A Wednesday start to a festival might normally mean a stunted, static crowd for the first few hours. The 130,000 at Roskilde, however, have been here since Saturday, previewing a selection of upcoming Scandinavian acts from the event’s Rising project. As such, early sets from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Pharrell Williams and The War On Drugs are received triumphantly, with the latter seemingly getting bigger, louder and more celebratory with every next show for ‘Lost In The Dream’, and ‘Red Eyes’ unexpectedly starting the first eruption of jumping bodies in the Arena tent.
On the eve of the release of his third solo album, Ezra Furman then begins Thursday’s proceedings at the suitably picturesque Gloria stage, his set fluctuating between garage punk and grooves bordering on soul, but managing to tie it all together into something whole and flowing.
St. Vincent’s set for her self-titled album’s tour seems to get larger and more extravagant with every show. The dance moves and choreography have become off the scale (Annie Clark is carried back onto the stage for an encore of ‘The Party’ on something half way between a sun lounger and a hospital bed), and ‘Huey Newton’ is now the monstrous set closer it always threatened to be, with extended solos and outlandish theatrics taking control. Theatrics is something Florence + The Machine also utilise fully later on, still riding high from Glastonbury the week before through a hit-packed set.
On the smaller stages, Perfume Genius is breaking hearts while also lamenting feedback from his microphone and the faint bleed of sound from Florence’s headline set in his quietest moments, leaving Jungle to then effortlessly crash through their still-fresh debut album to “the best crowd we’ve played to this summer”.
Most of The Tallest Man On Earth’s early charm comes from his isolated solo performances, rolling out impossibly tough guitar work over folk tales, alone on stage. For the tour for his latest, ‘Dark Bird Is Home’, Kristian Matsson has brought in a full band to play with him for the first time, lending a hand on the more developed and varied new record. The band are exceedingly impressive, and the songs still connect, but the aforementioned charm that made Matsson so desirable has somewhat lessened with others joining him on stage, and thus the mid-set solo section is the highlight, with ‘Love Is All’ and ‘The Gardener’ still intriguing and mysterious.
The Pavilion stage at the festival has become notorious for giving British acts their first big mainland European festival slots, with Drenge coming to Roskilde pre-debut album in 2013, and Spector headlining the stage the year before. Southampton’s Dolomite Minor get one of the slots this year, and their standard but impressive brand of blues-rock goes down extremely well, putting down their first roots on the mainland.
In 2013, Kendrick Lamar played to, reportedly, the biggest crowd to ever get into (and very far outside of) the Arena tent on the back of ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, and he refers to that night constantly throughout tonight’s headline set on the festival’s main Orange stage. The first forty minutes of the set is dedicated to said second album, with ‘Money Trees’, ‘Backstreet Freestyle’ and ‘m.A.A.d city’ putting the audience in the palm of his hand in the first ten minutes, from which they never leave. It takes nearly an hour for anything from ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ to surface, but the one-two of ‘i’ into ‘King Kunta’ feels completely worth it, with the latter becoming every bit the festival smash hit everyone knew it would be. The set is fleshed out with a cover of A$AP Rocky’s ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ and a duo of freestyles set over the audience’s mandatory chant of the riff from ‘Seven Nation Army’ (why, no-one knows, and it feels a little too late to ask now after every band on the bill receives the same treatment). The Orange stage is then given its second rendition of ‘Alright’ in the weekend after Pharrell dropped a section of the track he produced in his headline set two nights before. Still referencing that night in 2013, Kendrick closes with ‘A.D.H.D’ and ‘Compton’ before telling the crowd they’ve made him want to return again, as they did two years ago, thus making tonight possible. It’s frightening to think where he might be in 2017. Apart from at Roskilde, obviously. That’s a given now.
Kendrick aside, the Orange stage at this year’s Roskilde has largely been ruled by young Brits. Florence’s set the night before is matched or, whisper it, even surpassed by tonight’s Disclosure show. The Lawrence brothers have barely taken any time off since ‘Settle’’s tour finished, but there appears to be a resurgence and new-found energy amongst the duo, with ‘White Noise’ proving a brutal set opener.
Joanna Gruesome are another playing their first major European festival on Roskilde’s final day, and only the second show with their new look, six-piece line-up. Despite a little awkwardness from the crowd chanting for an encore that’s never coming from a band that never play for more than forty minutes in a slot that indicates they’re on for seventy-five, songs from ‘Weird Sister’ and ‘Peanut Butter’ are warmly received, with new singer Kate Stonestreet given space to make her mark on the bands older tracks, with a striking new outro section to ‘Sugarcrush’ showcased.
It’s First Aid Kit’s third time at Roskilde, with a bigger stage and crowd greeting them every next time, and tracks from ‘The Lion’s Roar’ and ‘Stay Gold’ are now huge monsters live, with Klara and Johanna Söderberg still riding the wave of success that ‘Stay Gold’ has given them.
Unfortunately Drenge’s second trip to Roskilde is rather dampened by their placement at the same time as Paul McCartney’s headline set, meaning they play to very few. Said few are enthusiastic though, and watch the Loveless brothers rip through highlights from ‘Drenge’ and ‘Undertow’.
Deafheaven somehow don’t seem to fall into the same trap, though, with their Pavilion tent set just after Drenge’s, and still in the shadow of the Beatle, bursting out the sides. ‘Sunbather’ is on its third year of being toured now, but ‘Dream House’ into the title track as a twenty-minute opening is still as potent and fresh as ever. New track ‘From The Kettle To The Coil’ indicates exciting things to come before ‘Unrequited’ from debut ‘Roads To Judah’ closes the set with an intensity unmatched across the weekend from passionate leader George Clarke.
The ‘something for everyone’ tag with huge festivals such as this can so often lead to a lack of identity and continuity across the weekend, but Roskilde, and the sheer passion and will the Danes have to discover new, different music makes Paul McCartney into Deafheaven into Jamie xx appear seamless. The final act of this polarising trio closes the striking Apollo stage in the early hours, and it has the same feel and palpable excitement as Disclosure’s show there in 2013, indicating things may be extremely different if and when Jamie xx comes back to Roskilde again. Tracks from ‘In Colour’ and beyond are blended impeccably with a selection of vinyl choices and covers of the likes of Daphni and Murphy Jax.
Even on his second set of the day after playing in Amsterdam in the early evening, and with the sun coming up, Jamie xx seems reluctant to leave at his allotted finishing time of 3.30am. His now-usual set closer of ‘Loud Places’ is, after a significant break, followed by the ringing out of “you’re the most beautiful girl in Hackney, you know” and a chorus of cheers, indicating the festival still isn’t, quite, over. A Danish DJ is currently finishing up a late-night headline set on the Orange stage, and during ‘Girl’ an eruption of fireworks begins, and draws Jamie’s gaze. He, predictably, finds it a little funny, but the crowd treat the light display as one that belongs to him. The producer then sends the festival home by closing with ODB’s ‘Baby I Got Your Money’, grins all round and fireworks still in the sky.
Photo: Joeri Swerts