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.
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