Roskilde Festival 2022

author PP date 07/07/22

After two years of Corona cancellations, we're back at our favorite Danish grass field celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Roskilde Festival. For years we've talked about the Orange Feeling, a colloquialism of the atmosphere that happens only in the camping area of the festival, and is later translated into that feeling of euphoria that you experience when you're standing in front of Orange Stage with 60.000 other people singing along with you. There's just something special about drinking lukewarm beers underneath a pavilion shielding you from the sun while playing a variety of garden games with your new and old friends from the camps next door. It's a feeling that's difficult to describe on paper and one that has to be tried to be ever truly understood.

The weather Gods have been on Roskilde Festival's side since 2007, and once again the camping area is bathing in sunshine for most of the week. Strolling through the camping area reveals smiling faces and a never-ending stream of oomph-oomph music from Soundbokses. The annual tradition of naked run draws plenty of curious onlookers, and the dream city area is as quirky as it always has been. Yet this year we find ourselves not in the camping area at all, only attending music days with yours truly as the only writer signed up to cover the festivities. It's the 50th birthday of Roskilde, surely that should attract the entirety of the Rockfreaks.net staff? Sadly, it has everything to do with the lineup this year, which is thinner than it has ever been if you're a fan of rock music that isn't attempting to be out there in terms of experimentation and other weirdness.

LINEUP

Indeed, looking at the poster, relevant bands are few and far between this year if metal and rock are what you're after. Sure, you can make finds if you dig deep on the poster, but these are mostly obscure niché bands that wouldn't play a venue bigger than Stengade on a good day.

The Strokes is arguably the only relevant rock headliner (Nope, Robert Plant's cover band isn't relevant), and then of course you find awesome bookings like Turnstile, Converge (the “Bloodmoon" version), Jimmy Eat World, and Biffy Clyro little bit further down the lineup. But is that enough to cover four days of music? Roskilde Festival used to be one where you saw several great bands every day, and then you occasionally stumbled to check out something you hadn't heard before.

Nowadays that's flipped upside down: you're mostly seeing obscure experimental bands and wondering what happened to all the bands you know. Sure, the electronic, hip hop, pop, r&b, and such genres are well represented, but for the rock music fan? It's a disaster. No wonder Copenhell is growing exponentially in popularity these days. After Wednesday, you could have very conceivably skipped on both Thursday and Friday without feeling like having missed much of anything at all.

For the 50th anniversary of the festival, it's just not good enough.

FESTIVAL AREA

This year, the festival area has had large changes from previous years. Arena, Pavilion, and Orange stage are still where they used to be, but the areas around them have been expanded massively.

Arena & surroundings

Take Arena, for instance, which used to have a small bar on the right side only a few years back. Now it's packed with a food court, Brooklyn bar, toilets, and much more, making it a more vivid part of the festival instead of an unused space.

At the same time, the Avalon stage has moved to a new area behind Arena, where there's also a calm oasis featuring a lush garden, several cocktail bars, food stalls, and even an opportunity to loan garden games. It's a welcome break from the business of the rest of the festival.

Pavilion & surroundings

It also means, however, that the Pavilion side of the festival feels totally empty. Sure, Apollo has gotten a boxed-in area roughly where Avalon used to be, which means it feels more like a rave club than the open-air space it used to be in the past. But otherwise, this area feels like it's missing something - save for the pool bar. It has a few shops, but what about adding a few more bars, food stalls, and the like here.

Doing so would help alleviate the pressure from the other side of the festival near Arena and Food Court. There's just too much stuff here right now, especially with the expanded food court extension, which means roughly 80% of the festival hangs out here whenever there isn't a show on Orange Stage. I gave up every single time trying to buy food here because the lines were ridiculously long even outside the busy hours.

Food Court

And that's a shame: the Food Court offers some delicious, mostly vegetarian options where Zahida stands out with their chickpea curry, and the general area otherwise features all of your favorite brands from Ramen To Biiru, Olioli, and Mæxico to Gorm's Pizza. But when it takes 45 minutes to an hour to queue for food, it's just not worth it. The alternatives on the Pavilion side? Mostly dime-a-dozen “pasta for 60kr" type of deals that did not look appealing in the slightest.

Orange Feeling

Still, walking around the festival area reminds a jaded writer like yourself about what used to make this festival great regardless of the lineup: the people and quirky things. From the RF 50 celebratory artwork to a bodega-style pool bar and the legendary Mojito bus & Terraza bar, there's just so much to discover when you start looking around you. Plus, if you skip out on music for a second and just hang out on a spot, you're bound to get into strange conversations of all sorts. For instance, yours truly was asked about in an apparently scientific survey of the festival goers on whether I preferred padel tennis over Tyler The Creator. Another memorable interaction was waiting for Konvent to begin, where a girl walked right up to me and asked if I wanted to be friends because she didn't have any friends (at least not right then). A conversation followed from here where it turned out she's manufacturing artificial limbs for people who have had their legs amputated, and how she had felt lost about her purpose in life until this job, thanks to the joy she felt about giving other people a new opportunity at life.

It's these types of interactions that define the orange feeling, alongside the chance to stand in front of the Orange Stage itself when it's jam-packed.

WEDNESDAY

Fontaines D.C. - photo by Steffen Jørgensen

Fontaines D.C. @ 17:30 on Avalon

To some, Fontaines D.C. is like the second coming of Joy Division. A noisy post-punk group with simple, repetitive lyrics that make it simple to digest their songs. Avalon is jam-packed to its limits given they are one of the first bands to play at this year's festival (excluding the camping days). Behind them, is a large banner with colourful Fontaines D.C. text that doubles as a light effect of sorts that cycles between the individual letters. The vocals range from clear howls during "Televised Mind" to mumbling leads where it's difficult to hear anything at all. The band is almost completely static on stage, which combined with the droning sound and way too repetitive songs results in at best an average show. Despite playing songs like "I Don't Belong" and "A Hero's Death", Fontaines D.C. feels like the most overhyped band at the moment, where their show ranges mostly between meh and merely decent. Musically, there's very little to offer here and even less on stage, so while it's not bad, it's oh so forgettable. [6½]

The Ocean @ 20:00 on Gloria

It's a sunny day outside, which means Gloria effectively feels like a sauna. Its ethereal darkness and humidity are somehow a good fit for The Ocean, who is here replacing Amenra on very short notice despite their vocalist sporting a broken leg from a recent crowd surfing accident during their US tour. Just in case you didn't know about that, he raises himself from his seat, waving his crutches around during a particularly aggressive, epilepsy-inducing flashing light segment to iterate he's not sitting down because he wants to, but because he has to.

The Ocean - photo by Peter Troest

Meanwhile, the music itself is progressive, challenging, and complex, yet carries itself with an eerie vibe of quality attached to their musicianship. Gloria is at maximum capacity, while the band looks like silhouettes against the abstract background, creating an atmospheric effect that fits perfectly with the roared vocals and lengthy instrumental segments. Yes, it's a little weird not being able to see the vocalist most of the time, but at every opportunity possible he raises himself to the tune of stop motion flashing lights to remind us he's indeed there. "Let's do this", he says, and limps across the stage on one leg. It's a showing of pure force and waves upon waves of progressive fury, with crushing songs convincing the packed club that The Ocean was indeed a great replacement for Amenra. [8]

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss - photo by Steffen Jørgensen

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss @ 21:30 on Arena

Next up it's the Led Zeppelin legend Robert plant and another seminal musician, folksy bluegrass/country artist Alison Krauss. Together, they are interpreting famous songs, including a couple of Zeppelin songs, through a country-ish rock lens. Plant is casually shaking a few maracas' on stage, while Krauss does her thing to the tunes of violins and folksy instruments. But all of it feels rather pointless. It's rock music for the mainstream music fan, with plenty of songs everyone knows, safe hits, and a melodic vibe. Ultimately, it's no different than watching a cover band at your local pub playing these same songs, so I decide to bolt after just half an hour to go watch something a little more interesting. [6]

Employed To Serve @ 22:00 on Pavilion

Pavilion is about half full by the time I reach the tent from Robert Plant's cover set. On stage, I find a female vocalist growling her heart out, putting most of her male counterparts to shame. Employed To Serve is one of the most hyped metalcore bands for the time being, and watching them engage in humongous breakdowns and aggressive headbanging, it's easy to understand why. Featuring loads of energy on stage, the band appears in constant movement as they transition technical leads into thumping, down-tuned breakdowns. As with all complex metal, however, you need to know their songs in advance lest it turns into a semi-monotonous mash of walls upon walls of noise. Looks solid, songs sound good, will need to check out their records after the festival. [7½]

Turnstile @ 23:00 on Avalon

Wow, is all. Turnstile is touring in support of their universally acclaimed new album "Glow On", and sometimes it just pays off to watch bands live during their peak. What Turnstile offered tonight at Avalon is guaranteed to be the band performing at their very best. For starters, the band looks like At The Drive-In back in the day, zapping violently across the stage while engaging in huge, swirling jumps of all stage structures in the vicinity. Secondly, the songs from "Glow On" (and their previous work) are exceptionally good, so the crowd dynamic is unmatched at this year's festival. The jam-packed Avalon looks and feels insane, as the crowd moves like giant waves in a stormy sea across the set.

Turnstile - photo by Peter Troest

"Mystery" begins with a sing-along, and during "Blackout", the tent echoes from the crowd thunderously chanting along. Similarly, "Underwater Boi" draws a massive response, where virtually everyone in the tent is dancing to the funky rhythms of the song. On stage, Turnstile's vocalist Brendan Yates is waving around his microphone stand in a threatening fashion, bouncing and sourcing his energy directly from the crowd. The rest of the band? Some groups like to simultaneously headbang. Turnstile like to simultaneously jump in all sorts of weird formations. Things get wild as pits start forming all the way towards the back of the tent, eventually merging into arguably the largest single pit I've ever seen at Avalon during "Holiday" / "Turnstile Love Connection". "Let's sing! Let's Dance!", they shout, and we oblige. The energy is incredible both on stage and in the crowd. It's an electrifying feeling of pure chaos that puts Avalon's structures to test as people are crashing not just into each other but everything else as well. This kind of crowd dynamic coupled with ridiculously energetic showmanship is something you rarely, if ever get to experience. If you weren't here, you don't know what you missed out on. [10]

Biffy Clyro @ 00:15 on Arena

Biffy Clyro's vocalist Simon Neil is on stage sporting his signature-style bare-chested look. He feels like a proper rock star - Dave Grohl style - and has the charisma to go with it as he thrashes out while playing the guitar, shredding his instrument like a madman. On top of that, his crisp voice is one of the best in alternative rock, which is why the "I am a mountain, I am the sea" sing-alongs of "Mountains" echo alongside his voice in the tent. The thing is, even the quieter, more balladic songs work here tonight. There are no special effects, just alternative rock played on its own merits, where the interplay between the vocalist and the rest of the band is fantastic throughout. They grind their instruments against each other on multiple occasions, but otherwise, the band is happy to display energy in their own zones. It's all so straightforward, but because the band plays to their strengths (their great songs), it doesn't have to have any additional bullshit or inflated production value. Tonight, Biffy Clyro shows that to play a great rock show all you need is a guitar, some passion, and a brilliant set of pipes. [8]

THURSDAY

Modest Mouse @ 16:00 on Avalon

My Thursday begins with the eclectic indie rockers Modest Mouse, who put out a new album last year. It has apparently been two and a half years in the making, and the band was debating whether it was a good idea or not. Fear not, the new music aired from the record has a more rock-ish vibe and feels a tad heavier than what we're used to hearing from them in the past. With decent energy on stage, the band takes us through material from throughout their career in an upbeat and enjoyable fashion. It's not particularly spectacular and doesn't leave a very lasting memory, even if "Float On" has the crowd singing along so loud you can probably hear it down by Arena. It's a set of straightforward indie rock with little flair, instead focusing on solid riffs and easygoing songs. It's not a boring set, yet nothing really happens that's worthy of a note in this review. The band sounds good and looks good, but indie rock like this is seldom able to impress enough to warrant a higher rating. [7]

Jimmy Eat World @ 19:00 on Avalon

It's been a while since Jimmy Eat World last played here. Back in 2005, they were on Orange Stage right before Green Day in front of packed pits and plenty of people beyond that. Now, they're on a much smaller stage and you could probably ride a bicycle through the crowd all the way up to the front few rows. It's been quite a few years since the "Bleed American" era, so the crowds have moved on and what's left are those of us who have been listening to every record since then.

Tonight, they begin with "Futures" and its inviting "say hello to good times" lyrics, an emotionally-charged, balladesque song that defines how Jimmy Eat World sound in most people's hearts. They deliver "Pain" and "Bleed American" in quick succession before letting us know they're going to play material from "Surviving" next. "All The Way" is played with emotion and charisma, despite an echoing sound in the tent. "555" and "23" are also aired, yet it's difficult to shake the feeling that we're watching an aging emo band getting old. The atmosphere in the tent certainly is a far cry from the electrifying euphoria we felt last time the band played at KB, Malmö a few years back.

As such, around one hour into their set, I reluctantly jot down in my notes that the set feels tame, that it's been quite a while since the last high point in the set (the beginning, really), where the vast majority of the audience is in waiting mode for the next big song, save for the few diehards scattered around. It's no surprise then that "The Middle" wakes up the crowd with its loud woo-hoo moments, and "Sweetness" offers yet another sing-along outlet for everyone here. But save for these two and the beginning? It's been decent, but also somewhat boring for lengthy segments of the show. Certainly a far cry from the Malmö magic. [7]

FRIDAY

Rolo Tomassi - photo by Peter Troest

Rolo Tomassi @ 13:00 on Avalon

It's an early start today and a heavy one at that. Complex mathcore/metalcore group Rolo Tomassi is the first band on Avalon today, playing lots of material from their ethereal new album “Where Myth Becomes Memory". The stage is encompassed in misty smoke for maximum effect, allowing vocalist Eva Korman's silky cleans to loftily float on stage and within the tent. She's sporting two microphones: the one on the stand is for her cleans, and the one in her hand is the one she uses to wield her coarse, throaty screams. She menacingly stomps across the stage while screaming her heart out, but takes calmer moments as an opportunity to engage in a hypnotic dance routine. Whenever the band reaches deep in their back catalogue, we're in for technical wizardry and mind-numbingly heavy breakdowns. The newer, more celestial material is quite a contrast against this crushing heaviness, yet both styles work for different reasons. The raw ones work due to their ferocious energy, and the lofty ones due to their dreamy, soothing ambiance. Still, it's the chaotic mathcore bits that look most fun live. For instance, at one point, the keyboardist is unleashed with his microphone and nearly falls over due to his chord getting stuck behind him as he goes for a full frontal screamo assault together with Eva. It's moments like these that make Rolo Tomassi such a good live band, despite the tent being nearly empty at this early hour. [8]

Otoboke Beaver - photo by Peter Troest

Otoboke Beaver @ 16:30 on Gloria

Our photographer Peter Troest suggested I go check out Otoboke Beaver, who are a short-notice replacement for some band that couldn't make it here today. They are also probably the most WTF experience at this year's Roskilde Festival. If you've ever been to Japan, you'll likely have realized how quirky and different the Japanese culture is in all its neon light glory compared to our plain European one. The Robot Restaurant is an experience I'll never forget, and Otoboke Beaver is essentially the punk/grindcore equivalent of that. They sound like how I remember experiencing Tokyo: incredible speed, in-your-face all the time, and lasers. Lots of lasers. Colorful video screens behind them only add to the WTF effect as the band shreds through breakneck speed tracks. Oh, and did I mention it's an all-female band? The four Japanese ladies scream in short bursts of craziness in what feels like the most hyperactive sonic experience available at the festival. Is this the future of music? Not sure, but at least it's incredibly unique. And totally mental. [7½]

Gggolddd- photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution

GGGolddd @ 20:30 on Gloria

GGGolddd is the alter ego of Gold, a Dutch rock band, which focuses exclusively on the horrible experience of vocalist Milena Eva. She was raped when she was 19, and during the Corona lockdown, she finally decided to confront her trauma through a full album exclusively focusing on different aspects of it, which we now get to experience through a playthrough of the entire album. She is wearing a black bridal dress of sorts that feels symbolic of the theme, dancing in a mysterious, deliberate manner. Instrumentally, their music explores a dimension between rock, metal, and brooding electronic music in an avant-garde fashion. It's highly experimental and challenging, where metallic elements are mostly an afterthought as they traverse through gothic-sounding electronics and vocals ranging from high-octave to low, almost spoken word. There's alternate percussion with deep oomphs emanating from the direction of the drumkit, and gloomy electronics from the other side. Gloria is almost pitch-black dark during this performance, otherwise occasionally dark blue, which fits the topic at hand. It's interesting from a conceptual point of view, but musically it's too avant-garde and experimental to leave any kind of lasting imprint on the listener. For Milena Eva, it's likely the opposite, but unfortunately, we get not much out of this level of idiosyncrasy. [5½]

Konvent @ 22:30 on Pavilion

I've heard lots of people talk shit about Konvent, and lots of people give them acclaim but have never seen the all-female quintet live before. After tonight's demonstration of sheer power, I'm firmly in the latter camp. Their music is a brooding form of doomy black metal that's characterized by its inherent slowness and the deep, subwoofer-like monstrous vocals of Rikke Emilie List. She's on record having stated that when she's playing live, she doesn't want to sound like a man or a woman, or a human being at all, which puts her in the same category as Bo ‘Subwoofer' Summer from Illdisposed.

Konvent - photo by Christian Hjorth

At the same time, Konvent's instrumentals are primarily droning doom metal rhythms with the occasional black metal tremolo shred added for good measure, yet there's melody within, creating hauntingly beautiful soundscapes from time to time. Tonight's highlight is without a doubt “Harena" from the new album, where the band adds a violinist that adds Paradise Lost-level melancholia to their sound. The atmosphere is pitch black but full of dark harmony, leaving behind a memorable expression that deserves a bigger audience than is present here at Pavilion tonight. Additionally, whenever List adjusts into a screamed/shrieked style rather than the guttural growl, there's an extra layer present to their sound that the subwoofer vocals just can't quite match. Either way, Konvent's interpretation of doom and black metal sounds brilliant in the rainy darkness that is Friday at Roskilde. [8]

Jerry Cantrell @ 23:30 on Avalon

Man, it takes forever to walk from Pavilion to Avalon this year. At least ten minutes with a drink refill on the way, and since Konvent played a little over an hour, I'm late to the party and miss out on the first couple of songs to Jerry Cantrell's set. For those not in the know, Jerry Cantrell is the legendary guitarist and backing vocalist of Alice In Chains, which means we're being treated to both his solid solo material and several Alice In Chains classics as well. These steal the attention primarily because of Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan fame, who has assumed the role of Layne Staley/William Duvall, delivering a masterclass in clean vocal performance and perfectly paying tribute to the band through a dynamic interplay between himself and Cantrell.

Jerry Cantrell - photo by Steffen Jørgensen

It's almost like we're watching Alice In Chains here: straight-up 90s-style grunge rock with plenty of great riffs, where Cantrell's own material receives appropriate applause after each song. Yet it's the Alice In Chains songs that light up the crowd, where songs like “Would?", “Man In The Box" and “Rooster" steal the show. These are, after all, grunge classics, and when they are played so faithfully and with this much passion and an air of perfectionism, it sets the world apart between these covers and the Robert Plan snoozefest a couple of days earlier. Overall, Jerry Cantrell demonstrates why his role in Alice In Chains was never to be just someone in the background, rather than one of the carrying forces right behind Staley's fantastic vocals. This is how grunge is meant to be played. [8½]

SATURDAY

Old Man Gloom - photo by Peter Troest

Old Man Gloom @ 19:00 on Avalon

Old Man Gloom is a sludge supergroup featuring members from Isis, Converge, and Cave In among others, yet their roster has barely been able to draw enough crowd to fill just half of Avalon. Their dirty, down-tuned sludge is characterized by its roared vocals and variety on offer, ranging from slow, droning cuts to thrash-metal style riffage from time to time, which is performed with solid energy throughout. Their guitarist frequently lifts his (see-through) guitar frame upward towards the skies to showcase his shredding ability, while the rest of the band engages in heavy, deep-down headbanging for good measure. There are plenty of instrumental sections that allow the band to showcase huge gestures and other movements on stage, so this part of their performance is certainly in check. However, musically their output just isn't very convincing. Outside of the sludge niche, it has little appeal, and thus the crowd thins out as the set drags on. “Calling You Home" is the highlight of their set with its "I am watching / getting closer / I am waiting" passages, but otherwise the show feels largely mediocre for all but the frontest rows of the crowd. [6½]

Idles - photo by Peter Troest

Idles @ 21:15 on Avalon

Idles last played at Roskilde five years ago, back then underneath the much smaller Pavilion tent. Today, they've been upgraded to Avalon and it looks as if that might not have been enough: the crowd stretches far beyond the tent edges after the show start and is packed all the way down the middle. Stylistically, their raw post-punk has never quite appealed on record due to its unmelodious, monotonous nature, yet their live performances are high-energy onslaughts that convince the unconvinced such as yours truly. Here, they split the crowd up into a manufactured wall of death early on (for Turnstile, it just happened), and the guitarist is crowd surfing a few moments later.

Idles - photo by Claus Wrang Michaelsen - Diskant.dk

The energy is palpable: the band is in constant movement as Joe Talbot's crackling screams draw echoing sing-alongs to “Mother", during which they explain to the security guards that this is the most loving audience so they should just be allowed to crowd surf. Shortly after, “Mr. Motivator" turns the crowd into a giant party with people dancing all the way down at the sound desk and beyond. "Heeey! 50 Years of Roskilde", and multiple other references to the 50th anniversary are part of Talbot's repertoire in between songs. Not that he needs to say much: the echoing sing-alongs and constant crowd energy takes care of the show on its own. They have fully captured the audience, where pits are forming in multiple places of the tightly packed crowd. Idles simply continue to defy their boring recorded output by being a brilliant live band time after time: few bands at Roskilde this year were able to draw a similarly thunderous response as “Never Fight A Man With A Perm" did, for example. No matter how you look at it, the band's incredible energy on stage is infectious and takes along with it even the biggest naysayers like this magazine in a live environment. [8½]

Converge: Bloodmoon I @ 22:00 on Pavilion

So you've seen Converge on the bill and think: finally, the chaotic hardcore band gets an evening show where they can burn down the Pavilion tent in a show for the ages. After all, the last time they played Roskilde it was a 1 pm show where the crowd was still half asleep, despite Jacob Bannon's masterful attempts at reviving the audience. Maybe some delicious “Axe The Fall" or “No Heroes" material alongside “Jane Doe" era classics?

Converge - photo by Peter Troest

Think again. We're here to watch what was originally a Roadburn exclusive, a collaborative project between Converge (feat. Stephen Brodsky) and Chelsea Wolfe known as “Bloodmoon: I". It's a dark, gothic, atmospheric combination of both artists, focusing on ambiance and atmospherics, where Jacob Bannon spends more time on clean vocals than on his gut-wrenching screams. As such, we don't see him thrash across the stage like a maniac, instead looking like a conductor of an orchestra, which is a far more static and less volatile package than you're used to seeing from Converge. On the other hand, it's more artistic and ambitious, where ambiance matters more than crushing heaviness, which leads to a unique Converge experience unlike any other one of their performances you might have seen.

Converge - photo by Peter Troest

In fact, it's more like performance art given the magical atmosphere and rich soundscapes, where “Crimson Stone" stands as an early highlight. It's hauntingly beautiful, which is also what Jacob Bannon acknowledges right after: "Are you still with us? Because we're going for a journey…". Damn straight. For the next forty-five minutes, Converge and Chelsea Wolfe take us to a dark realm of painstakingly formed and genre-defying music that's difficult to pigeonhole. It's not what you expected from Converge, but it's a masterclass on how effortlessly their art can transcend into wholly other genres than originally intended. [8]

The Strokes @ 23:00 on Orange Stage

Think back to 2007 and the catastrophe of a show that Red Hot Chili Peppers was back then. There are eerie similarities between that set and what happened here with The Strokes tonight on Orange Stage, perhaps the biggest difference being that The Strokes actually played a few of the hits people were looking to hear. Otherwise, the band face-planted onto the stage more than half an hour late, quite literally speaking. Julian Casablancas seems to be heavily under the influence as he squirms and rolls on the floor during “Bad Decisions", but that's the least of their worries. "Good morning, Vietnam!, he shouts and leans into the mic stand as if to hold himself up. He then continues to ramble something unrecognizable about makrel and fløde in an incoherent rant that also touches on meeting weird people on the internet. "Yep, the world awaits", which sounds like a halfway arrogant reference that it's about time to hear some songs. Is he on drugs, is what I jotted down in my notes at this point.

The Strokes - photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution

To make matters worse, Orange Stage is barely half full. You can easily walk all the way up to between the two sound tents to the edge of the pit, which means we're not going to be experiencing any Orange Feeling sing-alongs tonight. That's despite large portions of the crowd dancing along to “Reptilia" and the front rows oozing euphoria at this point.

Then it's time for more ranting. He talks about H.C. Andersen and makes more vague Danish references about us not caring about where other people are from, just take our beer and you're good. Okay then.

At the same time, the stage has been very dark throughout the set, where it's barely possible to make out what's going on even using the screens as a reference. Not exactly an Orange Stage worthy production, which is okay, if you can capture the crowd through your performance. Here, The Strokes are sloppy at best, awful at worst. Julian Casablancas' rock-star-like crackling, distorted vocal is raspier than usual, plus all the slurred lyrics don't exactly make it much better.

The Strokes - photo by Jacob Dinesen / Devilution

"Idles…I hear you screaming the names of other bands! I DON'T CARE!!", he erupts after “New York City Cops", before the band moves on to “Undercover Darkness". There's an eerie sense of conflict on stage, as if the band members aren't exactly getting along, which is only reinforced by Casablancas' notion at one point that he's about to commit career suicide on stage. Indeed, the band have lots of decent material in between, but the drunken/drugged-up performance of their great work does the songs no justice.

The band then engages in a lengthy autotune-fueled jam session where Casablancas howls on stage for what feels like an eternity. "Play some songs!", someone shouts in the crowd, in another reference to the failed RHCP show from 2007. Yes, the double-header of “Last Nite" and “Someday" are an excellent way to close the festival, but there's just too much wrong with The Strokes tonight for these two songs to save the set. So many people have departed in the meantime, leaving even more space on the biggest stage in Denmark. Sure, when they played songs they were good (compared to RHCP), but Casablancas just felt too wasted to elevate the show to the levels of their previous show on this stage eleven years ago. Whether he was under the influence or not in reality (99% sure about this one) doesn't matter. This is one of the biggest stages of the world. Get your shit together. [6]

Final Words

And there it is. Our single-man coverage of the experience that is Roskilde Festival. The departing thoughts I have is that more than ever before, this year's edition felt like a party for the youngsters. And by youngsters, I don't mean twenty-somethings but rather the teens. The vast majority of headliners catered for a crowd that just doesn't know better when it comes to good music. Production-heavy material clouds the inherent weakness of many a headliner at this year's festival, where an artist might have just one or two hits and the rest of it pure filler.

You gotta ask at some point, where is the rock music? The few token names that were booked were mostly peripheral. Less than a handful were bands with actual name recognition or even current hype. Turnstile and Converge were arguably some of the most important bands to book right now thanks to the former's success and exceptional hype at the moment, and the latter's majestic “Bloodmoon" experience. Sure, Idles were fantastic as well, and Rolo Tomassi would have done very well if given a later slot. But save for these bookings, most were dime-a-dozen, mediocre or average bands that would appear with the smallest of fonts on other festival posters. Perhaps that's why Roskilde never publicized this year's poster?

It feels like we're one heavy rain year away where the party crowd from the camping won't show up because it just wasn't that much fun when it rained. It must be time to reconsider the lineup - for the past ten years, it has gradually gotten worse and worse. One quick peek at 2011's lineup and contrasting that with this year's should tell you all you need to know.

This year the festival survived through all the people who kept their tickets. But with thousands of volunteers missing, primarily because they didn't like the lineup, what's in store for Roskilde Festival 2023? Something's gotta give.

That said, the atmosphere at the festival is still one of the best around. The organization on how to get there, the trains, the work done by volunteers, the arts, the fashion, the food offering, and the focus on climate is a package few festivals offer. That alone makes the festival worth a visit if you haven't been before. Oh, and the camping experience leading up to the festival, if your liver can take it.

I'll leave you with our classic The Good, The Bad, The Ugly section summarizing our findings from this year's festival.

THE GOOD

  • The friendliest people in the world
  • The lush chill-out areas near Avalon were a welcome break from the rest of the area. Borrowing of garden games? Great idea.
  • Mantra: the new stage in front of Orange Stage is a refreshing addition
  • Apollo: Electronic music is now boxed in for a more rave-friendly club vibe
  • Food offering: so much to choose from, most of it good. Added focus on vegetarian and climate-friendly options
  • Wine in carton: still the best value-for-money for drinking at 80 DKK for a liter of rosé or white wine.
  • Re-usable hard plastic cups: less waste as people are less likely to drop them on the ground
  • All stages now run on renewable energy
  • The various clean after yourself initiatives at camping are working: way cleaner in large areas of the festival.

THE BAD

  • Massive queues to just about everything, but particularly food stalls.
  • The Pavilion-side of the festival felt underutilized, especially where Avalon used to be.
  • Food was generally very expensive. Also, wasn't it supposed to show your climate footprint? I didn't see this labeling anywhere.
  • No maps anywhere: hard to know where things are on the festival area. Print out and scatter across the festival area.
  • Gloria just isn't a good venue. It feels like a vampire cave due to its inherent darkness during the daytime, and for anything even remotely popular, it gets to capacity very quickly. There's no bar inside, so you're out of luck if you want to buy a beer and get back in for a popular show.
  • Not enough pissoirs are scattered around the area, so most walls turn into impromptu bathrooms for men.

THE UGLY

  • Avalon's new location. This side of the festival felt overcrowded at all times because it now houses Avalon, Arena, Food Court, Food Court Extension, Platform stage, Gloria, Volunteer village, and so much more. There's just way too much stuff here so most of the festival is over here.
  • Bathroom queues for females were ridiculously long everywhere on the festival area.
  • The lineup was dire unless you're a teenager. It says a lot I considered not coming in at all on Friday because of the lack of interesting names on the bill. For a festival that claims to have its finger on the pulse, it feels like you're checking the pulse of a dead corpse, at least when it comes to rock/metal/hardcore and related genres.

Orange Stage at night - photo by Peter Troest

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