Roskilde Festival - Denmark - 26/6-3/7/11 [PART 1]

13 Jul 2011

Gudjon Emilsson sets off, on his own, to make friends and find excellent music amidst Denmark’s massive Roskilde festival.  Turns out it’s full of really friendly people and great bands – Tame Impala and PJ Harvey particularly catching the eye on part 1.


A week of sun and rain, music and beer down my drain. These past few days have been a foie gras for my brain and all other senses. Roskilde Festival is far from being just about the music.  Indeed, the first days prior the festival are one big party full of largely non-musical activities. What follows is my experience of these days, and then the music that followed.

The festival, with over 75.000 tickets sold, took place from the 30th June ‘til the 3rd of July, with a warm-up from the 26th ‘til the 29th of June.  It's located in the town of Roskilde, situated 35 kilometers from Copenhagen in Denmark. The camping areas opened on the Saturday prior to the festival and already the following day festival goers had music from promising (and not so promising) acts before they had taste of their heroes on Thursday (June 30th).

I arrived Monday evening to Roskilde town. When trying to figure out what bus to take to the festival area, I met a guy that had the same problem. We decided to walk together. Turns out he was a  young violinist called Erik Theodor Danciu who performed earlier that day with Kirsten & Marie, one of many upcoming Nordic acts who played at Pavilion Junior stage during the four festival warm-up days.  For you classical enthusiasts, Erik is a name to look out for in the future.


Competing with daylight, I rushed to find a place to camp. I was allowed to set up my tent with a group of what seemed like nice people, but after a night of them stepping on my tent and talking about whether they should pee on it, I knew I had to move elsewhere in the morning. This area, Agora C, is known for wild partying till wee hours of the morning. I moved to Agora J, a silent camp where you can hear a needle drop after 12 am. It’s a move I recommend to future Roskilde - party your pants off at other Agoras, and then walk to your silent camp (perhaps without your pants) for a peaceful sleep.  Perfect.

When moving my tent I lost the tent pegs on my way.  Luckily most people here are super friendly so I had no problem borrowing from other people (ending in long discussions with some of them about everything and nothing).  It is this kindred spirit of the people here that makes Roskilde a pleasant place to be at. Another example is when I was eating my weird breakfast (rye bread with cream fresh and fried onion – mmm...), a couple from Sweden sat down by my side and we had a chat that ended in them inviting me over for wine later that evening.

As said, Roskilde Festival is about so much more than music - I bet even music haters could have a decent time here. There is the popular Naked Run where you have the chance to show your most precious belongings (or just see others'). Men are more eager to compete in this “sport” (sigh).  Festival goers have also been able to enjoy young experimental artists, installations, and sculptures. Sliding on wet plastic strip is a popular sport, as is attempting make a kite out of old boxes, and a classic prank when its muddy: dig a hole, fill it with mud and wait until an innocent by passer falls in. Fortunately for most people this was not possible this year.

Camp life is a vital part of the festival. It’s here you hang out with your buddies drinking a warm beer, and join in discussions on life’s problems, the string theory (unlikely), how much Bright Eyes sucked last night (not saying they did) and what PJ Harvey was thinking wearing that “hat” (that much is true).   You’ll also find a host of wannabe rock and roll heroes with their acoustic guitars charming the girls/boys/spiders with their skills (as long as they don't cover ‘Wonderwall’, such heroics are fine by). For wilder parties you can join a number of discos on wheels, where people dance to the DJ´s transportable dancefloor that travels through the area (often in Agora C) followed by large dancing crowd.

To be honest, I went to the festival all alone, so in desperation for a human contact I walked between different camps to hang out with strangers. They all welcomed me, like I was part of them, like nothing was more natural. This was not easy for me, but after getting positive (Rock)feedback from everyone I felt confident walking pretty much anywhere. One of my first camp experience was when I tried to trade Vermouth Bianco (I thought it was a bottle of white wine) for some beers. It worked in the first camp I visited and they insisted I stayed, so I did.

Since I was low on money and the beer tent far away I decided to pay a visit to the Swedes who promised me wine. There I was welcomed with open arms by group of 20 or so. They were about to have a drinking game and they insisted I came with them. There I played a game I can't even pronounce, but in short there were two teams and a lot of drinking. By now I had red wine and few of their beers and they turned down my money. I didn't want to be a freeloader, so I went looking for people who were willing to sell me few beers. I found two girls sitting in their camp of two and when I asked if I could buy beers from them one of them said it was not possible and gave me 4 beers instead (it's pretty hard to get rid of your money here it seems). Stunned by her generosity I sat by their side with my/her beer and we had a chat. The generous girl came from Iran to Denmark as a refugee, and she decreased my ignorance about Iran related matters. Did I mention that this festival is about more than the music? I was actually learning important things and growing as a person (I might not catch The Tallest Man on Earth in height though). I also met people from Greenland for the first time in my life, and they taught me a lot about their country.


Thursday 30th


Finally some music! My first gig of the day was with the Aussies in Tame Impala. This was their first concert in Scandinavia and they received very warm welcome from the expectant crowd, not just  because for most people it was their first band since their arrival to the festival. They were shy first, and though they gained confidence with each song their descent in to long instrumental drones saw them lose the crowd a bit, the 60 minute set time being simply too long for them having only released one (admittedly very good) record. Yet with a more diverse array of tunes and a little more festival experience these young guys will be a treat indeed to watch in years to come.

Festival arch enemy #1 showed its face when it then started to rain. Luckily it wasn't in an apocalyptic English festival manner, but it was enough to make Shirley Manson from Garbage raise a smile (just stop reading if you think my jokes are lame – this is day one).

PJ Harvey is one of few people who can pull of dressing like this – with those feathers in her hair, she looks like Bjork dressed up as an angel.  She easily filled the main arena with a crowd who displayed massive respect and admiration for her every song. Playing a gorgeous set, it confirmed to Roskiled that she truly is on top of her career – no mean feat after all this time. Understandably sticking mostly to her stunning new album Let England Shake, there was also time for a few classics from To Bring You My Love – ‘Come On Billy’ and ‘Down By The Water’.




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