cup, two if it is the hard plastic type with the Roskilde Festival logo on it and 5 dkk for the cardboard racks that hold five beers! You see a lot of immigrant people, children and people who just want to earn some cash or the next round of beers picking up the cups, etc. A great way to keep the place much cleaner.
As for the music, we started with the Flaming Sideburns from Finland. A five piece rock and roll band who have released some material on the Danish label, Bad Afro Records. They were quite good but very slow to get into it as they have never played on such a huge stage. The Green tent (Grøn scene in Danish) is the worlds largest event tent that is put together by people and not machines. 20,000 people fit in this tent. Massive! After about 20 minutes though, the band was grooving and put on a good show. Other bands playing at this time that we might have seen were: Rebirth Brass Band, Palle Mikkelborg (Danish avant-garde trumpet player or Lucien Foort. The Deftones were now playing after the Flaming Sideburns as we walked over to see the Swedish punk band, the HIVES. The tent where the HIVES were playing was totally packed though and they should have traded places with the Flaming Sideburns, who had a smaller crowd but in a bigger place. The Hives play pretty much hard driving punk rock with an attitude. All dressed in black with white ties. They were quite ok, but it was so crowded I went to hear a bit of the Deftones on the Orange stage (the only outdoor stage, which has very large screens and room for 60,000 to watch). I did not really like the Deftones at all. This sort of cross between simple heavy metal riffs, turntable scratching and rap or hip-hop. Did nothing for me at all. They had a big crowd though and I heard people thought they were great. The singer from TOOL came out during the time I was watching them. Other bands now playing around on other stages were Calm, Placebo, Orishas and Anthony Pappa. I saw a few minutes of Wyclef Jean from the Fugues before chilling out and listening to Tahiti 80 from France. Wyclef Jean did a great Bob Marley cover (Redemption Song) and some more reggae when I heard him and sounded ok. Tahiti 80 played some really awful pop music that I was nearly driven away from but then they would really surprise you with a great funky driving instrumental jam. They could really play and had a cool unique sound. Their last song of their set was really excellent. I am sure it is the pop stuff that makes them popular though and it was horrible stuff. Next up was the main headliner, TOOL. I managed to get a great spot right on the outer barrier of the new security system that was set up. To avoid people being crushed at the front of the stage that had made two coral areas in which they counted the number of people who got in and only let a certain number in and you could not bring any bags that were bigger than a fanny pack or regular purse. The number of people they let in was far fewer than could fit, so if you could get into these areas it was great, as it was quite comfortable. They had loads of security people in orange jackets who would pass out cups of water throughout the show to people to insure good hydration, as it was hot this year (70-80F- hot for Denmark!).
TOOL started at 10:30 and the sun had just gone down over the horizon at around 9:30, so it as still very light outside. They had a 2 minute intro tape and then strangely enough took a minute to tune their instruments before starting to play. Their music was a mixture of intensity, rock, strange rhythms and very visual. They had two large screens in which movies that more or less went along with the songs were projected for every song. The singer stood in front of one of the screens so that he was silhouetted in the images (very cool effect!). The band played mostly songs from their new CD but also 'Opiate' from the first CD-EP and 'Swim' and another one from their 2nd CD. Very cool and original band. I enjoyed the show a lot. We went home to sleep, while the rest of the crowd either went back to their tents or chose to go see Stratovarius (Progressive speed metal) from Finland or Wookie (UK garage-two step band).
The next day, we arrived quite fresh and ready to see a lot of music. The Gathering from Holland were to start on the Green Stage. I had been waiting for many years to see this band. They have changed a lot though over the years from their mainly instrumental, very heavy style of metal, to a more melodic but still heavy style with female vocals, to now where their new compositions have very little guitar and focus on more dreamy keyboard and vocal lines. I still wanted to see them. Their best songs were the two they played from Mandylion. They had a decent crowd and this was the last date on their Europe tour for the latest CD. The band also only have one guitar player now, which makes them sound a bit lighter. Quite a good set.
Next up on the same stage were the Hellacopters from Sweden. A great high energy rock and roll band. They had come to town 5 or more times since I have lived here but this was my first time to see them. Great live band. They played quite a mix of material from all their CDs and LPs. The blond long hair guitar player really ran around and did the rock and roll guitar solos at the front of the stage all leaning way back and was quite ok, but had little variety in his guitar solos. The lead singer, who looked a bit like Axl Rose, was also very active. Excellent live jamming show.
Also on the green stage was Burning Spear! I saw them give a fantastic concert in August 2000, so I knew what to expect. They opened with a medley of things before Winston Rodney appeared. He was in good spirits and sang perfect and played a lot of conga drums. They played a lot of the classics like 'Slavery Days', 'Marcus Garvey' and 'People of the World'. I only saw 40 minutes and ran off to go see George Thorogood and the Destroyers who were performing on the Orange Stage. I got there just in time to get up in the front section in the middle, so I had a great view. I had not seen George since 1982. He looked older but played the same. The crowd was very into it and enjoyed the set which included all his classic numbers like 'The Sky Is Crying', 'Move It On Over', 'Madison Blues', 'Who Do You love', 'One Bourbon one Scotch And One Beer', and 'I Drink Alone'. Great 75 minute set, which I really dug in the hot sun. Great sax player.
Next I had a break and ate some lunch and heard a bit of Lagbaja from Nigeria. They described them as heavily influenced by Fela Kuti, but I did not hear it and was a bit disappointed. After lunch, I ran into the Gas Giant guys, who had a big flag on a pole with the Monster Magnet Bullgod, so they are quite easy to find. We hung out and watched Beck. He had a huge crowd and a big band with horn players, keyboard, back up singers and played a very diverse set from solo acoustic songs to funk to hip hop to nearly soul. It was the heavy funk numbers that the crowd really seem to respond to. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed his set as well.
Next up was Neil Young and Crazy Horse. I had had several opportunities to see Neil in San Francisco but I never went. I had such a good position for George Thorogood earlier in the day I thought it would be great to be in a similar place for Neil Young. Unfortunately, the security was a mess and they did not start letting people in one by one, until 15 minutes before Neil was to start. By only a few minutes before he was to start only 100 people were in and a lot of pushing was occurring and he even started playing before I got in. They would change this the next day and start letting people in 30 minutes before. Anyway, Neil was loud!!!! He played mostly songs with Crazy Horse but also some solo acoustic with harmonica and some solo piano pieces. I was not familiar with a lot of his songs but towards the end he played all the classics like 'Hey Hey My My', 'Like A Hurricane' (including a 15 minute guitar destruction-torture feedback demonstration that had people holding their hands over their ears. He was clearly enjoying.) and 'Rockin In The Free World'. Neil ended up playing an extremely long concert of 2 hours and 20 minutes. It was an excellent way to end day two. We could have stayed later and seen the Danish band Sort Sol or Thee Ultra Bimbos (punk from Finland) or Jerry Bonham or Plaid.
Saturday started with one of the bands I had most looked forward to seeing, Garmarna from Sweden. Ever since Carl Anderson turned me onto them, we have loved them. They have never played in Copenhagen in the 4 years we have lived here. I showed up early enough to get a good place in the small blue tent as from previous experience, the Swedish bands pull in huge crowds. It ended up being very hot and packed. They started the set with 'Unde Quocomque' and right into 'Salvatoris', both from the new CD (Hildegard von Bingen). The crowd was incredibly enthusiastic and were clapping along for most of the songs. Stefan, the fiddle player and Gotte the guitar player were very active and really into the music, while Emma (singer) and Richard (bass and guitar) were not very active. Next up were two of my favorite Garmarna songs, 'Vänner och Fränder' and 'Min Man', from their 2nd CD entitled Guds Spelemän. The had a sample loop of sometimes drums and sometimes extra fiddle or keyboard lines that Stefan would trigger with his foot. He got some really great sounds when he played the violin or strange string instrument that he had to wind up as he played (Hurdy Gurdy?). The band played songs off all 4 of their full length CDs as well as one off their first EP. Very nice mix of the old and the new. I was surprised that they played the new version of 'Euchari' and the older version nearly back to back with the song 'Gamen' from their last CD in between. The new version is very laid back while the older version is very heavy and upbeat. This song was very popular and had the people singing and dancing wildly. After 'Vedergällningen', Emma did a spoken word piece called 'Je klothe opp på en stovn´ stein' (something close to that, from the set list). The band closed the set with 'Klevaberget'. They were called back for an encore by an very loud audience and you could tell the concert had been a great experience for the band. They closed with 'Bläck'. Great show with a lot of moods and energy. I did an interview with the band after the set and they said this was one of their best shows ever.
After the interview with the band we hurried over to catch some of the reggae band Morgan Heritage that I read about as being a very religious (Rastafarianism) band who played roots reggae. I managed to see about 40 minutes of their set and I really liked some of the first songs they played and the singer had a really excellent and powerful soulful reggae voice. They had like a little alter on the stage, which seemed strange but the crowd seem to really be enjoying the music. I liked the roots reggae they played a lot but when they had a guest rapper type guy come out, I kind of lost it. I could not really get into this audience participation stuff with singing Ire back to the band, etc. Not a band. Their CD was unfortunately not for sale. Next I waited around to hear Manu Chao from France/Spain. There was a lot of hype about this band and the Green Tent was totally packed. They started at 7 in the evening and the audience went wild. The music was very reggae inspired but a little more upbeat and they had an accordion player. Manu, he sang and played the guitar and reminded me a bit of Gregory Issacs but not as whiney. He was very pro-marijuana, as there were several songs about it. They had an excellent groove and the crowd really gave them a lot of energy. For sure a party band that one must see live to appreciate. I was surprised that I got into them so much. Near the end of their set, I left to go catch the beginning of Bob Dylan. My friend Michael was not feeling well and he had seen Bob 5 times, so we left after 30 minutes or so. Bob was Bob. Not sure what songs he played but he was dressed in a suit and tie and stumming his acoustic guitar. Fine songs to chill out and appreciate.
This was the last day. We considered coming out to see Green Lizard from Holland but did not make it. We started with Queens of the Stone Age. This band is hugely popular in Europe. Monster Magnet is an opening act for them! I have never been impressed with their CDs or the radio broadcasts of their concerts but I went to check them out. They opened with their drug song, which is very punky and steals a riff from Nirvana. Their main man, Josh Homme, sings and plays the guitar. He was clearly pretty drunk. Another Nirvana inspired number followed and the crowd were really into it. They then slowed it down and played a series of songs that really had nothing special. All the people who were getting into their Nirvana inspired songs were kind of standing around waiting for something. Not much was happening. I decided to leave and go see the young American Blues-rock guitar player Joe Bonamassa and this was the best thing I could have done as Joe rocked!!!! Anyway, I was told that the Queens really were much better at the end of the show and had a long jamming song.
Joe Bonamassa. I had never heard of him but from the way the stage was set up this was going to be a 3 piece band (guitar, bass, drums). Joe came out and said, "How are you doing Denmark?" and started to rip it up on the guitar. He started with 'Penthouse Pauper', and into 'Walk In My Shadow' by Free! Fucking awesome! Next was a New Day Yesterday by Jethro Tull. Man, he plays a heavy version and sure can play the guitar. He is the only person at the festival who can play the guitar as well as Stefan Krey from Gas Giant, who I see play often. Next up were a couple of original songs called 'Trouble Waiting' and 'I Know Where I Belong'. The highlight of the set was his 13 minute version of the Blind Faith song 'Had To Cry Today'. Excellent stuff. For the encore, he started by himself and just played some guitar for us. Nice. He then closed with a great 10 minute version of 'Are You Experienced' by Jimi Hendrix. The crowd went nuts but this was it. What a great set. I hope he comes back to Europe again. Joe mentioned that this was the last and the best show on his first Europe tour.
After Joe, I ran all the way across the festival site back to the Green Scene to catch Apocalyptica. This is a very interesting band. They come from Finland and they play originals and covers songs by Heavy Metal bands. The catch is they are only 4 cello players! I did not really know what to expect but these guys play hard, heavy and fast and shred on the cello like you have never seen... Phew... They opened with 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' by Metallica. They would also play One, 'Fight Fire With Fire' and 'Nothing Else Matters' by Metallica. They played some original tunes like 'Pray And Romance', but also covered 'South Of Heaven' by Slayer! They closed their very cool set with a song from Peer Gunt by Edvard Grieg. Excellent stuff. I was very impressed with the playing.
Now I went over to see T-Model Ford. He is an old guy from Mississippi and plays boogie blues. He had a drummer with him as well. He was suppose to sing nasty songs about drinking and women in story format. Maybe he does this on the albums but here he played more or less the same 3 songs over and over for an hour. The words were different but the songs were nearly all the same. I was very disappointed and a lot of the crowd, except the people in the very front, only seemed to stay for a few songs. I stayed for the whole set but shouldn't have. I quickly ran off to catch the rest of Patti Smith. I missed her first 45 minutes while seeing T-Model Ford and this was a mistake as Patti Smith was magical. I don't know what she played before I arrived by I heard her when she had the whole crowd in the palm of her hand and she had a powerful hold on the crowd as she did the Pearl Jam song, Alive from their first CD. This was very moving for her and the crowd as this was the same stage where 9 people lost their lives last year and she wanted to let people know that we are still Alive and we have to do the best we can in life and let music help us all to heal our wounds. She played a few more numbers that were very good and one they jammed into the old song 'Gloria'. Their encore was her huge hit from the 70's, "Because The Night".
That was the end of the festival for us. We did not really want to see the Cure, Misty in Roots, Saul Williams, or Spooks. I really wanted to see Talvin Singh, but he was one hour later and this was the 4th day and I had to work the next day. Great festival again this year. I hope that those who have read this whole article can get a feel for just how much music of all types is happening and that there is something for everyone, young and old.
For more information on the annual Roskilde Festival you can visit the official web site at: http://www.roskilde-festival.dk/.