Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ross Killed Yer!

“There’s a lot of joy to be taken from the misfortune of others”. This is a delightful saying that sprung up on a recent visit to the Roskilde festival, held yearly just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. Whilst basking in the glorious sunshine, drinking icy booze and contemplating seeing bands who fitted unarguably in the ‘legendary’ category, we spared a thought for all the poor fuckers back in the UK enduring the mini-monsoon season it was experiencing. And it made us happy…

Due to the extreme heat and lure of good, cold beer in the ‘Media Village’ during the daytime, it was up to the higher-up-the-bill bands to impress. This probably sounds like a waste of a festival to you hardened tent-dwellers; but consider this – over the course of 4 nights we saw Radiohead, Kings of Leon, Grinderman, Battles, The Streets, Neil Young, Slayer and Jay Z. Daytime performances by the incredible Band of Horses and not quite so incredible Kate Nash were also received, but it really was up to the big guns to provide our entertainment.

Clutch opened the proceedings on the Thursday and did so in style. Redneck charisma + blues riffs = good. That night I also saw Radiohead. You may not have heard of them. They’re from Oxford I think, keep an ear out for them. I predict good things.

I really can’t stress enough how damn hot it was throughout the course of the festival (apart from when Jay Z played bizarrely, when it proceeded to piss it down). Even though the evening was setting as Kings Of Leon hit the stage, it was still *hot*, and it suited their country-fried rock perfectly. They’re pretty much bona-fied super stars now and rightly so; tunes like ‘Four Kicks’ and ‘Charmer’ are examples of the most exciting straight-forward rock you’re likely to find in ‘commercially viable ™’ music today.

Grinderman aren’t exactly easy listening and their avant garde, punk approach to music certainly provokes extreme reactions, both positive and negative. In my eyes, Nick Cave is one of the baddest motherfuckers on the planet. He can do no wrong. Even people who were baffled by the music couldn’t deny the brilliance of ‘No Pussy Blues’ though. Grinderman are dirty, brilliant old men.

Battles are ace. A bunch of muso geeks making geeky music that you can dance to. And the drummer used to be in Helmet. Class.

The final act of Friday were probably the biggest shock to me. I remember when The Streets first came out with ‘Original Pirate material’ in 2002, Mike Skinner was a bedroom producer/rapper and little else. Reading how he was incredibly nervous at the prospect of performing live, the signs didn’t look great. Well, six years later and Mr. Skinner has obviously got over his nerves; the man owns the stage tonight and I haven’t had so much fun in a long time. Great tunes, good old crowd participation (he gets everyone to sit down then jump up and ‘go crazy’ when the beat kicks in no less than three times!) and a genuine sense of fun make The Streets live experience a great one and the fact that Mike Skinner is obviously having the show of his life is truly infectious.

Saturday, or as it should be called, the Neil Young day. Definitely one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Neil Young is equal parts frustrating and stunning. He plays classics such as ‘Old man’, ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ and ‘Heart Of Gold’ which are stunning. He also plays a cover of ‘All along the Watchtower’, which he quietly dedicates to ‘my friend Bob’. Just Imagine Neil Young and Bob Dylan sat around, shooting the shit. That would be cool.

He also plays guitar solos all the time and every rock number finishes with the classic rock finish, the one where everyone thrashes their instruments to a crescendo. Only Neil Young’s band do that for about 3 minutes each time. That’s the length of most pop songs.

The band finish with an extremely lengthy, jammed out version of ‘Words’ I think, although it’s hard to tell as everything moulds into each other. Frustrating. But that’s when it hits you – This is Neil fucking Young, and he’s just played a set like they used to in the sixties; when a good hit of acid mixed with a 20 minute guitar solo would feel like a holy experience. I guess he’s stayed true to himself more than most people out there, for that he should be celebrated!

Those mainlanders certainly know how to keep up the party when it comes to festivals, but by day four of Roskilde the novelty starts to wear off and thoughts turn to freshly made beds and home-cooked meals. There are few things that can set the mind back on track when this happens, luckily the prospect of seeing Slayer and Jay Z on the same day are two such things…

Slayer are everything I hoped they’d be, including Kerry King looking like a total dick! They still utterly destroy and Tom Araya is clearly having fun. A perfect summers day metal performance. Slayer fans note, the last three songs of the set were 'Mandatory Suicide', 'Raining Blood' and 'Angel Of Death'. What!?

The skys opened up for Jay Z. Maybe God was one of those middle-class hippies who claimed there was no place for Hip Hop at Glastonbury, using his omnipitency to try and ruin his time at Roskilde? Probably. Anyway, it didn’t work because the Jiggaman put in the performance of a Hip-Hop superstar and Roskilde loved it! His full live band give a fresh slant to classic tunes such as ‘Big Pimpin’’, ‘Hard Knock Life’ and ‘99 Problems’ (which from half way through is mixed with the riff from AC/DC’s ‘Back in Black’) and the man himself proves to be the consummate performer who, although not the best rapper in the world as he’s bizarrely labelled, is certainly a man who continues to ‘push things forward’. I wonder if he’s heard The Streets...

All live pics: Daniel Jones

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