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Things Learned At: Roskilde
Declan Tan , July 16th, 2017 11:25

On a small Danish island at a big Danish festival, Declan Tan realises the value of moshing and the horror of bants. Photo by Krists Luhaers.

Big on hygge, friendly faces and massive bands, Roskilde has developed into one of Europe’s slicker festival experiences - but they also know as much as the next farmer about how to put on a proper rave in rain-sodden field. Between Foo Fighters and Warpaint, we learned a few things this year at Denmark's Glastonbury.

The 'Seven Nation Army' riff is still going strong in Denmark too

This chant was everywhere at Roskilde, although (except for the single 'Ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn' that I witnessed from a fellow Brit) it was in the 'original' baaah-bah-bah-bah-BAAAAH-bah version. The Danes don't generally give a Tuborg who Jeremy Corbyn is, but that's not to say Roskilde is apolitical. It went non-profit in 1972 (one year after its inception) and has since donated more than €43m to humanitarian, cultural and non-profit projects around the world.

Warpaint need a bigger 'New Song' for the Arena Stage

Warpaint play at 6pm on the Wednesday, so it's not surprising that they pull a small crowd compared to Solange, Halsey, Lorde or The Jesus & Mary Chain over the next few days - but I see more people in the Flæskesteg sandwich queue. The set’s high point is 'New Song' but its jangly indie-thump doesn't quite fill the tent. The band cycle through singles including 'Undertow' and 'Disco//Very' looking and sounding somewhat subdued. They’ve got a busy summer ahead, so maybe they're just starting off slow, or maybe they're just way crispier prospects on record.

We don't want bants, we want tunes

Ice Cube storms the main stage on Saturday evening, starting out brash and brilliant with three N.W.A classics ('Straight Outta Compton', 'Gangsta Gangsta', 'Fuck Tha Police') and rounding off on a high with 'It Was A Good Day' and 'Good Cop Bad Cop'. But the set is overburdened with corny bants, including a false finish on 'No Vaseline' and chat about how he definitely doesn’t want to have dinner with Trump. Sad!

By contrast, Justice mainline hit after hit and make the lasting party memories, with a bass-to-make-you-wet-yourself headline set on the Orange Stage. They peak with a mighty 'We Are Your Friends'/'Chorus'/'Audio, Video, Disco' finale and someone next to me, staggering blissful out of the crowd, repeats simply: “Life-changing... life-changing... life-changing...”

Sometimes a comeback is inevitable, even when you've been dead 190 years

2017’s Roskilde would become a year of prodigal returns - literally (kind of), as Nas, backed by DJ Green Lantern and drummer/vocalist Eddie Cole, drops Prodigy’s 'Shook Ones Pt II' during a polished stage show in which he prefaces each beat-drop with a slyly related anecdote or winking aphorism. But it turns out Mobb Deep’s Prodigy isn’t the only fallen soldier to whom Nasir Jones will pay tribute this night: Bob Marley and Michael Jackson ('Human Nature'/'It Ain’t Hard to Tell') get special nods and eerie backdrops, and so does Ludwig van B. “Beethoven is hip-hop,” proclaims Jones, air-conducting the 'Für Elise' opener to 'I Can' before Green Lantern slips us the beat. This is old-school anthemic hip-hop that works on a major scale, Jones’ flow perfected for this energetic, rap-along crowd.

You can never have too many pop queens

The idea that there’s limited space for solo pop vocalists or a single ‘pop queen’ here is well and truly put to rest with the arrival of Sigrid and followed by Lorde and Halsey, who all smack it out of the marquee. Jenny Hval too brings a provocative style of spoken word to a performance assisted by some disenfranchised, dejected selfie-taking dancers, in what from a distance looks like a slow-motion stage invasion that drifts into ennui.

Moshing is still fun

I skip Solange in favour of south London grime crew 67. Turns out this happens as ASAP, Dimzy, Monkey, LD, SJ and Liquez succeed in organising their biggest mosh pit to date. It’s familiar scenes over at Gucci Mane, making his first-ever appearance in Europe - the organisers have to pause the show halfway to pick teens out of the rafters for a telling-off. The moshing resumes and I see a gasping child pulled from the wreckage.

Arcade Fire are a great way to end a festival

Arcade Fire, clearing the dark skies on Saturday night, bring the brightest bombast of the festival, with tracks from their new album Everything Now transitioning into a best of Reflektor in a joyful non-stop juggernaut of a show. Then Win Butler disappears below stage - leaps into the pit, last seen banging a drum - and eventually reappears for an unauthorised post-curfew encore of 'Neon Bible' to close this beast of a one-and-a-half-hour set.