Last week saw over 100,000 music lovers from across the globe descend on the picturesque Danish city of Roskilde to dance, drink and escape reality at the annual Roskilde Festival. Established in 1971 by two high-school students and taken over just a year later by a non-profit organisation, the week-long event had us all enthralled by its diverse line-up, immersive art and innovative approach to sustainability. Put simply; it was a celebration of both international and local talent which stood head and shoulders above the vast majority of its festival contemporaries.
Musically, the lineup featured a mix of legends (Ice Cube, Erasure, Nas) and current chart-toppers (Lorde, the Weeknd, the xx), but everyone agreed on one stand-out performance: Solange. Since releasing A Seat At The Table, the performer has been bringing her powerful message to crowds across the world; not only do songs tackle topics like institutional racism, the importance of self-care and the politics of black hair, they are delicately crafted and, in the context of her live show, immaculately choreographed.
Perhaps the most moving moment of the festival came during ‘F.U.B.U.’, a track dedicated to the importance of preserving BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) art and defending it from appropriation. “Don’t feel bad if you can’t sing along / Just be glad you got the whole wide world / This us / This shit is for us / Some shit you can’t touch,” she sings, making a strong statement about white privilege and a lack of representation for BAME people. When she sang this to a young BAME girl in the crowd, however, the fan responded with floods of tears to this rare personal interaction with Solange – moments like these are important reminders of music’s ability to empower, inspire and facilitate intimate connections.
Elsewhere, a series of artists shone through on smaller stages. Young M.A worked the crowd into a frenzy with a high-octane set at the Apollo stage, Clams Casino had everyone busting their best moves to his various A$AP Rocky collaborations, and Black String brought their borderless fusion of traditional Korean soundscapes and contemporary Western rock to an enraptured crowd at Gloria. In the Arena, Tinashe impressed the crowd – including one particularly enthusiastic security guard – with her incredible vocals, sexy yet self-aware dance moves and trippy visuals, cementing her reputation as a heavy-hitter with undeniable stage presence.
The Orange Stage saw a stellar set performed by The Savage Rose, a legendary Danish band still largely unknown to foreign audiences, whereas Saturday night saw Moderat reinvigorate their exhausted, muddy crowd with a lengthy set of beautiful, fluid electronica and a spectacular light show which finished off the week on a euphoric high.
Although the musical offerings were more than enough to meet the needs of even the most demanding festival-goer, various art installations, shops and food stalls were available to enhance the experience. KlubRÅ played host to a creepy yet unmissable installation by Emilie Alstrup which featured LED masks and a dude in a thong having honey dribbled on him (we’ll let your imagination do the rest!) as well as a giant communal bed and a revolving series of performances.
Caterers created delicacies from around the world including red curry, spicy pho and gigantic calzones, whereas bug burgers were also available for those more willing to experiment. The range of vegan and vegetarian options was also refreshing.
Other talks and intimate events were also arranged around this year’s theme of cultural equality. Alongside big-name headliners were the likes of the ‘Refugees of Rap’, who gathered to share lyrical art and spoken-word poetry driven by their own lives and experiences; Opal Tometi, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, was invited to discuss both the ongoing prevalence and the destructive consequences of racism; ‘Forbidden Voices’ even provided a platform for artists across the world whose output has been censored by oppressive governments, and artists including Princess Nokia spoke honestly and openly about how the music industry often fails minority artists in particular. Admirably, Roskilde demonstrated an exemplary approach to diversity by allowing marginalised communities to actually discuss these issues without censorship; it’s a step towards furthering these conversations which other festivals would be wise to learn from.
In fact, the overall ethos of Roskilde Festival itself is exemplary. Not only are all the profits donated to a series of carefully-chosen charities and organisations, there are areas like the ethereal Dream City, conceived and built by festival-goers determined to create their own parties. When we wandered through at 1am there were countless parties as well as a mini City Hall and even a fire department; volunteers arrive as early as 100 days in advance, building small yet vibrant camps as an antidote to reality. Sustainability is a core value; the ‘dreamers’ are warned that they are expected to dismantle their own equipment and leave the site as they found it, whereas other festival initiatives incentivise recycling and promote conversations around waste and environmental impact. From the enviable line-up to the charitable spirit and, of course, the Instagram-worthy art walls (‘Daddy’ and ‘Turbo Thot’ were just two highlights), Roskilde Festival has literally everything any culture junkie could ask for – bug burgers optional.