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Aids At Roskilde 2012

July 2-8 2012: I spent a glorious week in Denmark experiencing what is surely one of Europe's greatest music festivals. The ticket price included 9 days of camping (5 "warm-up days" before the proper festival kicked- off on Thursday), while the festival itself featured nearly 200 bands from all corners of the Earth on 7 unique stages, and had an attendance of around 90,000 people. The line-up was the thing dreams are made of (my dreams anyway) and the setting could not have been better. Among eight days of non-stop partying and mixing with hundreds of thousands of people, many of them incredibly sexy Scandinavian women, I somehow managed to enjoy the festival's extraordinary "more than music" program, the facets of which are virtually endless. Before the proper festival kicked-off, one could watch a skate competition at the full-sized halfpipe, bowl, and skate park, or play a game of organized football (soccer), volleyball, basketball, etc. etc., take in the magnificent street art on display, observe slam battles and freestyle hip-hop demonstrations, or just experience the general and indescribable wackiness of the camping area. It was a non-stop party and every one was there to have a good time and enjoy some good music. Words cannot describe Roskilde, it must simply be experienced. Look up a promo video on their website or see if you can find some good fan videos on youtube, because it truly is a one-of-a-kind music festival. For now though, enjoy my feeble attempt to describe the sonic-skullfuckery on display at the 2012 edition. (The first 8 were things I kind of wanted to catch but didn't, for a variety of reasons, 32-1 are the sets I saw, ranked from worst to best, sort of).
40Suicide Silence
No Time To Bleed

Day 4 -- was tempted to see some of their set because they're lolterrible, but in the end I had more interesting things going on then
39Machine Head
The Blackening

Day 4 -- I actually saw a bit of this. Pretty bland and uninteresting, except I saw a 5 year old kid on his dad's shoulders with his devil horns in the air. Pretty cool kid I suppose.

Day 4 -- I don't know much about this band other than that are Polish and heavy. I was playing drinking games so I didn't see their set.

Day 4 -- I sort of wanted to see him cause I like him as a rapper, but he was playing early ish on the last day and his first LP (dropped in 2011) was pretty shitty, so I didn't worry too much about catching his set.
36Pretty Lights
Passing By Behind Your Eyes

Day 3 -- This probably would have actually been really really good, but it was all the way out at Apollo at 230 and I was absolutely exhausted from Refused/M83/Bon Iver/Mew. There's a chance they just ended up bitching out like Araabmuzik and played a load of generic dubstep, but I still bet it was a good show.
35Bruce Springsteen
Born in the USA

Day 3 -- He was actually the main draw for a lot of people there, and while his 3 hour rock marathon was allegedly epic, I had more important things going (Bon Iver, M83.... etc.) Shoot me now, but I've never been a huge Springsteen fan. I KNOW, I know...I know ok. I suck.
34Cerebral Ballzy
Cerebral Ballzy

Day 3 -- I was way too tired from watching Oneohtrix Point Never play til 430 AM the night before, and I needed rest for Saturday's epic lineup. No way I was making it to the festival grounds for 1200 to see some decent punk band.
Hello Darkness

Day 1 -- I really wanted to see this set, but it wasn't worth going all the way out to Apollo (which was actually out past the wristband checkpoint, so getting back in to the main festival area is a pain, especially if you're on a tight schedule). Still, it probably would have been good.

WARM-UP DAYS One of the local bands that played at Pavilion Junior during the warm up days. These guys were absolutely dreadful, the guitar player in particular. He looked like he was too sweaty, awkward, and nervous to be playing in front of a crowd, and he absolutely butchered his lines. They sounded like faux-new-wave bullshit with no sense of harmony or structure
31The Abyssinians
Satta Massagana

THURSDAY (Day 1) Reggae, complete with a full brass section. Good fun, nothing amazing.
30The Cure

THURSDAY (Day 1) Not my thing at all. Everyone says I'm missing out but I don't care. I watched a couple of their songs at the main stage but I quickly decided it wasn't for me and decided to watch Trash Talk instead (best decision of the entire festival for me probably). Apparently they played for three hours. I don't know what everyone sees in them because I was tiring of their shtick after three minutes.
Pray for Villains

FRIDAY (Day 2) A generic metal show that I only saw some of on my way to more exciting things. Not bad, but not worth writing too much about
28Janelle Monae
The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III of IV)

THURSDAY (Day 1) I was pretty excited to see her, but by the time her timeslot came around late on day one of the festival, I was pretty much out of commission. I managed to get in a song or two, but I honestly don't remember if it was pretty good. From what I heard the next day, it seemed that her show was generally received as disappointing after her already legendary set at Roskilde's 2011 edition.

SUNDAY (Day 4) A readymade hipster dance party. Best enjoyed in small doses and with an open mind, but only until Shlohmo's set at Gloria starts (#12).
w h o k i l l

SATURDAY (Day 3) *See description for The Roots. Oh and add that she seemed kind of pitchy at times. Not that I saw more than ten minutes, but tUnE-yArDs was a bit disappointing.
25The Roots

SATURDAY (Day 3) Saturday was packed and I had a lot of running around to do to be able to catch all of what I wanted to see. This meant, unfortunately, that I didn't get to watch much of The Roots. What I did manage to catch was enjoyable enough, but I was much too focussed on leaving in enough time to get a good spot for Refused to fully enjoy their music.

WARM-UP DAYS A local Danish band playing on one of the warm-up stages. They played pretty good guitar-based indie-rock. To be honest, I wasn't really that into it but was more just there to experience the festival atmosphere as this was one of the first shows I saw during the warm-up days.
23Ter Haar

FRIDAY (Day 2) The festival announcer at the end of the previous set at the Pavilion stage described these guys as a "German version of Battles" so I knew I would have to give their set some time. I did and I have to say, the description was pretty accurate. The set was a spazzy collection of math-rock craziness combined with some psychedelic keyboards and offbeat drum patterns. A very trippy but entertaining concert.
Yellow and Green

FRIDAY (Day 2) Pretty generic sludgy metal but I was still hoping for a good show from these guys at the Odeon stage. The guitar solos were good and the energy was high. I enjoyed it for a while, but it was not the sort of thing I wanted to watch for an entire hour.
21Malk De Koijn

FRIDAY (Day 2) This Danish hip-hop duo was the main act of the second day. Most of the locals were beyond hyped for their concert. I had not heard of them before arriving in Denmark,and also I don't understand more than three words of Danish, so I wasn't likely to hang on to their every word. They played right after Jack White's two hour show, so I observed this group from far back, while I sorted myself out with something to eat and some things to drink.
20Perfume Genius
Put Your Back N 2 It

THURSDAY (Day 1) There is a slowly buzzing murmur building around this guy's music. He has drawn comparrisons to The Antlers (one of my favourite Indie bands) so I figured I would try to fit in at least a few minutes of his set before rushing off to see Janelle Monae. (Funny story, I ended up being too messed up to see much of Monae's set by the time I got there, oh well.) I stopped by Gloria for a few minutes and was impressed with what I saw and heard. His newest album is pretty good, not amazing, but pretty good. What I saw of his show was about the same.
Electronic Dream

FRIDAY (Day 1) This was the first act of the proper festival, over at Apollo stage (the home of most of the electronic acts for the weekend). I mild enjoy his studio stuff, which is more or less instrumental hip-hop beats with touches of other types of electronic music. His show however, was essentially straight up brostep. It seems to be a trend that everyone is cashing in on, and not just in North America anymore. Anyway, though cliché and not very inspired, his set was still very enjoyable and got me excited for the hugeness of the four festival days of Roskilde 2012.
18Sage Francis
A Healthy Distrust

FRIDAY (Day 2) I'm not actually a huge fan of this guy's music, but in his show he delivered hard. The preachy political views that ruined my enjoyment of his studio stuff was actually quite effective and restrained enough for me to be able to enjoy this guy's performance. A good way to start Friday.
17Adrian Lux

WARM-UP DAYS Lux is a DJ from Sweden and he played on Apollo Countdown. This was a mobile stage that moved to different areas of the massive camping grounds during the warm-up days, before settling into its permanent spot during the festival proper. One day, the stage was at area P, where my tent was, so a couple new friends and I went to see what was on. What we got was a loud, explosive party soundtrack complete with dirty wobbles, pumping basslines, and hard-hitting beats. We danced the night away and afterwards we retired to our camps for much more drinking and smoking.
16ASAP Rocky

One day one of the festival, I got a little bit crazy. I bit off more than I could chew, if you will (read: bought more wine than I could drink), and I got hit hard right at the beginning of A$AP's set. The dense crowd and tobacco/weed smoke in the air all around me starting getting to my head and I eventually had to retreat to a safe distance to barely avoid getting sick. Perhaps it was a fitting way to experience A$AP's set: too drunk and stoned to stand or communicate with people properly. I'm sure there was plenty of swag on display, but I just can't fully remember it. I do remember having a heated discussion with another inebriated individual during Peso. We both stopped to sing the hook when it came.
15Dangers of the Sea

WARM-UP DAYS Dangers of the Sea are something of a Danish supergroup, formed of band members from various alt-rock groups across the country. They played on Pavilion Junior, which was one of the two stages going during the warm up days (before the official four festival days began). After I had settled into my camp and experienced some of the craziness that typically goes on in a music festival's camping area, I wandered over to the festival area and watched this set with my Danish friend. The sun was shining, the beer was flowing, and the music festival was off to a glorious start from my perspective. I don't remember specifically what the songs sounded like, but I do know that I enjoyed the show, perhaps even more so because it was my first concert of the week.

SUNDAY (Day 4) I enjoy Bjork quite a bit, but not nearly as much as nearly everyone else seems to. This suited me fine though, as her show was the last of the festival. So rather than brave the long lineups of dedicated Bjork fans to charge the front of the stage, I enjoyed her set from a far as I cherished my last glimpses of the magnificent Orange Stage at Roskilde 2012. Her costume and stage design were what one would expect from a Bjork show, weird and unidentifiable, but it fit the greater purpose of the performance well. As her massive and haunting music boomed across the crowd of 70,000, I found myself hypnotized by the enormous bass and soaring vocals. Her performance of Hidden Place from Vespertine was particularly enchanting, and the concert as a whole was a wonderful way to end a weekend full of spectacular musical performances.
13Boubacar Traore

FRIDAY (Day 2) This man is a blues/folk guitar guru from Mali, a hotbead of the Western African traditional music scene. His musical talent is inspiring, and his songs are familiar, yet somehow mysteriously otherworldly. His accompanying musicians, a percussionist and a harmonica player (that occasionally dabbled in other wind instruments) were both magnificently skilled. The most memorable moment of this set for me was the series of extended harmonica solos somewhere between their third and fourth songs.

SUNDAY (Day 4) The last act of the festival on the Gloria stage by LA based DJ Shlohmo was a mixed-bag of his own original material, such as the breathtaking and entrancing Wen Uuu, and reworked popular club and pop songs from the past couple decades.
11Big K.R.I.T.
Live From The Underground

SUNDAY (Day 4) A smorgasbord of southern hip-hop cliches and huge, dirty beats. Nothing new or revolutionary but a damn good time.
10Blitz The Ambassador
Native Sun

THURSDAY (Day 1) A jazzy affair of Ghanian hip-hop, one of my most pleasant surprises of the festival.
9Oneohtrix Point Never

FRIDAY (Day 2) OPN played at 3AM on Friday (day 2) in the Gloria stage, which, all things considered, was my favourite of the seven venues at Roskilde 2012. It was a small room, half the size of a high-school gym, which two small sets of bleachers and a decent floor space. The stage was adorned with white panels arranged in trippy shapes that changed colours according to the artist's music and programmed light show. It was a warm venue with an intimate atmosphere, and OPN used this to his advantage. Until the morning sun came out, he tripped us all out with formless grooves, beatless sounds and textures, arbitrary samples from old movies and youtube clips. It was one of the most unorthodox shows I've ever witnessed, and while some people did not enjoy it at all (several people jeered him, even more ended up walking out), myself and a handful of others clung on to every weird sound and warped loop that the man produced.
8The Shins
Oh, Inverted World

THURSDAY (Day 1) The Shins were the first band I saw at Arena Stage, the place that would be responsible for many of my favourite sets of the weekend. Of their four LPs, I can only say that I really listen to the first one, Oh Inverted World, with any regularity, and I don't enjoy Port of Morrow at all. I wasn't expecting that they would play much of their oldest stuff, but they actually picked four songs from their first album (to my surprise) and, to top it all off, they were my four favourites. The Shin's upbeat, sunny rock music fit the atmosphere of a festival in its first ?official? day perfectly. It's hard to pick a highlight for me, but it was most likely either when they opened with Caring Is Creepy, or when they played my personal favourite, Know Your Onion!

SUNDAY (Day 4) In my rushed attempt to research as many artists as possible before Roskilde, I picked Nasum from the list of unknown bands, seemingly at random. They are a Swedish grind band that has been around for a while, and this tour was to be their global farewell. I'm not very well versed in this sort of music, but I found myself very excited for their show upon discovering them. It was a little bit unfortunate that they were to be playing on Sunday, because by then I was utterly exhausted. The crowd was small, the smallest I saw all week at the Odeon by a wide margin, and I think the rest of them were nearly as tired as I was, because the moshpit seemed half-hearted at best. Still, Nasum put on a great show, highly enjoyable and energetic (enough to make up for the drained audience).
6Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver

SATURDAY (Day 3) Man was Saturday's lineup ever stacked. My task was, in one day, to try to experience as much of the following artist's shows as I possibly could: tUnE-yArDs, The Roots, Refused, M83, Bon Iver, Bruce Springsteen (I passed on this 3 hour marathon forM83/Bon Iver), Mew, and finally Pretty Lights at 230 AM. The "big three" were Refused, Mew, and Bon Iver. I'd seen them before, in Galway, Ireland, back in 2009. It was a great show, and the crowd was comparatively small, so the atmosphere was very intimate. I was wondering how Justin Vernon's new superstar status and leagues of fans from across the world would affect the show. Instead of playing for maybe 5,000, I was now witnessing him play to upwards of 40,000, but he has adopted expertly. While he didn't speak between songs as much as other artists, his modesty shone through when he did and you could see how much it meant to him to be playing his songs for so many fans. The material from Bon Iver's second LP fit the arena atmosphere brilliantly, and old favourites from For Emma, Forever Ago, and the Blood Bank EP had the crowd singing in unison. After being up front for Refused and M83 at the same stage previously, I ventured towards the back of the crowd, half-attempting to meet up with a friend. It didn't happen (we found each other for Mew though) but this meant that I had to witness Bon Iver's set from pretty far back in the massive crowd. The people back there were less fun and didn't seem to care as much about the band's lesser known material, but I tried not to let it ruin what was truly a magnificent concert. I would go see these guys play live every day if I could. I've now seen them twice, and am looking forward to whenever/wherever show #3 will be.
5Jack White

FRIDAY (Day 2) This was the first big concert of the festival that I committed to seeing from the front of the massive crowd. I queued up for a while to acquire my prime viewing spot, but it was worth it. For nearly two hours, Jack White worked his way through his illustrious body of work, expertly mixing in new material from Blunderbuss with fan favourite by The White Stripes and The Raconteurs. His supporting band was marvellous as well. White is somewhat of a legend of the modern rock revival scene, and finally seeing him in the flesh was a bit surreal. Every music festival I've been to has had some sort of anthem: a fan catchy and easily chant-able fan favourite from one of the performing bands. This year, it was the main riff of Seven Nation Army, and for the next three days (come to think of it, during some of the preceding days as well) strangers united and bonded over a White Stripes sing-along, and the hundreds of passers-by couldn't help but hum/sing/chant/yell along.
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming

SATURDAY (Day 3) I was not sure how much I would enjoy this show to be honest, especially taking into consideration the mixed reviews that their Coachella set received. I was pleasantly surprised that M83's show turned out to be exactly as awesome as I fantasized it could be. Still buzzing from being up front for Refused in the slot right before M83, I got right back up front for this one (they clear the "pit" after every show). It was essentially a feel-good, hour long dance party: i.e. the perfect way to spend a beautiful summer evening in Denmark. The crowd favourite was definitely Midnight City; it was easy to tell by the way the entire audience jumped in unison and belted out BOOP DO DO BOOOP!!! (or some variation) during the catchy chorus.
3Trash Talk
Walking Disease

THURSDAY (Day 1) The great thing about music festivals, especially ones with 7 stages, is that you will always discover new stuff. I've heard the name Trash Talk thrown around a lot but had never listened to them. Their show was supposed to be good, so I managed to tear myself away from The Cure's three hour set (no thanks) to witness theirs in full. It was definitely my best discovery of the festival. For an hour, Trash Talk belted our short, punishing punk songs to under a thousand fans at the Pavilion stage. The interaction with the crowd was great, and the intensity with which they performed was jaw-dropping. I've since checked out their studio albums, and they're pretty good, but for me this band will always be defined by that one evening in early July, when they put their unique mark on Roskilde 2012. It was the last set of Day 1 when I admittedly went a little overboard. My enjoyment of A$AP Rocky and Janelle Monae suffered as a result.

SATURDAY (Day 3) Mew was perhaps my most anticipated act of the festival, and they did not disappoint. They're one of the best known Danish bands, and are only playing two shows this year. Headlining their home festival was always bound to be special, and I knew it would be the perfect time to see Mew. Instead of getting right up front for their late show (1 AM) on the glorious main stage, I met up with a Danish friend of mine and we watched the show from the front of the fence that blocks off the front area. This meant we could see the entire stage and enjoy the light show, and really just take it all in. Mew has a huge sound, and so as it washed over the 80,000 spectators at Orange Scene, it was impossible to not be mesmerized by their dreamy rock/pop songs. Mew is one of my favourite bands and I have been waiting a long time to see them. They played every song I could have hoped for, giving all of their albums good attention, and even finished with a new song (which was really good). The highlight of the show must have been the eight minute 'Comforting Sounds' from 2003's Frengers. As it slowly rose up from a solitary piano line accompanied by the vocals of Jonas Bjerre, the lights began to shine brighter and the orange tent of the main stage began to glow in the 3AM night sky, which never really went pitch black seeing as it was summer in a very Northern location. The band approached that moment in the song where the drums take off and the beautiful, shimmering guitars kick in at full force (Mew fans will know exactly the moment I mean), and the crowd gazed, transfixed at the spectacle that we were witnessing. Their set was everything I wanted it to be, and even though the exhaustion of six days of partying and concerts with minimal sleep was starting to set in, witnessing Mew's show at Roskilde 2012 was magical
The Shape of Punk To Come

SATURDAY (Day 3) Yes, I am one of the lucky motherfuckers that got to experience this globe-shattering reunion tour by recently reformed Swedish Hardocre legends Refused. Every report I had heard of their shows in either the US or Europe praised Refused's performance as a work sheer genius. I was thinking that I might be a little disappointed with their set because how could it possibly live up to the hype and my ultra-high expectations. Well, guess what? It did, a hundred times over. I got right up front in the crowd for this show and I was mere metres from the band members at time. The music was played with urgency and passion, bearing in mind that all these songs are about ten years old. Lyxzen actually mentioned that, in one of his many very good moments of crowd interaction. He said something along the lines of 'I was worried that these songs would have lost their relevance, for us, for our fans. But listening to them now, and playing them for people around the world, young and old, I realize that they are more relevant now than ever.' From the moment the curtain dropped and the band exploded into Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull, to the closing moments of Life Support Addiction, Refused controlled the audience and sent them into a frenzy of controlled chaos. The energy was almost visible, and there was a feeling about that something special was occurring. The encore was absolute perfection. They came back on after a few minutes of sustained applause and roars from the crowd and delivered an absolutely monstrous three song combo of The Shape of Punk To Come/New Noise/Tannhauser Derive. At one point during the last song, the epic 8 minute masterpiece that is Tannhauser/Derive, Lyxzen cleared the three metre gap from the stage, across the security, into the crowd. Dozens of people clamoured for his legs and supported him upright as he belted "BOREDOM WON'T GET ME TONIGHT" to tens of thousands of adoring fans, old and new. It was the sound of a band that has just redefined their passion for their music and their place in the scene. It was so much more than a reunion show. This tour feels like a genuine rebirth, and I think that we will be hearing more from these guys in the coming years.
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