By: Mia Abeyawardene and Marissa Field
Roskilde Festival covered all the bases, boasting not only established, foreign headliners but also young acts from close to home and fixtures of the Scandinavian underground scene. Many of those featured during Roskilde’s warm-up days are artists with recent hits on Danish National Radio, people that many in the audience could have gone to school with or have seen in the cafes of Odense, Stockholm, or Oslo.
Scandinavian artists from a variety of genres played at the Rising, Apollo, and Street City stages during the three days leading up to the start of the festival, giving us an enticing glimpse of the future of the Scandinavian music scene. Professionalism, innovation and personality separated the artists who truly amazed us from those who were only good, and by the end of day three there were 8 acts that had us reminiscing.
Smerz: NO/Ambient Electronic
The Norwegian electronic duo Smerz impressed us with not only their clean beats, but the ease of their vocals and delivery. Both women were completely engaged in crafting the set, grooving along with the mixture of soaring synths and almost mathematical bleeps that made up the backdrop of the experience. But there was still something easy and non-technical about the show, like the finest of all electronic music, no single element ever broke the delicate balance of the melody. It was all full and beautiful. Sitting on the lawn at the Apollo Stage, we could see and feel the pacifying effect of Smerz’ music, and we became instant fans.
Josefin Ohrn & the Liberation: SE/Drug Pop
Josefin Ohrn & the Liberation were a surprise find. Word had it that Josefin was a solo vocalist from the same moody, drug-infused club as veritable icons like Nico and Hope Sandoval. She covered all of the basics from the beginning, taking to the stage in a cloud of smoke that never really cleared, physically looking the part with a sheet of long hair that kept her a safe distance from the audience. But her music never felt superficial and neither did her performance. The band played a brand of dark, moody pop music that almost miraculously avoided both melodrama and affectation, while Josefin sang with complete dedication and love. It was altogether the most professional performance we saw during the warm up period, and it left us wondering who this woman was and where she would go on to from here.
The Attic Sleepers: DK/Indie Folk Rock
The hype from The Attic Sleepers’ performance hung around camp for days afterwards. Their performance had an infectious joy to it that was delivered superbly by the relaxed and echo-ey style of their set; the audience was actually caught up in a wave of spontaneous hugging after the first song. The 4-piece group embraces a higher level of musical complexity than most at Rising with the addition of 12-string acoustic guitar and a range of percussive and vocal effects, creating the peculiar impression that the audience is hearing the band from the mouth of a cave or some kind of railway tunnel. Their sound is primarily guitar driven, with heavy input from the bass, and although the most indie elements aren’t particularly surprising, Attic Sleepers combine these with a suggestion of something grungier alongside a vocal and lyrical style that is so characteristically Danish - complete with longing, lingering chords and morbidly-tinged lines - that lack of innovation takes a back seat to the pleasant-ness of the overall mixture. It’s the best of both standard indie rock and traditional Danish pop, and on this sunny afternoon in Roskilde, the band perform it with a passion that you can’t help but enjoy.
Saint Cava: DK/Electro RnB
Named one of this year’s rising artists to watch by Danish art’s mag Soundvenue, Saint Cava blows the audience away with crushing bass. It surprises even her, but she takes only a blink to collect herself before diving into a set full of soulful electronic RnB. Her vocals slide across multiple octaves with a tone that is sweet and classically feminine, yet with lyrics that are strong and independent. She’s an empowered performer, striding across the stage with an authoritative stage presence, striking poses for the audience. Saint Cava’s sound is radio-ready and of a caliber we could easily imagine hearing on mainstream radio. She chooses to sing in English, unlike some others playing during the warm-up days, and while her style lacks anything particularly Danish, it makes her accessible and reinforces the hunch we have that if any of the warm-up acts go on to mainstream success abroad, it’s likely to be her.
Ruined: DK/Hardcore Punk
We were both pretty excited about seeing the Swedish punk band Beyond Pink on day three of Roskilde, but that was all ruined when they cancelled last minute after a band member fell ill. Fortunately, the hardcore Danish four-piece Ruined was able to replace them and did not disappoint. The vocalist screams ‘LET THE DEMON INSIDE YOU’ and ‘I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME’ as smoke rises from the bottom of the stage, shrouding their intense expressions. Having just released their second EP, they perform at the Rising Stage, which sets out to give upcoming Nordic artists a platform to perform during the ‘warm up days’ before the headliners arrive from all over the world. Despite this, throughout Ruined’s set, the crowd at Rising was kept moving and moshing by their dark, electrifying energy.
Fay Wildhagen: NO/Folk Rock
As she transitions smoothly between folk and rock, Norwegian folk rocker Fay Wildhagen trades her acoustic guitar for a mint green strat. She is accompanied by a band including a cello, upright bass, violin, trumpet, shakers and a small drum. Fay mentions that she’s camped at the festival before and is doing that this year as well! With an enthusiastic encore, Fay comes down to touch hands with the audience, getting the crowd to join in with her soulful, emotional ballads. At the end of her set she turns to face the stage and takes a selfie with the crowd.
Kill J: DK/Electro R&B
We saw Kill J perform at the Street City stage, which was surrounded by skate ramps covered in graffiti. Having never listened to the Copenhagen-based duo before the festival, Julie Aagaard’s electro-R&B style is reminiscent of Grimes and her dark, emotional lyrics of FKA Twigs. Aargaard is accompanied by Lennart Rassmussen playing the electronic keyboard, creating a trancy, trippy beat over which she belts ‘You’re in love with someone else’.
Silvana Imam: SE/Rap
Silvana arrives onstage wearing a balaclava, like the feminist freedom fighters of the band Pussy Riot. She bows her head before looking up at the audience to say ‘Welcome to my show!’. Imam prances around the Apollo stage like a boxer, full of aggressive energy, as she raps in Swedish against her oppressors. Throughout her set, there are provocative videos of violence projected onto the back of the stage and red spray guns to remind the audience of bloodshed. She kneels down on stage, as if in prayer, and looks pleading up to the sky before getting up again and ripping off her t-shirt to perform her next song attacking racists and misogynists. Being an active member and supporter of the LGBT community, she praises a member of the crowd who is flying a rainbow pride flag below the Swedish flag. She closes by performing a love song, ‘I Die For You’ released earlier this year, as red roses flash up on screen.