The Top Eleven Reasons the Roskilde Festival is the Best Music Festival Ever
Attending the Roskilde Festival in Denmark was literally a life-changing experience as I’ve been writing about over the past couple of weeks, and I use “literally” in the true sense of the word, not the way some people say, “OMG, I’m literally dying with laughter right now.”
To convince Americans that it’s absolutely worth every cent to take the trip over to Denmark next summer, I’ve compiled a list of the Top Ten Reasons the Roskilde Festival is the Best Festival Ever! In no particular order:
Set Length / Set Times
Every band plays for at least one hour. Yes, really; even the smaller bands have to dig deep to come up with an hour’s worth of music ensuring you get your fill of every band rather than feeling like you only got a taste, and preventing you from having to run from one stage to the next only to hear the lead singer yell “Thank you, goodnight!” Speaking of which: the schedule is staggered such that you rarely if ever have to choose between seeing one band and seeing another. Lengthy breaks are built into each stage’s schedule, meaning you’ve got plenty of time to catch a good chunk of every band’s set if you so desire. The scheduling is designed with true music fans in mind.
It’s been said elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating: one of the greatest things about Roskilde is that it’s not just a metal festival although there are plenty of metal bands. American festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella have taken a gamble with a small number of select metal acts recently, but Roskilde books enough metal so that, if you wanted, you could be watching a metal band at almost any time over the course of the festival’s four main days. But the best part is that there’s so much else to see: indie, alternative, hip hop, techno, folk, pop, you name it. If you’re a metalhead attending Roskilde and all you see is metal bands, you’re doing it wrong. Live a little, find something new, see something outside the box. Most of us listen to more than just metal anyway.
Hundreds of food vendors are scattered throughout the Roskilde grounds, and we’re not talking the typical mass-produced festival crap: everything from simple hamburgers and hot dogs to Pad Thai, Swedish meatballs, burritos, gourmet sandwiches, a nice sit-down brunch, chopped pork sandwiches, reindeer stew (!), sushi, fresh strawberries… everything. Every food vendor is required to use at least 30% organic ingredients and have at least one vegetarian option. All at reasonable prices, too.
Roskilde keeps only 60 full-time staff members but counts on a volunteer work force of 30,000 (not a typo) to keep the festival running smoothly. Everything from PR, to wrist-band checking, to handing out water, to bouncers, to stage hands, to cleaning crews and so much more is handled by volunteers who have to fulfill a certain number of work hours in exchange for a free festival ticket. What’s even more amazing is that is actually works: remarkably everyone knows what they’re doing and can answer any questions you may have. The logistics of organizing such a huge work force are absolutely mind-boggling.
They are their own breed of perfect DNA that is superior to whatever you and I are made of. They’re almost universally blonde (the stereotype of Scandinavians is true!) or at the very least light brown, tall and strong. American guys will constantly find themselves in awe of all the gorgeous women and American girls will be fawning at the feet of strapping, handsome Danish men. Control yourselves! Surface stereotyping aside, the Danish people, on the whole, are an incredibly friendly and genuine bunch; we enjoyed talking with everyone we met. Also: they all speak fluent English.
We noticed a general lack of drunken douchebags at Roskilde. You’d think a gathering of 100,000 music fans camped out in the countryside with ready access to unlimited beer and booze would result in rowdy behavior, fights, theft, and general douchebaggery, but we saw nothing of the sort. Rest assured, Danes absolutely know how to party, but they seem to hold those rare traits that seem to elude American festival-goers: restraint and moderation.
Groups of people carry around flags of all kinds attached to tall poles lofted high above the crowd, meaning it’s always easy to spot your friends in a sea of thousands of people. Genius. Some attach simple country flags while some go all out and make theirs from scratch, or they attach stuffed animals or inflatable objects. Flag-watching is a fun activity to pass the time while you’re taking a rest between bands, too.
It flows like water and it’s absolutely everywhere. Plus you feel like Captain Picard because you’re drinking something called “Tuborg.”
A mundane but incredibly important detail: urinals are friggin’ everywhere. Mini-urinals are tied up to trees, four-sided standing pissers seemingly grow in groves, troughs line the festival walls, and, if needed, proper port-o-potties are easy to find ensuring you’ll never have to travel far or miss more than a couple of minutes of a set just because you drank some beer. There are even several trailers with proper stalls and running water scattered throughout the fairgrounds for when you need a little more privacy, and, miraculously, they’re kept pretty clean. True innovation on the festival front!
Roskilde takes place during the first week of July — less than two weeks after the Summer Solstice at roughly the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska — meaning it’s light out for friggin’ ever. Complete darkness doesn’t descend until after 11pm and the first hint of light creeps over the horizon around 3:30am making for some very long days. Danes take it for granted, but the near-never-ending light is absolutely magical if you’re not used to it. Subsequently, staying awake until the sun comes up really doesn’t feel like as big of an accomplishment as it usually does, but it’s still so awesome. Twilight lasts for hours though, which is kinda weird.
The Orange Feeling
It’s the atmosphere. A special feeling. The volunteers all working in unison, the bands, the environment, the setup, 100,000 people completely on the same vibe, all in it together. A pretty remarkable thing.
Watch this video report from Metal Injection for video coverage of Roskilde.