Roskilde Festival 2012

author TL date 23/07/12

After eight years I'm ready to state the following with strong confidence: Roskilde Festival, no matter what you may feel about it, is not your average festival. Plenty of those who attend would have you believe that Roskilde and its 'Orange Feeling' has something different to offer from say; Download Festival, Wacken Open Air or Rock Am Ring. Whether they're right or not, I will at least have you believe that this article - our coverage of this year's Roskilde - is not the average festival review. Why? Because this year, I have been the sole representative from who went to the Festival. Each and every year, the bookings of Roskilde raise furious debates, as angry music fans all cry with boundless feeling of entitlement, that the festival is not catering enough to their specific tastes. Friends of our staff even sought to organise a "Bring Back Rock-skilde" event at the festival, to try to draw attention to the perceived lack of rock'n'roll in this year's line-up. So because of the line-up as well as shifting priorities, everyone but myself had managed to resist the allure of Denmark's best festival this year, and for this reason, instead of a detailed review of everything, you get a highly subjective report from me, which focuses rather erratically on whatever things that caught my elusive attention.

(Article main photo by Tenna Hermansen)

Camping days and the Orange feeling

What most people point to when hyping Roskilde as a unique festival, and what most people who haven't attended probably have a hard time fully understanding, is the allure of the warm up days. While most festivals are music from day one until the final night, Roskilde offers the unique possibility of partying for five straight days in its vast, 100.000 strong camping area. And while the idea of partying in a field for five days may sound like a bummer to the uninitiated, these days have turned into such a free sanctuary for all kinds of crazy creativity that most who experience it for the first time consider it a borderline life-changing experience.

The view of Camping Area H - Photo by Lykke Milving Klejtrup

You get the almost tribal feeling of togetherness from spending ten days in a camp with friends. You get the opportunity to see upcoming bands on the camping stage. You get to see great movies in the huge cinema tent. You get to skate on the ramps in Camping West. You get to cool off in the swimming lake, play countless drinking games, dance like crazy with perfect strangers, see all kinds of nakedness and that's just the tip of the iceberg. While in your everyday life you may have days between experiences that are status-update worthy, Roskilde is guaranteed to give you so many crazy sights and experiences pr. hour that your mind will soon have trouble keeping up. Personally I've seen people try to ski down grass hills on styrofoam, I've participated in a pillow fight with two hundred combatants, I've soaked in an outside jacuzzi, I've danced to dubstep and Rage Against The Machine under a copy of the Tower Of Mordor made out of speakers, I've heard the Star Wars cantina song played on toy instruments and this is just what I can remember through the haze of countless drinks consumed. Combine four days and five nights of this with four nights of music and you get such an intense and prolonged escape from reality that all of us who've gone can probably account for the feeling of post-Roskilde blues, that sets in almost instantly after coming home and returning to the stretched out pace of normal life.

Snapshot of the giant pillow fight - by Charlotte Mai Photography

In fact, the only downside to these warm up days, is that they form such an intense experience on their own, that they hardly compliment the music days with the way your body and mind will likely be utterly exhausted and struggling to keep up, when the time comes to be excited for some bands. In this way, Roskilde Festival provides its guests with the overwhelming first world problem of simply offering more to see and experience than you can possibly take in. I may sound old for saying so, but it almost becomes an exercise in restraint, pacing yourself so that you remember to get some food and some rest, so that you actually have the energy and presence of mind to enjoy what's going on around you at any given moment. Still, if that's not a good problem to have for an event that is a "Festival" in every sense of the word, then I don't know what is.

The line-up discussion

You can't write an article about Roskilde for a music site without gracing the discussion over band bookings, much in the way that I can't personally write about this discussion without admitting that I'm actually sick to death of it.

Roskilde clearly is not a genre-specific festival, and when compared to other festivals likes to attend - such as Groezrock and Hevy Music Festival - it is clear that the musical experience is going to be quite different. If you go to Groezrock, where every band is either punk, hardcore, scene or somewhere in between, you can rely on the fact that every guest at the festival is there for the bands, and there for many of them, so that when you go to see any band, it will likely have a crazy strong following, and even small acts will have their lyrics shouted loudly back at them.

This is amazing, and in comparison, Roskilde's desire to offer an eclectic banquet of vastly different shows is inherently handicapped. No two festival goers will be at Roskilde to see the same combination of bands, which means that even with a Festival attendance around 100.000 people, most shows will have audiences who are more curious onlookers, sampling some new eccentric name they've only barely heard about, rather than devoted disciples who have come to jump and sing along.

Factor in that the stages here vary dramatically in size, from the gigantic open field of Orange stage, over the vast cavernous tent of Arena, to the more mid-sized confines of Odeon and Pavilion. Many commenters don't consider this, but with many bookings being prepared 6 months in advance, Roskilde faces the likely problem that a band booked for Odeon gets a hit and grows so strongly in popularity that there will be far more people coming to the show than the tent will fit. And on the flipside, booking bands that can successfully entertain the vast sea of people accommodated in front of Orange stage is also a daunting task, given that acts you would normally consider as super stars (My Chemical Romance for instance) have easily been made to look small when put on display on Orange.

Before this year's festival, I was as sceptical as the next pundit. I thought that Roskilde seemed more concerned with booking gimmick and niche acts, than with loading up on artists capable of delivering lasting musical memories. I understand this approach however, even though it clearly is not aimed at me. I'm a nerd. I like to listen to full albums, and I'm mostly only truly bothered with records and shows that give me an emotional experience that will make memories I will remember years down the line. I fully realise that today's average music consumer is interested in nothing more than a quirky turn of phrase and a catchy tune for them to bounce to for a few weeks and then forget about. And that thinly veiled sound of contempt you might read in those words is that of a man who struggles to not piss everybody around him off with constant bitching about how music is an underappreciated artform. So suffice to say, I went to Roskilde this year to have fun, and then maybe check out some of the bands if I could be bothered.

Now though, after the festival, I must come crawling back around and admit that I've actually changed to the point where I am now grateful for the diversity of the schedule, as several shows - among them those of Dry The River, Bruce Springsteen, Björk and Janelle Monáe - in one way or another made me truly think about the different ways a show can work, and in which we as fans experience music. It's hard for me to concisely elaborate exactly what I mean (at least without spoiling some of the thoughts I am about to offer you in the bands section), but I think my point is this: I still adore festivals like Groezrock, where I can go to have a series of great, emotional moments with bands and songs that mean something to me - yet while Roskilde offers a different experience it's hard to say it offers a worse one. Here there is something for me whether I'm drunk and just want to dance to electronic music with glowsticks in my hair, or whether I'm feeling non-conformist and want to bang my head wildly to black metal, or run in a circle to some hardcore. And moreover, whichever type of music I'm in the mood for, Roskilde does a good job of making sure that the artist I go to see is relatively unique within its own stylistical context. So what I'm saying is that if you want to be a punk fan or a metal fan or a rock fan strictly, then by all means you should go have the awesomest of times at Groezrock, Copenhell or the likes - but if you're a music fan, whether casual or super nerdy, Roskilde managed (at least this year) to give you something for each of your heart's possible desires.

Band days

Thursday, July 5th

Kellermensch @ 18:00 on Orange Stage

Having been too occupied with partying to watch either Redwood Hill or Ulige Numre during the warm up days, the first band I am determined enough to watch at this year's festival is Kellermensch - a band I've been curious to check out for about two years, yet have not gotten around to till now. As the Danes open proceedings on Orange stage however, I am delighted to see a Danish band more intend on taking the honour seriously than they are on being humbled by it, as Kellermensch have their heaviest elements amplified in the mix, instantly attacking the crowd with the full intensity of their highly emotional onslaught. The mix comes at the cost of the finer details in the band's music, but it's a fair trade-off as we feel the punishment of the rhythm even far back, while singer Christian Sindermann staggers around the stage, rolling on the floor and spitting his vocals with the kind of energy and passion that you would rather expect from a basement show. It's a muscular performance, and it makes me want to go home and listen to the band some more, even despite the fact that Kellermensch's black moods get to be a bit much as this hour of the afternoon draws on. [7½]

Kellermensch performing "Moribund Town"

The Shins @ 18:00 on Arena Stage

I leave Kellermensch to go have a look at The Shins, an indie rock band that many around me have seemed excited for, despite the fact that I've barely ever heard about them personally (when you're as much of a dork as I am, this happens rarely). When I get to Arena however, I witness first hand how popular they are, as there are so many people here it is nearly impossible to get anywhere near the tent. I stick around long enough to note that the song being played reminds me of Simple Minds, but staying seems pointless when I can't get any closer. Where the hell did these guys come from?

The Cure @ 21:00 on Orange Stage

One of the band's I've been genuinely excited to see at the festival is the legendary The Cure, whose show will eventually wind up to lasting around three hours. I watch the first small hour or so personally, trying to get into the magic, but while the band is playing tight as a machine and frontman Robert Smith is singing with immaculate precision for a man of his age (take notes here Ozzy Osbourne), I get the feeling that this is an experience that only really touches the die hard Cure fans in the crowd. Apart from the impeccable playing, little and less is happening on stage, with no interesting performance, no interesting lights and no interesting visuals. The only thing to look at really is Robert Smith doing the odd movement or grimace here and there, and otherwise one is left to listen to the band's vast catalogue, waiting with (im?)patience for the 'famous' songs to come around later on, given one is not an ardent follower of Smith's. In retrospect, I wish I'd stayed longer, given that "Lullaby" was still stuck in my head when I left the festival later on, but at the time I guess my priorities were different. This could have been better I think, if the band had been restrained to a slightly shorter set at a later hour of night maybe? [7]

The Cure playing "A Forest"

Trash Talk @ 21:30 on Pavilion Stage

While The Cure are playing on Orange, Trash Talk are taking on the more punk audience that's gathered at Pavilion, and while I didn't actually see this show, I want to cheat and report what I heard from a friend, namely that Trash Talk delivered one of the wildest and most rebellious sets of recent Roskilde Festivals, smoking weed on stage and ignoring safety rules, leaving the stage to go instigate great mosh and circle pits from the floor itself. From what I hear, this was crazy enough to be one of the schedule overlaps I should be regretting.

Janelle Monáe @ 23:30 on Arena Stage

While she's hardly a rock act at all, I had been recommended both by our own NB and by new friends made at this festival to go check out soul/pop singer Janelle Monáe and her band. Watching her I'm thinking about how different an approach to putting on a show this is, compared to what a rock fan normally sees. Everybody on stage is moving about with an excited face at all times. Even if you're not blowing your trumpet, you're moving your hips and smiling and clapping if you're in this band. Monáe herself strikes me as a modern, female James Brown, doing more for the show in terms of whipping up the energy with her powerful voice and being a visual focal point with her sassy dance moves, than she does in terms of laying down the catchy melodies one would expect from a pop act. Instead it falls upon the band - more specifically the horns and the guitar - to deliver melodic gratification, which I suppose they do pretty well at. By now though, I've had a rough few days and am crashing hard, so I end up leaving about halfway through the show to go get some sleep, richer on some thoughts and experiences, but not sure how eager I personally am when it comes to catching another Monáe show. [7]

Friday, July 6th

Baroness @ 16:00 on Odeon Stage

Looking at the schedule in the morning, I can see that it's going to be another long day, so I decide to skip Red Fang in an effort to save some energy, and instead make Baroness the first band I see on Friday. Contrary to what I had expected, the guys in the band deliver their sludgy heavyness in a surprisingly active manner, brandishing guitars and pacing the width and depth of the stage excitedly. This behaviour actually underscores the more bright and upbeat contrasts in the band's music, which has a pretty refreshing effect, so time pretty much flies by as the show pulls me out of my early day weariness and makes me warm up my air guitar. It's not a dramatic or dynamic show about which there's much to say, it's just a steady stream of the stuff Baroness is known for, and as it eventually ends, I'm pretty glad about going to see it. [7½]

Baroness playing "Swollen And Halo"

Gossip @ 17:00 on Orange Stage

After Baroness I have a few hours of exploration time to myself, and I start by watching a handful of Gossip songs while the band plays on Orange. I have not listened to the band previously, but I get a good feeling watching frontwoman Beth Ditto entertain the afternoon crowd with strong vocals and smooth moves that betray her XL frame. The sound has a raw edge to it that seems fitting for a band with a punk background such as Gossip, and is yet clear enough for everyone to enjoy the songs. Considering what I'm told about Ditto and her bandmates however, the set seems a little calm and casual, with Ditto filling the space between songs by sharing good natured jokes with the front audience, and everybody generally getting the feeling that this is a relatively relaxed little party. [7]

I Got You On Tape @ 19:00 on Arena Stage

As Gossip draws to an end I move on in time to watch the first 20 minutes of I Got You On Tape, based solely on the fact that I've seen their name in quite a few places now, although I've never heard their music yet. I can't say that I get a very memorable impression from the Copenhagen band's indie/electro/rock though. It's partly because I quickly get to thinking, that a band like this playing Arena in front of a vast crowd, must be a direct result of the nationalistic favouritism that goes on at Denmark's most popular radio station P3. IGYOT don't play poorly, that's not it, it's just that if we forget about the fact that they're from around here, I can easily think of maaaaany underappreciated foreign acts that, based on the personality of their music, would've been more deserving of this stage and this audience. This train of thought pretty much distracts me from the show for the 20 minutes I stay here, so before I make mental note of anything that's worth grading, it's time for me to move on and check out The Cult.

The Cult @ 19:30 on Orange Stage

If you're reading these Friday reviews in order, you're probably noticing that this was not really my favourite day on the schedule, with most bands being ones I hadn't gotten around to checking out before the festival, and the same goes for The Cult, another band I'm seeing just because I've heard their name and I know they play some sort of rock. As I soon learn watching among a very scarce crowd at Orange stage however, they actually play rock'n'roll exactly by the book. And as refreshing as it is for a guy like me to hear some straight up rock by now, the 1-2-3-4 of the drum beat and the formulaic song structures soon becomes too predictable to bear. Maybe I'm in a down curve on my alcohol-buzz or maybe the lack of people in front of Orange can't be wrong, but my impression is that while solid, The Cult seem like dinosaurs and a poor booking for this stage and hour. [6]

The Cult performing "Lil' Devil"

The Vaccines @ 20:00 on Odeon Stage

Despite my scepticism towards The Vaccines much hyped 2011 debut they've ended up being the highlight of my schedule today, by virtue of being the only band that I've heard an entire album by other than Baroness. Fortunately, they do not fail to live up to this highlight role, as they come on and play a parade of songs in a manner that's super tight and efficient. Appearing in denim vests to the sound of Ramones' "Rock & Roll Radio", the British upstarts get an excited crowd dancing and smiling with their take on the simple, up-beat indie/pop/punk songs. Songs like "Post Break-up Sex" and "Wreckin' Bar (Ra Ra Ra)" form exhilarating little peaks in the party, and as the hour moves on, the only problems The Vaccines really have is that they still come off a little young and reserved between songs, and that their simple formula does start to border on samey down the stretch. Still, this was exactly the good time I'd been waiting for after sort of staggering from one mediocre set to another since the Baroness set. [8]

Jack White @ 22:30 on Orange Stage

By now I've spent most of the day trying to stay upright by fuelling myself with pints of beer and cocktails and admittedly, my memory is getting blurry, but fortunately there are quite a few things about Jack White's show at Orange that are hard to forget. For starters, how about the fact that his entire touring band is made up of women in night gowns, each of which are of different ethnicity and hair colour. I don't know how White made that casting in a politically correct manner, but in honest, the impression is pretty badass. Moreover, White has coolness and charisma to entertain the Orange crowd with as darkness falls, and many are delighted to hear songs from the man's past show up as the show proceeds, with numbers like "Doorbell" and "Seven Nation Army" naturally summoning great response. Generally I haven't been a fan of booking artists for Orange stage that are more famous for previous projects than current ones, but save for the sound maybe being a bit low for the show, there's little to complain about here. I only wish that I'd been closer and more sober. [8]

Malk De Koijn @ 01:00 on Orange Stage

Sober is not exactly what I am however. In fact, I have apparently had enough to be convinced that dancing two hours into the night to the sound of one of Denmark's favourite hiphop acts - a group I have never personally had any interest in previously - is suddenly a good idea. By virtue of their spot this high on the schedule, Malk De Koijn are afforded Orange's best in terms of lights and sound, and they repay this with a set that seems to deliver on the expectations of the vast sea of fans of theirs that are crowding the field tonight. It doesn't make for much of a review, but at this hour you'll excuse me for being more occupied dancing with friends and pouring down more alcohol, than I am making note of the nuances of an act normally wouldn't cover. I'd say the set was good for a hiphop act and grade it with a question mark, but really I wonder if any of our readers care in the first place.

Saturday, July 7th

Dry The River @ 13:00 on Odeon Stage

If Friday was a day on which I wasn't really that excited for anything, Saturday was a day on which I was excited about more bands than I would have time to see. So I shake off the wear of Friday early to get up and see Dry The River on Odeon stage, where a solid crowd has gathered considering how early it is in the day. I think most are glad they've come though, as Dry The River appear and fulfil pretty much every lofty expectation I've had for them since falling in love with this year's debut album "Shallow Bed". With coolness and humor the band shakes off their own rust and have some beers with us between the songs, during which they expertly lead us from moments of such tenderness and delicacy that you're almost ashamed to clap or even snap your fingers, through progressions up to majestic post-rockish moments that send shivers down your spine and sound like the bells of judgment day are ringing. Frontman Peter Liddle may fall a bit off on a few of his most demanding notes, but him and his friends make up for it with a passionate performance, rocking out with more intensity than you'd expect from a band that can be as quiet as Dry The River often are. To make a long story short, what transpires here is an exhibition in composition more than mere normal songwriting, and I get goosebumps more times during the set than I can keep count of. An excellent start to today's proceedings. [8½]

First Aid Kit @ 15:00 on Odeon Stage

Having heard good things about First Aid Kit, I was actually planning to see their whole show while passing time between Dry The River and The Low Anthem anyway, but despite the fact that I barely leave Odeon for more than enough time to drink two pints, the tent is packed when I get back and having not had anything to eat yet, I end up only catching a couple of songs from afar. The two young ladies that make up the band perform with class and skill from what I can see, yet after the emotionally intense Dry The River show, their stuff is a tad too chill to really draw me in across the long distance, so I decide to forget about grading them, reserving the right to maybe do it some other day instead.

The Low Anthem @ 17:00 on Pavilion Stage

The next thing I've been excited to check out is The Low Anthem, even if I only have time to catch 15 minutes of their set before rushing to see the mighty Refused (which is of course obligatory). As I watch during this brief quarter of an hour however, I curse the fact that I can't stay for more, because the band's sentimental folk tones simply wash over the audience at Pavilion like a soothing stream, whether they're coming from the guitar, the piano, the clarinet or one of the other various instruments the band employs. Again it's too little to grade, but I will say that it is quite an effort, forcing myself to keep track of time so that I can make it to Arena by 6 PM.

Refused @ 18:00 on Arena Stage

As for Refused, I had been worried about their ability to fill up the Arena tent considering Denmark's usual cluelessness when it comes to important rock bands of the alternative variety. Fortunately the pits are nice and full already as the show starts, and there's a solid audience waiting to greet the Swedish punk rock revolutionaires as their massive banner is withdrawn to reveal their simple stage set up. And then we're off into a set that is almost a carbon copy of the one some of us saw at Groezrock Festival earlier this year, and while the word 'copy' usually draws negative attention to it, it's hard to complain about a legendary band repeating one of the wildest shows I've seen in my life. The pit is a mess of thrashing bodies and on stage the band delivers their timeless songs while Dennis Lyxzén wails like a banshee and performs jaw dropping feats of acrobaticism. The frontman seems genuinely grateful to play the show, as he muses over how the band has done absolutely nothing to promote themselves, since breaking up 14 years ago, at a moment in their history when they only played small venues in Copenhagen when they were in Denmark. That's between songs. During songs he's flying up and down amps, doing splits and backwards somersaults and spitting out his piercing lyrics. Like in Belgium, things end with the riot-inciting "New Noise" and "Tannhäuser / Derivé" which again sees steam being blown out into the crowd in violent bursts, and whether you were a fan of Refused or not, it's hard not to leave their set considering them anything less than a musical force of nature. [9]

Refused performing "New Noise"

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band @ 21:00 on Orange Stage

You would think that after a day with shows like the ones already written about for Friday, it would be hard for things to get much better, but you'd have to think twice then, because at 9 in the evening it became time for Roskilde to witness just why Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band are nothing short of legends in the world of music. Knowing that the Boss and his band will likely play for three hours straight, I'm slightly late for the show due to a slow queue at the mojito bar, and I'm actually just planning to watch an hour or so, so that I can bolt and watch Mutiny On The Bounty at 11... But as soon as I find myself a good vantage point and start turning my full attention on Orange stage I start to suspect that I'm not going anywhere for a looooong time.

At this point, Springsteen is heading into a few of the songs from this year's album "Wrecking Ball", things are sounding predictably excellent, and I'm about to take a trip through a parade of amazing observations watching the Boss play. First off, normally I'm annoyed when bands draw out songs to make room for too much crowd interaction, but even while Springsteen does this more often and for longer than most, his energy is so infectious, you still feel like him and his crew genuinely wants you to party with them each time he does it. Moreover, as the show moves on, you can hear people around you getting positively surprised when they realise that some of the songs played are actually part of Springsteen's repertoire, with "Because The Night" noticeably upping the intensity in the audience.

And speaking of the audience, it is a wonderfully life-affirming experience to behold people of all ages all around you, having a genuinely good time, sharing a contagious excitement for the things that transpire on stage. Meanwhile the Boss is proving that despite his vast fame, he is not too good for his own audience, visiting the barrier frequently, letting the people at front kiss him and play his guitar. When he's back on the stage he directs his friends in the band in a way that is at the same time professional while it feels like the show is unique for tonight.

So like everyone around me, I stay put, smile constantly widening, thinking that this unit of musicians likely know more about songwriting and entertaining than any band from today's music scene can ever hope to learn. And then the big hits start coming. "Born In The USA" naturally turns into a gigantic singalong, and I make note of how the band's sound man works with them, amping things up as the song progresses towards its climax, so that the chords in the later choruses come out booming so loudly that you get that priceless sensation of feeling the music in your entire body. The show is well into its third hour, nobody around me seems to be tired of it, and things reach another high point during "Dancing In The Dark", when Springsteen invites a lucky girl from the crowd to dance on stage with him during the song's bridge. There's a mood that pervades the scene that's like "this just doesn't happen in the real world", and as the band eventually wraps up their three hours with "Twist And Shout" for an encore, I speculate where else in the world you'll see this many people having this great a time. Those times and places are few enough I suspect, and I know for sure that unless I see the Boss again, this is an unparallelled memory I will likely take with me to my grave. [10]

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band, joined by The Roots for "E Street Shuffle"

Mutiny On The Bounty @ 23:00 on Pavilion Stage

If you read the above paragraph you'll already know that I was so dumbstruck by Bruce Springsteen that I never made my planned visit to the Mutiny On The Bounty show, which is doubly embarrassing seeing as several friends went there on my recommendation. From what I hear the band played a great show though, and this is just me sneaking in a paragraph to give them some hype. Keep an eye out for a soon to come review of their debut album "Trials".

Mew @ 01:30 on Orange Stage

Being from Denmark and being used to the country being an underdog in the world of music, it's often easy to forget just how great one of the nation's very best bands, the ever experimental Mew, truly are - just as it would be easy to regard another show with them at Roskilde as sort of anticlimactic on an evening where we've alredy seen Dry The River, Refused and Bruce Springsteen (some have even seen Mutiny On The Bounty or Bon Iver as well, skipping the last hour of Springsteen). Mew however, are not to be outdone, as they engage in an extremely crowd-friendly 'best of' set that truly shows that they understand what kind of show one needs to put on to suit the mighty Orange stage. With their strange visuals playing on the massive screens as is customary for the band, Mew start the show off with their best known breakthrough hits, airing songs like "Snow Brigade", "Am I Wry, No" and "156" early in the set. I'm loving this move, because it prevents casual fans from having to wait around for the songs they know, spreading negative vibes as they get impatient. Rather they're free to leave if they don't each time Mew plays another song that you realise is a good one of theirs, moving on through the likes of "Comforting Sounds", "Zookeeper's Boy" and "Introducing Palace Players". Strong moments come as pearls on a string, and everything sounds and looks good in a tight show that ends up with Mew indulging the most enduring fans by closing with a new song that's still a work in progress. It's not often that Danish bands live up to their local hype, and it's even rarer that they perform great at Orange stage, but then as we're once again forced to conclude, there really isn't anything ordinary about Mew. [8½]

Sunday, July 8th

H2O @ 15:30 on Pavilion Stage

While most fans of heavy music will likely disagree with me, I'm no sort of heavy-head and hence the Sunday schedule does not look too interesting to me. But rather than cry about it I decide to take recommendations from my tougher friends and seek out some bands relevant to coverage and the first of such I see is H2O, who are playing early at Pavilion. Despite the band's reputation as a cornerstone in the hardcore scene however, them playing at this festival only underscores how much of a minority the hardcore community is in Denmark, with only a scarce crowd having come out for the show, and with these people hardly giving H2O the kind of dedicated response they're surely used to. Ever the veterans however, the band plays an active set, constantly trying to encourage the audience, find some common ground with us and act as ambassadors for the positive messages in hardcore. The music is a good deal more melodic and upbeat than I would have expected from a band affiliated with a genre I know mostly for tough guy lyrics and stupid breakdowns, and even while people aren't exactly circle pitting constantly, the facial expressions I see around the tent seem to say that I'm not alone in appreciating this. Still, H2O are clearly not in their desired type of environment, afternoon set and barriers and all considered, which is likely why they decided to end the set after about 45 minutes, rather than risk overstaying their welcome by soldiering on for the full hour. [7½]

H2O rockin' out at Pavilion

Behemoth @ 16:30 on Arena Stage

My next stop is set to be a good deal heavier and more extreme however, as I venture to catch up with my metal friends at Behemoth's Arena set. Again, by offering a lineup containing all sorts of music, you can tell how isolated a community metal is in Denmark from how easily I can move into pit and locate my mates while Behemoth are already playing their first few songs. However, from the looks of the guys in here, they are used to it, and they don't let the room around each of them ruin their experience of Behemoth, who from my perspective seem as true as they come, pulling a war-painted look that does not look like a bad joke, rather commanding the stage with dominating authority. In general, even though I'm not a metal fan, I can appreciate a solid pummelling and a theatrical approach that actually works and enhances the music, even if the whole thing gets a bit too samey for my taste as the show goes on. I leave slightly early, and considering my non-metalness my grading is likely a bit conservative, but still, even if you ask me, I still think Behemoth are worth a solid: [7]

Behemoth bringing metal to Arena

Machine Head @ 17:30 on Orange Stage

I'm slightly more engaged by the Machine Head show then, even though I choose to take it in with a girly cocktail, sitting as far back as possible at Orange stage. The reason is that as Machine Head have proven before and prove again today, Robb Flynn and his crew are among the very best when it comes to manifesting the raw, essential power of metal and channelling it over the edge of a stage and through massive speakers at absolutely deafening volumes. From this distance, the wind messes with the finer points of the mix, but we can still feel the punishing rhythms resonate in the tribune we're sitting on, and even while being all casual and tired, we can't resist to throw horns at the stage and air-drum along. The sound is so loud, I'm wondering if the people down front are jumping of their own accord, or just being lifted up in the air by the sheer force, and the only thing I find worth complaining about, all things considered, is that "Darkness Within" - even while preceded by some sympathetic words about the power of music - is a bit of a melodramatic hiccup in an otherwise brutally manly performance. [8]

Machine Head makes the Orange pits quake

Alabama Shakes / Santigold / Suicide Silence

After Machine Head, my plan had always been to check out acts like Alabama Shakes, Santigold and Suicide Silence, but eventually I just end up drinking beers in camp waiting for Björk. Poor reporting, I know, but the week is wearing on me so hard now that I am barely standing, and furthermore, a storm looks to be coming in, and we're packing everything up, giving serious thought to just bailing the last evening if it turns out we're in for a downpour. As time passes and we miss the shows by each of the three bands mentioned however, the dark clouds never really deliver on their threats, so eventually we decide to go see what all the fuzz about Björk is really about, before calling it a day on the festival.

Björk @ 22:00 on Orange Stage

As a newcomer that has only heard the superficial bits here and there about Björk, you naturally have the expectations that a show with her is going to be a bit strange. If you've not really listened to her records however (like I haven't) then I don't think you have a good chance of predicting exactly how strange. Firstly, as a musician Björk seems to have long since thrown the rulebook out the window, seemingly insisting on making each new song a highly individual piece of art on its legs. Secondly, Björk is as much of a visual artist as a musician, appearing in a strange costume, with a slew of dancers and musicians and a great variety of bizarre effects lined up, both on stage and on screens, aiming to compliment the overall experience. Whether the whole thing is a good show or not, is inevitably a subject of endless discussion, which I think makes it worth seeing at least once, regardless of your stance in that discussion, simply because seeing it at least made me reconsider a lot of the views I have when it comes to shows and music in general. The abruptly changing styles and songstructures make it nigh on impossible for the casual music fan to make any sense of Björk's songs without having listened to them at home first, so on one hand it could be a good thing that the visuals are there to help drawing you in. As a relatively conservative music-obsessed nerd however, I find myself wishing Björk would have ditched the costume and the theatrics. Even when it works well - as in the song dedicated to the volcaone Eyjafjallajökull - I would much rather have seen some stripped down visuals of Björk and her musicians, giving me the opportunity to see up close how exactly they produce the strange sounds, and what emotions they have while doing so. This would have made the show a much more personal and interesting for me, but at the same time friends of mine leave the show claiming that the visual component is part of what made it so very special to them. In all honesty, I leave the show not really knowing what's up or down anymore, but I guess a hint of my overall feeling is that while it was fascinating, I don't really feel any strong urges to witness/endure another Björk show any time soon. [?]

Björk 'declares independence' at Orange stage

Final words

The conclusion of the Björk show was also the conclusion of this years festival for yours truly, and as such, there's not much left to write about Roskilde 2012 that I haven't already touched upon. I was extremely pleased to feel that the festival delivered even better than the last few years, both as a musical experience and as an escapists' party paradise, and to find that even though I am moving out of the target audience simply by virtue of getting older, it is still possible to find a way to have the time of your life at this most magical and unusual of events. Once again, one really just needs to grab some friends and get going to understand it, just as I will surely be doing for my ninth year in a row when the time comes next year.

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