Roskilde Festival
(Denmark July 3-7th, 2008)

by Scott Heller

From Aural Innovations #40 (September 2008)

Here we are once again back at the amazing Roskilde Festival. My 10th year in a row to cover the festival! The weather is the complete reverse of last year's rain and mud, with this year only sunshine and a few clouds. The event is not sold out (probably due to fears of the weather and few big draws). The site looks the same besides a few new things here and there. The graffiti walls are amazing, some of the best ever I would say. See the pics below.

I am attending with my 17 year old nephew and this is a totally new world for him. The only large festival in the USA is the Bonnarroo Festival and it is nothing like this festival. On Thursday we head out to the camping area and see some friends of mine for a beer or two and then Nils, Chris and I head off to the Odeon to catch CLUTCH. I expect to see a lot of friends at this one. Met up with the Causa Sui guys and catch Magnus and Sonja after the gig. CLUTCH were awesome and really rocked the place and the crowd loved it. I was surprised that the organ player was not in the band. The guitar roadie sat in and played guitar on a few numbers and Neil (singer) also played some guitar. They played a nearly 90 minute set and probably 65% of the songs they did not play last time we saw them at the ROCK. Great way to start the festival.


We tried to catch some of Dengue Fever but they had finished. We went to the Oval to get some food and to see Seahorse Transformer at the Lounge. We heard a couple of songs by Teitur on the way and it sounded pretty boring but the sound was great but too low. The Lounge was a super cool place. We both really liked the atmosphere. Seahorse Transformer were really cool. We only saw about 30 minutes or so as Chris wanted to hear the Danish metal band, Pilgramz. Seahorse had one multi-talented guy who played digeridoo, sitar and flute, while the other guy played a drum pad and probably did all the programming. Cool stuff.

Seahorse Transformer Gossip

We arrived just as Pilgramz started at the Odeon and it was a good crowd but we could get right in the middle. Volume was quite low in this tent and would be for most of the festival. Pilgramz play very heavy intense metal (no guitar solos). Pure riffing, screaming. Powerful but simply too generic for me, nothing to distinguish them from the rest of the crowd of bands on this scene. Next we headed back to the ODEON and to see Gossip. This band featured an overweight female singer, and a pretty lame female drummer and men on bass and guitar. The first couple of songs were pretty cool, electro rock, funk, stuff but then it was just not that interesting anymore. Heard they really kicked it up after we left though.

Radiohead was the big act for today so we felt we should go hear a couple of tracks at least. It is just criminal how low the volume is on the Orange Stage the past two years? What are the Roskilde Festival management thinking? It was so low where we were standing to the left directly in front of the screen about a 1/3 back, that the people around us did not even know that band was playing for several minutes. They were just chatting with friends, drinking and having fun. How can you be at a show and not even know a band is playing?? That is too low... anyway, they were so boring. Ugh... great stage set up but so boring music. Off to see Lady Saw but first we stopped at the Astoria and saw two songs with Valravn and wow. This was really cool stuff. They reminded me a bit of the old Danish band, Sorten Muld. Cello, violin, Hurdy Gurdy, hand drum, flute, female vocals and electronics. Cool stuff. I want to hear more by this group.


Lady Saw is this X Rated female dancehall artist from Jamacia, and she had a Swiss german backing band who started off with two tracks themselves and it was not good. I did not like the music they made at all. Pop-reggae dance shit. Great players and sound but not my bag. Lady Saw, she was a nasty bitch, just as advertised, but the music did not improve so we left. Pity.

We ran off to the Arena and got up in the front section for Hellacopters. We probably missed the first 20 minutes of their set and should have not wasted our time with Lady Saw and come straight here as the band rocked. The first couple of songs were not that good but the last 45 minutes the band really kicked ass with some high powered and jamming rock and roll, with three guitar players all doing solos for the last few songs. Pity this band will disband after this tour. They were not as intense as the first time I saw them here at Roskilde but I think they were better this time than the last time when they played on the Orange stage. Cool way to end day one.


Day 2

We were going to try to make it for Job for a Cowboy but misread the booklet and arrived thinking they would play at 14:00 and they started at 13:00 and it was over so we headed over to the Arena to catch Juan Formell Y Los Van Van. It was a Cuban dance party going on for sure and it was a huge band but 1/3 of the instruments you could not hear so I don't know what was up with the sound guy. Lots of drums and the drummer was totally amazing, but they had two violin players and a flute player and 3 keyboard players and you could only really hear one of the keyboard players. Poor mix. Anyway, they just did not excite me at all so we headed off to Cosmopol to see Kenge Kenge from Kenya. Outside the tent was a band set up and a bunch of Danish breakdancers were performing. Pretty cool to see.

Kenge Kenge was hugely disappointing. I had hoped for some great African rhythms but it was all too much the same and not very interesting or that danceable really. Pity as I love African music and it is often some of my favourite bands at Roskilde. We caught a few numbers by Polarkreiss 18 while we visited the Yourspace tent. They played melodic instrumental music but it did not turn us on. The bass was way too loud and you could not hear much else either. At this point I was really hoping that Sidi Goma would be good as so far we had not seen anything very good today.

Sidi Goma are a group of Africans living in India and they are heavily inspired by Sufi music. It was a large group of drummers and players, about 10. They played some pretty cool tranced out music and should have been the first band played on Sunday morning and this would have been perfect. The end of the first song got quite fast and really built up in intensity. We only heard 1/2 the next track and then left. Chris was not into it at all. We went to catch Mugison from Iceland and that was great. We probably should have seen his whole show. It was a mixture of blues, hard rock, blues rock and pop, but delivered in a special intensity. Great performer. I remember seeing him some years ago at the festival and he performed by himself with some pre-recorded stuff and he was great then as well.

Sidi Goma

Next up was Rotten Sound, a Finnish grindcore band. We stayed and saw their full 50 minute set and they were damn intense! All the black metal, hardcore, and death metal freaks were here as this was probably one of the most intense bands at the festival, at least that is wjat I thought, but I was wrong (See day 3). Chris really liked them. The singer was really intense and they had a lot of really positive things they screamed about based on the speeches the singer gave and the song titles. Intensity, full on.

Vieux Farka Touré was next at the Odeon and this was very cool and the best band of the day so far! He played a really cool stoned, bluesy African style of music with a bit of reggae flavour at times as well. The young white drummer really looked out of place with these dark black guys from Mali but he was solid. I really enjoyed his set. We stayed to see all but the last song and then headed back to the Oval to eat. Met up with Anders, Lene and Morgan (Fuzz Manta). We then all headed off to hear a few songs from Kings of Leon on the Orange on our way to see Sunburned Hand of the Man at Astoria. Kings of Leon was quite loud, which caught us all by surprise. I had not heard a band this loud on Orange in a few years. Cool... maybe it will improve for some of the others we will see on this stage? They rocked out at first but then it was just some sort of slick indie rock, sadly. Guitar was mixed way too low as well. Why do the drums have to be the loudest instrument? It is rock music, not techno.

SBHOTM was totally amazing. The first part of their concert they performed improvised music to a very very very strange film called Invasion of the Hunderbolt Pagoda. Far our movie, far out music by strange people. They were a 6 piece band making weird music. Later they would become a rock band with bass, drums, and two guitars and the woman would do some vocalizations and synth stuff. They had a second strange film but it was more like a really weird film collage. Anyway, the second half of the show was really cool kraut rock with a bit of hawkwind thrown in. Quite hypnotic and strange. I really liked them a lot. A good surprise as I had reviewed one of their CDs and it was unlistenable.


Next up was Seasick Steve at Pavillion. This was a duo of drums and Steve on guitar, banjo etc and singing. The tent was packed to the brim and we just sat outside. The festival site was packed with people now. I guess they have all come in from the camp as the sun goes down. Anyway, we heard 30 minutes of his set and it was a mixture of blues with slide, blues, swamp boogie and good old fun. Now back to the Astoria for the Osaka Invasion. A set with 4 different Japanese acts/DJs. I had no idea what to expect except something intense as some of these guys had been kicked out of Japan for being to extreme! This was pretty mind-blowing stuff and I had never heard or seen anything like this! The first act was drums and bass with some electronic samples and it was totally over the top crazy stuff. They played for like 20 minutes. Far out. But that was nothing. The next guy, he was utterly insane. The music playing on his sampler was rock, metal, techno, all mixed into a evil, sped up brew of insanity as he jumped around screaming like a insane crazy person for 20 minutes, Unreal... we were laughing but also enjoying it. While I thought it was really cool, Chris thought it was the worst thing he had ever heard. The tent was packed with people and the people in the front were going wild, so he must have been doing something right?

Osaka Invasion

Next up was DJ Gameboy and he was a very funny personality and made some also very intense but much slower but not much less crazy music. He just needed Buckethead to join him and it would have been mind-blowing. The light show was really awesome during his set with cool red and green lasers, etc. He played a lot longer than the others and was pretty damn cool as well. Strange music. The last guy was more into techno but also strange and harsh sounds.

We only caught the last 3 songs of Nick Cave and Grinderman but I really liked them a lot. Wish I had seen more of their set. We heard No Pussy Blues, one other song and then the bad Seeds encore, Tupelo. Sound was great and it was really down and dirty bluesy garage rock. Great stuff. The last band of the night for us would be Battles as we were too tired to make it for Motorpsycho at 2:00. Battles are from Brooklyn NY and featured drums and three guitar players, two of which played bass as well at different points in the set. Two also played keyboards. The show started off with one of them starting a bass loop over which the rest of the band joined in and they took off. The drummer had this one cymbal standing like 7 feet in the air. Looked really strange but he was tall so he could still reach it. They played very hard to describe music but I really liked them. Pretty cool stuff. It was mostly instrumental but one guy did a bit of singing. Cool band. After a poor musical start the last many bands were really good.

Battles Grinderman

Day 3

We slept late today so missed some of the bands in the early afternoon I had wanted to see, like Mamar Kassey or A Kid hereafter. Oh well. We are up for Judas Priest, Neil Young, Chemical Brothers and Black Mountain tonight!

We arrived at 15:45 just in time to catch a few songs by the Norwegian band, The Grand. They were really jamming when we arrived and pretty rocking. I wish we had caught more of them. LOC had a huge crowd as we passed by to go see Queen Africa at the Odeon. I had hoped for some roots reggae like Judy Mowatt but sadly we got a strange mixture of roots and dancehall like stuff. I really liked her really positive message and the vibe and the crowd was digging it. We watched a good portion of her set before heading off to the Orange to get into the front section left for Judas Priest.

We got a great place right on the rail in the second part of the pit. It actually never got too crowded here and the sound was very good but not as loud as I thought it would be. The band were sounding great and a bit better than when I saw them at Sweden Rock 3 weeks before, and lucky for us this show was not cancelled as Glenn Tipton had been quite ill with an appendix problem. The band played the same cool set that they did at Sweden Rock and Halford sounded the same as well, meaning, he had not regained any vocal strength. Pity, he was one of the best ever but just can't hit the notes at all anymore and most of the time he replaces some sort of a growl where he used to blow your mind with a scream. I liked the new songs the best of all. Fun...

Set list: Intro: Dawn of Creation, Prophecy, Metal Gods, Eat Me Alive, Between The Hammer And The Anvil, Devil's Child, Breaking the Law, Hell Patrol, Death. Dissident Aggressor, Angel The Hellion/ Electric Eye, Rock Hard, Ride Free, Sinner, Painkiller, Hell Bent For Leather, You've Got Another Thing Coming

We met up with Anders for Dillinger Escape Plan and man this band was full on intensity. Complicated insanity is the best. They really went overboard with the fog though as you could hardly see the band most of the time. Intense stuff. We only saw 35 minutes of the set and then went to find a place to sit down for Neil Young at 22:00.

Neil started off with Love and only Love and a long jam. He was looking really happy and was really into it. It was a set of classic hits mostly but he really delivered the goods and played a great concert, one of the highlights of the festival for sure. The crowd really went wild for stuff like Hey Hey My My, Cinnamon Girl, and Heart of Gold. The encore was a Day in the life by the Beatles.

Set list: Love And Only Love / Hey Hey, My My / Powderfinger / Spirit Road / Cinnamon Girl / Fuckin' Up / All Along The Watchtower / Oh, Lonesome Me / Mother Earth / The Needle And The Damage Done / Unknown Legend / Heart Of Gold / Old Man / Get Back To The Country / Words / No Hidden Path // A Day In The Life

Now, we went and had a slice of pizza and a coke and got in the cue to see Chemical Brothers. I have seen them two times before at Roskilde and they have always been excellent. The stage set up was really cool looking but I was not prepared for the aural and visual assault. We were surrounded by some really crazy and drunk people who could not keep their balance so even though we had a great view on the rail from the right side, this was too much so after about 20 minutes we left the pit and watched from a distance and the visuals were still super cool. We only saw 45 minutes of their concert as I really wanted to go see Black Mountain at the Arena. Pity as I was really into it. One of the best bands once again.

Black Mountain started right at 02:00. They are a 5 piece band from Canada and they played pretty spaced out rock music. They started with a really mellow piece and the female singer did the lead. Most of the other songs were sung by the guitar player. Sound was fantastic and the band played about an hour for a few thousand people. Psychedelic rock at 2 in the morning! Nice way to end a very long day of music.

Black Mountain

Day 4

Damn, my feet are really sore today. We left at 13:00 hoping to catch At the Gates at 14:00 but the traffic around the festival site and the parking was madness and we were like 1 km away so we did not get to hear the first 3 songs or so. They totally delivered the goods and people were really into it. Why do the drums have to be so loud, I will never know? Anyway, great band and some cool songs. I seem to recall they played a bit longer at Sweden Rock. This was Chris's favourite band of the festival.

We walked over to the Pavillion to see a Swedish band called Path of No Return and they had terrible sound. As we approached the tent all you could hear was a guy screaming and pounding drums, nothing else. Why does a sound guy mix a band so terrible? The bass and guitars were criminally low. Anyway, the band was not good. I did not like them. Aggressive, angry music but not that interesting at all. We left after 20 minutes to head over and get one of these excellent Bornholm organic hotdogs. There was a long line but it went fast. Met up with the guys from Highway Child. Next up was Anti-Flag, a US band with a political message, apparently. They were really like some fast paced indie band, very inspired by Green Day and this sort of pop-punk genre. We thought they were terrible. Liked the message of anti-racism, anti-Bush and very pro-active though. That is a very good positive thing for the youth!

SLAYER was next and it had been almost 10 years since they played here last. They cancelled last year. We could easily get into the left pit section in the front and it never got that crowded. They came on right on time and kicked our asses!!!!!!!!!!!!! Intensity full on. The crowd was really tired though and I was surprised at the weak response. Tom, the singer, he also seemed quite puzzled by the audience and just stood and looked but did not say that much. They went for an old school set and sounded great. Some of the set was a little too predictable. Why do they only ever give us Die by the Sword from the first record? It was great to hear Chemical Warfare and Captor of Sin though. The new songs were also excellent with an intense anti-religion message.

Set list: God hates us All, Christ Illusion, chemical Warfare, War Ensemble, God's War, Die by the Sword, ?, Captor of Sin, Dead Skin Mask, Hell Awaits, South of Heaven, Reign in Blood, Maditory Suicide, Angel of Death


That was all we would see for this year. Great weather, good beer, good food and some great music for all. It was also nice with fewer people. Everything did not feel so crowded as the last two years. While I was generally disappointed by the quality of the ethnic bands, we did see some great performances. I hope more ethnic bands will play next year. Please bring back Femi kuti!

Scott's Top bands for 2008

1. Clutch
2. Neil Young
3. Sunburned Hand of the Man
4. Osaka Invasion
5. Vieux Farka Toure

To see all the pictures, grafitti, and strange folks, check this link!

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