We all know the feeling: you're sitting on your computer, trying to bag yourself Glastonbury/Coachella tickets for the umpteenth time, and every time you try, you can never even seem to get onto the festival’s landing page. Instead, you sit at home with a serious case of FOMO, wondering what black market you should sell your internal organs to in hope of spending your next summer revelling in a field surrounded by free spirits and watching a top-tier pick ‘n mix of music.
Luckily, there's another viable, and possibly even more enjoyable, option. Step in Roskilde, an annual festival that champions all genres, with a heavy focus on art and activism, held in Denmark. This year, Roskilde celebrated its 50th anniversary, and they put on quite the party. We packed our bags, nabbed some plane tickets and voyaged to the land of the Danes to experience the party for ourselves. Spoiler alert - it got pretty wild. These are the things we learned:
Haim should star in their own reality tv show
The Danish heat is heavy on Sunday afternoon; the sun is sparkling over the main stage like a giant disco ball, and those dancing beneath are in obvious high spirits. Not just because of the glorious weather, though, or Haim’s chipper, bouncy tunes that feel like a beautiful binge of serotonin, but because, simply, the indie rock sisters are bone-ticklingly funny. Like a music and comedy show rolled into one, it's easy to spot that the three musicians are related, as their chemistry is flawless.
One highlight is when bass player Este Haim puts her phone speaker to the microphone while pretending to speak to a recent hook-up – a man named Dave. Meanwhile, her sisters put their finest acting skills on display, as they try to work out whether 'Dave', revealed to have had a problem with STIs, should really be granted a second night of fun. Our final thoughts? If Haim had their own reality TV show, we’d totally binge that too.
St. Vincent is a true artist
The genre-bending St.Vincent, aka Annie Clarke, is in a league of her own. To start the performance, a St.Vincent doppelgänger wanders onto the stage, looking lost and bewildered. Then, the real talent replaces her, and guides the audience down a wondrous Rabbit Hole of alt pop and art rock, all while performing with all of the strut and hip-smacking sleeze of a Young American’s David Bowie. Peppering the set with plenty of tunes from 70s-inspired new album Daddy’s Home, St Vincent also re-configures her older, more electronic/art pop inspired songs to fit in smoothly with her new direction. Set highlights include the kaleidoscopic, Pink Floyd-esque Live Within The Dream and the hyperactive, brain-frazzling Birth In Reverse.
Roskilde is basically the Danish Burning Man
Makeshift clubs make for a wild camp at Roskilde Festival. Just like the famous Burning Man in California, where punters form their own tribes and camps with the help of sound systems and visual attractions, the Danish revellers have created their own similar tradition. Walk into Dream City, and you’ll enter a mini club, where every ten paces you walk, you’ll be immersed in the music of a new, different camp, full of hungry party-goers and brilliant buffoonery, such as glitter fights, slip n' slides, foam parties and general festival silliness.
Art is everywhere - you might even be sitting on it
Immediately as you enter Copenhagen, you’ll see plenty of pieces of artwork dotted around the city. The same goes for Roskilde Festival; art is everywhere, and sometimes it's even a little challenging. For instance, the Gloria building features a monumental mural of a woman’s genitals, which presents the artist’s written story of her harrowing sexual assault that took place at the festival when she was a teenager. It’s a daunting read, but a thought-provoking and emotionally-stirring one. Inside the building in the ‘womb room’ is also a large pink formation, representing ovaries, which punters were welcome to sit on while watching various performances. In a nearby field, was one of the festival's most interesting exhibits: a mountainous, soft fleshy structure of a placenta, which many found themselves taking a perch on. The artwork was constructed in collaboration with the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Bikuben Foundation, and was created by Marie Munk.
Divide And Dissolve obliterate everything in their wake
One thing admirable – and often even a little funny – about this event, is the vastly eclectic mixture of artists present at the festival. For instance, on Thursday evening, headliner Dua Lipa fils the main stage with chart-topping, campy pop. Meanwhile, close by, Australian doom/drone duo Divide And Dissolve were setting up on the platform stage. While they wait, metal fans and security are dancing to Dua and it’s quite the amusing sight. As soon as the headline performance finishes, though, the platform stage immediately plummets into darkness.
Standing in pitch black at almost midnight, Divide and Dissolve begin to bleed out drop-tuned, deliciously evil-sounding riffs, while sparse lights positioned in a circle around them start to light up and spiral like a centrifuge. It’s ominous and absorbing, and easy to fall into a spell-binding trance as Takiaya Reed starts to weave in some jazz-infused stylings on her saxophone via a loop pedal. Effortlessly cool, the pair even appear to be having a conversation between themselves while performing, which softens the sense of unease that their music has conjured. Despite their casualness, however, this band are incredibly serious about what they do; they even stop the set to deliver an important message about the importance of putting an end to white supremacy.
Grunge hero Jerry Cantrell delivers the hits
Heavy music might not be as common at Roskilde as pop or electronic music, but when it does appear, it more than delivers. Alice In Chains founder Jerry Cantrell pummels out classics such as Them Bones, Man In A Box, Rooster and Would. Meanwhile, there’s an air of wonderment within the tent, as revellers aggressively jump in a cluster to get closer to the grunge metal legend standing before them. Understandably, Cantrell’s own songs don't manage to produce such an excitingly dizzying effect, but each song is still perfectly executed, crowned by his smoke-laced, gritty vocals and loose ‘n lazy Nirvana-style riffs.
Fatoumata’s Mali blues rhythms are the ultimate party starter
While her band provide jam-like stretches of riff-heavy blues, Malian singer-songwriter Fatoumata wizzes across the stage in a full-length dress, waving a whip that looks like it's made of horsehair. It's certainly a fun moment; the intricate, soaring guitar licks call to mind Jimi Hendrix, while the tumbling percussion has everyone shaking their hips. At one moment, under the instruction of Fatoumata, the crowd lower themselves to the ground while bouncing their bottoms, before going back up to jump to the sky. If you see Fatoumata’s name on future festival bills in the future, be sure to take note and add her to your schedule.
Converge and Chelsea Wolfe is the best collaboration to happen since Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac
A mysterious woman breezily floats around the stage, dressed in a long, flowing black dress with long sleeves underneath long locks of flowing hair. No, it’s not Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, or an ominous shadow: it’s the darkly mystical Chelsea Wolfe, who has recently joined American hardcore punks Converge for a new collaboration under the name of Bloodmoon. Together, as they play songs lifted from their joint 2021 debut Bloodmoon: I, the atmosphere fizzes with esoteric excitement. Frontman Jacob Bannon bestows a stunningly captivating performance; responding to each and every segment of every note, while anxiously grasping his head, with an emotive expression on his face and desperately clawing onto the microphone like it’s a life raft lost at sea.
Meanwhile, the crashing storm of Bloodmoon: I surges around him, and it’s powerful stuff. And, even though she spends a good section of the show haunting the shadows, Wolfe, too, is mesmerising from start to finish - and thankfully, she also gets to spotlight her solo material. A festival highlight and a collaboration that’s clearly been written in the stars.
Little Simz entertains her army of fans in militant, perfect fashion
British rapper Little Simz was on everyone’s ones-to-watch schedule this year. We should know; the tent is filled to the brim and it was impossible to step inside if you've arrived late. Lit up by a radiant lights galore, Little Simz – real name Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo – stands confidently while engulfed inside a smog of smoke, before stomping across the stage, stabbing her arms out in front of her to each bar like a serpent going in for the kill. She’s gripping, soaked in savvy attitude, and almost militant in how she delivers each line with such precision. Together with the rumbling beats, it’s hard to take your eyes away or stop your arms from waving up and down in a salute. Simz packs the setlist with plenty of tracks from 2021’s highly-acclaimed Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, and finishes off with viral hit Venom, from 2019’s Grey Area. See Little Simz and expect flawlessness.
Roskilde will return in 2023.