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Vince Went To the Roskilde Festival in Denmark and Lived to Tell the Tale

Roskilde Festival onlookers
Roskilde Festival onlookers

How do you sum up a four-day, nine-stage, one-hundred-some-odd band festival into one tidy recap? After struggling mightily to find the words to capture the incredible feeling and atmosphere of the Roskilde Festival in Denmark last week I’m throwing caution to the wind and just going for it: you’re all getting multiple posts. Deal with it! I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

To start: the festival is HUGE. It takes place about half an hour west of Copenhagen by train at a sprawling fairgrounds in the city of Roskilde. The festival’s nine stages are scattered across several fields, hundreds of food vendors of all kinds dot the landscape and the tents that fill up the campgrounds — which the vast majority of the festival’s 100,000+ attendees call home for up to 9 days, including the festival’s five “warm up” days — disappear into the horizon in all directions as far as the eye can see. I have never witnessed any event so big in my entire life.

Roskilde is not a metal festival, although a good number of metal bands play every year; two of this year’s headliners were metal (Slipknot and Metallica), while I also enjoyed sets by Kvelertak, Goatwhore, Anaal Nathrakh, Devin Townsend, Suicidal Tendencies, Hatebreed and more. Variety is the name of the game, though: in addition to up-and-coming acts like Of Monsters and Men, Jake Bugg and The Lumineers, I saw a mega pop-star (Rihanna) and inspiring sets by legendary lap-steel guitar player David Lindley and Bronx-bred female rapper Angel Haze. I stumbled upon a show by Swedish electro-pop rockers Wintergatan that sent shivers down my spine and literally brought me to tears within the course of just the final 1.5 songs of their set that I happened to catch. If you leave Roskilde without having discovered a new favorite, you’re doing it wrong. And with every single act playing a set at least one hour in length — and expert stage staggering to ensure you never have to make difficult decisions — it’s not a challenge to see every band you want to see as long as you’ve got a good pair of walking shoes.

Lastly, the atmosphere: it’s all good times, but without the douchebaggery and drunken party animal vibe that seem to plague American festivals, both destination and touring. Don’t get me wrong, the Danes party, but they seem to know how to do so with a welcomed dose of moderation. The festival’s 30,000 volunteer workers (!!!) are there because they want to be, augmenting the festival’s mere 40-60 person permanent work force to make sure everything runs smoothly, from getting the bands in and out, handing out water to overheated concertgoers, giving directions, taking care of press folk like us and much more. It’s really quite remarkable that any event of such great magnitude can run almost entirely on volunteer time, yet it’s true, and it’s been that way for the 40+ years of Roskilde’s existence.

So that’s the picture. I’ll be following in the coming days with some personal highlights, my own photos, and some pro-shot footage from Roskilde’s website. For now, enjoy this footage of Anaal Nathrakh slaying the Pavillion stage on Saturday:

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