35th Roskilde Festival - July 1-8th, 2007

From Aural Innovations #37 (Sep 2007)

Back again….. 170 bands in 8 days…..IT was MUDSKILDE this year… IT had been raining for weeks in Denmark before the festival and although on Sunday (July 1st) and July 3rd and 4th, the weather was nice.. IT rained like hell on Monday making pretty wet but then on the opening day of the main festival (Thursday), it rained continuously for like 16hrs and dumped 50mm or about 2 inches of rain, creating a hell of a mess… 1000’s of tents were under water, the festival site was a thick soup of mud.. Everyone who did not have rain gear was now very desperate. Insanity plus the party prevailed… We did not get a lot of rain after that it was mostly cloudy and cool the whole festival and the mud…ugh….. Anyway, lots of amazing and cool stuff this year at Roskilde, which I will describe before getting into the great bands that we saw (much better than last year). Check out the muddddd here.

They made two new stages this year and spread the dance and world music around a lot more (my general impression was people did not like this). They made some even better environmental things like going to all cans for the beer in the camping area (for which they sold 1.8 million bottles last year!). They had areas where if you came with bags of trash you had picked up they would give you free beer in exchange. They had different Agora’s (towers) around which specific activities were happening (Sports, construction, dating, comedy, arts and communication). More toilets in and out of the site (from those I talked to this did not help the women much). And as always, since Roskilde Festival is a non-profit festival with 23,000 volunteers, the focus of their humanitarian aid this year was unfair trade in the 3rd world. They had people throughout the festival site and camping areas with refund on their jacket, in which all the cups and cans that they recycle, the money would go to this cause.. Great cause…

Ok.. to the music.. I did not see any of the bands on Sunday-Weds at the camping stage and only arrived for the rain and mud on Weds. I had it lucky this year and did not camp out but stayed with a wonderful Turkish family who I know via a drummer who plays in my band (Øresund Space Collective). This made things much easier for me, as camping was hell this year.. The first band I saw was about 4 songs of Volbeat, where I met up with Kaj, Susan, Stefan J., Klaus and some others. The crowd was big and into it but I found them quite boring and it was pissing down rain and I was getting totally soaked as the rain clothes I had were not good enough for this kind of rain. I saw a few songs of Jens Lekman, just to get inside and dry. He had an all female band with two horn players, bass, drums and two violins. It was pure pop music and not for me at all. I made my way off to the Odeon and caught some of LCD soundsystem but they were running 20 minutes late due to the rain causing flooding around the stage and stuff. I only heard a few songs and it was ok.. Off to the Pavilion to catch Bassekou Kouyatte and Ngomi Ba . This stage was a the bottom of a small incline and the water from the rain was just running straight under the stage and it was totally a lake. The crews were desperately trying to dig a trench and lift up all the electrical stuff that was now under water and mud. IT was a mess and things were delayed more than 30 minutes, so I went over to Free Space and saw Lars from Bad Afro, JT and Tom from Lowcut… Had a beer and then back to the Pavilion. Just met up with Anders from Sweden, Tom, Magnus and Sonja. What can I say… This band from Mali totally blew us all away… 2 percussion players, two lute players (bass like sound), female singer and Kouyatte on lead string instrument. Small lute like thing but he ripped it up like he was Hendrix! The band created these amazing trance grooves and he just got up on the edge of the stage and ripped off these awesome, creative and very cool solos. Each song was a long jam. I was totally blown away… Amazing stuff…

Everyone left to go see either Bjork or Mastadon but not me.. I was off to the Cosmopol to check out Mahmoud Ahmed from Ethiopia. Wow.. this was also really cool. Magnus and Sonja would have dug this guy as well. He was called the African James Brown but I think that is way off. The music was quite funky but in a very African way and he had a great band with two horn players, guitar, bass and drums and then his voice.. Wow.. this guy has a voice.. He sings a lot like an opera singer, quite powerful and the band had this great jazz-funk-soul grooves but again, uniquely African. Small crowd but amazing concert and the end of Day 1.

IT was a long and terrible journey back to the house. Took about 35 minutes to walk through the mud and I was totally soaking wet (only my underwear and soaks were dry).

Day 2

It is grey and not raining and I saw a lot of tents in or underwater on the way back last night. I guess a lot of people had a terrible night. I am off to catch, Music from the Nile at 12:30. Magnus and Sonja were going to try to make it. Apparently, this band played at Roskilde 20 years ago. Now they were quite old men. 2 hand drum players, 3 string instrument players (stand up instrument with 1-2 strings that is bowed) and a small snake charmer like horn player. It was like Egyptian gypsy music and some of it was excellent but they seem to repeat themselves after a while. Half way through the concert they took a break and changed to all horn instruments and some hand drums. Finally met up with Magnus and Sonja and we headed off to the Arena tent to see the Irish band, The Answer. They play high energy rock and roll, in the Led Zeppelin style. Singer is really good and charismatic. Unfortunately, they had shit sound again, as at Sweden Rock. Way too much kick drum and not just muddy bass sound. Guitar was still not high enough but better than at Sweden Rock. They played exactly the same set as in Sweden, from what I remember. He even said many of the exact same things. I was surprised to hear this was their 3rd time to play in Denmark. They only have one record out!

I went off and had a really nice Thai lunch with Anders and Tony from Sweden Rock. We are looking forward to Roky Erikson later today. We watched a bit of Katatonia and they were quite heavy but very boring to watch as none of them hardly move at all and they had no visuals.. Almost n guitar solos but the lead guitar player made some really cool keyboard like guitar or they had backing tapes like Paradise Lost that they just play to.. Lame, if that is the case..

We had time to catch a few songs of X- Alfonso, who was suppose to be some Cuban hip hopper but very experimental. He played in his parent’s prog band. Anyway, they were ok and not that much rapping but pretty standard Cuban party music, if you ask me.. I did not see them experimenting.. We saw like 30 minutes.

I am glad we went a little early for Roky as the tent was totally packed. People were quite into it and he got a great crowd response. He seemed like he was in another world. He would walk up to the mic like he was going to say something to the audience and every time, the only thing he could say was Thank you. Nothing else. About 25 times… His voice was really good and he played a lot of cool songs but they were all blues versions of his old songs, with all the psych elements missing. The set was much better at the end than the beginning. It was fun. He played about an hour.

We had to quickly run to see Boris. The tent was totally packed and the fog was so thick you could hardly see these small Japanese people and the music was heavy and chaotic. They played 4 crazy songs and then an amazing long ambient psychedelic piece called the Flood. Blew me away. The end was more heavy stuff with a lot of long chords. Wow.. they were really great and pretty psychedelic. The beginning was a bit mad though… No rain yet today but a lot of mud..

It is close to 19:30 and the Beastie Boys are about to play. At 19:44, the sun came out for just a few minutes and people were cheering. then it was gone again… My feet are already tired and I decide to just chill out here and have some food and rest as I found a place to sit down and wait for Mungal Patasar at 21. I can’t really hear the Beastie Boys but Magnus said they were really cool. Did a lot of experimenting.

Mungal Patasar and Pantar were totally amazing.. Nils, Anders, Magnus, Sonja and a few of us were all pretty blown away.. Sitar, tabla (father and son), guitar, bass, drums, steel drum, keyboard and a guy on electronics. It was a fantastic mixture of stuff and the whole band was just jamming out on each song. IT was a pity the sound guy did not do a better job as the tabla and sitar, which are the focal point of the band, were both often too low. Really great band…

Anders and I left during their last song to see if we could get up in the front section for Queens of the Stone Age. They just closed it as we were getting in the cue. Damn… Turns out this was a real bummer as we could never get a really good spot, so we ended up behind one of the towers standing a huge lake of mud watching the screen. The band was really tight and played a very focused set for only 70 minutes and no encore. Josh came on and off the stage with a cane, so perhaps he could not stand any longer. They were better than I thought and I liked some of the tranced out rhythms they had but damn the sound was terrible. What is the soundman thinking? The vocal was way too high and the sound just muddy, nothing was very clear. Seemed good, besides the vocal at the end, but that is not good enough…

The rest of the night we hung out in the Cosmopol for Lee Scratch Perry and Adrian Sherwood and then the Congos! LSP and AS, that was strange stuff. Dub, roots reggae, political, repetitive, fucking strange, everything… very stoned.. He had this board and a lot of paints and he was writing some sort of story line but it did not make any sense to anyone but him, I think.. He never tried to explain it..
Crazy stuff… but….an old roots reggae band, the Congos were next.

These guys were totally amazing. 4 main vocalists, all with dreads, and grey beards but cool voices. They played true roots reggae, the type that I love the most. Straight roots trance reggae for stoners… They started at 2:30 and we stayed until the end. They were so great. Reminds me of all the great reggae shows I used to see in the San Francisco bay area… Great way to end day 2 but I am damn tired..

Day 3

Got bed at 4:06 and my feet are so sore. I soak them in a hot water bath and hope this will help as I want to see Dream of an Opium Eater at 2:30 in the morning tonight… Anyway, I got some extr rest as the first band I go to see is Machine Head at 15:00. I meet up with Nils, Jens, Anders (different one). I did not have high expections for them and I had never seen them before but they were quite excellent. I liked their slow tracks the best though.

Grabbed a quick bite to eat and ran off to catch a bit of Big Bang from Norway. They had an excellent sound (why couldn’t QOTSA sound like this?) but soon after I arrived it started to pour down rain. The festival site was just about looking like it was drying up a bit. Luckily, this did not last that long but long enough to get a lot of people wet as many people were just in shorts and shirts and not all bundled up in rain gear as they thought it would be like yesterday where it was just grey but did not rain at all. Ha…surprise.. the rain only lasted 15 minutes but it drown the place again.. IT scattered all but the most dedicated Big Bang fans and I ran off to the Odeon to wait for Hayseed Dixie. This tent was totally packed from the rainfall.

These guys were excellent. They mandolin player he, totally ripped it up. The lead vocalist, he played acoustic guitar and violin (only a couple of songs). The banjo player was quite good as well. Acoustic bass and drums rounded the band out. They opened with Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap and played a lot of funny cover versions and the crowd loved it and gave huge applause. I had a really fun time at this show…

Set list: Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Blueberry Hill, Breaking the Law, You shook me all night long, A long jam with all the band, War Pigs, Walk this Way, Ace of Spades, Berlin Wall, Erection (Turbonegro), Jam, Highway to Hell.

Next I checked out Darko Rundek and Cargo Orkestar. They are from Croatia and it sounded very interesting on paper but it was not. The band consisted up Darko on guitar and vocals, keyboard, violin, trombone, stand up bass and drums. They were very laid back and quite boring. IT was suppose to be Balkan music mixed with electronics and violin and it was like Paris street music, very melodic and not interesting at all. Off to the Flaming Lips…

The Flaming Lips put on a really fun show and did crazy stuff like put the singer inside a giant bubble and roll him off into the audience (See picture gallery). They had all sorts of volunteers dressed up with alien heads, superman, batman, santa claus (no beard), etc… throwing out ballons, shooting off confetti guns, etc… Musically, it was a very eclectic set from soul to psych to pop. A short version of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin was interesting… It was a fun 75 minutes and the band you could see had a great time as well. It was going to be too late and a hard struggle to get all the way over to see Mark Laneghan with the Soul Savers so we went for the Nortec Collective from Mexico. This was like 6 computer set ups, live horns, acoustic guitar and accordion and while the person who announced them said we were in for a high energy experience, at least the 20 minutes or so we saw, it was quite laid back stuff with some cool trippy visuals. They were slowly building up in intensity though…

The WHO was next and I had no idea if I would like it or not.. I thought they were really good though and they had excellent visuals on the big screens behind the band. It was a pity that Daultry had such a bad time with his voice. YOU could hear that he was struggling and he sound quite rough… Towndsend was cool and they had a good band, including Towndsend’s brother on rhythm guitar. They played a real hits collection though opening with I can’t Explain. They went through most of the Who are You record, You better you better you Bet, Magic Bus, My Generation (including a jam) and ended the set after only 60 minutes. They did play one new song. IT took them 5 minutes to come back and we heard 3 songs from Tommy, including Pinball Wizard. Short but good classic rock set… I guess this is the last tour they will ever do..

Now I went over and met Magnus and Sonja at the Organic Drinks bar next to the Odeon. We just hung out and had some drinks and chatted and heard 120 Days in the background while we waited for Cult of Luna and then Dream of an Opium Eater. Not many people around as everyone is getting ready to go see the Red Hot Chilli Pepper, whom we had no interest in seeing at all, and we later heard were a major disappointment, getting 0 or 1 star in the major Danish newspapers!

Anyway, 120 days were pretty generic in their techno-synth pop.. Not very interesting. They said they played two new songs that they have never played before in public. We wait for Cult of Luna.. now Nils, Karen, Anders and others are arriving.. Cult of Luna pour out more fog than I have ever seen and it is on full blast more or less the whole concert as the band basically appears and disappears. The drummer and effects guy are gone most of the time leaving you with the 3 guitar players, singer and bas player, all who fade in and out of the fog. Gave it a great visual effect and the way the light person changed all the lights to the same colors, it looked very cool. The band were also really excellent. A very moody, heavy music, mostly instrumental. The music created a lot of moods. One of the best bands of the day..

Dream of an Opium Eater was a one off thing with members of Enslaved, Killing Joke, Ivar 5, Twin Zero and Million Dead. They showed 5-6 short films, all Swedish except one Norwegian in the background. While it said in the program it would be horror films, they were not. They were dark and disturbing films but nothing graffic. The music was really heavy and quite cool but the band seem to repeat their ideas over and over by the end, making it not as interesting. YOU had to watch the films to get the full effect. The first film was a film on some visions a woman was having after having killed her boyfriend when driving their car over a cliff. They showed a woman who was having trouble calming her baby down and desperately trying everything to make it stop crying and her mother was around and hassling her and she throws her out.. in the end you see a bloody towel hanging out the bathroom door. A really tripped out one was a cult of old people who would get Asian girls, indoctrinate them in their church, and then drug and drown them. Far out… I left during the last film.

On the way back, I stopped by the Arena, where Tiesto, a Dutch DJ was playing trance techno… The place was packed and 1000’s were outside the tent dancing. The sky was getting light again and the party was massive. I totally got sucked into it and was dancing away with all these maniacs and the sound was super loud but great.. Cool stuff…. Wow.. was I tired when I got back…. Another long day..

Day 4

The last day… wow… my feet really hurt today after 3 days of wearing rubber boots and trugging through the mud… Anyway, Alpha Blondy from the Ivory Coast is on at 16 and I have all his early records and have never seen him play live. I went over with Zahide. We were in the front section and there were not many people. I was not sure what his music would be like as I don’t have any of his records for the last 10 years.. Anyway, the band started off with a reggae jam and both guitar players took long solos while his excellent band kept the groove. He eventually appeared from the right of the stage… He used to have short hair and now he has short dreads and he still plays wonderful roots reggae. Yeah… he was really excellent and had a fantastic sound on the Orange stage. A lot of people have arrived now. He even played a few really old songs like Jerusalem and Koko Rock. Sadly, I could not see his whole set as Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 were on at 17, so we had to leave, as this was one of the bands I most looked forward to seeing.

Meet up with Magnus, Sonja, Søren, Tobias, Jocke and others in the center of the tent. Seun was amazing and played traditional afrobeat and was a great showman and spokesman. He played a few of his fathers songs but mostly new music and he mentioned they had their debut 12” record out (I bought it online right after the festival!) and they played the tracks Big Africa and Dirty Things from the 12”. IT was a great 85min set…. What a great way to end the festival. I would have liked to hang out and see Pelican and Muse but I had had enough..

My favourite bands in this Roskilde 2007:

1. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngomi Ba
2. Seun Kuti and Egypt 80
3. Boris
4. Mungal Patasar and Pantar
5. The Congos

Despite the mud and the hassle, Roskilde is always a great time and experience. Glad they sold less tickets this year but they still need to turn up the volume, especially on the Orange stage. It is a crime that it is so low on this stage.

Pictures From Day 1
Pictures From Day 2
Pictures From Day 3
Pictures From Day 4

Reviewed by Scott Heller

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