Wednesday, June 29
Iceland’s Brúðarbandið (Band of Brides) was the second band on the Pavilion Stage, which opened for shows on Sunday, June 26. The Brides hit the stage with “Rúrí rúrí” which is a popular sing-along amongst guitar-playing moms.
The band had a fill-in drummer for their show at Roskilde, Oli (guitar player of Skátar and Rollan), who joined just two weeks before the festival. Brúðarbandið had some problems with the sound during the first two songs but gracefully they managed through them and when they did they had the audience warmed up. They played most of the songs from their debut, Meira!, and also new songs like “Mótmæli” (e. Protest) part and “Vandamál” (e. Problem) which is a song about being thirty, single and not getting laid. During “Mótmæli” one could see the audience raising their fists and shouting the chorus with passion.
Brúðarbandið definitely had the crowd on their side, and when Eygló (guitar) shouted Bruce Dickinson-style “Scream for me, Roskilde!” to the crowd, the hoarding minions responded. Brúðarbandið ended with “Brúðarbandsmantran” (e. The Bride’s Band Manifesto) which is a song about what Brúðarbandið wants so this world will be better: tighter pants, free drinks, more punk and, most certainly, more ass. When they finished the song, Oli threw his drum sticks to the crowd like all good drummers do, not realizing that outside of Iceland, people ask for encores. He walked towards one of the microphones and asked politely for his drumsticks back and they came flying onstage, and the band ended with “Sid”—the ode to Sid Vicious… kind of. A great show indeed.
Thursday, June 30
Dwi Mekar, Ballroom
One of the great things about Roskilde is the World Music stage, Ballroom, where musicians from all around the globe perform. You can just drop by and hear some of the most exotic music. Bali’s Dwi Mekar is one of the leading Gamalan ensembles; they perform both traditional works and create their own modern compositions. The ensemble consists of thirteen percussionists, two flute players and four dancers. They pretty much nailed me to the floor with their incredible collective timing and skills. This collective doesn’t have a conductor, written music, or anything, they just played on and the timing was perfect. Soundwise they struck me as almost like Xiu Xiu and early Einsturzende Neubauten without the darkness and the depression. Truly enlightening.
Sonic Youth, Arena
The first Sonic Youth show of two performed at this year’s Roskilde was the more evocative. As always, Sonic Youth delivered their usual feedback orgies, guitar euphoria and occasional kraut rock jams. Recently, Sonic Youth have been leaning more toward the early seventies German rockers Can and Neu!, which at this festival felt like a good thing. The five-piece played songs like “Pattern Recognition”, “Unmade Bed”, “Mariah Carey + Arthur Doyle” from Sonic Nurse.
The forever-young Thurston Moore then became intimate with his guitar, exploring the ever-compelling cliché: “a guitar is an extension to the man’s penis”.
Besides songs from their latest two releases they played one of Goo’s best songs “Mote” sung by guitarist Lee Ranaldo. Their encore “Teenage Riot”, and they received massive applause.
All in all, it seemed like an excellent warm-up for Sonic Youth’s forthcoming show in Reykjavík at NASA this August.
Mastodon is one of few bands that have helped me not lose faith in heavy metal. Adding various influences to their metal, such as jazz, blues, southern rock and hardcore punk, they’re also tight as a glacier. It is no wonder bands like Slayer, Iron Maiden and Slipknot have invited them to warm up on tours. The quartet’s line-up includes two former members of Today Is the Day: guitarist Bill Kelliher and drummer Brann Dailor, the type of powerhouse drummer that almost crosses into nerd-dom, as it seems unlikely he has ever done anything but drum. Mastodon is rounded out by bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders and guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds. What makes Mastodon so unique is that they put so much emotion, energy and guts into their music but no tough guy bullshit at all. They were also so utterly impressed and sincere about the fact that they were playing on this big stage after bands like Sonic Youth and Flogging Molly.
The icing of the cake was when they gave their encores, two cover songs (Thin Lizzy’s “The Emerald” and “The Bit” by The Melvins).
Friday June 31
It was almost 1:00 PM and the Pavilion tent was packed. One could see Icelandic flags here and there. Yes, Mugison was about to hit the stage.
When he hit the stage told the crowd that was going to start with some experimental stuff before he’d play some actual songs. The first seven or eight minutes sounded like a softer Wolf Eyes with some clicks and cuts here and there. The experimentation faded into the first song, “Sad as a Truck” from last year’s “Mugimama is this Monkeymusic?”
When you think you’ve figured out Mugison’s messy and improve-ish show he’ll do something to mess it up. Not only did he only make a mess himself but he also got help from the crowd, which leant a “fuck yeah” on the count of three that he sampled into a song. He can go from singing like Will Oldham to Captain Beefheart or Prince to Tom Waits to Lenny Kravitz in the same song and he did it at Roskilde.
Sunn O))), Odeon
Welcome the festival’s loudest band, Sunn O))), an international act led by Americans Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson. At Roskilde they were joined by Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar and Australian Oren Ambarchi. They started with an ear-splitting bass drone that lasted for ten minutes or so. The Odeon was the third biggest stage at the festival, but damn were they loud. To hell with Manowar, Sunn O))) is bass-thundering and earth-removing drone metal at its loudest. Seriously. Loud.
These French electro shoe-gazers have been receiving a huge amount of positive reviews on the web and on print, but they sure didn’t convince me. On plastic they sound like the perfect crossover between shoe-gazer rock like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and electronica, but live they sound gutless and flat. Disappointing.
Audioslave, Orange Stage
I passed them on my way to the camping site and stopped for a few minutes to check this super group out. I can’t say that I’m a fan but Soundgarden was one of my favourites for years and Rage Against The Machine had a bunch of good songs during their heyday. Chris Cornell is one hell of a singer (at least he used to be). Audioslave played three Soundgarden tunes: “Spoonman”, “Outshined” and “Blackhole Sun” and also a RATM medley. I wonder if the show was as awkward for them as it was to me. Maybe some people in the crowd that didn’t witness live shows by Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine liked it.
The Perceptionists, Pavilion
The Other Sides of Sonic Youth, Odeon
The Japanese laptop noise monger Masami Akita a.k.a. Merzbow and Swedish free jazz saxophonist joined Sonic Youth on the Odeon for an hour-long improvised noise euphoria. I yawned for the longest part of it, and I was always on the way to leaving. One could wonder if it’s more fun performing this type of set than watching. The last two bits, though, did impress.
Maldoror is Masami Akita (Merzbow) and Mike Patton tinkering with laptops, effects, guitar amp and Patton’s voice. His voice is one of a kind, but this set seemed aimless, though I was probably too tired for this, as it started at 2:30 AM.
Saturday July 1
Mike Patton and friends part two. A Fantômas show is like a rollercoaster ride through a mish mash of messed up comics and many of the best thrillers and horror movies of the last thirty or forty years or maybe it’s just a ride into Patton’s head.
Fantômas are accurate and the timing is like no other. Slayer’s drummer Dave Lombardo was greatly missed; he was replaced by Frank Zappa’s drummer Terry Bozzio who delivered his duty with style, though, unlike Lombardo, he played the drums by reading note sheets. What’s rock about that?
Sweden’s Dungen released one of last year’s best albums, Ta Det Lungt. This band is led by multi-instrumentalist Gustav Ejstes and musically they stand up well against the likes of the Move and the Creation, or at the very least, the Green Pajamas and Apples in Stereo, though they may be a little more proggy. It bothered me, though, how hippy looking they are. It’s 2005. They looked exactly like every other early seventies rock band, and Gustav even displayed a full bag of not-ironic-enough Robert Plant moves.
Sunday July 2
Joanna Newsom, Pavilion
A woman and her huge harp, Joanna Newsom’s show was a perfect first show on the last day of the festival. She’s a classically trained harpist that has dedicated her abilities to her own brand of poetic and eerie folk music. Her voice is fragile and eccentric and sometimes akin to a baby Björk. She was joined by Devendra Banhart and his band for one song.
The Go! Team, Odeon
This Brighton band was delightfully different from their album “Thunder, Lightning, Strike.” The show was more vocals-orientated than their record, and Ninja (their lead singer) sure knew how to get the crowd to move.
Bloc Party, Odeon
In the festival booklet the promoters told us to “believe the hype”… oh well, I was going to see them anyway. The buzz about this band has been enormous and their full-length release “Silent Alarm” is quite good actually. I had been told before that they weren’t so impressive live, and that’s exactly what I witnessed. They appeared completely flat and cold, without any sense of danger or excitement or energy.
Bright Eyes, Odeon/Brian Wilson, Orange Stage
I had been waiting and not waiting for this the whole festival. Bright Eyes and Brian Wilson playing at the same time, what could I do? I decided to go and see the first songs of Bright Eyes’ set and then move on to the Orange stage to see Brian Wilson and the Wondermints. The Odeon was pretty packed and I was pretty eager to witness what was going to be one of the best shows. Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and his back up band The Faint, who delivered a thrilling show earlier the same day, kept the crowd waiting, which bothered me a bit because didn’t want to spare a second. One by one they hit the stage, and Conor dragged along last clad in black like a ghost.
The program consisted of songs from Digital Ash In a Digital Urn and the electric atmosphere rushed from the speakers. Curiously, after four songs, Conor asked the members of the band if they had a cigarette, and no one had one. Suddenly a packet of smokes came flying from the crowd, and the entire band sat down for a few minutes of cigarette break, with Conor explaining to the crowd that the band “might have been on tour for too long.” The crowd watched him smoke for five minutes, then I watched one more song and rushed to get to Brian Wilson.
I was just in time to see and hear Brian Wilson and The Wondermints perform “God Only Knows” which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful songs ever written. The Wondermints is a band led by Nick Walusko and Darian Sahanaja, and they mostly led Brian also through this set. He appeared confused, nervous and a bit out of it.
I had been told before the show that they no longer play songs from the lost masterpiece “Smile”, but, thankfully, Brian introduced “some songs that will make you smile” and then came “Our Prayer”, “Heroes and Villains” and “Good Vibrations”. Then followed older classics like “Barbra Ann”, “Help Me Rhonda”, “Surfin’ USA”, “I Get Around” and lesser known tracks like “Little Saint Nick” and “Sailor, Sailor”. Despite Brian’s condition, I walked way pleased knowing that I’ve seen a man who wrote many of the best songs in modern music.