Mud, mud, glorious mud. Nothing quite like it for sorting out the foolish from the prepared. Tramping around the festival site has become something of an adventure for the properly shod, and a nightmare for anyone in trainers.
Because some of us have grown up with the Foo Fighters forever in our sphere, and never make a great effort to change the station if one of their songs comes on the radio, we thought they should at least be worthy of half an hour of our time. Much of this half hour seemed to be devoted to Dave Grohl just shouting, introducing his band, and recalling the time he played Roskilde with Nirvana on the day that Denmark won the Euro Cup (though he didn’t mention Nirvana by name). They did play a couple of songs as well, but as their particular songwriting formula doesn’t allow for a whole lot of variation, we couldn’t tell you exactly which ones.
This hasn’t been a festival of many obvious clashes for us. One of the few was choosing between Lorde and the Avalanches. Lorde was clearly the hot act of the night — she probably should have been given an Orange stage slot. The crowd packed under the Arena tent, spilled several rows beyond that, and across the paved path with people finding slightly elevated spots near the urinals that gave them a decent vantage point. That’s the appeal of Lorde: People are willing to stand near piss troughs to see her.
Before she strode onto Arena stage, the audience was teased and tantalised with the opening bars of Kate Bush’s “Running up That Hill” – heralding a set built on the presence of an enigmatic performer (and unique, quirky dance moves). With a show bookended by her beloved hit “Tennis Court” and culminating in the pulsating, raw single “Green Light,” each song was met with roaring enthusiasm and energy from the crowd.
While some of the tracks lacked punch in the live setting – Lorde’s trademark mezzo soprano occasionally disappeared a little under the instrumentals and backing vocals – her presence filled the room so powerfully she had need for little else beyond her minimalist, pared-down set. In contrast to her lyrics, which often make jibes about fame and pretension, Lorde’s onstage banter felt carefully crafted to seduce the audience. “Did you know I’m a witch?” she coos playfully. “I made the rain stop.”
She didn’t really. But a spell was certainly cast over Roskilde Festival Friday night.
Some of us only stayed for four or five songs, simply because we expect Lorde to be around for a while, but there’s no guarantee that the Avalanches won’t disappear again for another 15 years. The Australian duo first came into prominence with their debut Since I Left You, a technicolor riot of samples that meshed hiphop with lush orchestrations. This time round, with Wildflower, the Avalanches have turned up the swagger.
Tonight they have Spank Rock rapping for them, as if they needed more solid credentials, and Eliza Wolfgramm, who provides most of the sung vocals, has a pliable, soulful voice that is exactly what you want delivering “Since I Left You.” The fact that she does so while wielding a baseball bat makes it all the better.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to base a sizable portion of a set on samples from the Beach Boys and the Who, but the Avalanches have the skill and the conviction to fully pull it off. Behind them are projected clips of everything from the Big Lebowski to Jean Reno in Luc Besson’s wonderfully oddball 1985 Subway, as if to confirm that that the Avalanches have truly mastered the art of crowdpleasing. At their best, they can levitate you out of the mud.