Messed!Up

Roskilde Festival: Synthwave rules the festival

J.N. July 5, 2019

Wednsesday arrived meaning it was finally time for the “real” festival to start and we had although it wasn’t a full festival day – the first day is more like a warm-up day – we had a tight schedule with Tears For Fears, Bob Dylan, Hatari and Carpenter Brut. In retrospect this was probably the best festival day music-wise.

It was also the day when the first colleague from our partner magazine Drefvet in Sweden would arrive but we had lots of time to engage in games with Camp Vienna United who didn’t seem to lack any energy after four days of beer drinking. When I reach the camp after a very long sleep, a shower and a full English breakfast the party was already beyond the point of sanity. But it was already lunchtime, why hold it back? People were engaged in some sort of Danish version of the Swedish game “Kubb” and involved everything from people dressed as nuns to beer drinking and throwing wellies across a pitch. The rules were impossible to understand and seemed to change while the games passed by and in the end I don’t think the teams in the final, Camp Vienna United vs. Camp Wolfpack, even cared because they had free beer.

The whole shenanigan was soundtracked by a very young man who spent almost two hours making some sort of mashed-up music, looping guitars, voice layers and drum machines while drinking beer. After a while it actually sounded really good. Maybe we found our Orange stage act for the future? And this is what Roskilde Festival is about, to have thousands of impressions around you while drinking beer and enjoying hanging out with friends! After a few hours I had to take a walk to get some beer out of the system and passed by a Swedish camp, just to get some strong homemade Swedish alcohol no one knows the name of nor where it comes from. It was just one of those days. Luckily there was concerts.

First on the schedule was Tears For Fears doing an early show. I was a big fan in the eighties and remember I bought their “Songs From the Bigh Chair” album for money earned on hard worked at my grandpa’s work place, and songs as “Sowing the Seeds of Love”, “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and, in particular, “Shout” were on high rotation a bit into the nineties. I haven’t listened to the band since the nineties nor had I ever seen them play live and it was with mixed emotions i went to the gig, mostly because many older bands, with a few exceptions (OMD, Depeche Mode and Erasure), make great shows. But this was something different.

Tears For Fears know how to get the crowd on their side and already blasted out “Sowing the Seeds of Love” and “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” during the first three songs. It’s a great performance and for once it’s not “Shout” that gets people crazy, it’s an amazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”. I was kind of sure that this was going to be the best gig of the day but I was wrong.

A beer later we were on the way to the Orange stage to see Bob Dylan – Drefvets photographer just arrived and joined me. Let’s say we don’t do reviews of music we don’t listen to that often and although it was better than the last time I was at one of his concerts – also the Roskilde Festival – I can’t say I enjoyed the gig at all. The Drefvet dude’s comment says it all: “I think he played one of my favorite songs but I’m not sure because he sings horribly bad”. We left after six songs, found another beer on the way and went to Pavillion instead jut to find a really good indie act in Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Why we didn’t go to their gig directly we don’t understand today.

After the dark evening arrived we found ourselves waiting for Hatari with great expectations. Not only did they represent Iceland in this year’s edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, they also have a very interesting live show that probably would make them special guests at every BDSM events in the future. However, music-wise there’s a lot to develop. I really like electronic music but good electronic music and that’s not a category I would place Hatari in. The crowd loved it, I went for a beer and then straight to Carpenter Brut to get a fence position right in the front of the stage – and waited an hour. Luckily Danes are the most hospitable people in the world and they fed me with beer while waiting just to get warmed-up before the gig. The warming up thing wasn’t really necessary though because it was a rowdy gig from the start.

Synthwave had a massive breakthrough 4-5 years ago and when Carpenter Brut released his debut album “Trilogy” in 2015 he quickly became the king of synthwave after a masterpiece debut. But it’s also a very special genre because it’s usually instrumental music. Carpenter Brut have a few songs with vocals but no vocalist on stage, although I hoped that Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver would join the band and do “Cheerleader Effect” which he’s featured on at the latest album. Ulver played the festival as well but no Kristoffer Rygg at the Carpenter Brut gig. But in the end it didn’t matter.

With “Turbo Killer”, “Disco Zombi Italia” and “Sexkiller On The Loose” it became rowdy and I would never have thought I would ever experience mosh pits at a synthwave show – amazing! Of course they did the mandatory encore and played the Flashdance hit “Maniac” and people went nuts, jumped on my toes (I lost three toe nails during the show) and sand “She’s a maniac, maniac on the floor; she’s dancing like she’s never danced before”. That was it, I couldn’t even walk straight home to the media camp and needed two beer stops to make it. Couldn’t walk for the next two days.

*****

The next morning, on Thursday, we woke up to pouring rain and it continued raining the whole day. On the other hand, there wasn’t really anything I really wanted to see either and I just went along with two of Drefvets dudes (the second just arrived). The rain also kept me away from Camp Vienna United this day but we had a beer day instead. And when the day was over I’ve seen the best performance of this year’s Roskilde Festival.

Sharon van Etten, Parquet Courts, Testament and Julien Baker weren’t really my kind of music and there was nothing mindblowing on stage either. Not until Neneh Cherry played and you realized that she has done lots more than “Buffalo Stance” somethings started to spark in me (or if it was the beer that finally started to work). Cherry is a great performer and has a great band to support her, and I can’t really understand why she doesn’t tour more. Maybe because people just want to hear “Buffalo Stance”? Drefvets journalist had made a good pitch about how good Jon Hopkins is and he was that good that we left efter three songs after the very same journalist wanted more beer than watch Jon Hopkins. After too many beers for Drefvets people they went back to their tent just when Shame started – and missed the gig of the year.

I hadn’t been to a Shame gig before. When they played Hamburg we were supposed to have an interview and go the their show but for some stupid reason we picked another band instead and missed out some great performers on stage. Singer Charlie Steen is one of a kind, a modern Johnny Rotten with that British kind of cockiness that you see once every decade, spitting out his prophecies while pointing at people in the crowd. People around got weird and crazy when the played “The Lick” but nothing can be compared to “Concrete” which ended up in Steen jumping out in the crowd for a few minutes of surfing while singing laying on his back. Shame is one of those bands you would not like to miss out, just keep that in mind for the future wherever they turn up on stage.

Thursday, or actually Friday morning, reached 02:30 and I was supposed to go to Spleen United to end the day but there was no energy left and the rain took me all the way back to the tent.

 

About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.

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