Roskilde Festival

Review: Roskilde Festival, July 2/3 – Bad Religion, Janelle Monae, Justin Townes Earle

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Bad Religion

Roskilde – Whoever does the music programming for the Roskilde Festival really must be commended.  Having already seen acts as diverse as Portishead, Kylesa and Shangaan Electro, the remaining days proved to be equally eclectic and perhaps even better. 

Things started out on an interesting note with post-punk/industrial/metal pioneers Kiling Joke.  Clad in a camouflage jumpsuit and often lumbering across the stage like Frankenstein’s monster, singer Jaz Coleman took on the role of an angry prophet of doom.  His between song banter consisted of a series of  Howard Beale-esque rantings like “the European Union is in trouble,” “there are no more fish in the ocean,” and more cryptically, “soon, they’ll attack the supermarkets.”  Each of these rantings segued perfectly into the title of the next song and worked to create a perfect mood to match their music.  In fact, Coleman seemed a little miffed when bassist Martin “Youth” Glover asked the crowd if they were having a good time between songs as if it were breaking the angry comspiracy theorist mood he was trying to create. 

The Ex

One of the most impressive acts I saw was Dutch art-punkers The Ex.  I had known the band by reputation and heard a bit of their music, but was not quite prepared for it to be quite as good as it was.  Known for their love of collaboration, the group was performing on this occasion with Italian jazz trumpeter Roy Paci, who played on their most recent album Catch My Shoe.  For a band that’s been going for 32 years (though admittedly not with all of it’s original members), these guys had an incredible amount of energy, jumping and flailing about the stage with the energy and enthusiasm of teenagers.  Also delivering an energetic set was Swedish electronic act Little Dragon.  Dancing, posing, and twirling (yes, twirling) across the stage, singer Yukimi Nagano is a totally engaging, charismatic frotwoman.  I expect to hear more from this band in the future.

One of the more unique acts of the festival was Congotronics Vs. Rockers.  It was essentially a massive jam session made up of 19 musicians from six different bands – Konono No. 1, Kasai Allstars, Deerhoof, Wildbird and Peacedrums, Skeletons, and Juana Molina – all of whom had participated in the Tradi-Mods Vs. Rockers CD compilation.  It was really pretty impressive to see that many musicians from various musical backgrounds playing together and they all seemed to be having a lot of fun up there.  Of course, as would be expected with that many musicians, the logistics of organizing it all didn’t go 100% smoothly as it seemed that certain instruments were not always as prominent in the mix as they should be.  Still, this was one of the highlights of the entire festival, and well worth skipping out on most of The Strokes’ mainstage set.  Luckily, Julian Casablancas and company frontloaded their set with a lot of hits and I walked away after about half an hour satisfied that I had seen enough.


Due to the abundance of mud, I decided to stay at the Odeon stage after Congotronics Vs. Rockers to check out old school death metallers Autopsy.  The metal faithful were out in full force, eager to hear something heavy and brutal at 1:00am, and Autopsy did not let them down.  I enjoyed their set, but not being overly familiar with their stuff, I felt that I had had enough after 4 or 5 songs.  I do have to comment, however, on the fact that guitarist Danny Coralles seemed to be wearing trackpants on stage.  Sure, he offset this by wearing studded gauntlets onstage, thus upping the metal quotient, but to quote from Seinfeld, when you wear sweatpants, you’re telling the world, “I give up.”   I know death metal has never been the most glamorous of genres, but come on, put a pair of jeans on.  Or at least some shorts.  Shorts would be better.

By Sunday, lack of sleep had gotten the best of me and so a conscious decision was made to see less bands and take it easy.  California punk legends Bad Religion were on my list of must sees and put on a pretty solid set full of songs from throughout their 32 year career.  “This is a song from the 20th Century … back when we were good,” joked vocalist Greg Graffin and as with all good jokes, there was a good bit of truth to it.  This is not to say that their newer material is bad, but the older songs certainly got a bigger reaction from the crowd.

Justin Townes Earle

Also getting a big reaction from the crowd was Janelle Monae.  With a great band, a great voice, and a top notch stage show, it’s hard to fault anything she does.  She even managed to incorporate covers of Stevie Wonder and The Jackson Five into her set.  Yet despite all this and despite the fact that a guest spot from Big Boi on “Tightrope” was pretty much inevitable (although according to this Pitchfork review, he didn’t make an appearance), I just wasn’t really feeling it.  What I needed instead was to close out the festival with something a little more intimate from an equally impressive performer – Justin Townes Earle.    While his stage show couldn’t compete with Monae’s in terms of spectacle, Earle is a talented guitarist and songwriter as well as an accomplished storyteller.  Accompanied only by another guitarist, Earle made it feel like a performance in a small club rather than a side stage at a massive festival.  He closed things off with a cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait.”  The song was a perfect reflection of how I felt at that moment.  Roskilde was great, but after 4 days of music, mud and little sleep, I could hardly wait to get out of there and get some rest.

Review: Roskilde Festival Part 1: June 30 – July 1

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The Raveonettes

Roskilde – One of Europe’s largest music festivals, the Roskilde Festival is also one of it’s most diverse, featuring everything from traditional African music to old school death metal.  While it is perhaps most notorious for the deaths of nine fans during a 2000 Pearl Jam performance, it is probably better known amongst the people of Denmark and Europeans in general as having a solid lineup of music over it’s four days.  While this festival was originally my consolation prize for not getting tickets to the sold out Glastonbury Festival, it turned out to be just as impressive and definitely less muddy (though still quite muddy in it’s own right). 

Due to a series of increasingly frustrating complications that I’d rather not get into here, I arrived later than expected on the first night of the fest, thus missing Tame Impala and Foals.  I did arrive in time to catch most of Iron Maiden’s set and the metal legends did not disappoint.  Seeing them in a large outdoor setting in pretty much the perfect environment.  Like many metal bands, they have a larger than life sound that probably works best before a big crowd.  Singing along to songs like “The Trooper,” “Fear Of The Dark,” and “Number Of The Beast” with a huge group of Europeans, metalheads and non-metalheads alike, was a pretty incredible experience.  The band were obviously enjoying themselves too, with singer Bruce Dickinson commenting particularly on the colourful garb of the audience in contrast to the standard sea  of all black clothing seen at the metalfests they normally play.  Of course it wouldn’t be an Iron Maiden show without band mascot Eddie, appearing here as a giant, Swamp Thing-esque creature lumbering across the stage.  It was an enjoyable set, but I have to wonder what happened to “Run To The Hills?”  Come on, Iron Maiden, it’s one of your biggest hits.  Throw us a bone here.  On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised with the inclusion of a couple songs from their Brave New World album as I’m kind of  fond of that one.  It wasn’t quite the perfect Iron Maiden set I’d been hoping for but it was still pretty damn good.

Electric Wizard

After ending my first night at the festival with some metal, I also began the next day with some even heavier metal.  Taking in Electric Wizard’s heavy, sludgy set at noon made for an odd sensory experience as it seems like they would be better suited for a midnight performance.  However, it was still an impressive display of Sabbathy goodness.  Also, their drummer looks like he could do quite well in an Anton LaVey lookalike contest.  Awesome.  From there I went in the exact opposite direction musically (and sort of geographically – it was on the other side of the park) to check out Wang Li, playing his take on traditional Chinese music on the Jew’s harp and other  instruments.   He was an impressive and quite charming performer, although even playing on the smallest stage of the festival, he was sometimes in danger of being drowned out by talking from people who were not really there to see him.  

Definitely playing to a receptive crowd was Bright Eyes.  Rumoured to be Conor Oberst’s final tour under this particular moniker, there was a fair sized audience, eager to hear these songs performed for perhaps the last time.  Although something tells me that Oberst isn’t just going to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.  I somehow doubt that he’s never going to play any of the songs from his sizeable back catalogue ever again, unless his future musical projects take the form of electronic noise collages or jazz accordion compositions.  Regardless, they put on a solid set and Oberst seemed to have the crowd in the palm of his hand, as did The Raveonettes, who played later in the day as the first performers on the main stage.  Seeing the Danish duo playing a set in their home country was a no brainer.  Sure, I barely understood a word they said (OK, I literally only did understand one word they said: “Takk.”) but it was pretty cool to see them play before a pretty huge crowd as sort of hometown heroes.  

Acorn Falling  

I figured since I was in Denmark, I should take the time to look into discovering lesser known Danish performers and Acorn Falling fit the bill.  The band, led by Lars Kivig, caught my attention because of the pedigree of some of it’s other members, notably cellist John Contreras of Current 93 fame and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds percussionist Thomas Wydler.  Musically, they weren’t too far removed from the musical oeuvres of those bands, playing a form of drone based instrumental music that also brought to mind The Dirty Three and the white noise passages often favoured by Spiritualized.  Oh, and they had a saxophone player too.  Saxophones are cool.  Just ask Dan Bejar.


Bejar’s band, Destroyer, were the lone Canadian act playing the festival on this, Canada’s 144th birthday.  I figured it was my duty as a Canadian to see them and I’m glad I did.  Having seen mixed reviews of their live shows and being generally unimpressed with Bejar when I had seen him with The New Pornographers, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Bejar and company put on one hell of a show, due in no small part to the power of the saxophone.  Destroyer’s latest album, Kaputt, jumps headfirst into the world of soft rock and is in my opinion,  Bejar’s best work yet.  It wasn’t until hearing these songs in a live setting though, that it occurred to me how much Bejar’s voice and phrasing combined with this particular musical dressing remind me of Al Stewart of Year Of The Cat fame.  Bejar is a pretty interesting performer.  Often turning his back on the crowd, or crouching down to take a sip from his drink, he didn’t have much to say, his stage banter tending towards statements like, “Here’s another song.”  It seems though that the more he drank, the better and more animated he got (and his stage banter expanded to include shout outs to Jagermeister).  Speaking of drinking, as my one nod towards Canada Day, I was wearing  a Labatt 50 t-shirt and at one point, I’m pretty sure Bejar spotted me and raised  his glass to me in recognition of a fellow countryman.  Or he was just drunk and waving his glass around haphazardly, but the former makes for a better story, so I choose to believe that one.  Happy Canada Day, Dan Bejar.

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