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Master Musicians of Jajouka

Roskilde Festival 2014: Thursday 3rd July

in Live Reviews by

Photo by Morten Aaagard Krogh

Earl Sweatshirt

Thebe Neruda Kgositsile has rammed out the newly installed Avalon stage. Those who didn’t run from the gate to the pit queue for Outkast have come straight here to see the Odd Future member in action as their first show of the festival proper. Earl Sweatshirt takes the Avalon’s virginity by jumping straight into his set, and launching the audience into a joint smoking, grinding, nodding frenzy. Before too long he has, predictably, told Denmark how glad he is to be there, and what a difficult time they’ve had at security. It’s a tough life. He then gets the audience of 12,000 to shout, as loud as possible, “I’ll fuck the fucking freckles off your face, bitch,” in preparation for his performance of ‘Molasses’, a track that’s about as charming as the portaloos in Camp L. Then another call and response activity, this time of “I say sweat you say” “SHURT”, which didn’t really get the party going but maintained the awkwardness which kept raising its head between songs. If the Earl had cut some of the chat and kept the beats going instead, his set might have been less weird.

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Earl Sweatshirt (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Electric Wizard

The big dustbowl that is the Arena tent is filling up with an uncharacteristically sombrely dressed crowd as the screens project grainy, Super8 films of the bald Hollywood Satanist Anton LaVey and a profusion of naked women (on the screen, that is; the audience was not quite so uninhibited). Electric Wizard are one of the few bands to really deliver on their name: their look is modelled after the denim’n’beer-faction of the metal 80s, while their music achieves the seemingly impossible – out-Black-Sabbathing Black Sabbath. Their heaviness comes from an almost perverse slowness in the tempo, the sluggish, menacing plodding of Romero zombies. It is this exploration of the boundaries of the genre that makes this band much more than a metal band, or even a doom metal one. Their drones are, in their own way, liturgical, sacred music for the unbelievers. Standing before this unhallowed quartet, this fanged four, will transport you either to the bliss of sensory overload, or the worst hangover of your life. From what I could make out of the yells between songs, they seem pretty keen on getting high as well. And they seemed such nice boys and girls.

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Electric Wizard (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Outkast

The Orange Stage is legendary for it’s design, colour, the duck and the people who’ve performed there. Outkast are legendary for telling us what’s cooler than being cool, appreciating good dance moves, discussing the aroma of shit, and apologising to Ms Jackson. And, as their concert yesterday demonstrated, not much else. It was all about the deep cuts and minor hits for the good majority of the performance. For better or worse, especially on anniversary tours, people come to the Orange Stage to hear the hits, but it was at least thirty minutes before the non-hardcore fans heard anything remotely recognisable, in the form of ‘Ms Jackson’. By this time, much to my chagrin, I had wandered to the loos for a wee. To my dismay, I came out of the toilets and got told they’d just played ‘The Way You Move’. Just my fucking luck. Until this point, atmosphere had been pretty flat. A few hopefuls nodded heads and tapped feet, but it wasn’t enough to shift the fact they’d tuned out after 20 minutes. The antithesis of this with ‘Hey Ya’ was unimaginable, but the moment the track wrapped up, the mood fell flat once again. Boring, except for the hits.

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Outkast (photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Lykke Li

As the sun began its long descent, Lykke Li brought out her blend of moody, orchestral pop and dark electronic tones to move Roskilde into the nighttime. Lykke’s vocals were drenched in soul, heart and difficulty, but this was matched with an unshaking confidence in her skill, and an infalable ability to ignite those watching with a presence and passion. Soft, melancholic piano and dreamy guitar, clashed with stark and forceful vocals. Effortlessly, Lykke Li used her Roskilde set to confirm her position as the Queen of Scandinavian indie pop.

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The Rolling Stones

It’s the set everyone has been talking about on Thursday, and probably the one they will still be talking about today. I could try to review the Rolling Stones in a measured, rational way, but that is not the way anyone with a heart and a sense of perspective viewed that concert. The big red lips and tongue ooze and pulsate on the screen in a way that is as much unsettling as it is anticipatory. I’m stuck just by the outer barrier, with an ok view of the stage if I head butt the guy next to me. An hour before the set spirits are high, although sporadically dampened by the Gandalf of Roskilde, a grey-faced Swede declaiming “You shall not pass” to any poor kid who tries to get past for a better view. Some Americans next to me are betting on what the opening song will be. One of them wins. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” erupts on stage as the band does, and everyone knows it’s on. In some ways this is the easiest concert to communicate to someone who wasn’t there. Mick Jagger was Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood was Ronnie Wood, Keith was Keith, and Charlie Watts was looking haggard as fuck on the drums. Do you really need more? Well, fine.

The Rolling Stones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

There are many jokes made at the expense of the Stones’ Palaeolithic age, but the mark of true greatness is how they shed all that weight as their set progresses, how Ronnie gets more and more animated, Keith flashes his cheeky grin, and even Charlie Watts cracks a smile. Our Blessed Jagger moves in ways that were previously thought physiologically impossible, and regales the crowd with half a phrasebook’s worth of rather garbled, but highly appreciated, Danish. Who else bothers to do that?  The set spans over two hours, ensuring that, even counting a seemingly endless guitar battle between Keith, Ronnie and Mick Taylor (who joins them for “Midnight Rambler”), there is ample space for the classics. “Gimme Shelter”, “Start Me Up”, “Sympathy for the Devil” and “Brown Sugar” follow one after another, building up the rapture until a short break, followed by a devastating encore. A full choir begins to chant “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, which stands out from the blues-rock that characterizes most of their set, and has that Dylan-y vibe that makes crowds wave lighters in the air. But it’s back to their primordial, bluesy best with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, at which point everything explodes, in several cases literally. Fireworks, larynxes, old-man-boners. The lot.

Addendum: “It’s good to be here. Well, it’s good to be anywhere.” – Keith Richards, Roskilde 2014

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The Rolling Stones (Photo by Tom Spray)

Photo by Tom Spray

Master Musicians of Jajouka

“We are the Rolling Stones of Jajouka!” Bandleader Bachir Attar’s quip is not an idle boast. Like their British counterparts, the Master Musicians have more than half a century of experience, are consummate professionals and natural entertainers. It also helps that at least half the band that arrived at Roskilde (after apparent transport difficulties in Lisbon) played on a record produced by the Rolling Stones’ very own Brian Jones. They even have their own Mick Jagger, an ancient, kindly-faced man who struts around the stage, waving his drum above his head. You might not have a guessed that a Moroccan sufi band would go down well at a festival, but the wailing of the rhaitas and the hypnotic rhythm section (their music seems to revolve around sequences of threes and sixes, an utter bitch to clap to but captivating in its unfamiliarity) ensure that the conclusion to the first day of Roskilde concerts ends with a happy audience.

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The Master Musicians Of Jajouka with Bachir Attar (Roskilde Festival 2014)

Photo by Morten Aagard Krogh 

CC = Charlie Cassarino
HT = Helen Thomas

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