Photo Credit: Getty/Roskilde Press
The post-festival discussions about the 50th edition of Scandinavia’s biggest festival have mainly dealt with the Strokes’ reportedly awful performance. I, who ended up at the festival thanks to a fortunate coincidence, had to travel back home before the Strokes, and instead of going on about Julien Casablanca’s awkward dialogues for another concert review, I will spend this article reviewing ten groups that I had to pleasure (or not) to enjoy live.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “It Gets Dark”
“Should I speak Norwegian or English?” Sigrid Raabe asks the crowd during the beginning of her 4 pm set. “Norwegian!” the crowd cheered. She’s not far away from home here in Roskilde, Denmark’s tenth largest city. There is a relatively large crowd in the tent arena seduced by Sigrid’s unpretentious, down-to-earth personality and charming smile. She seems to have a great time up there, and her audience is well prepared for the big hits. Sigrid’s most apparent problem remains her material. Her best songs, especially the set-opening “It Gets Dark” are excellent, but it gets a bit heavy on piano ballads in the middle of the set, as the audience keeps longing for the next sugar punch to sing along to. But her singing is excellent most of the time, and because she never tries to be anything more than a pop singer doing what she loves most, the performance is a blast.
Megan Thee Stallion
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “Body”
I admit that I’m too square for some of Megan’s naughtiest material, and while screaming the lyrics to “WAP” or “Body” is plenty of fun with your friends at a party, doing so felt less suitable for me as a 24-year-old white man surrounded by a group of teenage girls. But anyone thinking Meg is a “bad influence” on young people should experience her live. This is an empowerment show aimed specifically at teenage girls, and Megan is their example of big boss energy. And if you don’t like her message, the bass will kill any insecurities you’re hiding inside. In fact, the bass was so loud it even killed one of the speakers towards the end, which eventually also killed the mood a little. Not to mention Megan, who suddenly seemed to think the technicians shouldn’t take her empowering speeches all that personal.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “Physical”
“I wonder what it feels like to be her,” I ask myself as Dua Lipa enters the big orange stage in front of a reported 115,000 stunned fans. She belongs to the artists who seem genuinely happy to be at Roskilde, and she would later thank them on her Instagram account. Dressed in an emerald green dress and surrounded by her excellent dancers, she was treated like the pop princess she is throughout the show. The crowd sang in her command as her dancers lifted her up like a queen on a pedestal. Her singing was on point throughout, from the opening “Physical” to the showstopping “Don’t Start Now.” Sure, her songs aren’t the most technically demanding to sing, and the performance never offered any surprises, but I just can’t imagine how a pop show could be better than this.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “I Know The End”
Since Phoebe wrote arguably the greatest showstopper of all time with “I Know The End”, she knows her real fans will stay until the end of her set. Therefore, she is brave enough to open with her most famous songs. “Motion Sickness” is followed by “Kyoto”, followed by the mellow “Garden Song.” Everyone in the crowd knows every word, at least near the front. “It’s crazy to be so far away from home seeing all of your faces,” she’s telling us and looks quite touched. Together with her famously skeleton-dressed band, she’s playing most of the songs from Punisher with an emphasis on the faster material – both “Chinese Satellite” and “ICU” sounds excellent. Only during the recently released “Sidelines” and a “specially requested” Boygenius song, people were unsure about the lyrics and remained quiet. And yes, rampantly screaming together with Phoebe, the band, and the rest of the crowd was every bit as cathartic and satisfying as I could have imagined.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “Ben Franklin”
Struggling with the tuning throughout the performance, Snail Mail never quite got into their zone at Roskilde. The atmosphere between the sound engineers and the band members seemed to get worse as the show progressed, and towards the end, Lindsey Jordan seemed to give up and opened a beer. Honestly, in my ears, it sounded okay. And if Snail Mail would’ve been making the best of the situation rather than poisoning the stage with negative energy, I would have left the tent feeling less like watching my high school girlfriend fighting with her parents.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “Introvert” & “I Love You, I Hate You”
Neither the cold, Scandinavian summer rain nor the fact that headliner Tyler, the Creator was scheduled right after her slot could stop Little Simz’ set from being the finest hip-hop set at the Roskilde Festival by far. People were running towards the Avalon tent as they heard the intro to “Introvert” and by the time the Afrobeat-influenced “Point and Kill” and “Fear No Man” appeared towards the second half of the set, the soaked and freezingly cold grass lawn was filled with people of all ages dancing and singing next to each other. The London-rapper held our hands on her introspective journey where every singled word counted. None left early for Tyler, the Creator and I got a cold that would last for two weeks, which was absolutely worth it.
Tyler, the Creator
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “NEW MAGIC WAND”
“Hello Copenhagen,” the L.A. rapper and festival headliner said as he opened his set on the orange stage, being met with booing and corrections. Guess the Roskilde-natives weren’t all that happy about being involuntarily unified with the Danish capital. He opened his set with the energic intro streak of CALL MY IF YOU GET LOST, but he had nearly even started before he let the audience fill in his words, and this abomination continued throughout the show to an almost ridiculous extent, as he nearly didn’t rap anything during “EARFQUAKE.” Fun for the ones up-front, but at the band and in the middle, it was almost completely silent at times. Awkward. But just as I started to cringe quite badly, he sat down and performed an acapella version of the previously mentioned soul-infused hip-hop banger, and from then he ended the set on a high note with “NEW MAGIC WAND” and a few more danceable tracks, including “SWEET / I THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO DANCE.” And yeah, a final “thank you Copenhagen.”
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “As We Go Up, We Go Down” & “Anti-Glory”
Performing on the smallest stage of the entire festival inside a barn, this noise rock trio from Chicago consisting of three 18-year-olds opened their performance by proclaiming that “we’ve never been playing a set this late before.” But these girls know what they’re doing. In fact, their set was a hidden gem that should have granted them at least a handful of new fans. That the crowd consisted mainly of middle-aged men who probably expected just another Sonic Youth cover band didn’t matter. Who would have thought they would go for Guided by Voices’ “As We Go Up We Go Down” when Nora Cheng told us they would perform a cover? And who would have thought it would be ten times better than the original? I hope college won’t tear them apart – this band could go places.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!” & “Peter Bogdanovich”
With a slot time at 12:30 am on the final day of the festival, Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson didn’t seem bothered by the relatively weak attendance, rather surprised that anyone showed up at all. “Where we’re coming from, people won’t show up until after 8 pm,” she claimed and referred to her native Ireland. The tragicomical humor and hilarious emotional outbursts of her debut album, If My Wife Knew I’d Be Dead released earlier in 2022, is brilliantly captured live. Comments like “Here’s another song that sounds like the previous one,” and “I’m not the best songwriter in the world, but I know what I’m doing,” suggest that CMAT refuses to take her life as a “global pop star” (as she jokingly claims in her Spotify bio) too serious. She’s using the entire stage – bandmates included – as a tool, crawling around on the floor and dancing with her all-male workforce. She ended the show with “I Wanna Be a Cowboy, Baby!” and by then there was not a single person in the audience not entertained. And oh yes, the music was excellent too.
BEST PERFORMANCE(S): “Fear the Future” & “New York”
It was a brave decision to put St. Vincent with her relatively small number of monthly streams on the big, orange stage – but it was an understandable one! Annie Clark is a broadway actress as much as she is a rockstar, and her performance was a wonder of brave playfulness – from lookalikes and sensual guitar acrobatics to letting herself be held by a young overwhelmed male fan as she overviewed the large crowd burning under the Saturday sun while giving us a wonderful version of “New York.” The water ran out before the show even started, which didn’t make her thunderous guitars and ear-deafening vocals any easier to digest and musically, it was a sprawling, loud, and in a wild, old-fashioned (in a good way) experience that ended my Roskilde experience on a high note.