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Roskilde Festival 2017: Day 1, 28.06.2017

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Warpaint live at Roskilde Festival 2017

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.

Kevin Morby live at Roskilde Festival 2017
Photos by Morten Aagaard Korgh

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.

INTERVIEW: Greg Fox on Guardian Alien, Ex Eye, and Roskilde

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Fox Millions Duo live roskilde festival

Greg Fox (right) performing with Fox Millions Duo. Photo by Morten Krogh.

Drummer Greg Fox is the sort of performer whose name comes up in a variety of contexts. Though perhaps most often associated with Liturgy, the human drum machine is also currently playing with Guardian Alien — his one-time solo project, which is currently a duo including Alexandra Drewchin of Eartheater — and Ex Eye, a new band formed with Colin Stetson. He also has an ongoing pairing with fellow drummer Kid Millions of Oneida known as Fox Millions Duo.

It probably shouldn’t be surprising that Fox’s appearance at this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t limited to one set. But when you consider how exhausting a festival can be for a mere spectator, Fox’s three performances over as many days with as many bands is damn impressive. Unsurprisingly, Fox was difficult to track down between sets, but he answered a few questions for us via email after the festival.

How was your Roskilde experience?

I enjoyed Roskilde. It is a huge, overwhelming festival, so luckily the backstage area for artists was very hospitable. The food was great and it was easy to relax back there.

How do you prepare for three days of shows with three different projects?

Regarding preparation, there isn’t much to it, really. More than anything I try to prepare for presenting a full set for the audience. Seventy-five minutes is longer than most sets I tend to play, so there was some thought and planning given to what material to play and how to structure the sets. The nature of Fox / Millions duo and Guardian Alien involve more improvisation within a predesigned structure, so clearly outlining those structures was the main aspect of the preparation. For Ex Eye, it’s a matter of playing the material we have been writing, so not much to do before that set besides stretch!

How did you end up playing with Ex Eye?

Colin and I had been talking about doing a “heavy” project together for a while, both of us being fans of what you might consider various forms of extreme music. Shazhad [Ismaily] has been a longtime friend and collaborator, and one of my favorite people to play and travel with, so him being in the project was a no brainer, and Toby [Summerfield] is an old friend and collaborator many times over of Colin’s, so at his suggestion Toby came on board. That’s it really. We just wanted to start a new project, so we did!

Fox Millions Duo is a fairly unique set up. What inspired the project?

What inspired the duo is mainly just Kid and I really enjoying each others’ playing and company. We have a good time together. We were asked once to do a “drum off” as an opening act for a Lightning Bolt show, and instead we decided to come up with something collaborative. And it just went from there. I think we will definitely be making another record soon.

Guardian Alien has been through a few incarnations now. Is it going to continue to evolve?

I don’t know if i can speak to any kind of permanence regarding anything at all, so it’s hard to say – but I definitely enjoy the current duo lineup of Guardian Alien. Yes we have been working on new material, using new instruments and technologies, and we are very excited about what we have been creating together.

How is Guardian Alien different from your other work?

Guardian is different than other work that I do because Alex is my partner in the non-musical realm first and foremost, so the collaboration is obviously different than it is with other people. We know each other extremely well, for better and for worse, and we also love each other very much — and we share our lives with each other. So in many ways doing Guardian as a duo with her is really joyous and fun, and in other ways it can be very challenging. But I think that challenge makes for better creative outcomes.

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 4, 02.07.2016

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Guardian Alien — Pavilion

We didn’t know exactly what to expect from Guardian Alien as the band is constantly changing. Once the solo project of Greg Fox (of Friday’s Fox Millions Duo), the current incarnation has him paired with guitarist and vocalist Alexandra Drewchin with each of them queuing up tracks from laptops.

guardian alien live roskilde festival
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Though Guardian Alien is nominally thought of as Fox’s project, Drewchin steals the show. It’s not just that as the guitarist she’s more mobile than the drummer — her vocals have a wacky range between her natural soprano and an evil vocal effect, her guitar playing uses effects that make it look like an optical illusion, and she’s twisting her body in an awe-inspiring way. When she bends over backwards and sings while facing the crowd upside-down it proves to be particular popular. When faced with addressing the crowd through heavily reverbed vocals or heavily distorted vocals, she often opts for the demonically distorted vocals. She’s fucking with us, she wants us to know it, and it’s hilarious.

There’s not much more that can be said about Fox’s drumming that we haven’t already said, but this current combination for Guardian Alien belies a playfulness that contrasts nicely with the weight of the music. It’s a little bit tribal, a little bit demonic, and perhaps the most concrete project he’s working on right now. — AF

Gojira – Arena

After touring their latest album, “Magma”, apparently French metallers Gojira have been on a bit of a break. “We’re really rusty” claims frontman Joe Duplantier, whose facial hair today makes him look remarkably like Alan Rickman playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in that shit Robin Hood movie. That’s not a diss, it’s a solid look. Either way, evidently Gojira’s definition of ‘rusty’ is brutally unforgiving. The 1/32-note kick-drum tears through the audience, driving the business-suited gentleman next to me to froth at the mouth with glee. The metal audience at Roskilde will always be a minority, but they definitely get their fill. And if nothing else, they did a solid job of drowning out the sound of Dizzy Miss Lizzy from the Orange Stage. And for that I shall be eternally grateful. – CC

gojira live roskilde festival
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

Cate Le Bon — Pavilion

Cate Le Bon plays whimsical pop songs that she delivers with a dry voice (think of “dry” in the same positive light as when it’s used to describe wines). Her vocals live are note-perfect to their recordings, which is precisely what we were hoping for. The only disappointment is that she doesn’t have more small talk between songs, because she speaks with the same delightful lilt as she sings.

cate le bon live roskilde festival
Photo by Tom Spray

Le Bon’s set is mostly comprised of songs from her latest album, Crab Day, which in addition to allowing her to hit the high notes also have her backing band shuffling around instruments. There are times when the bass is too high in the mix, and this drowns out the keyboard in particular, but there is plenty of ramshackle guitar to propel things forward.

And though the aforementioned dryness of Le Bon’s voice is a huge selling point, it is not without emotion. Highlights from the set included “What’s Not Mine” and “Are You With Me Now,” which, for all their forthrightness, leave us wandering back out into the cloudy Saturday in a slightly ruminative state. — AF

New Order — Arena

New Order were always going to be a bit of a wild card, the legacy band that doesn’t want to be a legacy band and doesn’t want to play by the rules. The obvious choice would be for them open their set with a hit, and instead they choose “Singularity” from last year’s album, Music Complete.

new order live roskilde festival
Photo by Tom Spray

While there were some reminders that the band do in fact have a new album, they were forthcoming with singles from throughout their back catalogue, with tracks new and old complemented by stunning short films. The vocals could have been louder, and it was a little difficult to understand Bernard Sumner’s lyrics and his between-song quips. Still, it’s hard to describe the collective euphoria of a packed tent of people singing and dancing along to “Blue Monday” — except for the band themselves, who played to the new wave parody of standing stock still despite the energy of the people in front of them.

After we walked away from the crowd, having been told that “Temptation” was all they had to offer and jabbering about how bands don’t play encores at festivals and anyway New Order had a reputation for not playing encores at all, we heard the cheers erupting from the tent and the opening bass line of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Needless to say, we made our way back to Arena very quickly. Several people told us afterward that they were moved to tears, and at least one of us feels no shame to count herself amongst them. — AF

LCD Soundsystem – Orange

It has been a day of highs and lows. Guardian Alien’s thrilling set in the early afternoon, friends in tears over New Order’s encore, and crucially, having to witness Italy lose to penalties against Germany. But all is not over: I am in the pit at Orange Stage, about to see LCD Soundsystem.

Five years ago the band had bid the world farewell with an already legendary three-hour show in Madison Square Garden. Their return this year was greeted both with enthusiasm and a fair bit of scepticism. After all, why invalidate such a brilliant swansong? But as soon as the band begin to trickle onto the stage to the beat of “Us V Them”, the answer seems self-evident: because it’s simply too fun to stop.

LCD Soundsystem - Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh
Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh

The set itself flawlessly balances material from all periods of the band’s existence, including a personal favourite, the caustic and hilarious “Losing My Edge”. There is a triumphal, assured quality to everything James Murphy and his merry companions do on stage. From this vantage point you can see his expression as he grins and gurns at the band with his back to the audience. They’re all drinking champagne, playing some of the best dance music made in the last twenty years. For the first few songs it looks like they are playing more for each other than anyone out in the fields of Roskilde. But eventually Murphy looks to the audience and professes his surprise and gratitude that so many people have stayed on in spite of the cold and the mud. Suddenly what looked like arrogance begins to resemble more a genuine joy for the music.

Perhaps LCD Soundsystem’s greatest legacy will be their ability to both narrate and enact the pleasure of music as a shared experience. The ability to be both incisive and fun. But to me, they shall forever more be remembered as the band that gave birth to the first ever Here Today editorial dance party. – CC

PHOTOS: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 3

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Photos by Morten Krogh and Tom Spray.

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LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2016 Day 3, 01.07.2016

in Live Reviews by
peaches live roskilde festival

 Reviews by Charlie Cassarino and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Krogh and Tom Spray.

Fox Millions Duo — Gloria

An hour of two drummers doing there thing sounds like a hard sell. What on earth would they possibly do for all that time?

But Greg Fox and Kid Millions are two of the best drummers in New York. Their day jobs in Liturgy and Oneida respectively constantly push them outside of your standard rock drumming, and they’re not afraid to let things get a little weird. They spend the first twenty minutes of the set sat on either side of a snare drum with a backing track fading in and out over them, Kid Millions with a serene, trance-like expression on his face the whole while (Fox is a bit more fidgety, though it’s impressive watching him get up and shift around without it affecting his playing).

Fox Millions Duo live roskilde festival

Watching each man at his own drum kit has a different feel. The delirium of the first song has evaporated from Kid Millions, and he’s now pulling faces as though it’s his college roommate sitting across the stage. The two communicate through a series of nods, with a synchronicity that is boggling. They are so in synch, at one point they each cast an empty water bottle on the ground at the same time.

If experimental music can lack an organic element, the Fox Millions project makes up for it. Maybe you can’t dance to it, but this has pretty much killed the gimmick of having two drummers for any other band to come. — AF

Mac Demarco — Arena

I arrive at the edge of the Arena tent, coffee in hand, tired from work, desperately needing a lie down. Not the best mood to dispassionately review a gig. The crowd is immense, and a good third of them looking like carbon copies of Mac himself, so no chance of seeing much. Mac and co take to the stage (or rather, as the noise from the crowd leads me to guess that they are coming on), look at each other goofily as they tune up. “Get comfortable,” Mac tells us, and at that I realize that it’s Friday, I’m drinking coffee, I’m at a festival, and things aren’t quite the disaster I’d made them out to be.

Mac DeMarco live Roskilde Felstival

No matter what you think of Demarco’s output, he has charm. He stands before thousands of people as easily he would be jamming in front of a few close friends. But although there are plenty of people gushing with enthusiasm for renditions of “Salad Days” and “The Stars Keep On Calling My Name”, the predominantly casual crowd drown things out a bit. This is painfully obvious during the David Syvian-esque down-tempo love song, “Another One”. Given that Demarco’s output can be a little on the samey-side, these keyboard-driven tracks become among the most interesting. But the chatter in the crowd starts to drown out everything. I suppose that’s the danger of being so laid-back. — CC

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld — Gloria

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld made names for themselves working with Arcade Fire and other indie darlings, but their work as solo artists does not approach those pop turns. It’s hard to even imagine the conversation that led them to decide that their instruments, bass saxophone and violin, were the two destined for a collaborative effort, but it’s for the best that they know better than we do.

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Neufeld’s violin playing feels like a series of loops, reflected in her own songs as well as her collaboration with Stetson, and it’s this light thread that acts as a guide through their compositions. Stetson, by comparison, offers more range, from the thin and reedy to a gut rumbling frequency, as on their final song, the title track to their album, Never Were the Way She Was.

It’s not only their joint album they play. Stetson provides sax for one of Neufeld’s pieces and each of them trading off in performing their own songs while the other sitting quietly to the side, setting a relaxed example for the assembled crowd. It’s weirdly perfect music for a rainy afternoon that has people taking flight into the sheltered Gloria space. The only way it could be better is if there was room to get rid of the wet rain gear. — AF

Peaches — Apollo

A muddy field is not really the right venue for an encounter with Peaches. Her confrontational brand of eletro punk is more befitting of a grimy basement. Her cartoon amazon warrior outfit, graphic in its anatomic detail, more than befits the stomach-churning stabs of bass that issue out of the PA. It feels more like an extreme form of interrogation than a musical act, but you get the impression that’s exactly what she’s going for. — CC

peaches live roskilde festival

Tal National — Avalon

There are no two ways about it: it’s a bit of a dispiriting, wet day today. But over the years we have discovered a secret, albeit a fairly obvious one: when things are looking a bit down and dreary, go find a West African band. And Niger’s favourite band, Tal National, are precisely the people to save this rainy Friday evening.

Look, if you’re in the habit of reading several different Roskilde reviews, you are going to encounter a recurrent word in conjunction with Tal National: tight. Certainly a merited adjective, if not exactly the most descriptive. The core sextet (although reportedly the band can consist of upwards of thirteen musicians) are preternaturally in synch, weaving disparate rhythmic patterns together, stopping and starting without warning, keeping everyone on their toes. The audience, many of whom are in the Avalon tent mainly to shelter from the rain, take instantly to the skill and enthusiasm that is at the heart of this group.

tal national live roskilde festival

As they say themselves, Tal National are all about unity. Its members hail from every part of the country, come together to travel from town to town (while also holding down day jobs) spreading the music. One image from their set speaks volumes: the band’s defacto leader, Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine, picks up his bandmate’s drumsticks and shows them to the crowd. They are both splintered right through the center. “This happens every time, he is a very expensive drummer.” The man in question beams on, steam pouring off his bare shoulders. — CC

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 2, 30.06.2016

in Live Reviews by
savages live roskilde festival

Reviews by Amanda Farah and Jesper Gaarskjær

Courtney Barnett — Avalon

If what you want is high energy rock music, it’s hard to do better than Courtney Barnett. Her blues-driven slacker rock with big choruses is perfect for jumping around and wailing along. You could take ready cue from her bassist, who spends much of the set flinging his body from side to side like Muppets are made to when they’re dancing. Add to the to that the background projects of weird but amusing cartoons and there’s the feeling of a subversive kids’ show for adults.

courtney barnett live roskilde festival

It’s also clear where Barnett’s comfort zone is. It’s well into her set before she says anything to the crowd, though this is a kind group who’ve heard “No One Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” on the radio a hundred times and are singing along to “Depreston,” a song about gentrification and property values. But when she plays a solo her body turns into a rubber band and she loses herself in something ecstatic.

It’s easy to imagine a day when Courtney Barnett will be headlining festivals. She has the songs and she has the energy. The ability to command a stage is still forthcoming, but you can see that she knows it’s something she has to work on. It’s growth we can look forward to seeing. — AF

PJ Harvey — Arena

PJ Harvey knows how to make an entrance. She walks out onto the Arena stage with her band in single file, including a mini drum procession, with her saxophone in hand and wearing an amazing black feather vest.

The Arena stage is filled from end to end with her band, no mean feat, and the crowd is spilling out from the tent. If Polly Jean doesn’t say much between songs, it’s because she has the sort of presence that allows her to get away with saying so little. The profundity of hearing songs like “Let England Shake” and “The Words That Maketh Murder” a week after the UK’s referendum is not lost, even if she doesn’t call direct attention to it.

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It’s not as the PJ Harvey is someone you go to see for lightheartedness. The shift away from political drama to songs from To Bring You My Love, including the title track and “Down By the Water” fills the space with a dark energy.

She closes with “River Anacostia” from her latest album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. Slowly, her band join her in a perfect line, singing the final lines together in a communion that’s almost spiritual. Though the crowd lingers, cheering for more, it’s too perfect an ending to follow up. — AF

Tenacious D — Orange

We went out to see Tenacious D thinking it would be a laugh, and it absolutely was. Jack Black on stage is essentially the guy from School of Rock, and Kyle Gass is the guy who is not Jack Black, i.e. an excellent straight man who deals with Black’s over-the-top emoting. For goodness sake, there’s a guy in red body paint and pair of furry trousers playing the part of Satan.

It’s 10 years since the release of The Pick of Destiny, and the set features heavily from the record. A rare outing for “Master Exploder” turns into a somewhat elaborate Milli Vanilli joke, and the segment culminates in “Phoenix,” which acknowledges that sales for The Pick of Destiny were less than stellar. Even if it’s heavy handed in the way that only main stage acts can be, the display of performance is admirable (Black’s repeated mispronunciation of “mange tak” is less so, but points for trying).

Despite the duo’s best efforts not to be serious at all, the crowd is definitely taking them seriously. This is typified in the mass singalong of “Tribute,” which explicitly states that it’s not the greatest song in the world. But if you can’t get in on the joke, what’s the point? — AF

 

JÚNÍUS MEYVANT (IS), Pavilion

It starts with a resounding “HU!” from the crowd. These days there is something special about everything from Iceland thanks to their football teams’ success at the Euro 2016 and their now legendary HU!-cheer. This event is no exception. Júníus Meyvant, on stage preparing for the first song, seizes the opportunity and gets the whole tent to roar “HU!”, and so a pleasant afternoon begins in the best possible way.

Június Meyvant has brought quite an orchestra to the setup. Eight people in all, including three of them playing wind instruments, kicking off with a surprising instrumental take, indicating that Június Meyvant has much more to offer than the soft, folky tunes from his celebrated first EP. The likes of “Gold Laces” and “Color Decay”. We got those beauties, of course, but the red-bearded Icelander takes the audience new places from song to song. Hushed tunes, full-blown orchestral compositions and solo appearances with only Júníus Meyvant on stage with his guitar.

At the center of it all, his trademark voice, both smooth, raspy and raw, adding some edge to the folky softcore. In between the melodies — during the sometimes too long breaks — he entertains with a profound sarcasm that stands in contrast to the songs, many of them taken from his forthcoming debut album. After this afternoon, that also ended with a “HU!”, expectations are mile high. JG

 

BISSE (DK), Gloria

There really is no one like Bisse. He blew up Gloria with a high voltage performance, making a clear statement: he is one to watch in the next few years.

He enters the stage as colorful and powerful as his music would lead you to expect. Glitter on one cheek, painted oversized eyebrows on the other, red lipstick, red nails, circular sunglasses, and — when he took the glasses off — a determined, piercing stare under the blond hair. And backed by a tight, intense three-man-band he delivered his shouting, rattling songs; this blend of rage, light, darkness, tenderness, new-wave and punk, that is nowhere else to be heard.

Photo by Morten Aagard Krogh

 

Bisse shouts more than he sings, flitting around  the stage, changing dress three times and dancing with a naked torso, sexy and edgy at the same time. And he has a lot to say to the world. He has released four albums in a single year, and though their quality can fluctuate a little, and though it often was hard to distinguish the words from each other in Gloria, he gives everything he has, an artist at his most beautiful, leaving the room breathless. Even when he announces that he is about to do some ballads, it takes only a few seconds before the first ballad turns into a raging roar.

Bisse, this highly gifted chameleon of emotions, attitude, chaos, sex and poetry, really makes the blood rush. JG

 

SAVAGES (UK), Avalon

I adore Savages. I adore lead singer Jehnny Beth, the black intensity in her eyes, her explosive moves and unbreakable voice, and this Thursday night she and her three bandmates underlined what has been obvious to the world the last three years: Savages is a ripping, gripping and ruthlessly beautiful live act.

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Jehnny Beth is above all the mesmerizing star. Pitch-black backslick, red lipstick, pale skin and dark suit. When she stares or points, she leaves a mark of latent danger. She is known for her interaction with the crowd, crowdsurfing and crawling over them — I last experienced it this April in Boston, USA — but that dimension was unfortunately missing at Avalon.
That said, Savages lit the tent up with their energetic darkness and songs about anger and love turned bad, both in their ballads and in their tight punk explosions. JG

PHOTOS: Roskilde Festival 2016, Day 1

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Bring Me The Horizon_Photo by Tom Spray_06

Bring Me The Horzion, Arena, by Tom Spray

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Vince Staples, Pavilion, by Tom Spray

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Acti0n Bronson, Avalon, by Morten Krogh & Tom Spray

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At The Drive-In, Arena, by Morten Krogh

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Aurora, Pavilion, by Morten Krogh

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Hinds, Pavilion, by Morten Krogh & Tom Spray

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Wiz Kalifa, Arena, by Tom Spray

LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival Day 1, 29.06.2016

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at the drive-in live roskilde

Reviews by Amanda Farah and Jesper Gaarskjær

Africa Express presents the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians — Orange

If there was one flaw in the Africa Express set from last year, it was timing. The four-hour performance started at about 10pm on the last night of Roskilde, and as marvellous as it was, we simply didn’t have the energy left to stick it out.

So Africa Express presents the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn and Guests (not the snappiest title, to be honest) was a wonderful way to open the Orange Stage. And with this set running only two hours, there was no threat of Albarn being carried off the stage again, though of course it was mentioned.

This night was not about Albarn, though. Aside from an extended version of “Out of Time,” where Arabic string arrangements melted the song into something romantic and beautiful, and a cover of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” sung with the Syrian choir and Julia Holter, he remained in the background. Even from the perspective of a longtime fan of his work, that’s fine, because the best moments of the set belonged to other performers.

Mounir Troudi not only floored us with his voice, but is so delightful to watch in his performance with his enormous smile and fanciful dancing that it’s almost unbearable. Someone please bring him to Koncerthuset so we can enjoy a full concert. Lebanese/Algerian artist Malikah, performing with both Noura Mint Seymali and with Bu Kolthoum, has us realizing that we need more Arabic hip-hop in our lives.

And lest anyone doubt the political nature of this performance, Albarn opened the set by declaring “keep borders open” and ended it with his fellow musicians leading the crowd in a chant of “Syria.” Well said. Welcome in. — AF

Aurora — Pavilion

Standing there in her thin black dress and golden jacket and shining with her pale, smiling face, obviously grateful for the people crowding this years’ first concert at Pavilion. And then she starts singing, Aurora Aksnes, 19 year old from Norway, and nothing is stronger than the voice from this young, tiny woman.

She really can make some unbelievable sounds with her voice, both on record and not least live at Roskilde, that just fits her gripping, explosive electro pop-songs somewhere between Björk and Sia. That was the formula from the minute she entered the stage until she left only 40 minutes later, leaving the crowd hungry for more of her pop songs that have this cold Nordic melancholy underneath it all.

aurora live roskilde

This really was a lively concert, but that was also the weakness of her performance. It was too much the same pop formula, and that was a shame. Aurora is so, so talented, and she makes adorable pop songs like the irresistible “Running With The Wolves” — which also lifted the concert to pure magic — but she is also very interesting, when she is vulnerable in a more acoustic setting, and that side of her could have varied the show.

Instead she chose the safe path. It also left her too bound to the microphone — and therefore dancing too little to her own beats, making her performance too static. Because she did dance, especially during her last few songs, and when she did it all went ecstatic and made the crowd wonder, why she was only on stage for 40 minutes. Way too short for such a gorgeous singer. — JG

At the Drive-In — Arena

The archival footage of At the Drive-In from their initial run (which ended in 2000) shows a band that could easily destroy a stage and possibly themselves. Sure enough, within three songs, an amp head has been lost, a speaker has been toppled, and frontman Cedric Bixler is scaling the rubble and making life difficult for whatever poor manager is responsible for repositioning their abused equipment.

It’s what was hoped for, but it’s not sustained at that level. Though watching Bixler swing his mic stand around during “Invalid Litter Dept.” makes me afraid for the safety of the band members around him and anyone within throwing distance of the stage, the mid-set song list slowly devolves from crunchy to spacier tracks that would likely appease any Mars Volta fans that had wandered in.

at the drive-in live roskilde

Bixler’s between song banter is as unpredictable as his physical performance, with comments ranging from the abstract to the inspirational anyone-can-do-this to the reflective. Whether or not it’s a standard line of his, it’s seems genuine when he thanks the crowd for caring about a band that broke up 16 years ago and never played venues of this size.

That’s the note on which they launch into “One Armed Scissor,” the only song they could end their set on. And it sounds way tighter than any of the old videos ever suggested. And all of the energy they started with is there in droves. If the new material that’s been rumored ever surfaces, you can’t blame us for holding it to this standard. — AF

Alex Vargas — Gloria

The ingredients are simple: You take a soulful voice. You take some intriguing beats and some guitar. And then you mix it with raw energy and a utterly talented performer. In the bowl you get Alex Vargas, who made a mind-blowing performance in a totally packed Gloria, leaving hundreds of people disappointed outside.

His voice goes from deep and rootsy to precise falsetto, without any sign of uncertainty whatsoever, and complemented by overwhelming visuals in the dark room of Gloria. These features transformed the room into a feeling of music, of rhythms, of pureness and art. And it lifted the concert to heights that are be revealed on much larger stages in the coming years for the 28-year-old, gifted Danish musician. For sure. — JG

Hinds — Pavilion

Hinds are fresh off their appearance at Glastonbury, and apparently they had a rough time of it. As such, they’re rather happy to be at Roskilde, and the packed Pavilion stage seems just as happy to have them.

The Spanish quartet combine a little surf with a little rockabilly, some very pretty vocal harmonies, and a whole lot of party. There are plenty of surf revival bands out there, but Hinds knows how to sell it, bouncing around with endless energy, posing like a hair metal band, and singing so sweetly it almost seems like a con.

hinds live roskilde

They ended their set by coyly relating how their final song usually prompts stage invasions, before a ready volunteer presented himself and one of the guitarists launched herself into the crowd. If we see any other band this festival with as much sheer joy as Hinds exudes, we’ll be very lucky indeed. — AF

Red Hot Chili Peppers — Orange

One question rose above all in front of the Orange stage this beautiful evening: Would Red Hot Chili Peppers make up for the disaster of their last visit?

It’s fair to say that the headlining concert had a pre-history after Anthony Kiedis & Co made their scandalous bad performance on the same stage nine years ago, leaving the crowd and critics stunned, some even asking the festival to get their money back. And the answer to the question is a clear and profound no.

The reason is a lazy and limp performance, especially from singer Anthony Kiedis. To be fair, it actually seemed that the rest of the band tried to put in an energetic performance. Flea was Flea, a purple-pink-haired dynamo circling around the stage in a suit that made him look like some gear from outer space. And both the permanent John Frusciante-replacement Josh Klinghoffer, guitar, and Chad Smith, drums, seemed to invest themselves in the songs, with  Klinghoffer notably putting some soul in the strings. But it all faded in the light of Kiedis and his Bermuda shorts. He went on and off the stage and looked like someone who did not know why he was on that stage this evening. And somewhere between the sing-alongs “Scar Tissue” and “Californication”, the dull jam-sessions and songs from their latest, quite excellent record The Getaway, the question appeared: Are they really happy being up there on stage?

In their 90 minutes set, the iconic band did not do much to convince that they have a future in such big venues. And when their past with so many strong and even immortal songs plays such a small and weak part in their setup, the answer to all this is even more doubtful — and the performances of “Under The Bridge” and “Give It Away” were oddly trivial.

It just seems that Roskilde Festival and Red Hot Chili Peppers are a bad match, and the festival should have no intentions of getting them back on that stage. Ever. — JG

Föllakzoid — Pavilion

The last show of the evening was a journey with three space cadets of trance rock. These guys do live what they do on record, delivering repetitive, looping ten minutes moods, slowly building towards the climax and echoing krautrock-explosions, when they stepped out of the dark shadows on stage. Föllakzoid suited the venue and the after-midnight-atmosphere perfectly, transforming the Pavilion to a late night dance party that could just go on and on and on and on and never stop, before entering space in the dead of night, tired and fortunate. — JG

Roskilde Festival: Day 4

in Blog/Live Reviews by

Girl Band (Pavilion)

There are some bands that are compelling for the racket they make rather than the performance they give, and Girl Band are one such band. The four boys from Dublin play loud, blistery post-punk of questionable aptitude — not a lot of proper chords, and lots of beer bottle slides — with curiously serene expressions on their faces. Their singer has perfected both a throaty yowl and a pose where he grabs hold of the mic stand and pops his hip at a sharp upright angle. Aside from his constant, aggressive tugging at his shirt, it’s all very casual. Even the between-song chatter betrays a friendliness or at least an as-yet undeveloped ability to talk to the audience without breaking character. But it doesn’t matter how chilled out they look when they play or harmless they seem when they talk when there’s a constant thud-thud-thud making people give themselves whiplash while standing in place. — AF

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Joanna Gruesome (Pavilion)

To the casual observer Joanna Gruesome’s lightning-fast set at Pavilion is simply a welcome moment of fun, noisy jangle-pop from an impressively down-to-earth band. But simply counting the people on stage is indication enough that something up: billed as a five piece, today Joanna Gruesome consists of six people. Behind the feedback and sweet melodies there is the story of frontwoman Alanna McArdle’s departure of the ban–citing mental health issues–and the subsequent inclusion of Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan. But other than being a little cramped on the small stage, everyone is working well together. The three vocals work well, melding sweetness with harshness in tandem with the guitars. Later on in the day we learn that this is their second-ever gig as a six-piece, which explains some of the initial awkwardness, but mainly proves the dedication every band member, new and old, to succeeding in spite of adversity. — CC

chelsea wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe (Gloria)

The slightly oppressive darkness of Gloria seems to suit Chelsea Wolfe, adding another surreal texture to her brooding, quasi-doom compositions. Drawing from material from her 2013 album, Pain is Beauty, Wolfe and her band do a good job of making you forget the sun outside. Guitars drone and snarl under her delicate vocals, while the drumming is absolutely impeccable. On songs like “House of Metal” they appear to contract and expand the time of the song, resulting in a hypnotising series of rhythmic waves.

Wolfe herself is on the quiet and reserved side, thanking the audience a couple of times, but otherwise remaining within her aloof persona. Then again, hers is an act that draws precisely on that theatricality. A real standout moment is the song “Iron Moon”, which manages to sound more like PJ Harvey than most recent PJ Harvey records do. It sounds like a lazy analogy, but those vocals are pure Polly Jean, and at any rate, the guitar tone alone is enough to earn Chelsea Wolfe a reputation as a must-see performer. — CC

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Deafheaven (Pavilion)

As the bassline of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”—the runt of the White Album, and possibly the worst thing McCartney has ever done—wafts over from Orange stage, Deafheaven have come to provide some welcome relief. The San Franciscan five-piece has been a mainstay of hip European festivals for the last two years, bridging the gap between black metal and shoegaze revival, and gathering considerable critical praise. Their set at Beta last year confirmed their reputation as an intense and skilled live act.

As they tear through material from Sunbather and Roads to Judah, the band demonstrate themselves to be the perfect act to help push us into the small hours: intensely energetic, uplifting in a gently melancholic sort of way. Slow instrumental tracks like “Irresistible” allow a little Red House Painters-esque reprieve from an otherwise blistering set. Frontman George Clark is in fine form, throwing himself into the crowd, beating his chest and contorting his face into grimaces that fail to disguise his boy-band looks.

But as usual it is the compositions of Kerry McCoy and the effortlessly precise drumming of Daniel Tracy that really stand out. And sure, sometimes the songs do sound quite a lot like Slowdive, but is that really such an awful criticism? — CC

Myrkur (Pavilion)

It’s a tall order for a band to make their live debut at a festival the size of Roskilde, but that is what Amalie Bruun, the woman behind Myrkur, has done. The project is described as black metal, but Bruun has done a good job prettying things up; she has a strong, beautiful soprano and is backed by a chorus of women. It’s in sharp contrast to the machine-like drums and fractal short circuiting of the guitars. Bruun holds her own as a screamer as well, and her dual-microphone stand encased in a tree branch is delightful in its own right.

There are the usual first show glitches, and it’s understandably not the tightest set. Though Paul McCartney is still playing through her set, Pavilion is full. Perhaps the only way to compete with a living legend is to put up a hometown girl backed by a choir of hometown girls. — AF

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Africa Express (Arena)

Africa Express–less a band than a mini-festival in itself–is a chance to catch a lot of bands such as Songhoy Blues and Jupiter and Okwess International who performed earlier in the festival, as well as trying to spot celebrity guests amongst the line-up. Spotting Graham Coxton in the wings messing around with a Telecaster instantly upped the excitement of these two Blur fans.

There are times when the camera pans to Albarn when it really could have stayed focused on other performers or DJs. It’s a subtle reminder of who is considered the priority instead of who is ostensibly the star of the show.

Ultimately, we couldn’t make it through the set, checking out sometime in its fifth hour. It was disappointing, because it was exactly the kind of late night party you want to end a festival with, and as we hear more and more about the artists and songs we missed out on. But if this train rolls through again as an evening with Africa Express, we’ll be at the front of the queue. — AF

PHOTOS: Roskilde Festival 2015

in Photos by

Bob Hund

Photo by Morten Krogh
Photo by Morten Krogh

Communions

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Ratking

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Noel Gallagher

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

The War On Drugs

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Father John Misty

Father John Misty (Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

St Vincent

St. Vincent (Photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

Foxygen

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Perfume Genius

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Lust For Youth

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Pallbearer

Pallbearer (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

Hot Chip

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Ought

Ought (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

Fat White Family

Fat White Family (photo by Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

Pharmakon

Photo by Morten Krogh
Photo by Morten Krogh

The Tallest Man On Earth

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Run The Jewels

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Kendrick Lamar

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Goat

Goat (photo Morten Aagaard Krogh)
Photo by Morten Krogh

Nils Frahm

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Deafheaven

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Paul McCartney

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Jamie xx

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray

Africa Express

Photo by Tom Spray
Photo by Tom Spray
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