Oh, you guys. We’re at Roskilde Festival and I mean we’re out there, man. I am gonzo-reporting from behind the lines. The bathroom lines. You knew me before I was cool.
Wednesday at Roskilde Festival is a bit of a strange day; the first official day of the music schedule. The die-hard festival-goers have been camping for nearly a week so most of them are either hungover to the point of turning into prunes or still riding on a precarious wave of drunkenness. They’ve lost all sense of social etiquette, peeing in the road and shoving their own friends into trash cans as they walk between shows. It’s like Lord of the Flies, if those children had been rescued but then on the way back to their homes they’d somehow been abandoned at a music festival. I’m calling copyright protection on that plot, by the way.
The rest of us – those arriving for the first time on Wednesday – walk around like frightened rabbits, darting around the crowds, holding our hands in the air so our friends never lose site of us (they do anyway; Roskilde Festival’s tagline should be “Roskilde: If You’re Here, You’re Lost”).
But by the time the sun sets everyone is feeling the vibe, thanks to the free flow of beer, accidentally breathing near some marijuana smoke (I swear no one inhaled!) or good tunes. All three, if you’re very lucky.
When we arrived, it was just in time to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds at Arena Stage. I can’t say I was stoked for this show. I liked Oasis just fine back in the day and definitely know all the words to (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? but…It’s 2015 and haven’t we all moved on?
I was very pleasantly surprised. Noel Gallagher is rockstar. A real one. His voice is timeless, he can work a guitar and he commanded that stage like a boss. I don’t know any of his newer work but it was fun to listen to. Then he played “Champagne Supernova” and I very nearly lost my shit.
The crowd was quite obviously waiting for “Wonderwall,” but Noel Gallagher giveth and he taketh away. Instead, he closed with “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Don’t tell anyone but I actually prefer “Don’t Look Back in Anger” to “Wonderwall.” Is that even a big deal? I don’t know anymore. It felt like a big deal at the time.
My takeaway from the Noel Gallagher show: it must be weird as hell to see thousands of people singing along – they know every word and pause – to songs you wrote 20 years ago (exactly 20, by the way. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory came out in 1995, so yes you are old). The performance was no-fuss, no-frill rock with a hint of nostalgia and it set a great tone for the night.
We went straight from Arena Stage to Orange, which is the largest stage area, to see Pharrell Williams. I usually hate seeing performances at Orange because it’s so big and open that the sound is lost. One tragic year, I saw The Roots play there and could barely hear a thing. I still have nightmares. If this place can make The Roots sound bad, what chance do the rest of us have?
Pharrell made it work, though. And dude can work. However you feel about Pharrell’s music, in its many iterations, this is one massively talented and hardworking man. Though his dancers were excellent, choreography is a lost art on a stage like Orange. 90% of the people there can’t see the stage and the other 10% are so jazzed to be at the front that you could literally spray them with ranch dressing and they’d applaud.
So Pharrell’s show was a good time. We danced our bums off. He brought back some N.E.R.D. stuff which was great. He played “Drop it Like it’s Hot” and it killed. The crowd was into it and he responded by continuing to ramp up his energy as the show went on.
Pharrell, if you’re reading this, which I assume you are, we need to talk. I know you’re traveling like crazy at the moment, playing loads of festivals and shows all over the world. But if you ever come back to Roskilde Festival (and I hope you will! We should hang out next time. Call me.), be warned: the first rule of Roskilde Festival is that you do not open with “Hello Copenhagen!”
You are not in Copenhagen. That’s like going to Glastonbury and shouting “Hello London!” It’s like being in any city other than Cleveland and shouting “Hello Cleveland!” Pharrell, your personal assistant is better than that. It may seem petty but this stuff matters to Danes. It’s a small country, I know, but it’s all they have. Throw ’em a bone.
Other than that, no complaints. Except, of course, for the playing of “Blurred Lines,” which is just a terrible song and shouldn’t be played by anyone. It was a pop-tastic performance and I’m glad I was there. It carried energy through when the night could have dragged. I was pumped for the final performance we saw last night: War on Drugs at Arena Stage.
Again, not a band that I know much about. I like the few songs I’d heard previously and was pleased as punch but not wildly excited to see them.
There are bands that impress you on record and these are bands that impress you live. War on Drugs is a band you should see live. They played for over an hour straight and it was dreamy. I would call the crowd’s dance-style “swaying with eyes closed,” which indicates both the level of blissed-out enjoyment and also how damn tired everyone was.
Day 1: done and dusted. We’ll be back tomorrow with Day 2, including St. Vincent, Ryan Adams, Foxygen, Florence + The Machine and Die Antwoord. Until then, rave on.
Are you at Roskilde Festival? Tell us what you’re up to!
Continue to be in a state of cat-like readiness (to party) with our Roskilde playlist.
Photos credit: Freya McOmish, Rebecca Thandi Norman