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LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 4, 06.07.2019

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Lizzo live at Roskilde Festival 2019

The fourth and final day of Roskilde 2019 greeted us with a one-two punch of positivity and acceptance. There’s a lot to unpack from Janelle Monáe’s set on the Orange Stage. Do you start with the visuals? The radical politics? The messages of love?

Janelle’s visual references, like her musical references, are broad. There are nods to Rhythm Nation in both costume and dance, Wakanda, plus the vagina pants from the “Pynk” video. Her walk on music is the theme from Space Odyssey and her guitarist shreds a Prince riff. She delivers heartfelt messages about want to make memories and the need to protect one another (but we have to take her claim that it’s her favorite festival with a grain of salt when she shouts “Copenhagen!” at the crowd more than once). And while so much of her message is rooted in being American — whether or not she’s calling for the impeachment of her president — the sexual and geo politics of songs like “Screwed” extend beyond any one country.

Late in the set, Janelle pulls three audience members up on stage to dance during “I Got the Juice.” One girl is so overwhelmed that she just throws her arms around the singer and cries. Janelle hugs her and gets her to dance (and the girl does dance). All three dancers from the audience are warmly cheered by the rest of the crowd and that, more than singling people out, is what makes this segment endearing. That maybe you really can encourage people to love each other, that you can make a memory, that you can fight the power while making the people dance. 

Before Janelle can finish her set, Lizzo is on stage at Apollo echoing many of the same sentiments. The hip-hop-pop artist has built an identity around body positivity and loving yourself. She’s having an easy time of things; the masses assembled for her have already been converted to the church she wants to take them to. Chants of “Lizzo!” interrupt her between songs and lead to an impromptu singalong of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” 

Though the enthusiasm of the crowd probably helps, Lizzo herself seems like she has energy to spare. She comes out ready to toss her hair and check her nails, shimmying with her back-up dancers, getting the crowd to sing lines back to her. She knows which songs the audience has seen on YouTube, she knows what catch phrases they’re expecting of her, and just how much she can tease while espousing her mantra.

In some ways, it’s easy to see Lizzo as a next generation Janelle, that in a few years the production budgets will catch up and she’ll be on a bigger stage with more dancers and more costume changes, still owning her own juice, still telling audiences that she loves them and they should love themselves.

Converge live at Roskilde Festival 2019

A run across the main festival area gets us to an altogether different atmosphere with Massachusetts hardcore royalty Converge. It’s getting close to twenty years since their breakthrough album, Jane Doe, but if the band is looking a little long in the tooth they are showing no signs of tiring during this set. Frontman Jacob Bannon channels that manic straight-edge energy by practically flying around the stage, occasionally tripping himself with his own mic cable only to continue hollering from the floor. Bassist Nate Newton contributes his fair share to the chaos, at one point improvising an emergency backwards roll that sees him punch the air in mock celebration before getting stuck in again. Clearly drummer Ben Koller and guitarist Kurt Ballou are playing the sensible half of the outfit, balancing the anarchic energy of their bandmates with their signature math-rock and metal inflected virtuosity.

The Comet is Coming live at Roskilde Festival 2019

Contrarians that we are, we studiously avoid the Cure at Orange Stage, preferring to conclude our Roskilde experience with a set of psychedelic acts on the literal fringes of the festival. Some might be surprised to see London-based trio The Comet is Coming playing at Apollo, a stage normally devoted to dance music. After all, isn’t saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings being called “the reigning king of British jazz”? But just as the Pharoah Sanders-esque cosmic introduction to the set concludes, the stage feels more than appropriate. Drummer Betamax moves effortlessly from wild jazz intricacy to floor-stompers, aided by the synth wizardry of Danalogue, who veers between Tangerine Dream, er, dreamscapes, and absolutely filthy basslines.

There is always abandoned vibe to the last day of Roskilde, and the Comet is Coming have perfectly tapped into it, drawing a crowd to themselves, stealing ears from the Cure with this high-energy distillation of cosmic jazz and club music.

Kikagaku Moyo continue the late night spaced out theme. The Japanese band’s 60s psychedelia is cut through with some serious noise and the occasional noise-maker to add to the percussion. Ryu Kurosawa’s sitar is interesting on a conceptual level as a nod to the band’s 60s influences, but also because it is used in such a way as to not resemble a sitar at all. In Kurosawa’s hands it more closely resembles a third electric guitar in the line-up, one that allows its player to go off on different warbling tangents.

The five members of Kikagaku Moyo have clustered together in a tight circle make the stage seem big, but it adds to a sense of unity and spontaneity, as if this all just came together rather than being carefully orchestrated. The bass sits very heavily in the mix — making the drums seem light by comparison — providing a very clear anchor for each song. The shifts from chilled out jam to hard rock feel organic and keep the mood around the band relaxed, even as the energy in the crowd picks up. The band end on a high note, walking away from a cheering audience that has been vibrating along to one of their sharper songs. They then come back on a few minutes later, sheepishly announcing that they thought their set was only 45 minutes. They are orchestrated enough to pick up immediately and play for another 20. We can forgive an accidental encore.

And so, for us at least, Roskilde ends at Avalon tent again with Gaye Su Akyol and her “peace, love and rock and roll from Istanbul”. The Turkish singer is no stranger to Denmark or Roskilde, having played at the festival for the first time in 2016, and then again at Alice last November. Each time her performance becomes a little more colourful, this time with the addition of a golden cape with which to lead her band of masked players. The rest is a blur of surf-rock, 70s Anatolian psych and garage, the backing band packing serious punch when it comes to the funked up rhythm section and squealing synths. Which is far from a bad way to end a festival.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 3, 05.07.2019

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wu-tang clan live at roskilde festival

As the sun shines and gives us respite from a day of chill and damp, Aldous Harding has set out to unnerve us. She plays beautiful folk music with a throwback 60s vibe, accompanied by a band of mellow players. She mostly sings in an unearthly soprano but has the vocal dexterity to sell the flat alto beloved of Nico fans. She also spends the majority of the set pulling faces and menacing her audience. From her seat with her acoustic guitar, she sneers and leers, glowering from behind her microphone with a hard, accusing look.

Aldous Harding live at Roskilde Festival 2019

Her band are all in on the joke, staring down or blankly ahead when not playing. They’re waiting for the audience to catch up with the joke, which some do with immediate laughter. It is the most engaging set by a person sitting down playing an acoustic guitar that we’ve seen in a long time. You could argue that Aldous’s performance methods detract from the beauty of her music, but quite plainly there are enough earnest singer-songwriters out there. There will never be enough weird.

Since our encounter with Sonic Boom at Alice a month or so ago we have been eagerly awaiting seeing his former Spacemen 3 bandmate Jason Pierce with his second legendary band (seems almost unfair to be allowed more than one), Spiritualized. Where Boom was minimalist Pierce is much more a maximalist, arriving on stage with a fivepiece backing band and a gospel trio on backup vocals. What emerges from this is a cathartic wall of space rock incorporating everything from Stooges-era garage to gospel and psychedelia. The noise is undercut by the fragile figure of Pierce himself, sat down hunched over his guitar, his foot nervously trembling over a wah wah pedal. It’s a captivating combination that distills 50 years of rock history into a plaintive cry that makes grown men openly sniffle as they headbang.

Spiritualized live at Roskilde Festival

We’ve had mixed success getting into Gloria this year, so we queue up early for Yves Tumor. It proves to be a good strategy; the room is packed for the artist and his band. The set is more straightforward rock than expected, with shades of glam rock (or properly eccentric hair metal) squelching out a lot of the electronics he is more commonly associated with. There’s something very Velvet Goldmine about the performance, and through the dark lighting on the stage we can see singer Sean Bowie hopping and thrashing about, his garment flowing around him. Better lighting might give us more of the effect compared to the silhouettes, but from our perch on the bleachers we can see bodies bobbing in time, sucking energy from this short set. As a festival set, it’s good, but it makes us want to see a performance that represents the full range of Yves Tumor’s catalogue.

yves tumor live at Roskilde Festival 2019

After the warmth and darkness of Gloria, the chill in the air and the brightness of the sky on the walk to Pavilion for black midi are little disorienting. black midi are a slightly mysterious, incredibly young four-piece from the UK. Until very recently they were just a name you’d hear about from the odd music journo at the Quietus, with absolutely no music online. Today at the Pavilion stage the reason for the hype becomes immediately obvious, with a blistering set of dexterity and musical exuberance. The band themselves, young as they are, are looking considerably more serious, possibly annoyed at the mixing of the vocals, but by the end, thanks to an impromptu call-and-response with the audience, they are grinning away and feel more at one with the calculated silliness that accompanies their technical proficiency. Think Don Caballero mixed with a touch of Les Claypool and you begin to get the idea. And with their debut album so recently released, it seems inevitable that black midi are going to go far indeed.

black midi live at Roskilde festival 2019

A quick run back to Orange Stage gets us to the Wu Tang Clan, a name that promises so much, possibly too much. After the puzzling introduction of the trailer for the RZA’s new movie, it’s immediately apparent that the sound is going to be absolutely dogshit for the rest of this set. The vocals are often inaudible, the samples mixed so oddly that half the time all you can hear is kick and snare. But the songs themselves are undeniable, anything from 36 Chambers is going to sweep the floor even if the sound quality is worse than an iPhone stuck down a toilet. But not wanting to have our musical memories tainted too much, we move on.

Underworld live at Roskilde Festival 2019

We move from one set of gristled veterans to another sort. Underworld are blessed with a markedly better sound at the Arena stage, which they use to its fullest to deliver their euphoric, rather campy style of house music. The tent is jam packed, lasers are flying all over the place, and the kick is powerful enough let you forget that the two people producing all this look like retired accountants. You can’t help but feel the pressure for them to end with their monument of a song, “Born Slippy”, which they milk for all its worth and deliver the almost definitional festival experience.

The energy of one dance band into another dance pop act will keep you riding high. It’s on this wave that we float over to Robyn’s headline slot on the Orange Stage. The Swedish pop queen is an old hand at festival performances, and she knows she could come out at full force with hits. She doesn’t do this. Robyn knows how to pace a show. It’s a slow build that includes a dancer and a costume change before she blasts into full Euro pop mode. She hits her stride on “Between the Lines,” shimmying and strutting and playing off of her backing dancer. The sound isn’t quite right and her vocals are too quiet, but the audience is into it, they’re warmed up, they’re in a peak festival state of mind.

We’ve been hearing “Dancing On My Own” all day. It’s come from various sound systems, out of phones, from passing groups just singing it. In many ways, this feels like the moment the entire festival is building up to. So when the opening chords of the song stream out, the crowd predictably goes nuts. Robyn silences her band and has the audience sing back the first chorus; she looks overwhelmed by the results. 

It’s kind of Robyn to bring this song out before the 2am mark, but a sign of her artistry that she doesn’t save her biggest hit for last, but rather where it fits best. Because even though the crowd thins at a faster rate when it’s done, the emotion is heightened for those who remain. Two girls shriek with joy for “Call Your Girlfriend,” and amorous couples willfully misunderstand the lyrics. But she brings us down slowly, so that when the last band member has left the stage it feels like a natural conclusion; of course we must now all drift on our own ways.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2019 Day 2, 04.07.2019

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Every Roskilde Festival includes the weather debate. Ideal weather for a festival isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Clear skies and sunshine quickly give way to sunburn while the dry air leads to the phenomenon known as the “piss cloud” (if you don’t know what we mean, spare your imagination). 

The second day at Roskilde Festival is damp and chilly. We haven’t reached mud pit conditions, but it’s still made us grateful for every set that’s under a tent. Sharon van Etten starts off Thursday for us on the Avalon Stage. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Sharon van Etten, and in that time she’s become a fucking rock star. The band she’s assembled to play her latest album, Remind Me Tomorrow, has her performing more as a vocalist and less as a guitarist (and not at all behind keys). She spends much of the set stalking the stage and channeling Patti Smith energy; she is completely transformed from the indie rocker we saw a few years ago. Also transformed is the reception of“Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” which in the past few years has become her signature song and an out-of-left-field hit that echoes back to her from the audience. There’s also a subtle difference in how Sharon projects herself when she plays solo. Past the midway point in her set, the band clears out and she takes a seat behind her piano. She take several minutes to talk about the state of the world, her desire to be optimistic for the sake of her young son, and to explain the the cover she wants to play is still relevant, despite being written in the 80s. Her soulful rendition of Sinead O’Connor’s “Black Boys on Mopeds” is an early highlight for the festival.

Julien Baker exudes a different kind of confidence, perhaps better described as fortitude. She is alone on stage for much of her set at Pavilion, or accompanied by a violinist. She is also competing with the noise bleed from a Norwegian electronic duo on the Apollo Stage, but seems completely unfazed by it.

Julien is suffering from being in the wrong space. Her guitar is warmly reverberant and delicate. Every time she wants to test the intensity of her vocals, she sings off mic, which remarkably still carries through the audience and over the sub bass from the next stage. At one point, someone tells her to turn up the volume and she says, “I’m just here to deliver the message,” which is southern US speak for “shut the fuck up.” The truth is, she could blow everyone away with volume, with intensity, but she saves it for the outro of her penultimate song, “Turn Out the Lights.” And that moment is incredible swelling of beauty and emotion when it arrives. But the main takeaway from her performance is that we want to see her play again in literally any other setting.

Before we reach the madness of a headline set at Orange Stage it’s always tempting to spend some time in a more intimate setting. Tirzah’s unique brand of minimalistic rnb would seem to fit the bill just right, her 2018 debut Devotion having the soothing touch you crave for after a while in the bustle of a festival. But it was not to be: unknown to us (and presumably whoever booked her for the small confines of Gloria stage) she is a huge draw, the queue to get in stretching around the block even after the concert has begun. So we have to grudgingly tramp back to the damp fields in the heart of Roskilde Festival to await the headliner.

Orange Stage is home turf for Mø, her rightful place. To emphasize this, she begins her set among the audience, standing on the barriers in a long flowing cape that becomes a banner as she runs through the crowd up to the stage. Mixing pop expansiveness with the grounded-ness of her more DIY roots, Mø has spent the last six years building her way up from her festival debut of Roskilde Rising, move up the stages to get here, with nothing more to conquer. Which just means there is all the more reason to party. The high-pitched samples of “Kamikaze” cut right through the sheets of rain, calling the stragglers over to the head of the festival. Before too long she’s already bounded out into the crowd again, leaning back into the front rows with the joyful nonchalance of a private karaoke party with friends.

Pausing for breath in the rain-swept centre of Orange Stage field, Mø recounts her trip to see the Spice Girls reunion. Closeness to the audience is something she takes very literally, and you can sense that much of her energy comes from this empathy for what it feels like to see your favourite pop stars in a huge crowd. It is also a teaser for a reimagined cover of “Say You’ll Be There”, accompanied by her childhood friend Josefine Struckmann Pedersen and Jada, who promises to be the heir apparent of the Danish pop queen. By the end of the set confetti is falling, flames are bursting from below, and Mø can’t help but keep repeating the drop of the very appropriately titled “Final Song”.

After a performance like that, we can’t help but get more excited for the Scandinavian left-field pop godmother, Robyn, the next evening.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018, Day 4, 07.07.2018

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Juana Molina live at Roskilde Festival 2018

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” If you don’t mind getting biblical, it feels appropriate. After four very dry days at Roskilde Festival, the dust has taken root in every pore and people are covering their faces with bandanas and construction masks that are bringing some Occupy-Wall-Street-meets-bird-flu-epidemic vibes. While we didn’t let it ruin our fun, some of those strange vibes did carry over to the bands we saw.

Juana Molina
“We are ready for war,” says Juana Molina when she and her band take the stage. “I will tell you later.”

As many artists are making political statements or getting caught on the wrong side of visa applications, the mind goes in many different directions. But what’s happened is that the band’s gear got lost en route from Argentina. Molina sang us a song about running to make a plane and then having to borrow gear in Roskilde.

This endearing approach to explaining their preoccupation during the set is helpful, because the band are definitely preoccupied. They’re uncertain of what songs to perform, Molina herself is annoyed at her guitar pedals, and they’re all deeply suspicious of the borrowed Moog synthesizer that never gets used.

So it’s likely not the most representative set of her career. Things veer more towards the South American folk side than the electronica side, making it all more groovy than moody. The set ends on a positive note with the audience providing backing vocals for “Un día.” Maybe it wasn’t a war, but it was good of the band to soldier through.

Mogwai
Mogwai is keeping us waiting. There’s a problem with their gear, and this is one band that won’t work without their pedals. Twenty minutes behind schedule, they emerge with “Mogwai Fear Satan,” four-part guitars and additional drumming from Honeyblood’s Cat Meyers.

The songs come out more dreamy than spiky, big washes of guitar rather than noise that feels absent of aggression despite volume or clever titles. By the time they hit “Remurdered,” there are smiles across all of the bands’ faces, whether from the joy of the mathematical rhythm or simply relief that nothing has broken down mid set.

They close with the sprawling “My Father My King,” coming in at under 20 minutes, allowing them to exit on a massive amount of feedback. Nothing skimped on, nothing trampled over. It was one of those cases where they had to keep us waiting if it was going to work at all. — AF

Gorillaz live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Gorillaz
This set feels like it’s divided into parts. The first part feels very much like a Damon Albarn solo show. Their new album, The Now Now, seems designed for performing without worrying about coordinating schedules or using prerecorded tracks. Albarn is more than capable of holding the stage on his own, and with singles like “Tomorrow Comes Today” and “Melancholy Hill” sprinkled in, the audience is in familiar territory. But Albarn’s speech about his affection for Roskilde, and his clambering up to the rail — something he would previously not done while performing with Gorillaz — underscore the solo show feeling.

The second part of the set, when the guests begin to emerge, feels like a shot in the arm. De La Soul’s appearance for “Superfast Jellyfish” is a portent of what’s to come, and people predictably lose their minds over “Feel Good Inc” later in the set. The energy completely changes as Little Simz and Moonchild Sanelly take the stage and “Stylo” gets new life with Pevene Everrett taking over for the late Bobby Womack. The tour for Plastic Beach had conditioned audiences to expect something spectacular all the time, but this approach of winnowing the set down to what can be performed by the house band and then only including collaborations where they can be found (as opposed to with prerecorded audio and video) is a more solid, sustainable concept.

That being said, the night ends on a very weird note. Closing out the Orange Stage for the whole of the festival with “Clint Eastwood,” what’s guaranteed to be a massive sing along, should be great. Del the Funky Homosapien, who provided the original vocals, comes on stage and delivers the line, “Finally, Damon let me out of my cage,” and then falls off the stage and out of view. The cameras pan over to a confused Albarn, who dashes over to where Del should be. The band continues playing for another 30 seconds, then stops as it’s announced that Del has hurt himself and the set is now over. The festival organizers, who less than two hours earlier were emoting about how lovely the festival has been, how many people have watching sets on the Orange Stage, what a great friend to the festival Damon Albarn is, have now come on to send everyone on their way. See you next year indeed. — AF

Mercy played both Friday and Saturday. Here they are on Friday

M€RCY
M€RCY closed out the Klub Rå program this year in the most perfect way. I was worried their 1 AM time slot (after Gorillaz on Orange stage and competing with Anderson.Paak nearby at Arena) would be ill-attended in the small, stuffy room. When I arrived, a mass of happy people were bouncing and swaying on the grass and the duo (Esben Valløe and Tim Panduro) had set up their mass of electronics in the DJ booth between the tent and the bar. M€RCY’s dark techno provided the perfect energy for the crowd so obviously running on their last fumes. Carefully crafted textures float and swirl around propulsive rhythms full of detail and nuance. Valløe and Panduro’s strength was in the restraint they showed, keeping the tempo at a manageable groove instead of trying to gratuitously hype up the crowd. Seeing an act reading and responding to the audience during a techno set is a rare thing, and M€RCY were dead on without needing to be bombastic. — MT

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 3, 06.07.2018

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David Byrne live at Roskilde Festival 2018

With the sun back in full force, Day 3 of Roskilde Festival 2018 was one for indoor sets. Klub Rå and Gloria provided us with much needed respite as well as moving electronic beats. We were ready for rock music outdoors by the time the sun started going down. Here’s how we paced our day:

The Lost Girls
Jenny Hval’s side project with long time collaborator Håvard Volden is an amalgam of the experimental for the sake of being experimental and pop songs that sound like they’ve been skimmed out of her catalogue. There are weird vocal loops and Norwegian spoken word, but then there’s Volden’s guitar helping him produce the kind of tracks that indie rock bands wish they could dream up for their adventurous electronica crossover albums. It’s also clear that this is a way for Hval to play with vocals and not necessarily follow strict song structures, which it’s only become apparent she does follow in comparison.

Having seen Hval, and by extension, Volden, perform together on several occasions under her name, seeing them positioned across a table from each other without props or costumes or backup dancers is a totally different experience. It feels like getting insight into something not fully fledged, something we a privileged few have been allowed to hear. — AF

Laurel Halo live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Laurel Halo
Laurel Halo’s impressionistic electronic music is not for everyone. She challenges the listener with oddly structured songs and unsettling vocals devoid of traditional pop hooks. Her effected spoken-word breakdowns are long enough to make you wonder when the payoff will come, and then… it doesn’t. But if you’re adventurous enough to succumb and allow yourself to be drawn into her world, it’s full of distorted beauty, musical precision and good old club music bliss. Halo’s set started with her unique avant-pop musings but quickly developed into a dance-floor friendly techno set combining Latin percussion grooves, FM pads, vocal samples as well as her live keyboard playing. Ultimately, Halo’s originality seemed lost on the crowd inside Gloria, but those who were eager to dance were certainly not disappointed. — MT

Bisse live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Bisse
Danish art rocker, Bisse (née Thorbjørn Radisch Bredkjær), whose catapulting stardom has as much to do with his eccentricity as his prolific recorded output (8 albums since 2015), brought an electric energy to his performance on the Avalon stage. Flanked by two incredibly tight drummers up front while his guitarist and keyboard player shredded behind him, Bisse sauntered around the stage with the same confidence as Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury. Through multiple costume changes and an elaborate scenography with a mirrored telephone booth style box in the centre, his playful attitude and outward sexuality blended with the raw power of his vocals to provide an engrossing experience. Bisse honours his Danish heritage by singing in his native language instead of crossing over to the more commercial English. Yet, he is poised to be one of the defining artists of our generation based entirely on the strength of artistic contributions. — MT

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
There is no ceremony when Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds arrive on the Orange Stage, there is just the deafening wail of “Jesus Alone.” It’s an instant command of the situation, demand for attention, an establishment of dominance.

So the contrast of Cave climbing the rail to the crowd, allowing them to grasp his hands and paw at him, is immediate. He’ll end up in this place, on and off, for what amounts to half the set. It’s physically giving himself (and on some occasions, his microphone) over to people, whether making himself vulnerable as on the heartbreaking piano arrangement for “Magneto,” or simply trusting them as when he conducts their handclaps for “The Weeping Song.”

There is also sheer ferocity in the band on the whole: Warren Ellis is shockingly cruel to his violin on “From Her to Eternity,” making an unholy noise in the process; someone is forever having to deal with Cave looming over him at the piano; and “Jubilee Street” built to an explosive end that many performers would have found difficult to continue after.

Ultimately, the Nick Cave song everyone knows is “Into My Arms,” and Cave takes this opportunity to orchestrate a sing along. It brings levity to it everything, and is admittedly the least weird song for there to be a sing along to. It was a beautiful moment amongst the murder ballads. — AF

David Byrne live at Roskilde Festival 2018

David Byrne
David Byrne appears on stage sitting behind a long table, holding a plastic model of a human brain. This is the most boring thing to happen all set, because singing to a plastic model of a human brain pales in comparison to an 11-piece backing band, bare footed in matching gray suits, jumping around like an outsider artist marching band.

Byrne’s set is built around songs that focus on the barely-there silver linings of his back catalogue and desperate search for positivity in his new album, American Utopia, best evidenced by the perfect pairing of “Everybody’s Coming to My House” segueing into “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody).” He and his band are perfectly choreographed from the subtle hand flicks of his backing singers to arranged warrior poses full formation drum lines.

And if the collectivist rising evades you, if the lyrics to “Slippery People” don’t resonate as they should, he closes out the set with a  cover of Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout.” I don’t know how a song about police brutality in the United States translates for a European audience, but it felt very important to a transplanted American. It’s tying everything up with the heaviest moment, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this performance is an absolute joy.

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 2, 05.07.2018

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Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Every festival has its highlights and hot tips, but it’s rare that you actually get locked out of seeing a band. The hottest ticket of this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t one of the headliners, but weirdo pop collective Superorganism. We attempted to catch their set on the Gloria stage, but half an hour before they were set to go on, the queues snaked around the building and into the Food Court. We’re among the many that missed out, so feast your eyes on what we did manage to catch. But if anyone actually did get to hear them, we want to know if they lived up to the hype.

Smerz live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Smerz
Smerz drag you into their murky musical world with no remorse and no second thoughts. But not in a devious way, more so with their nonchalant “we don’t really give a fuck, we’re going to do our thing regardless” attitude. And their thing is somewhat difficult to explain which is why they are so fascinating. Their heavy beats, twisted synths and dry mantra-like vocals pin them as electronic experimenters who are so serious about their art. On the other hand, they bring a sense of humour to their stage show that is somewhat out of place, yet they stand behind it completely unabashed. Their first two guests were two topless muscular men doing chin-ups on workout gear in the background (for only one song). Then their stage became a runway for a fashion show which was so ironic and serious that it was…not actually ironic. Check out their video for “Worth It” for further reference. Smerz delivered a flawless performance showcasing their inventive production, post-pop songwriting and a though-provoking aesthetic that left you guessing what exactly it was you just felt. — MT

Yangze
Jakob Littauer’s solo project is firmly rooted in electronic pop with clubby beats and groovy keyboard progressions, and it’s clear that he’s a talented producer with a solid musical background from the way his songs are crafted. The hooks are interesting and catchy, and the arrangements are unpredictable yet flow naturally. And damn, this dude can sing! Yangze is really all about the vocals and his pitched-up or vocoded lyrics cut through and complete his sound in a novel way without needing to hide behind clouds of reverb. Yangze captivated the crowd at Klub Rå and strung us all along with every note.

Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Boris with Merzbow

There is something irresistible about this Japanese noise rock power coupling. Merzbow a godfather of noise rock. Boris are somewhere between glamorous, beautiful goths and super cheesy; while their guitarist and bassist pose elegantly, their drummer is conducting the audience from behind his kit with his drum sticks and manages to elicit a genuine horns up moment.

While the drummer is not about subtlety — something I love him for every time he bashes the gong behind him because gongs should not be about subtlety — there is something quite nuanced about the way songs shift from lurching rock to dark and dreamy to the spiky punk of Pink. Merzbow is hidden off to the side behind a table with his electronics, and it’s a little hard to make out what he’s doing until the last two minutes of the performance when Boris go quiet and his noise is finally distinguishable from their noise. But this set is a reminder of how textual and varied noise rock can be. — AF

My Bloody Valentine

There are some rumors about My Bloody Valentine’s live show that continue to hold true: They are loud (but not playing as loudly as their initial reunion tour 10 years ago), even when compared to Boris and Merzbow in the same night. The vocals are buried, but, as on the three-part female harmony of “New You,” can be unexpectedly beautiful. The visuals are a little 90s Windows PC screensaver, but after being blinded by Nine Inch Nails, it feels right, warm rather than harsh.

But there is no getting away from the abrasiveness that comes with the beauty. While Loveless and m b v songs have added synthesizers to brighten them, earlier songs have a car crash quality no harmony can take the edge off of. Par for the course, the band don’t engage with the audience, so we can only intuit that the emphasis on the burned film guitar sound over the synthy sparkle on “To Here Knows When” isn’t intentional by the annoyed way Kevin Shields looks at his guitar. This tentativeness is what throws things off, likely a nuance only he can hear, the fabled perfectionism that causes the band to disappear for years at a time.

In the end, there is “You Made Me Realise” to cap everything off, ecstatic cheers to the noise interlude, and ecstatic cheers for the final chorus. Metaphorically one would usually say that the dust settled, but in reality, as we stumble away from the stage, the dust swirled around us. It probably looks lovely from a distance, but in the midst of it, there’s an abrasiveness you can’t escape. — AF

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 1, 04.07.2018

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St. Vincent live at Roskilde Festival 2018

This year’s Roskilde Festival comes amidst a dry summer of almost uninterrupted sun. This leaves us with the quandary of what’s worse, dust or mud? For Wednesday, we’re not sorry for the sunshine. It’s an easy day with great sets and not enough time for the sunburn and dehydration to set in. But someone almost definitely knocked over a piss trough near the Arena stage, so there’s a possibility that things can change very quickly.

Nihiloxica
Nihiloxica, the first band to play the Apollo stage at this year’s festival, brought a frenzied and buoyant energy to start things off. With five percussionists in a row onstage and one synth/laptop/electronics player behind, the group, comprised of four Ugandans and two Brits fused tribal, trance-like African rhythms with modern electronic synth textures that would be equally at home at a dark techno warehouse. The intricate weaving polyrhythms of the Kampala drums were anchored into a tight groove by a western drum kit (although with a large hollowed-out gourd instead of toms) while a smear of fuzzed out dissonant synth tones swirled around it all. The absense of any real melody was striking but it allowed for the rhythmic reverie to remain as the centre of attention. The energy onstage was contagious and crowd was eager to dance along in the beaming sun. — MT

Nathan Fake
British producer and Border Community (and now Ninja Tune) recording artist, Nathan Fake lit up the Apollo stage with his effervescent blend of textural pads, sharp synth hooks and dark, driving techno production. Fake’s set was dynamic and driving and I imagined myself floating around the dancefloor in a sweaty club, only occasionally looking up to fill my field of vision with colour. A bright backdrop of colourful, pixelated pastel landscapes and psychedelic digital 3D renderings that pulsed and churned throughout the whole set. In the festival setting, however, a large-scale vivid display behind a solitary performer takes some of the focus away from the music and the un-sync’d projections were not quite captivating enough to keep my attention. That said, Fake’s energy was on point and his set of blended uplifting chord progressions, deep, propelling bass lines and bubbling arpeggios was seamless. — MT

St. Vincent
Annie Clark is genuinely one of the best guitarists of her generation and she could sell herself on just that if she wanted to. We’re lucky that instead she gives us St. Vincent, currently inhabiting a world of neons and latex, of male band members with pantyhose masks and synthetic wigs, and of off kilter, high definition video projections.

But Clark’s understanding of presentation extends to the way she delivers her songs. There is a rollercoaster of emotion from the way she scuttles around in four-inch heels for “Pills” to the creep-factor of her masked guitar tech looming over her for a somber intro to “Huey Newton;” from the revved up version of “New York” to pure heartbreak of the stripped back “Happy Birthday, Johnny.” Perhaps all of these feelings coalesce when she raises a fist over her head and insists, “Let’s fight the power today,” before launching into “MASSEDUCTION.” She takes us all over the map and acts as if it’s all perfectly natural. And in the end, you believe it is. — AF

Nine Inch Nails
General angst translates well when the earth is a giant trash fire, so Nine Inch Nails are giving us a very state-of-the-world-in-2018 vibe with their set. Trent Reznor brings a startling intensity to everything he does: His vocals, the way he moves at his mic stand, even the way he shakes a tambourine.

The atmosphere is charged and it feels at times like the band are trying to expunge something. Reznor has stated that “there’s too much fucking talking,” and thus careens from one song to the next. Something akin to a mosh pit emerges during “Hand That Feeds,” but in their state, most people are just jumping up and not landing evenly on their feet. For a post-midnight set, there are times when the lights are shockingly bright, and more than one person in the audience was spied with sunglasses on.

It’s still the songs of The Downward Spiral that exist most clearly in people’s minds, and it’s edifying to learn what awkward sing alongs they make: It’s intensely awkward to have a group of people sing the chorus of “Closer.” And as the set comes to a close at 2am, having the words to “Hurt” shouted all around you is one giant bummer. But that’s no fault of Trent’s — he can’t be held responsible for the crowd’s unchecked impulse. — AF

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 4, 01.07.2017

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Circuit des Yeux’s only Danish shows before today were in Copenhagen and have only been at Jazzhouse (she gives them a nod of gratitude toward the end of the set). So it’s pleasantly surprising to see how many people have turned up for her set at Gloria, given that the rain has stopped as well. We’ve been taken with her tenor-range alto since the first time we saw her, but it was exciting to see her performing with a band instead of solo. She is bolstered by a drummer and violist (and a bit of programming), turning her sinister folk somewhere between rocking and terrifyingly demonic. She closed the set with a new song, so we hope this means she’ll be back again soon.

It doesn’t matter how many times we see Jenny Hval, if she’s playing live we’ll be there. The main reason is that we know that no matter how recently we’ve seen her, the performance itself is going to be different from the last time. A festival stage is a very different setting from a small club, but she compensated with her own take on volume, namely billowing sheets of plastic.

In addition to her usual person behind the control panel, she had another synth player/vocalist and a tuba player, both whom were occasionally called upon to abandon their instruments and leap around the stage while Jenny sang as though none of it was happening around her. It takes tremendous commitment to an idea to jump to the rhythm of an odd ball song while swinging around a big fuck off sheet of plastic like it’s a normal activity.

Slowdive have played Roskilde fairly recently, but not surprisingly their 2014 set at 02:30 wasn’t very highly attended. Not the case at their set at Avalon at what they refer to as a more reasonable hour of 18:00. Then they were riding on reunion buzz, but now they’re supporting a new album. They’ve balanced their set well, weaving in new songs with their back catalogue and still seemingly genuinely excited that they’re performing. Whether it’s Avalon’s sound system or the band’s own mixing choice, there’s a lot of bass in this performance, and it’s melodic and driving enough that we don’t mind that it matches the guitars in volume at all. Interestingly, it’s the new singles “Star Roving” and “Sugar for the Pill” that elicit the biggest cheers. It seems Slowdive have succeeded in introducing themselves to a completely new audience.

Some bands appear to have been specially designed and cultivated in a B-movie laboratory in order to headline a festival, and Arcade Fire are without a doubt one of the prime examples of this. The massive hooks and singalongs that sound more than a little bombastic on record make perfect sense in this massive muddy field. Opening with “Wake Up”, the band do just that, warming up the audience in record time, to the degree that it’s only a few minutes into the set that Win Butler has managed to jump on top of our very own Morten Aagard Krogh in the photo pit. New material from their soon-to-be-released fifth album, Everything Now, is carefully sandwiched between some of their more dance and electronica-leaning work, with the transition between “The Sprawl II” and “Reflektor” being particularly pleasing in its smoothness. Having whipped themselves up with an obvious closer like “Rebellion (Lies)”, Win insists on returning to the stage for one last goodbye, with “Neon Bible”.

It feels like a natural quiet ending, but ance outfit Moderat  – a hybrid of Berlin electronica acts Apparat (Sasha Ring) and dance duo Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) – have other plans. The after-midnight gig lasted three hours (at the tail-end of a rainy festival, even our hardiest reviewer only lasted one) and cemented why the outfit has been much-hyped as the ultimate electronica live act. Pounding beats were accompanied by a visually-intricate light show, oscillating from pulsating singles with frenetic drums before moving into mid-tempo ambient tracks. The festival setting meant the volume was higher than any club, leaving a lasting impression of a powerful show for festival-goers to trudge home to.

PHOTOS: Roskilde Festival 2017

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Father John Misty live Roskilde Festival 2017

Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 2, 29.06.2016

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Solange live Roskilde Festival 2017

It’s still early in the festival, but having a gentle way of easing into the day is still welcome. Julia Jacklin kicks things off at noon, and there’s a surprisingly large crowd assembled for her that early in the day. The Australian artist’s take on Americana is soothing and lilting, equal parts naive and clear. Her countrified warmth and twangy vocal would make her an ideal opener for Angel Olsen. And if nothing else, she made worked the weird strain out of the Strokes’ “Someday” and turned it into a sweet, wistful song.

Prompted by the large red circle backdrop, people are asking if Solange is from Japan, which means that they don’t know the one detail about Solange that I thought was a given (she’s Beyoncé’s sister, FYI). Solange’s set ranges from soulful R&B to Whitney Houston-style pop songs, and it’s choreographed from beginning to end in a subtle Hal Hartley kind of way. Even the backing band are in on it. The moment when she lets go of the choreography is during “F.U.B.U.,” when she walks into the pit and sings directly to an audience member. The woman hugs Solange and bursts into tears. It’s a really beautiful moment that melted at least one icy heart.

At the Orange stage, The XX inaugurate the first first salvo in the bout of downpours promised for the next two days. Despite the weather, and being mostly known for their rather mopey, minimal take on RnB, and the trio manage an upbeat set replete with earnest crowd-work and popstar shapes from bassist Oliver Sims. Jamie xx lurks in the background doing what a friend informs me is some top-notch mixing, although I can’t say I’m a fan of any of his drum samples. Any interest and warmth comes from the chumminess of Oliver and Romy, and from the familiarity of the tunes. They might all sound the same but a field during a downpour is not a place for subtlety. The trademark vulnerability embedded in XX lyrics – spinning collective tales of falling shyly in love and feeling cripplingly insecure about it – was enhanced by the onstage confession from Romy Madley that she was dumped at Roskilde Festival at age 16: “But everything happens for a reason, right? And now I’m here with you, and you are way more fun than she was.” Judging by the cheers and the veritable sea of dancing, it seems the feeling was mutual.

Julia Jacklin live Roskilde Festival 2017

It’s the focus on ambient sounds that threatens to derail Nicholas Jaar’s set at the Apollo stage. A beatless ten minutes of baritone saxophone and feedback is not most people’s idea of prime festival fodder. Scheduled for the late-night 12:30 slot on a rainy evening at the festival’s furthest (and uncovered) stage, the performance from Chilean-American producer was expected to be a “drop-in” affair. However the throngs who stayed were generously rewarded with a slow build that escalated into a dense, satisfying performance that lingered for hours afterward.

The rain has stopped, but it has also stopped people from queuing. It’s only as Nas takes the stage that people start to pack in. It’s 1:30am and chilly and Nas does not seem to give a shit about any of that; he’s here to do this thing. From the word go, he’s zipping around the stage, giving lessons on old school hip-hop, and declaring that Beethoven is hip-hop. I’m surrounded by white boys trying to mimic the way he waves his arm to the beat while I dance the way aging indie rock kids dance (i.e. bobbing my head as a full-body movement). Our photographer, Morten, commented that he worried watching Nas would make him want to do pushups, as Illmatic is one of his go-to workout albums. I get it. I wonder why I never thought of that before.

I walk away from his set around the time he started leading the crowd in a tribute chant to the recently departed Prodigy. Somewhere around the foodcourt the bass from Nas gives way to a fuzziness and dead thump of kick drum.

The last time the Jesus and Mary Chain took to the Roskilde stage was 19 years ago, and the Scottish shoegaze legends proved that they could deliver tracks from their genre-defining album Psychocandy with the same lush charm as when they were first recorded 30 years ago. Guitarist William Reid ensured the show – which traversed a fair stretch of JAMC’s decade-spanning repertoire rather than tossing in a few classics among their comeback content was, quite literally, painfully loud.  This reviewer had to retreat beyond Roskilde’s Arena tent for the sake of her eardrums – a roaring sound that felt somehow amplified by the fact that the band members themselves were obscured by heavy-duty smoke effects for the majority of the show. Perhaps, one cynically wonders, to obscure the passage of time.

But unlike many of the anniversary tours restoring the 80s and 90s britpop heyday to festival stages since the 2010s, Jesus and Mary Chain have nothing to hide –  the indie rockers owned their past glories and proved the old hits still endure.

Words by Charlie Cassarino, Lena Rutkowski, and Amanda Farah
Solange photo by  Betina Garcia
Julia Jacklin photo by Morten Aargaard Krogh

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