The War On Drugs
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Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh (mortenkrogh.com)
The day has finally arrived: the gates to the main festival grounds have opened, the sun is out, Roskilde has begun. The previous days of dolce far niente are replaced with a flurry of questions: which stage to run to, what food to eat (Korean Bulgogi is the official Here Today Food of the Week), how much alcohol do you have to consume before the prices stop feeling like stab wounds?
Off! — Avalon
After sixty years on the planet and founding not one but two legendary hardcore acts (Black Flag and Circle Jerks), frontman Keith Morris shows no signs of mellowing down. Eyes bulging, veins popping up in unexpected places, Morris stalks the stage in a defiant mood. His younger bandmates bounce along with him, though in their case the wild movements have the studied air of a re-enactment rather than the real thing. The songs themselves, rattled out in blasts of four or five, are one minute playful variations on the theme of fuck you.
While Off! might not be contributing anything new to a genre now almost forty years old, they can at least project some of the vitality of the original movement.
Bob Hund — Avalon
When earlier in the day we interviewed Thomas Öberg, frontman of seminal Swedish indie band Bob Hund, it was clear that there is something very intensely considered and thought out amid the manic energy and comedy of their live performances. Obsessed with making every performance unique, two years ago the band made a leap in the dark and sold all their instruments and equipment, choosing to rely on the generosity of friends and fans to supply them with odd assortments of guitars, vintage organs, microphones, maracas…
For their Roskilde set the equipment was provided by a music school in southern Sweden and Copenhagen surf-rockers The Tremolo Beer Gut. The old Fender Jazzmasters serve them well for the surfy pop vibe of “Tralala Lilla Molntuss”, but it is clear that Thomas was right when he told us “whatever the instruments, we still sound like Bob Hund”. The crowd’s enthusiasm is mirrored in the pure, joyous, Buster Keaton-esque energy of Thomas’s performance. He calls Roskilde “the capital of Scandinavia”, and indeed there is something utopian about hearing a crowd of Danes signing along in a Swedish dialect.
The War on Drugs — Arena
Sadly today we only have one reporter on the scene, who can only glimpse the likes of Communions, Young Fathers and Electric Eye as he tramps around from stage to stage like the errant monk of rock journalism that he clearly is. After the sun has finally lowered its burning rays, we settle down at Arena stage for our final gig of the evening, Philadelphia dad-rockers The War on Drugs.
Adam Granduciel is an aloof frontman, bent over his guitar and myriads of effects pedals in intense concentration. His music is all about tonal nuance, but in a live setting this often comes at the cost of dynamism. Other than the enthusiastic baritone saxophonist (an evident attempt to out-Springsteen the Boss himself) the rest of the band is skilled but sedate, rolling through the songs with more professionalism than passion. Even during crowdpleasers like “Under the Pressure” and “Red Eyes” the initial euphoria slowly dissipates into almost monotony. But in after these moments it is thanks to Granduciel’s mastery of guitar tone that a short busting guitar solo can rekindle the fire.