From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)
The Roskilde festival was sold out again this year and it looked as if we would have quite good weather as well. Although the festival is officially from the 27th of June until the 30th, the past two years they had set up a stage in the camping area and bands started playing on Tuesday before the official opening on Thursday at 17:00. The camp stage is a place where new Danish and Swedish bands get a chance to play. Some Danish bands that I had seen before like Monoton, Baby Woodrose and Knallert all played this year. I was unable to arrive until Thursday at around 18:00. Jesper from Gas Giant had kindly put up my tent in his camp and when I finally found it everyone was in HIGH spirits and ready for some good times.
Manu Chao at 19:30 would be the first band we saw. I was really ready for some rock and roll or whatever after just coming back from the US and right back to work and now it was festival time! I saw most of the Mano Chao set last year and they were quite good but man this year they had really a great vibe and the crowd was totally into it and the weather was great and the band just ripped through its set of punk rock meets roots reggae. I love the way they go from this roots reggae sung in Spanish and suddenly switch into high speed rock and roll with a little gypsy music thrown in as well. Fun stuff.
Next was a tough choice. I really wanted to see Lucky Dube, a reggae artist from South Africa but he was at the same time as the Chemical Brothers and Rammstein. I had seen the Chemical Brothers three years ago and they were really great and I was up for some psychedelic electronic music. I went and found a great spot up in the front section of the green tent (holds 18,000 people!) in the middle. I watched them set up the gear and man they have a lot but don't really use it all. A lot of it is for show. While waiting I spoke with a Swedish guy and drank a couple of beers and reflected upon what was so special about this festival and why the young and the old come back every year. The camp I was staying in with Jesper included his girlfriends father and some of his friends and they are around 50 and have been coming to the festival every year since the late 70s! Anyway, I think it comes down to this is a place where you can come and just get completely wasted for 4 or 5 days and have a great time. Everyone is getting totally pissed drunk and it is a safe environment and everyone is taking care of each other and looking out for each other. I did not really notice it as much the previous years but by staying out in the camping area, people are really getting totally wasted but they are having a great time, so that is cool.
Anyway, Chemical Brothers hit the stage at 22:00 and were pretty damn psychedelic. Awesome projections and lights that really transported you into another world and the sound was just incredible where I stood. I just totally spaced out on the screens and images and let the beats and music take me into another realm. Quite an experience and as good as the last time I saw them. It is hard to describe to people what it is like to be in a tent with 18,000 people dancing and jumping up and down to some pretty intense techno music... totally takes you away.
I was pretty drained after their set and slowly walked back to where I thought I might find the others but as I was heading over to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the most amazing light and sound was coming from the main Orange stage and Rammstein were still playing. On the huge projection screen when I arrived was this huge guy holding his arms out like he was a cross and he was totally on fire and chanting, "Rammstein, Rammstein, Rammstein". Heavy shit and very intense. I never made it to BRMC and stayed and saw the last 30 minutes of their set which was a mixture of heavy metal and industrial techno music. The crowd was totally into it and they had lots of fire and explosions. This must have been really intense for the people up in the front! I went back to the camp as the music was to stop soon. Others were not around. Tried to sleep but it was impossible, everyone was still partying and singing and playing music and laughing. It all got quiet around 3-4 when the sun was coming back up again!
The first band today was the Maggots from Sweden. Raw, down and dirty rock and roll with some jamming as well. This surprised me. Pretty damn good. Peter Pan Speedrock from Holland was next. Their sound was not very good to start with and I was not sure what people really liked about them. They came across to me like a poor mans version of Motorhead with some Danzig thrown in. Off to the Ballroom tent to catch one of the only bands from Japan, Cicala Mvta. Violin, cello, drums, flute and guitar. The music was described as music for festivals and store openings. Damn, this was great stuff, quite spaced out and experimental at times. The cello player had a load of effects and did all sorts of things to get strange tones out while the leader of the band played great flute, clarinet, etc.
There was no more music that I wanted to see for a few hours so I walked around and saw some of the cool exhibits that were displayed. I will describe them later. Next up was Slayer. I saw them back in 1998 and was pretty blown away. I got right up in the front section of the Orange stage and the true fans had already gathered and were chanting for Slayer. The band started a few minutes late and opened with "God Hates Us All", the title track from their latest CD. Damn it was loud. Quite unusual for the Orange stage that bands are this loud, but then again, this is Slayer. They have to be loud. The band really play the hell out of their instruments and give the fans exactly what they want. They played most of their classic tunes, "Chemical Warfare", "Dead Skin Mask", "War Ensemble", "Hell Awaits", "Angel of Death" etc. A short set, only 60 minutes. Most bands on the Orange play around 90 minutes. I was surprised.
There were no bands of interest for some hours so I went back to the camp and chilled out. I got some food and came back to check out the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I had very low expectations. They were great when I saw them back in 1991 but now they had become a pop band and very little in common with how they were in 1991. I tried to find a place close where I could at least see the screen ok. They started with a bass solo of sorts and a totally distorted sound. It sound pretty cool, but then it was just some pop songs and some lame funk. Man, I remember the days when he used to rap hard and they were a killer funk band. They played a new song that was so horrible I tried to leave. It took me like 10 minutes to make my way out of the crowd to where I could go to see some real music. The crowd was totally into it though.
It was starting to rain as I reached the techno scene. I decided to check out a Danish DJ named Bjørn Svin. The tent was totally packed. He started off very strangely with some off beats and strange noises. It was like he was teasing everyone for what seemed like 10 minutes. You could see the people just trying and wanting to dance but he was fucking with them, then suddenly, he pounded everyone with the techno thump and he was off. People were dancing, jumping, and going for the tranced out techno. The tent smelled totally of hash as lots of joints were being smoked everywhere. Quite a powerful energy in that tent.
I left after 45 minutes to make my way over to see HIM from Finland. The band is described as love metal. The band have a very charismatic singer with an interesting voice. All the songs are love ballads but the music is not ballad like at all. Quite heavy, almost death metal at times and gothic and dark, but melodic. Quite a strange and unique mixture. I was not sure how much I liked it or not but I checked out the whole set. There were some more bands playing later like Satyricon (Norway Black Metal) and Infinite Mass (Swedish Funk hip hop). I went back to sleep. Did not get to sleep until after 3am I guess. Still lots of people partying near our tent area.
I would just hang out here as the Jaga Jazzists from Norway were next. They are a group of about 10 young jazz musicians that play some pretty cool partially improvised jazz-funk-rock stuff. Some of the horn players back up Motorpsycho on occasion. I had seen them a year earlier at the Copenhagen Jazz festival and they were excellent. They remind me a bit of Zappa in some ways but there are few guitar solos and the guitar player in this band mostly makes sounds and atmospheres. All the members do solos except the guitar and tuba players. Cool stuff and a great set of music for nearly 80 minutes. I decided to stay here again and see Abdullah Chhadeh and Nara from Sudan. According to the program, Abdullah Chhadeh is one of the worlds leading players of the quanum. This turns out to be a kind of harpsichord and he wore metal picks on his fingers. Quite cool. The band played what I would call traditional Arabic music. It was quite a lot of the same but very enjoyable and this guy could really rip on this instrument.
I had to run all the way across the place to the Green Tent to catch Arthur Lee and Love with the Forever Changes String and horns ensemble. I had seen his great show a few months earlier without the horns and strings so I was quite curious to hear this. The tent did not have that many people in it when I arrived and he had just started. I quickly found most of the guys in On Trial, who are big Arthur Lee fans and some others I knew. Arthur looked and sounded great. Played a lot of guitar and as far as I could tell the same songs as a few months earlier. The horns and strings were on like 50% of the songs and I was worried it would give a new age sound to it but it did not. A nice addition, actually.
Next up was Manowar on the main Orange stage. I used to listen to them a lot in my metal days in the early 80s but had sort of forgot them and was not sure what to expect. Damn, they had a lot of huge amplifiers on the stage. Again, all the metal heads had gathered and they had a core of very dedicated fans. The band had some intro music that was pretty damn loud but when the band ripped into Manowar, the earplugs almost shot out of your ears and the bass just hammered you in the chest. The dirt underneath your shoes was shaking but the sound was clear and great. Fuck it was loud! Eric Adams sounded as good as ever and the band really delivered the goods. A few too many speeches but great versions of "Blood Of My Enemies", "Warriors Of The World", "Sign Of The Hammer", and "Bourne On The Wings Of Steel". I really really enjoyed this which surprised even me. Nothing quite like Viking anthem metal in Scandinavia!!!!
Now back to the Ballroom tent for Royal Crown Revue. High energy swing driven rock and roll. Think of 1930's swing music and throw in Chuck Berry or someone like that. The people were dancing and sweating like mad and gave the band huge applause after each track. Very cool stuff live. The lead singer was also like a band leader from the 30's and a bit older than the rest of the band but they rocked out in a strange way. Met up with some from On Trial and Jesper from Gas giant. The tent was hot and sweaty after this. I hung out as I really was psyched for the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra from Brooklyn, New York. They are sort of a tribute to Fela Kuti but with a smaller band of musicians. Less intense percussion and no political statements (did not know this before they played). This was a great set of music with lots of horn solos and an great driving, dancing rhythm. What a day of music. I got back to the tent at 1:15.
There was another day of music with such bands as Eek-a Mouse, Spiritualized, the White Strips (I heard they were great!), And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of The Dead, Steve Earle and the Dukes but I had had enough for this year. Once again, some great days of incredibly varied music, something for all to experience. I really enjoyed going around and seeing all the displayed things like the graffiti wall, the Beats Within Display was amazing, the democratic piano (a display where 24 chairs were connected to notes on a piano and people sit on them and generate music), Sci Fi organ concerts in the Oval area, the Church of Peace where you can have your feet washed, and all the cool mimes and performance artists that travel around the festival site and perform. Everyone should go at least once in your life!
For more information on the annual Roskilde Festival you can visit the official web site at: http://www.roskilde-festival.dk/.