Roskilde Festival 2015 - Best of Headliners

By: Mia Abeyawardene and Marissa Field

There was more to do and see at Roskilde than even the two of us combined could possibly cover. Performances aside, the festival offered tons of activities for people who wanted to take a break from the constant stream of packed gigs. Different parts of the campsite offered areas for reading, cooking, round table discussions on environmentalism and cyber-security, listening parties, swimming, jam sessions, graffiti tutorials; all fun and useful between-gig distractions amid the scorching heat.

The gigs were the best part of the festival, as they should be, and we definitely made the most of them. Shows went on from 10 AM-3 AM across eight different stages spread across a massive festival site outside the city of Roskilde. Splitting up to cover more ground, we each saw about half a dozen gigs a day; of the 175 artists playing the festival, we made it to see a total of 72. We’re still recovering.

Some artists were familiar - we were both thrilled to see some of our favorite bands - but others were virtual unknowns. We both saw artists from genres we’d never explored before and it was some of these new acts who gave the best performances we saw, although others were clearly unknown for a reason. It was all part of the experience, but with an all-around fantastic lineup, there were very few shows that we truly hated. We’d like to share a few that made the biggest impressions.


The Minds of 99: DK/Electro Prog/Pop

Danish prog pop outfit The Minds of 99 were hotly anticipated leading up to the first official day of headliners at Roskilde. The group have sparked a craze in Denmark, with multiple hits on mainstream Danish radio, earning them the honour of opening the Orange Stage, Roskilde’s largest venue, to massive crowds. They’re virtually identical to most of the popular rock/pop cross-over bands of the last few years, with a sound that mixes danceable tracks with strong electronic elements and a standard, guitar-driven prog rock style; think recent Arctic Monkeys without any of the grit. The front man stands out from the rest of the group, literally on the edge of the stage, with a dynamic presence. The official festival newspaper the next morning proclaims that the group have ‘tamed the orange monster’ (referring to the stage presumably), however, although appealing and enthusiastically accepted, The Minds of 99’s sound doesn’t seem defined enough –with attention spread across multiple genres- to capture lasting popularity.

The War on Drugs: US/Indie Folk Pop

There are few bands that produce quite the same flavour of Americana that The War on Drugs does. With a proudly modern take on the melodic framework of Midwestern folk, alongside tinges of southwestern psychedelia, the band lead a significant trend in indie music. There are few people who haven’t heard ‘Red Eyes’, and if they even exist they probably aren’t here tonight. Thousands of people are packed under the canopy of the Arena stage. They’re characteristically subdued and chain-smoking casually. It only adds to the atmosphere; the performance is extremely stripped-back, with sparse lighting limited to gold, pink and violet with the almighty guitars pushed to the forefront. It’s designed to be inspirational and it is. Any skeptics jammed into the quietly adoring crowd must have trouble evading the allure of this classic, yet young sound. After the performance has wound up and then back down again, we all drift off into the dark grounds, fully satisfied.

Future Brown: US/Hip Hop

Initially, the electronic experimentalists’ stage presence is lacking, as they stand talking to each other rather than trying to engage with the audience. Despite this, their set includes some interesting visuals, as melting basketballs rotate beneath a flashing ‘fb’ projected behind the stage throughout their set of dark club music. Finally, the grime MC Prince Rapid takes the lead and builds up the energy at the Apollo stage, creating anticipation for Future Brown’s lead single ‘Wanna Party’.


The NYC-based trio Ratking is made up of the two young MCs Wiki and Hak, and their producer Sporting Life. They perform ‘Remove Ya’, a fast paced dialogue between a cop and a kid protesting the shootings and police brutality in the US. The MCs’ contrasting rap styles complement each other as Wiki’s delivery is harsh and fast, while Hak is more laid back. They also perform several other hits from their Vonnegut-inspired debut album ‘So it Goes’ as well as their most recent album ‘700 Fill’ which includes the very catchy ‘Makeitwork’. Wiki ends the set yelling ‘Roskilde, you’ve been f__king dope!’ as the trio leave the stage.

Young Fathers: UK/Hip Hop

Next to take the Apollo stage are the Edinburgh-based foursome, comprised of three vocalists and a drummer, Steven Morrisson aka Soonbe, who deliver a variety of tribal rhythms and heavy beats beneath soulful rap. The frontman, Kayus Bankole, is full of powerful energy as he surveys the crowd with an intense gaze before cutting loose, ripping his shirt open and whipping his braids as everyone chants along to the political ‘Queen is Dead!’

Pharrell Williams: US/RnB/Hip Hop

The notorious singer/record producer, Pharrell, was one of the first acts on Roskilde’s main stage, Orange. Despite being one of the headliners, and complimenting the beauty of those in the audience with Danish blood, he is somehow unable to recall where in Denmark he is exactly; he greets the crowds saying ‘Whatsup Copenhagen?!’ to which they respond kindly enough, in spite of his blatant ignorance. He then decides to ‘take it right back’, performing a montage of songs that he’s featured in and produced, including ‘Hot in Here’ and ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’. Pharrell then follows this with a performance of the controversial ‘Blurred Lines’, introducing his dancers as ‘five beautiful intelligent women’, with a bass guitar replacing Robin Thicke. He choses to end on an uplifting note, with an encore featuring the pop hit ‘Happy’ and a preview of his new single ‘Freedom’.


Dalhous: UK/Electronica

Edinburgh duo Dalhous play a short but remarkable set at Roskilde’s Apollo stage. The initially small crowd slowly grows as passersby stop to listen to the group’s gripping electronic instrumentals. At times, it’s the kind of electronica that you might expect to hear playing softly in the background in an experimental modern art exhibit. Yet there are moments in many songs which are strikingly cinematic, with sudden dynamic crests and strong percussive bass effects full of adrenaline. They use effects that sound at times like whips on cymbals, at others like the resonant rims of glass jars. Dalhous’ use of repetitive looping and wildly varying dynamics make for electronic music that is ingenious and exciting. But just when the set begins to get really interesting everything is cut short by a light panel in the stage roof which breaks loose in the high winds and begins to dangle dangerously overhead. The duo are quickly evacuated from the stage and don’t return. However disappointing, the interruption works to Dalhous’ favour; it’s a perfect cliffhanger ending and leaves the crowd wanting more.

Father John Misty: US/Psych Folk/Indie Pop

Those who haven’t seen him live have to wonder if there is any basis to the hype surrounding Father John Misty. His persona is, after all, such a substantial part of the music he makes, sometimes even eclipsing it. It’s true that Father John Misty’s sound in many ways epitomizes the cynical, drug-infused, modern California hippy; a person who could be considered superficial or posed, exploiting the craze over vintage parodies and neo-psychedelia that the charts seem to reflect. But his performance style presents someone who is almost a parody of this image itself. Misty chats with the audience between every song, commenting on himself throughout the set and describing himself as ‘a low budget Bono’ who dances ‘like a white woman sipping chardonnay on a cruise ship’. Although his lyrics feature heavy sarcasm, even pessimism about social politics, he avoids preachiness and affectation by pairing his commentary with refreshingly simple, frequently upbeat melodies and low-key vocals. He leaps into the crowd, dances on top of the bass drum, and switches guitars by throwing them to a waiting stage-tech with movements that have to have been rehearsed. The audience is treated to a performance of another level, from an artist who, although as much an actor as a musician, obviously genuinely loves performing.

Perfume Genius: US/Indie Pop

Seattle-based solo artist Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas) plays a tense and emotional set at Roskilde’s Pavilion Stage. Gaining increasing recognition for his sleek and emotionally political pop ballads, Hadreas’ performance style is his sound incarnate. A clear perfectionist, he re-starts multiple songs to have the mics and amplifiers adjusted. In fairness, the stage does seem to have a recurring feedback problem, but the crowd grows restless and agitated during the constant interruptions. Their love for Hadreas is continuous, however, with several women screaming praise for him over his singing, something he does manage to graciously tolerate. The performance is spectacular when it does get rolling, with Hadreas’ pitch-perfect vocals exploding from solemn whispers to excruciating screams according to the dramatic emotional current underlying the set. Lyrics cover painful topics like abuse and violent homophobia, all treated with the utmost care. Hadreas spends more upbeat parts of the set standing beneath vivid blue lights (complementing his lipstick), swaying in a kind of figure-eight motion, but transitions to center-stage keyboards toward the end. It’s in these tender moments that it becomes clear that the love Mike Hadreas feels for his music is the driving force behind his sound. The performance finishes with a bang as he performs the hit track ‘Queen’ from his most recent album ‘Too Bright’ in a triumph over the obstacles that threatened the beginning of his set.

G-Eazy: US/Hip Hop

Gerald Earl Gillum, also known as G-Eazy, begin by telling a story about how he’d met a beautiful Danish girl while at the festival who unfortunately had a boyfriend, dedicating his next number to this guy. The song is really catchy but slightly misogynistic, with lyrics ‘I said I might just f__k your b_tch’. He then performs ‘You Got Me’, released only 24 hours before the show on the newly launched Apple Music platform, and has the crowd singing along to his slightly darker hit ‘I Mean It’. He also performs a song about California called ‘California Culture’, describing having been ‘surrounded by hip hop as a culture and as a genre’. At the end of the show G-Eazy says that he regrets being unable to stay for rest of the festival as he is due to perform in London the following night, but promises to return to Roskilde every year.

St Vincent: US/Art Indie Rock

The gig begins with a robotic voice requesting that the audience try to refrain from digitally capturing the experience, following the ethos of ‘Digital Witnesses’, before Annie Clark and her band arrive on stage to perform the first track off the new album, ‘Rattlesnake’. During the electrifying guitar solo in ‘Cruel’, Clark and her bassist, both dressed in black sparkly catsuits, move back and forth on an invisible kit kat-shaped conveyor belt, maniacally smiling. In between songs, Clark speaks poetically about our childhood memories; asking us to remember how we tried to fly using pizza boxes as wings and start a fire using only a magnifying glass and ‘the beautiful Danish sun when it comes out like today’. After an enormous encore, St Vincent returns to the stage with Annie Clark wheeled on stage, lying in a bed to perform ‘Teenage Talk’. She then climbs onto the shoulders of a festival security guard and touches the hands of everyone in the first row, stealing a majestically colourful balloon hat from an audience member. Clarke finally kneels onstage facing the sky, as a stagehand gracefully places her guitar around her, and releases a long string of spit from her lips to the stage before performing her last song, ‘Surgeon’, which she draws out with a captivating electric guitar solo. She ends by creatively introducing her band; her drummer ‘the architect of sound’, on synths ‘the tamer of zeros and ones’, and Toku Yasuda, who ‘sometimes picks up a guitar and rips your face off’.

Florence & The Machine: US/Pop

Before performing the darkly harmonious ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ Florence Welch asks Roskilde to ‘get high with her’ and soon enough everyone is up on each other’s shoulders, raising their hands to the sky. Florence comments that she regrets not being able to bring a choir with her, and instead asks the audience to be her choir. In the middle of her set, she runs out to crowdsurf amongst her fans during ‘You’ve Got The Love’. She explains that her latest hit ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’ is about admiring the beauty of the sky while falling in love. Florence explains her hopelessly romantic tendencies, as the way she fell in love was not just with a person, but with everything around her. She says that she hopes that everyone in Roskilde feels like that at some point during the festival and advises them that ‘if you love someone, then you should tell them’.

Die Antwoord: ZA/Rap/Rave

The South African rap-rave group arrive on the Orange Stage, eccentrically and scarily dressed, commenting that ‘You Scandinavians are fashionable motherf__kers’. The rapper, Ninja then asks ‘Who wants to see some African a__?’, flashing and shaking his bum on stage before performing their lead single ‘Baby’s On Fire’. Yo-Landi Vi$$er points at a man next to her wearing a terrifying mask with huge buck teeth squealing ‘Do you know who this is?! This is my DJ!’ as she twerks in front of DJ Hi-Tek and breaks out into her robot baby-doll singing of ‘I Fink U Freeky’.


Dolomite Minor: UK/Psychobilly/Sludge Metal/Blues

The appeal of Dolomite Minor lies in the curious mixture of musical styles which they twist together, creating a sound which balances the normally contrasting features of each sound to build a collective strength. The mystery of psychedelia is grounded by the classic appeal of rockabilly, the profound depths of the blues are contained in a dark and steady grunge tempo, yet each sound is audible for just long enough to be recognized. The duo themselves reflect this balance in their stage personas. Drummer Max Palmier is laser-focused and committed, his concentration broken only between tracks as he throws up his hands and paces the stage. Vocalist/guitarist Joe Grimshaw, on the opposite end, is distant and silent. He seems almost unaware of the crowd, making eye-contact only when necessary and introducing songs with a mumbling accent which the audience clearly have trouble understanding. The response from the crowd is riotously enthusiastic, however, with the men behind us likening Grimshaw to Jesus himself. He certainly has the hair for the job, and both halves of Dolomite Minor can really play. But with the delicate balance of classic styles they’re working with, the only question is if Dolomite Minor will be able to continue concocting original sounds this entrancing.

Run the Jewels: US/Alternative Hip Hop

Roskilde 2015 is a kind of homecoming for rising hip hop duo Run the Jewels. This is where Killer Mike and EI-P played their first official gig together in 2013, but they’ve come back to Roskilde under visibly different circumstances. The Arena stage is packed with raving fans who seem to know all of their lyrics, yet the venue feels more like a club than an arena. The crowd’s energy is not tamed or directed by RTJ, they’re here to entertain and stoke the fire lit by their set. The audience chants along to ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’, flashing the RTJ hand signals, taken from the cover of their self-titled album. The duo’s performance is powerful and immersive; they say that everyone who sees Run the Jewels comes away with a 32-inch chain around their necks, and whether you want to go along with that or not, there is an undeniable energy to their sound and style that lingers even after the music ends.

FOSSILS: DK/Real Drum n’ Bass

Danish ‘Real Drum n’ Bass’ duo, FOSSILS, display the greatest musicianship of any Roskilde act, no contest. Their instrumentals rip through the room at break-neck speed and it’s frankly unbelievable how in tune the two are with each other as they move from one unpredictable note to the next. As a duo, you might expect Per Silkjær and Simon Tornby’s sound to lack in some way, and although they don’t produce anything as deep/full as most bands, their combination of drum and bass guitar seems to provide plenty of potential for experimentation (although their meat-themed song titles are questionable). They take the stage in formal dress, thin black ties and white jackets, like a dancehall band from the 50s, and dive right into some of the most hardcore rock you’ll ever hear. Although their stage presence is nearly non-existent – the two never move from their positions onstage – watching them produce sound at such speeds is entertainment enough. FOSSILS bring technical skill to Roskilde which shines out from a crowd of catchy, mainstream pop rock, and although the two are older than most artists here, FOSSILS innovate on a level that younger groups should aspire to.

The Gaslamp Killer Experience: US/Alternative Hip Hop

William Benjamin Bensussen, better known as the Gaslamp Killer, says he is honoured to be on the bill with Kendrick Lemar, because he’s changed a lot of things in California where he is from. The ‘experience’ consists of a 14-piece orchestra, including bass, guitar, keys, drummers, percussionists, sitar, strings and winds, who perform a variety of psychedelic and experimental tracks from their debut album ‘Breakthrough’ including the Persian song ’Nissim’. In between songs, the Gaslamp Killer shares some of his mantras, warning the crowd not to give into fear, ‘that’s not you, that’s fear. Tell your mother you wanna be an artist.’ Finally, he says that he’ll do some stuff off the new live album and starts playing the intro to Kanye West’s most recent release ‘All Day’ before laughing ‘You think I’d actually play that a__hole?!’ and breaking it down into his own remix of the track.

Kendrick Lamar: US/Hip Hop

Having performed at Roskilde before in 2013, Kendrick teases the audience throughout the gig, promising that he will return next year if he can ‘feel their energy’ from the Orange Stage. Finally, with a build up of ‘Swimming Pools’ and ‘Poetic Justice, the crowd comes truly alive after ‘m.A.A.d city’ and Kendrick promises to come back next year. Kendrick gives a shoutout to all his ‘day one fans’ and performs several hits off his new album ‘To Pimp a Butterfly, including ‘King Kunta’, which he then follows with a ‘Roskilde Freestyle’ rapped over the crowd’s chanting of ‘Seven Nation Army’.


Joanna Gruesome: UK/DIY/Noise Pop

Joanna Gruesome appear at Roskilde coasting on critical acclaim for their recently released record ‘Peanut Butter’. But that isn’t their only news. Lead singer Alanna recently announced her departure from the band on Facebook, raising questions about the band’s future. Entering into the performance, the effect of this development on the band is on everyone’s minds, you can’t help but wonder if the band really want to be here at all. The performance is surprisingly and disappointingly short; the band play for 25 minutes before leaving abruptly and refusing calls for an encore. They do well instrumentally, but the vocals are difficult to hear and the lyrics muffled throughout the set. Vocalist Kate Stonestreet does belt out a few powerful solos, but otherwise seems pretty uninvolved. The highest point of the performance is during an interval between songs, when the keyboardist recounts the fun the band had while swimming in one of the lakes in the campsite. It would be easy to explain Joanna Gruesome’s disappointing show at Roskilde with speculation about the effects of the band’s apparent lack of direction, but all any fan in the audience can do is hope that this new line-up will prove capable of more than they delivered.

Young and In the Way: US/Black Metal

Young and in the Way perform with a level of aggression that seems to draw on an inexhaustible supply of rage. It’s an experience that’s not for the faint of heart. The lead singer prowls the stage like some kind of caged animal, eyeing the audience with suspicion, confrontational and accusatory. YAITW are assertive, pessimistic and morbid: everything you could want from black metal. However, they take these hallmarks a step further in their performance style, directing the rage that metal would normal hurl at society straight back to their audience. In fact the exchange of emotions between audience and band is actually expressed literally at points, with at least a dozen cans of beer hurled back and forth from the stage throughout the set. When you get over the impulse to run away very far, very fast, there’s something satisfying about the lack of limitations which the band seems to embrace. Everything that you’ve heard about rock concerts happens at some point during the set: guitars are smashed, the vocalist crowd-surfs and does a front flip, slamming himself into the stage, someone in the audience even gets a free guitar in the end after the bassist re-enters after the grand finale and hurls the lead guitar into the crowd. Style aside, Young and in the Way make music that’s dense and mercilessly dark, representative of the label ‘black crust’ that it’s been given by fans. But after experiencing such a high-octane live performance, you leave knowing that there’s no way they’ll seem as good in the morning.

Nicki Minaj: US/Hip Hop/Pop

Surrounded by dancers and a live band, Nicki opened her set with the emotional ‘All Things Go’ dressed in a black mesh veil. Towards the end of the song, she pointed to the sky, amazing the crowd with a hot air balloon floating above them. She casually introduced her most famous hit ‘Anaconda’, saying ‘this is a little song I do sometimes, sing along if you know it’ as she changed into a pink glittery tutu. She gave a shoutout to all the independent women in the audience, and dedicated a cover of Beyoncé’s ‘Flawless’ to them. Nicki closed the set performing a selection of David Guetta covers before an explosive encore of ‘The Night is Still Young’ and ‘Starships’.

Paul McCartney: UK/Pop/Rock

Embarking on a worldwide tour, McCartney opens with the timeless Beatles classic ‘Eight Days a Week’. Appealing to younger audiences, Paul performs some of his latest releases ‘All My Life’ (featured on the Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs 2 soundtrack) and ‘Hope for the Future’ which was used in the video game Destiny. Despite not performing Mia’s personal favourite ‘Jet’, he does play ‘Lady Madonna’, with the faces of several inspirational women including Frieda Kahlo, Hedy Lemarr and Marilyn Monroe flashing on screen. During ‘Back in the USSR’, McCartney reminisces upon his first visit to the Red Square and meeting a Russian Officer who told him ‘I learn English from Beatles records. Hello, goodbye’. Alongside the playful, carefree sing-a-long melodies of ‘Obladi Oblada’ and ‘All Together Now’, McCartney makes some heartfelt dedications. Playing a ukulele George Harrison had given him, Paul performs a rendition of ‘Something’, and thanks George for writing such a beautiful song. He even tries to speak Danish throughout the gig, as he introduces a song written for his wife Linda called ‘My Valentine’, and a song written for John Lennon after his death, ‘Here Today’. McCartney’s whole set consists of a phenomenal 40 songs in just 3 hours, spanning his entire musical career from The Beatles to Wings and his solo career. The audience are always kept on their feet, especially during the unexpected fireworks display at the climax of ‘Live and Let Die’. After the first encore, McCartney returns to the stage brandishing a large Danish flag before rocking out to ‘Helter Skelter’ and gradually transitioning into ‘The End’.

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