Roskilde Denmark June 24-29, 2003

by Scott Heller

Uploaded to Aural Innovations: January 2004

Roskilde Festival 2003 (June 24th-29th)

Another year, another festival. A chance to meet up with good friends for 4 or 5 days of music, sun (we hope), beer and usually rain! This year I was planning to camp out for the whole 4 days. I picked up Jesper and Marie and we drove out to the site on Thursday afternoon. It was a heavy walk with all our stuff to the camp site that Jesper and Kai had set up earlier in the week. We were in the same great spot as last year. We had a beer and relaxed before heading over to eat a meal (Kai, Susan and myself) before seeing Baby Woodrose, who were opening the Orange Stage (the big one!). I made a quick stop over to catch a few minutes of the Polyphonic Spree, a bizarre huge band from Texas. There were 28 people on the stage all dressed in white robes and playing with all kinds of instruments (harp, piano, string instruments, drums, etc) and a lot of singers. It was like 21st century rock opera stuff. The crowd really dug it!

I got up in the front section for Baby Woodrose and besides seeing people I knew, including Guf's father, there were a lot of Metallica fans already up here waiting for Metallica, who would not hit the stage for 5 more hours! I was a bit worried that they would really hate Baby Woodrose and cause a problem but they didn't. The band open with a long intro I had never heard before and start with Honeydripper. Guf is looking great and enjoying himself. Anders is dressed up like a cheerleader and I am guessing those who don't know him will think the band has a female bass player! Anders rocks on the drums as well! The band play a great set and basically get no reaction from the Metallica fans until the middle of the set when they play the heavy song, A Child of a few hours is burning to Death by West Coast Pop Art Experimental band. Great cover version! The band have a few guests as well (Theremin). Timo plays some organ on Money for Soul and everything's gonna be alright. Great set and the crowd were really into it!

I quickly run over to catch Massacre with Bill Laswell and Fred Frith. This is some very far out stuff. A deep dub trance freakout. The drummer is amazing as well and they play very complex free form stuff. Only a few hundred people show up for this one. Fred Frith was sitting on a stool surrounded by like 15 pedals in a half moon. Wild! The band only played two 25 minute songs and came back for an encore of 2 minutes of crazy madness! I am having a bit trouble breathing so head back to the tent for a rest and my inhaler and a Claritin. A tough decision was next. See Metallica or Salif Keita from Mali. I rest and pick Metallica.

I was not sure what to expect from Metallica. I did not care for their new CD or the last time I saw them live. I found a place in the back bleachers and could see the band on the large screen and the sound was not so deafening back here. The band opened with a Clint Eastwood film soundtrack and right into Battery>Master of Puppets and Harvester of Sorrow. No fucking around here... hard and heavy old school Metallica. The crowd were nuts! The band were asked by security to get people to move back as it was getting too crazy in the front barrier section. After a short pause, back with Welcome Home, a new song and No Remorse and Seek and Destroy from the first record. I saw them on that tour in 1983! Amazing stuff. St. Anger was next and damn this song really needs a guitar solo! Sad but True, Blackened, Nothing else Matters, Ride the Lightning, Damage Inc. and One. A pretty killer set of high intensity Metallica and the crowd loved it. I am happy to hear the band can still deliver the goods like in the old days. I was impressed. It was just like seeing them back in 1985! I head back to the tent to try to sleep as it will be a long day.

Day 2

No sleep or very little until 7 in the morning when the party in our camp area finally ends. I sleep until 10. Wow... what a party I missed, 2 bottles of whiskey, rum, vodka, Jegermeister, and lots of Beers. Jesper is really out of it this morning from the party (see picture). It is going to be warm and dry today which is bad for my allergies but better than cold and wet. I am off to the Ballroom area to get some food. On the way there is a really cool Mime play with 4 men. I also pass this really cool light tube that they project images on and it looks really trippy at night. It is called the foot in the sky. The Ballroom looks fantastic this year with a nice wooden floor and great colourful boards outside with ethnic themes.

There are a lot of people here at 12 for the Norwegian band, Gate. A very old Norwegian national hero fiddler, Knuld opened with one song. He got massive applause from the now full tent. After a few minutes of opening music, the band comes on and the tent just erupts! Amazing to see people so wild. The Norwegian people really come out and support their bands. The band have fiddle/keyboard, female vocals, bass, drums and guitar. The Bass and guitar players look like Goths, the fiddle-keyboard player a punk, the drummer normal and the female singer in a fantastic long gown. She sings in Norwegian and in a very operatic style. The music is not very folky at all and rather a very heavy Goth guitar. It is quite a strange mix but the crowd loved it. I was a bit mixed but the last few songs were really excellent. Knuld comes out for the last song and the crowd goes nuts again. Fun stuff.

I am now off to hear the Asian Dub Foundation in the Green Tent. I did not really get into the Asian Rap mixture so after 20 minutes I head back to the camp for a little bit. Lots of beer drinking and joints going around now. After some chatting and resting my legs, I head back to the Green Tent to catch Bill Laswell and Material. I am surprised at how few people are at the show. The tent holds like 20,000 and maybe there are 1000 here. It was quite a strange set of music, some great, some boring. The set was quite short like 45 minutes but some of the drumming and bass playing was excellent and the black female vocalist was fantastic! Soon the Green Tent was transformed into pure madness with 25,000 packed in for Turbonegro. I was lucky to get a decent place in the front section and it was not too crowded. I have never really heard this band but read and seen a lot about them. I had no idea they were this popular. They should have been on the orange as I can't imagine that the Danish band Kashmir would have more people than this. Anyway, I would say these guys really deliver the goods and the front singer, despite begin quite fat and gross and not wearing a shirt, is a great front man and says really funny stuff in Norwegian to the audience (I can understand some of it). Funny lyrics, hard driving songs, lots of guitar solos and everyone singing a long! The rhythm guitar player plays nearly the same chords on every song as I watch while the lead guitar player makes the songs a bit different but not much. Fun band!

Now I am resting and waiting for Iron Maiden, a band that I have seen many times including here back in 2000. I made the mistake of not getting up in the front section and am now paying for it as I am being squished and crushed and moved all over for the first 30 minutes of the show before things settle down but in the end I have a decent view of the stage from the left side and a great view of the screen covering the left speaker stack. I am just happy to see all these young people who are so into this band from 20 years ago and singing all the words and knowing these songs. I saw the band back in 1981 and some of these Swedish kids around me were not even born or were still in diapers. Anyway, Iron Maiden kicked ass. I am so impressed every time and I enjoyed the hell out of it! We got a different mixture of the classics like 22 Acacia Ave, Die with your Boots on, Clairvoyant, Heaven Can Wait, etc... as well as the Clansman and Wicker man from more recent records and even a brand new unreleased song and Bruce gave a funny speech about bootleggers and people recording the show etc. and they were cool with it but they just ask that if you like the new songs that you buy the record and support the band. He does not care about downloading, etc... but the true fans will support the band and buy the real CD. That is all he asks. Killer show.

I now head off to catch what I can of the old NYC techno band from the 70's called Suicide. Man, these guys are really cool and I just sit down on the grass (it is dark now) and relax with a beer and check them out. They are really strange guys and it is hard to describe but it is like beat poetry on top of primitive repetitive beats and sounds.

Ok, up next at 12:30am was the Norwegian band, Cato Salsa Experience. Another cool band from Norway. I had heard their one CD, A good tip for a Good time, a few years back and it was pretty cool. I don't know if it was the vibe of the small Pavilion tent, the people, the mood I was in, but these guys rocked my world. I was feeling a little high, had just been entranced by the electronic trance strangeness of Suicide. Anyway, it was like the energy of old Grand Funk mixed with the WHO and MC5. That is the way I felt while they played. Incredible guitar and bass riffs, heavy and catchy, just fucking cool. A great 65 minute set. I was blown away. The best band of the festival so far, I would say.

Yes... even more music. Back over to the Odeon, where Fushitsusha was setting up after Suicide had played. This was part of what was called the Wire's Adventures in Modern music. Earlier, Mike Ladd, and Squarepusher had performed (I was seeing Iron Maiden). Anyway, it was near 2 in the morning and I had started at 12 noon seeing Gate, so I was dead tired but I wanted to hear some of this. I sat on the ground at the back of the tent as the bass rumble started. Damn it was loud and deep and rumbled my insides and I was feeling ill, so I had to stand up and the bass was not so intense but damn, when Keiji started to play through the 4 cabinets and table full of effects he had, it was pure sonic assault of one I had never experience in my life. I am not sure how the 300 people in the tent could handle it but I was totally tripping out. Is this music or what? I don't know. I lasted about 1 hr and it was now 3 and starting to lighten up a little and only 100 people were left. I could see he was going to do one more noisescape but I simply could handle no more music today. I was off back to the camp. Could see and hear that Kaisers Orchestra, that started at 2, were still playing but no way was I going there. It was totally packed in the green tent. Everyone was asleep and I would say missed the most intense music of the festival.

Day 3

Everyone in the camp is up early today as they partied hard the night before, so I come in late and I can't sleep in at all. Life is not fair. I slept for 4 hours at the most and really needed a shower. The hot ones cost 20kr and the cold ones are outdoors and free. I learn a bit more about the differences between the Danes, Swedes and Norwegians every year. For the Danes, Roskilde Festival is the biggest party in the world. Music comes second. The Swedes and Norwegians are more into the music and the party is second. It is also a huge party for them as well. When you go see the Swedish and Norwegian bands, the crowds are intense. The Danes just don't have that enthusiasm for the music.

I feel refreshed now and head over and get a kebab lunch and go relax at the electronic music tent outside and listen to Xploding Plastic from Norway. It is just an amazing sunny day. These guys are pretty cool. A bass player, massive percussion set up and two guys with laptop computers with samplers. It is pretty chill out, floating dreamy music. After a while they became a bit too mainstream pop sounding for my taste and not as spacy so I left. A band like this is best at night with some spaced out visuals etc.

You really see everything here. A guy who looks straight out of the Mad Max films came by picking up cups, which you can return for cash. Now a cool parade of people in costumes goes by. They have a dragon, an alien and a monstrous fly! So many interesting people and everyone is totally free to express themselves. No police in sight to bring the vibe down. The only thing not acceptable here is violence and fighting. They have lots of cool strange bars set up to have drinks, all kinds of food and clothes sellers, drums, jewellery, hats, etc. It is fantastic weather today and a few clouds are moving in. I head over to the Green Tent now as De La Soul are ending and the Melvins will begin.

I love the Melvins. I saw them a few times in the late 80s and that slow heavy drudge is so cool. Well, not nearly as many people as De la Soul but who would expect that anyway. Melvins open with a long feedback infested first number before more heavy riffing tunes are played. So heavy and Sabbath laden sludge. The people really dig it. Heavy, thick, feedback rock and roll Melvins style! A very unique band. This stage was too big for the Melvins and they would have been better in the smaller tent. They don't say anything to the audience the whole show. Great drummer. Phew.

I go to get a drink and run into the guitar player from Cato Salsa Experience. He says they have a new CD coming out very soon and that MTV filmed the show last night so to look out for the broadcast! Ok, I am back to the Green Tent to see Mike Patton from Faith No More's new band, Tomahawk. A larger crowd than the Melvins had is gathering now. It is cooling off now as the clouds have moved in. The Tomahawk set was about one hour and some of it was pretty cool and some of it was too much the same. Mike Patton is for sure an intense performer had a DJ station (Roland) set up that he had samples and multiple microphones with different effects on them. You could not hear some of his vocals that well at times. It was the same bass player as in the Melvins plus a guitarist and drummer. Experimental Rock is how I could best describe it.

Now it was over to the Orange Stage for Fu Manchu. I was really looking forward to this even though their latest studio CD, California Crossing, was pretty weak. I met up with a lot of my friends and ended up hanging out with Torben from Magnified Eye right up in the front section. Well, they totally delivered the goods. It was a great set with a lot of the classics like Mongoose, King of the Road, Eatin' Dust, Godzilla and Evil Eye. There were a lot of Swedish fans up here in the front and not very many Danes at all. A strong hour long set that ended with a great spaced version of Saturn 3, one of my favourite songs ever by these guys.

Now, I head over to the Ballroom and relax with a beer and put my feet up as they set up for the Nigerian, Tony Allen. He was the lead drummer in Fela Kuti's bands from the late 60's so has a long history in the afrobeat field. Last year I was totally blown away by the Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. The DJ is playing an amazing mixture of mideastern techno and afrobeat stuff. The band starts at 21:30 and plays for about 1 1/2 hrs. It was really great stuff with great playing by all the musicians and the keyboard player even got a bit spaced out at times. I was a bit annoyed by this hip hop rapper guy who they had come up for about a third of the show. The crowd enjoyed singing along with this guy but for me he was just a distraction. Another distraction was also they had moved the ballroom tent from across the railroad tracks down next to the techno tent and you could hear the techno bass all the time even when the bands were playing in the ballroom tent. This annoyed the artists and the fans and I pray they change this as it was really a stupid idea. Great set.

Now I have a bit of time to relax and have a beer before the space rock band Salvatore from Norway play at Midnight. It was cool to see these guys set up. Two drummers, two bass players, two guitarists and a sound controller. I was totally tired but somehow primed to see these guys. I had never heard them before. They started off really slow and tranced out and it slowly built up. Space Trance music. I was totally mesmerized by them and just closed my eyes. No guitar solos, it was the bass player that was making all the cool sounds with delay, phazer, e-bow, etc. Somehow it seemed like the sound controller guy was mixing what the bass player was doing in the sound. They needed a visual show to complete the event. It was great entrancing stuff the way the two drummers and two guitar players worked together. Amazing, the best band of the day!

I was dead tired now but saw a little bit of Maallem Mokhatar Gania and they were really cool. They were from Morocco and all dressed up in costumes and wearing bells and had all kinds of drums and stuff. Very tranced out rhythm stuff. Bill Laswell was coming out to play with them at 2 but I was too tired to wait and went back to the tent at 2.

Day 4

Damn. not much sleep again and people are up early at 7 nearby playing soccer. I am really really tired and go take another shower. We will pack up the car before the music today and plan to head home after Queens of the Stone Age at 19:30. On Sunday they sell one day tickets and anyone over 50 can come in for free. Pretty cool! Anyway, my friend Magnus (Mantric Muse) and his Norwegian girlfriend meet up with me after Jesper and I pack up the car. We get some food and a beer and head over to catch Radioaxiom with Bill Laswell and Jah Wobble in the Ballroom tent. It was raining just a tiny bit now and this was the first rain the whole festival, which is quite unusual but welcome. This was very far out experimental music. It was not world music in anyway. They had two bass players, a great drummer and Jah Wobble who mixed 45rpm records and made weird sounds. They had a female vocalist on the first and last pieces of music. Bill Laswell played really cool bass on their last song of the set. Very strange stuff these guys do.

Now it is time for the Swedish band the Hellacopters. I saw them here back in 2000. They are always rocking out big time. The crowd is really into them and quite a large crowd has gathered. The second song of their set had a great dual lead guitar part. I was for some reason not really into them today. I think they mostly suffer from playing songs that are all nearly the same speed and can start to all sound the same to me. I just chill out on the grass now as Queens of the Stone Age set up. The front section is totally packed with Swedes. This band is not that well known in Denmark and has played many more concerts in Sweden and Norway than here. The people are pretty mellow and subdued today after a week of partying. The band come out and have this we're pretty damn high, squinty eyes, smiling, yeah, we are on drugs and enjoying life and are going to rock our brains out, is that ok with you look? They play a fast and furious set of all their hits. Mark Laneghan looks like he had lost a lot of weight and someone had pushed his eyes in. He sings really great though. The drummer is the amazing superstar of this band in my eyes. The guy really pounds the shit out of his drums and rocks like hell. I am a bit disappointed. We got the Monster in a parasol, No One knows, and the other hits as well. There was only one song with a long guitar solo. I expect more from a band like this these guys. The crowd loved them. I meet up with Jesper and Marie and we go over to see Bonnie Prince Billy, American folk artists. Some of it was really great and some quite boring but extremely varied from country music, blues, and folk love songs to swamp boogie. They had two guitar players, drums, bass and a female accordion player. They all sang back up vocals. The crowd totally loved him and he seemed to be really blown away by the response of the people. We could stay and hear Bjork, from Iceland, who was starting to play now and would be the last big act of the festival but we head to the car and go home. An amazing festival this year and one of the best I have ever been to. I just wish I could figure out a way to sleep some more.

For more information on the annual Roskilde Festival you can visit the official web site at:

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