About This Festival
At the top of a short list of essential European music festivals, Denmark’s four-day Roskilde Festival is such an epic undertaking that it begins with a four-day warm up just to get you ready. Something akin to summer camp for adults, Roskilde has hosted some of the biggest names in music, from Bruce Springsteen to The Roots, all for a good cause (the event is run by the Roskilde Festival Charity Society, who has raised more than €25 million to date).
Roskilde Festival - A Musical Beginning
Roskilde’s roots trace back to 1971, when high school students Mogens Sandfær and Jesper Switzer Møller joined forces with promoter Carl Fischer. Their intention was to create a festival in Denmark with the same feel as large music festivals like the Newport Jazz Festival and Isle of Wight. The first festival featured 20 bands performing on one stage. Today, Roskilde takes place on nearly a dozen stages across more than 200 acres and features 180 performers, more than 100,000 attendees and 25,000 onsite volunteer staff. Everything from rock, dance and jazz to blues, hip-hop and pop is on the schedule.
The festival, held around the first week in July on the Viking island of Zealand, is about more than just music. Entry includes access to the grounds and admission to the warm up, which is designed for camping and getting acquainted with the atmosphere and other attendees. During this time you can swim in the lake, take in a film or check out the on-site skate park. There are also numerous performances and art installations, all part of establishing a creative and jovial vibe. One of the most infamous traditions of the festival is the annual nude run. Since 1998, hardy festival-goers have been streaking around the campsites for the chance to win free passes for the coming year.
Roskilde Festival - Stage Presence
Everyone has played at Roskilde, from Bon Iver, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Queens of the Stone Age to Mastodon, Bob Dylan, The Strokes, and M.I.A. (the list goes on). The National, Animal Collective and Sigur Ros all played in 2013; Florence and the Machine, Pharrell, and Paul McCartney in 2015. Red Hot Chili Peppers will perform their new album at the 2016 edition, 20 years after their first performance at the fest.
In addition to big names, Roskilde features a host of medium and small stages where you can catch up-and-comers or a host of top-notch Scandinavian acts.Each stage represents a different vibe or genre. Apollo, an outdoor stage amenable to instrumentalists, DJs and crowds of 5,000, is “a platform for electronic music.” Pavilion is the small rock stage, with a capacity of 2,000, and is designated for underground rock, heavy metal and more experimental artists. Pavilion Junior is comparable in size and exists as a proving ground for up-and-coming local bands to wow passing crowds between sets.
Cosmopol is designed with a city feel in mind, presenting R&B, hip-hop and electronica in an indoor club-like space. Odeon is dedicated to bands providing a “raw rock” experience. Gloria is the tiniest room, designed for the most intimate and unadorned music. The second-largest stage is Arena, which hosts major artists who require an indoor experience, and has featured electronic legends Kraftwerk. The massive main stage is Orange, an outdoor space with a 60,000-person capacity. The largest acts perform here including U2, Metallica, and Radiohead.
Unfortunately, a festival this grand is not without heartache. In 2000, nine fans were crushed to death during a Pearl Jam concert, which prompted tighter safety regulations at European music festivals. Some argue that Roskilde has never fully recovered, but we believe they’ve grown for the better.
Roskilde is a tightly run ship with an all-volunteer staff, a daily newsletter, and its own radio station. In addition to encouraging camping and carousing prior to the event, the staff are focused on keeping the audience safe while maintaining clean grounds with low-impact cleaning products and a minimum-waste ethos. As a patron of Roskilde, you’ll realize why musicians revere the European festival scene. It’s a top-notch experience for music fans.