By Scott Heller
From Aural Innovations #8 (October 1999)
This is one of Europe's largest and longest running non-profit festivals. All proceeds from the event go to charity. This year 65,000 tickets were sold and 169 bands performed on 7 different stages over the 4 days of the festival. The festival is a annual event for 1000's in Europe who travel the kilometers to experience 4 days of music, mud (it almost always rains!!), and lots of beers! More than 1.3 million beers were sold. Yes, you can bring your own beer as well. The camping sites open up on the Saturday before the concert and people bring buses, trailers, tents and set up there own little small cities. Inside the concert site, no bottles, cans or non-recyclable containers are allow. The cups that all the beverages are sold in are worth between 1-5 kroner and you get this money back when you return the cups. This helps to give people incentive to clean up or it gives others a lot of incentive to pick up the glasses and make some money for beer or food! You can check out the web site to see what bands played this year at (http://www.roskilde-festival.dk).
I arrived on the first day around 2pm and set up my tent in the area reserved for press and people working for the festival. They said 2000 press people were at the event and close to 15,000 people employed. A lot of young people get free passes and one food coupon and in exchange must help out for 4-6 hours a day, each of the 4 days of the festival. Not a bad deal as there is music from 12 noon until 4 in the morning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and from 5:30-12 on the Thursday. After I had found a spot and set up my tent, I went in search of Monster Magnet, whom I had hoped to catch up with. I went to the backstage of the Orange stage, where they were set to play at 8pm. I was told they were not arriving until 5pm. I then went and checked out the whole festival site to see where all the stages, food, bathrooms, etc. were. The site did not open to the public until 5:00. It is a pretty amazing place with a small theatre set up showing 5 feature films each day (You've got Mail, Lethal Weapon 4, Sliding Doors, American History X, Payback), the chill out tents near the techno tents for those who overdose on the techno stimulation, sports center, swimming in the nearby fjord, a graffiti area where people can paint instead of defacing the local property, and many arts and crafts stalls. It should be mentioned that all the food is of a high quality and no cheap, high fat, high calorie junk food. The people selling food have all been screened and there are 55 food stalls selling food from many different countries and styles. Even the fast food must be of good raw ingredients, for example, the sausages must have 80-90% meat content and all bread freshly baked (including the pizzas) and not frozen. The complete details of the food contents of all the food sold is available at the Trading Office, either for those interested or whom have food allergies. Incredible organization.
Anyway, the first band I went to see was Ministry. Your choices at the 5:30 time slot were: Ministry, Raul Paz, Dazee, or Kyed, but starting at 6pm was Gluecifer, Sterophonics and the Night of the MIDI Cops at the techno tent. Anyway, Ministry were in the Green tent, which is the largest of the covered stages (all stages are in large tents except the Orange outdoor stage, which has an area to hold up to 40,000 people. The Green tent holds about 10-15,000 people and it was pretty packed for Ministry. I had not seen the band since Loolapolloza II in 1992 and was pretty interested as they were incredibly intense back then and I expected no less today. They opened with a new song called ReLoad and hit you pretty hard right away. The crowd started to go wild and moshing was everywhere, so I had to move from the more middle position to the right side a bit. The band have an incredibly heavy sound with 2-3 guitars all turned up to ten and playing Slayer-like power chords. The drums were almost inaudible at times due to the in-your- face sound of the guitars. Very Heavy! The band followed up with a few more new numbers before pulling out the old ones like So What, Psalm 9, Thieves, and they ended with Jesus Built My Hotrod. I was pretty blown away, what a way to start the day, Awesome! They played for 54 minutes.
I left the tent and headed over to the Orange stage and Gluecifer were still playing. They are a Norwegian rock-punk band that are getting quite popular, which I am not sure why? They play pretty standard punk rock. I was pretty amused by the singer, with his rock stances, crushed red velvet shirt and this beer gut wobbling around. The guitar players knew all the poseur rock stances and used them well, but in a more punk context. The crowd seem to really dig them though but I thought they were pretty standard stuff. After these guys, I went over to see what the techno tent 1 was like. The people were already going for the pulsing beat and psychedelic visuals as the tent was quite packed. It was very loud and if you were in the middle you could really FEEL the air pushed out of the speakers by the bass. Pretty amazing sound.
I went back to the Orange stage where Monster Magnet were due to be up next. I saw Tim Cronin on the stage and yelled out to him and he said hi and that Ed was looking for me. He came around to the side and said he would get Ed. At this time I saw Joe talking out front of the stage with a couple of guys from New Jersey. I asked him if he got married back in March and he said yes but that he got divorced last week... but then he was joking so I am still not sure. He said things were going well. Ed came out and he gave me a copy of the Atomic Bitchwax CD and some stickers. He said that he had not been home in months so he did not know if he had got the CD's of the Gov't Mule concert that I had arranged for him to get. It was the one at the Fillmore in San Francisco in which he jammed with Greg Allman and the MULE guys. I asked him who suggested that they start playing Dinosaur Vacuum again, as this is one of the greatest MM tunes. He said it just came up in rehearsal, as at the last break the band had, they were all getting really tired of playing the new stuff, so he said they have started playing more older stuff like Twin Earth, Superjudge, Dinosaur Vacuum, Nod Scene, Medicine, etc. He said they had a great 20 minute space jam in Amsterdam last week on Dinosaur Vacuum into Baby Götterdämerung, Brainstorm and back into DV! I would love to hear this! He had to run though as they were to start in ten minutes. He said he would try to come and get me after they played but we never did meet up again. Until next time!
Monster Magnet had what I thought was a huge crowd, but I was wrong as for Metallica there were many more people. It was still more than 20,000. They opened with Superjudge, but it was a shortened version only going up to the point of where the song really takes off and Ed rips it up on the guitar. Next up was Medicine, which sounded great and Dave was in top form, but he seems to be in a super sexual overdrive these days. The young crowd around me had no idea what these songs they were playing were. Next up was Powertrip and the audience went ballistic! They knew all the words and were really into it. An abbreviated version of Nod Scene followed and all the people around me were just talking as they had no idea what this song was. I had never heard of a 3 minute version of this song before. These shorter versions of the songs just leave you wanting more though.. Next the band ripped into Twin Earth and this really had the crowd going again. Ed was in top form, really ripping it up and doing some great solos and sounds. Dave made some speech about if the crowd was ready for the psychedelic hump vibe and they went into Dopes to Infinity. The crowd were singing along at the end, which was interesting. The front sound mix was great but in the middle where I was, it was not loud enough. I think Metallica didn't let the other bands play that loud, so that they could be more impressive with the volume. Living Crop Circle followed after Dave's sex and drugs and rock and roll chant. The crowd really seemed to go nuts over the new material. Negasonic Teenage Warhead was next and I was surprised as the crowd really did not get into it as much as I thought. Maybe it was a much bigger single in the US than Europe. The band closed their short set with Space Lord Motherfucker. Although the band only played for 50 minutes, it was an intense 50 minutes and Dave is great at working the audience. Interestingly, Dave does not play the guitar at all now, only being the front man. Last December, he was still playing it on a few numbers. I remember Ed or Joe saying that he was pretty low in the mix now, because mostly he just makes mistakes.
After their set, I hung around hoping Ed would come out but he didn't. I then took a seat and got ready for Metallica, whom I had not seen since 1989 in San Francisco. Metallica started about 10 minutes late and opened with Breadfan. The crowd went nuts and people were coming in all directions trying to move towards the stage. I was pretty far away, like 75 meters or more but it was a nightmare. The band sounded great and it was pretty damn loud. I was just very unhappy though as my feet were getting stepped on and no one was settled. Next up was Master of Puppets and I was trying to move away to the outside area for some room. Now I was like 120 meters away and had some space. They next went into For Whom the Bell Tolls, which sounded great. I was happy to hear the band playing all these great old songs, but they sounded just like they did last time I saw them. For some reason I was not just in the mood. They played something off In Justice for All and then the song Reload. Another newish song followed and then I decided to go to the Techno tent to catch Hallucinogen.
When I got there, the psychedelic trance outfit from Denmark, Saiko-Pod was playing. They did like three really excellent numbers and the guy running the show was trying to get them to stop and they were pushing out Simon's equipment so Hallucinogen could start. He did not start until like 11:25 and they made him stop right at midnight, despite the crowd really wanting more. I really enjoyed both acts a lot. I was surprised Hallucinogen actually played Pteranodon by Ozric Tentacles. It did not go down all that well with the audience as the beats were too slow for them. These people feed on the 140-160 bpm, if it slows down too much, they starve. Weird. Great visuals as well. It was a huge two panel screen which computer generated graphics are mixed with the music. It would be great for space rock as well. The images flew by at a very fast rate. They also had two women dancing on the stage as well. They did not use strobes as much as I thought they could or would. I still think the light show was nothing compared to the visual assault you get from an Eat Static concert though. Hallucinogen went down well but I spoke with Simon Posford and the whole show was a nightmare for him. He could not do his regular set as he had brought it on a hard disk and the machine they provided him with would not read it (same exact model he has by Akai). He had to work off a DAT tape he had of his recent NYC show as well as the recording he did for the Ozrics - Floating Seeds CD. Tough day for him.
After this I headed back out and Metallica were still playing even though they were supposed to have stopped at 12. I heard Die Die my Darling by the Misfits, I think it was Enter Sandman and they went off and came back and played Battery. The crowd was huge, must have been more than half of all the people at the festival. That was the end of day one. I decided to go home and skip day two, which was most of the pop bands like REM, Suede, Robbie Williams, Faithless, Skunk Anansie and Heather Nova.. There were a few bands like Junior Delgado, Hotei, Nomads and Orbital whom I would have liked to see.
So I arrived back at around 3:15 on Saturday and went to hear the Flaming Lips Car Experience. I was so disappointed. It was the band making a lot of experimental (mostly bass thumps) noise with car stereos. They set up in the field which makes up the biggest part of the Orange stage area behind the sound station. People all gathered around and they showed pictures on the big screen. Thomas and I were standing up by the stage wondering why the band's equipment was not set up and then suddenly everyone moved out to the field. I don't know if Thomas recorded the noise or not. I went and got something to eat and listened to a bit of this Egyptian group Salamat. It was a little too pop ethnic for me. I was not sure what to do next so I went to check out MAAS, a UK dance guy who sounded promising from the description of dreaming electronic sound beats and hard pumping dance music, Detroit techno, electronic jazz... etc... He turned out to be over-rated. I recorded his 45 minute set though.
Now I was off to check out Motorpsycho from Norway. These guys were really great last year and I had high expectations. The tent was totally packed with Norwegians. I had a great spot to record and the people were not that loud, but the band turned out not to be loud enough and the mix was not that great in the Yellow tent. They opened with a great 9 min song. It was a pretty cool set of three or four 9-12 minute songs and a mixture of their weird brand of pop stuff that the audience sang along with. Pretty cool. Next up was going over to catch Transglobal Underground. I had heard a lot about them but still never heard a single song. The tent was slow to get packed but ended up totally packed. The sound was great and the band pretty cool. The bass and most of the keyboards were all pre-recorded. They had a drummer, percussion player, sitar player and two black frontmen. It was a mixture of laid back eastern tunes, funk, some rap, but mostly dance music with a world flavor. The crowd went nuts and they did 2 encores and a total set of 85 minutes. The sitar solo was really excellent and I wish she had been a little louder in the mix. I also don't see why the band can't have a real bass player and then let the keyboard player (who also played guitar on two songs), just play keys. Why have it all prerecorded so then you really have to stick to that length.
I saw a few minutes of Suede as I walked across from the Ballroom stage to catch a little bit of Cibo Matto at the White tent before going to see the Residents (I never made it). Cibo Matto were pretty strange. Two Japanese women (who live in NYC), Jamaican percussion, an electronic drums guy, a drummer and a bass player (Sean Lennon it turns out!!). One of the women played keyboards and samples and the other sang. It was a strange mixture of dreamy stuff, funky beats, a bit of rap and weird keyboard sounds. The crowd ate it up. I was pretty amused. I missed the end of their set as I only got 52 minutes on MD.
Next, I got a beer and headed over to get a spot to check out the Chemical Brothers, who were to start at 1am. The crowd was fucking huge for these guys. They had a load of electronic gear on the stage and three screens behind them. I was very close to the right hand stack and had a good view of the stage. I had never heard these guys so I had no real idea what to expect. The fog started pouring out and the lights were flashing and the samples began. It took a few minutes before they appeared and the beats kicked in. WOW! The bass was amazing. I was surprised but I really liked these guys a lot. It was a cool mixture of these funky dance beats and a lot of electronic weirdness. It was bloody loud and the bass really booming by the stack. I had to have my mics inside my coat instead of on my hat because of the fucking light rain, which had been on and off since earlier in the evening. At least it was pretty warm. They played some really really cool stuff. They stopped the main set after 67 minutes. I got all but the last two minutes of the first encore on the MD. I then left the area as the bass was killing me. I did not record their last two songs but watched from the distance. A huge crowd and on the big screen, they only showed the images and not the band at all. Despite having all this electronic gear, they really did not use that much of it. The long hair guy was really active and totally into what he was doing. I think he was a little disappointed by the audience response, at least at the beginning of the show. I was highly impressed with these guys though. They had the heavy sort of funky dance beats but the music was really far out, a lot of electronic weirdness and spacey stuff going on. One of the best acts. I was wiped out after nearly 12 hours on my feet running from tent to tent to see music so I went back to my tent. It was impossible to sleep as I was in between the White and Green tents and the music did not stop until a bit after 4 am. I heard a lot of Bob Hund and he actually sounded very cool. I guess he is sort of the Swedish Iggy Pop! I heard later that he was excellent.
My final day, I just showed up to hang out with the guys in On Trial, who had their biggest gig ever, the green stage, which is a huge tent that holds 18,000. I was allowed to set up my recording gear on the tower of the sound mixer area and watch the band from the couch. It was very cool. I ate some food backstage and had a nice time talking with all the guys in the band. They were a bit nervous and ended up smoking a lot of hash before playing. They sounded really great on the huge stage and they would not tone down their psychedelic sound at all. They opened with their new instrumental song called Son of Space Bird, which is a building 10 minute psych jam. Wow. The tent was slowly filling in. I would guess 2000 people saw some of their set and a core of 500 stayed for most all of it. Then Bo came out and said a few words and the band launched into 5 Years Ahead of My Time. The mix was a bit rough and Ralph had it very loud. The sound was still quite good. The band would play a lot of songs off the new CD and Head EP and Human Twin, the only old number, from the 70 Kilometers of Underwater Nothingness Kaptain release. Besides the new jam song it was the same set they have been playing this whole year, but it sounded great. The version of Signed DC was incredible. The band played for 63 minutes and ended with Slip Inside this House, which sounded amazing on the big stage!
Set list: Son of Space Bird, 5 Years Ahead of My Time, Pot of Gold, Long Time Gone, Doubt, Flashin' Ghast, Do You See Her, Human Twin, Signed DC, Blood Butterfly, Slip Inside this House.
That was Roskilde 1999! Wow... although there was not that much spacerock so to speak, it was a great, well organized event with many kinds of music for all sorts of people. A very unique experience!