The first day of Roskilde Festival is always a bit strange. Assuming your festival experience begins with the music and not the week before, it’s a lot of getting settled. Getting wristbands, finding a camping spot, the various food stalls are finding their rhythm.
The train out is crowded, no surprise there. A group of four girls who looks to be about twenty take the two free spaces in my cluster of four with two standing next to them rather than find free seats away from their friends. I find this unwillingness to split up strange given they are going to spend four days in close quarters and massive amounts of predicted mud. Based on the number of sugary alcoholic drinks they consume on the half-hour train ride, I also assume they’ll come to tearful blows at some point as well.
I’ve given myself an hour and 45 minutes from when I arrive at Roskilde Station to collect my wristband, drop off my bag, and get to the first band I want to see, Warpaint. Apparently I am bad at math. I queue for an hour to get my wristband, not something I’ve had to do in previous years, but maybe my timing was better then. A man who has been left to watch all of his friends’ camping gear shouts, “You’ve stolen my life!” if you want an idea of the mood.
Certain precautions seen elsewhere in Europe have been taken in Roskilde as well, again not surprising. You would hope that a festival attended by 75,000 people would worry about security, but Danes think of themselves as immune to these things and it makes people chatter. I just notice that more entry points are closed off and I’ve got to walk a longer way around to get where I need to be. I don’t have time to check in my bag, which holds my raincoat (to safeguard against the impending meteorological apocalypse) and my laptop. Instead I queue again to get onto the festival grounds so I can rush to see Warpaint.
But first I need to be patted down, my bag needs to be searched, both ineffectively since I’ve had New York security at gigs look more carefully for bottled water for decades at this point. Security seems more affronted by how much I have in my bag rather than what’s in it.
“You should travel lighter, it would be easier,” the man checking my bag informs me, and I know the look I give him is not a kind one.
It’s a small miracle that I only miss the first five minutes of Warpaint’s set. More than anything I want to see Stella Mozgawa, the drummer who’s played on a bunch of records I’ve loved in the last few years. There’s a surety to her movements that is both reassuring and slightly threatening, like she could either pull the world together and split it apart depending on her mood on a given day.
Warpaint as a whole are great. They’re high energy and really trying to work the crowd. I’d always thought of their music as leaning more towards goth — not in a Peter Murphy sense, but with dense guitars and vocal harmonies that are both sweet and a little sinister. I’m a little surprised when they sell themselves as a danceable band, but I buy it. The programming, the beats, it all works, and though I’m not sure into the early on-set hedonism physically hitting me from ever angle, I am into this energy.
I wonder if part of this early sense of abandon has to do with the constant whispers of “enjoy it while you can.” It’s supposed to rain. All anyone will talk about is how it’s going to rain. I’ve received text messages from family back home who have read articles — presumably in English — about how it’s going to rain and we’ll all be washed away. Not yet though. Now the weather is chilly, windy, and dust is blowing over shoes and into eyes.
There is a large crowd at Pavilion for Kevin Morby, unsurprising since he sold out his show at Jazzhouse last year. The setting is wildly different, as are the acoustics, but he definitely rises to the occasion. His set, mostly taken from his new album, City Music, is noisier than his recordings.
Probably most noteworthy is that he lets his guitarist, Meg Duffy, steal his thunder. Think George Harrison on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” — that’s tough to compete with in your own backing band. The crowd is happy; they are clapping along to all different songs, dancing when dancing doesn’t really seem appropriate. Someone is blowing bubbles and it’s weirdly endearing. The band seem happy too and. despite the cold fog blowing off the stage, the atmosphere is very warm.
The mass of people walking away from the stage provide human barriers to all of the dust blowing around, but there’s still no escaping it. It gets in your mouth without you realizing it and dries you out despite the cool weather. But we’ve escaped the first day without mud.
It’s not surprising that a musician who has released nine albums in seven years is an energetic guy. Kevin Morby, once of Woods and the Babies, tells the sold out crowd at Jazzhouse that he had a long drive from Berlin and only slept half an hour the previous night, but that doesn’t stop him from spending most of his set bouncing on his toes and shaking his curly hair back and forth. The main room is very hot, but while his backing band condescend to roll up their sleeves, Morby is committed to his gray suit and seems unencumbered by his sartorial choices.
Morby primarily plays songs from his latest album, Singing Saw, familiar enough to the audience now for “Dorothy” to be greeted with cheers from the opening chords. He treats the audience to a track written since the album, which bears resemblance to the more energetic songs on Singing Saw, as well as older songs such as the title track from his solo debut, Harlem River.
Jazzhouse is the perfect setting in terms of acoustics for Morby and his band. And his band is truly special. The grouping of two guitars, bass, and drums mean that some of the trimmings from the albums are stripped back. Where there were string arrangements or keyboards, now it’s just guitars doing their best impersonations, which brings out the bluesy aspects of the songs. The bass is very present but never intrusive, clear without registering a thud in your intestines. Morby’s guitarist and backing vocalist is very understated in her performance, drawing little attention to her fancy fretwork. By contrast, his drummer looks like he’s going to burst apart every time the tempo picks up. And it’s more apparent live than in his recordings how much Morby’s songs rely on these shifts; the subtlety of the album is a jolt of energy live. And while his band emphasizes this, it’s clear when Morby plays “Black Flowers” solo that he is capable of relating the same effect on his own.
A lot of that ability to relate in his music come from the ease Morby projects on stage. He is comfortable with his audience and even a little goofy, at one point requesting the house lights be brought up so he can take photos. It’s easy to reconcile that man with the man who bounces around the stage. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the whole package.