Roskilde Festival 2009, day 1 (in English)

I skipped the Thursday of Roskilde Festival, arriving just in time for the reunited Faith No More on the Orange Stage on Friday. Disappointingly plagued by keyboard trouble (apparently a Macbook/software synth setup) they delivered all the raw energy and quirky inventiveness that made them one of my favourite bands in the nineties. Knowing most of the songs by heart (from hit singles like “Midlife Crisis” to rarities like the brilliant “Surprise – You’re Dead”) I had a great time. But I couldn’t help wondering whether these strange and sometimes complex compositions made much sense to a newcomer.

Staying to the end of the show, I missed all but the last few minutes of Friendly Fires, who apparently had whipped the Odeon stage into a techno rock frenzy. Maybe next time.

I don’t know what it is about Roskilde Festival and Nick Cave – but the line for the pit for his show on Orange Stage was the longest I’ve seen so far. On a bright sunny summer’s day, the band opened with the dark, foreboding “Tupelo” and played a rough, rocking set, including a fittingly shambolic version of “We Call Upon the Author” (my favourite track from their latest album) – with Warren Ellis doing his inimitable “Rasputin-crawling-around-on-the-floor” act.

On the Cosmopol stage, Bavarian Labrassbanda made the entire crowd dance with their irresistible brass-based fun. A brass trio backed by rocking drums and bass, they delivered a highly entertaining mix of Balkan brass music, Mexican mariachi, Bavarian Blaskapelle and God knows what else. This is the kind of band that makes you want to throw a party just so you could hire them to come and play!

I’m not sure what to think of The Mars Volta. Yes, they do a convincing recreation of 70es-style psychedelia, but do they actually add any personality of their own to the mix? Anything that makes it more than pure revival? Except of course for today’s skilled musicianship.

Only caught a few songs of Norwegian rockers Skambankt (whose brilliant name translates to something close to “Beaten to a Pulp”). Often hailed as “punk”, they in fact combine several species of hard rock – I heard distinct echoes of the American south – and enough melody to spark a rowdy singalong.

Oasis seem to be (still) very popular in Denmark – drawing the kind of crowd in front of Orange Stage that  causes claustrophobia to detract from my enjoyment of the music. And anyway, I found myself wishing that all those great songs had been written by a more interesting band. Maybe they aren’t really a stadium rock band after all – maybe the experience would have been better in a more intimate venue?

Dancehall diva from space Grace Jones seems so rooted in the decadent 80es that a comeback might be considered risky business. But with her sense of humour, a far from embarassing comeback album, a truly groovy band and her (often underrated) voice still intact, she just blew the audience away.

Although they seem to be slightly overlooked in Denmark, I think Nine Inch Nails is one of the most interesting rock bands around today. And their show on Orange Stage was a case in point. To call this sound “metal” is meaningless, and while it does incorporate the grinding noise of that strange beast “industrial”, they’re in a league of their own: Their unique blend of electronics and rock instrumentation creates soundscapes that are dynamic – at times explosive – and always frighteningly disciplined. And while most metal acts decry the horror and injustice of the world around them, Trent Reznor’s lyrics explore the dark and self-destructive workings of the human mind: “It wont give up/It wants me dead/Goddamn this noise inside my head”. A chilling performance, yet infused with the beauty and energy that lifts you up.

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