Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Roskilde Experience





So this is his first post for our blog
he writes like a boss
for realz

but enough talk
go read for yourself


When I first arrived at the camp site that was to become the largest music festival in the European North, it was little more than a great, empty field of battle waiting to happen. I felt like Caesar as I surveyed this foreign land where I would stay for the next ten days and make my stand against the forces this world had arrayed against me. The gates to the festival and camping site had yet to open and before me thousands upon thousands of hopeful, drunken youth, dedicated heads of families with their children in tow, and people of all ages in shorts, shirts, bear suits, princess costumes and all manners of different clothing were grouped in a tight formation, leaning, pushing and sitting on each other. The cumbersome packs slung on backs, towering above their heads like ornate headpieces, were loaded with everything and anything they would need and wouldn’t in the coming campaign. I too, was ready for the fight after harrowing months of school and work, stress and deadlines, and felt like nothing could stop me.
The gates opened, and the flood was released, washing across the battlefield with merciless abandon, an apocalyptic force that would for the next ten days dance, trample, spill, piss, plant, ash and vomit on, in and around every uninhabited spot of the field, as well as several of their comrades’ tents. Camps were quickly established, flags raised to declare tenuous groupings and all manners of decorations and adornments hung from poles and pavilions, colouring the field with a blossoming, bursting life. Cowboys, knights and Mario and Luigi walked around hand in hand, followed by Pikachu, bears and witches, hippies, business suits and tennis players; an amalgamation of everything and anything that can and should exist.
When the camps were set up, and the flags raised, and the first rag-tag band of merry men and women were settled, the festival began in earnest, joined continuously by a trickle of new arrivals, brought by bus or car, and herded in through gaps in the massive fence system that kept that band of brothers and sisters separate from the non-existent outside world. The first five days of the festival are officially known as the Warm-Up, where entertainment is more or less left up to those with the inspiration and creativity to get it started. Sound systems, dragged in on carts or pushed in wheelbarrows, sat squat and dominatingly loud along the dirt paths that served as a road system in the great shanty town of Roskilde. Already surrounded by merry dancers, unwilling to wait for the festival true, each sound system was a locus of activity, drinking, and nudity, as a constant spray of beer kept the participants well fuelled for the endless party. They jumped and kicked, fists punching the air and hugging each other restlessly, sun glasses bouncing, beach balls hopping from head to head as the sun overhead began its patient wait for our inevitable breakdown the following day under its incandescent rays and our aching stupor.
Between the dancing and the relentless rhythms of repetitive and demanding summer hits, there were the camps already filled with collapsed and resting people. Under great tarps and virgin white pavilions they sat, slumped and moaning quietly, or speaking to their campmates on the great topics of life and philosophy, love and morality as the lives of their warm beer fizzled out, leaving stagnant cans for later use as a bowling ball, in the Roskilde game of beer-bowling, the rules of which are too numerous and complicated to describe here.
After a few days, the weather had become hot in earnest, and the pristine and multicoloured tent city had begun to look crestfallen, graffiti marking most neighbourhoods and the ever present stink of sweat, hash, and piss that pervaded the festival had grown to near unbearable levels. But bear it we did, as the heat evaporated the veritable river of urine that ran along the less populated roads and created a jaundiced haze that hung over us like a punishment from above. The port-a-potties functioned as greenhouses and created smells in that cramped space that were worthy of remembrance. Whether or not an odour actually can damage you lungs is beyond my basic knowledge of biology but if it could, those toilets would have been shut down by the local board of health.
In the southern quadrant of the camping site a lake lay, promising cool respite from the days’ rising temperatures, and the festival-goers flocked to it like Anabaptists in dusty bathrobes, stolen from a mother’s wardrobe, or, failing that, naked as the day they were born. This continued daily, beers and joints shared on the beach among the thickets, until the official decree came that declared the water too dirty, too corrupted from the filth of thousands of dirty bodies daily, spitting, spilling, and urinating to their heart’s content.
Finally, the music area opened, and the grime-encrusted population of Roskildefestivalen was let into its welcoming space, lined always with beer tents, food tents, merchandise tents, tobacco tents, urinals, graffiti, minibanks, and rows of men and a few daring or desperate women, relieving themselves against the plywood walls, shouting back to their friends and greeting those next to them. There was a rum and cigar bar where I shared a ‘nice’ cigar with a few of my campmates (by which I mean it was not the cheapest), a greenhouse, a silent disco, a hairdresser’s, an orange bar; all types of food (“Mama’s Southern Burgers,” “Gringo Nachos with Chicken Wings,” “Mummmbai Samosas,” the infamous “Skiburger,” “Fridtjof’s Meatballs,” and other such delectable treats) were available for a connoisseur such as myself and I ate until I burst, almost literally. At the concerts, heads bobbed in the smoke, collected standards waved, and feet moved, sluggish at first, but soon stamped and jumped to the beat of the music, were it psychedelic electronica, upbeat Americana folk, or orderly but raucous heavy death metal.
The nights became one. An excited girl at Bon Iver cheered me up with tears of joy and whoops of happiness; crying, drunken dramatics came crashing through our camp one night, leaving behind a broken chair and several ringing ears; roving sound systems, loaded on carts, pushed by tireless, spectacled and topless boys and girls in the bright Northern nights; gin, J√§germeister, vodka, cocktails, rum, beer, and endless cigarettes smoked by every bushy-haired or costumed festivalgoer, resulted in muddy one-night stands. The rain began, a slow pitter-patter, deceptively soothing despite its threatening potential to drown the festival, but no such disaster struck, and Roskilde continued unhindered, its participants now mud-soaked and naked, rolling and laughing and singing and roaring. Three Icelandic Pikachu girls danced on the mobile music station and a beautiful fog descended on the final night, hanging over the lake, grey, black, and brown. Our last stand came in a ditch now water-logged and brown-green, where we spent the night dancing and stamping our feet around the three Pikachus, venerating the goddesses of the Roskilde spirit, supplicant in our reverence to those great deities. We danced until our legs were spattered. We danced until our stomachs turned. We danced until the flags waved no more. One girl fell off the wagon, and puked and proclaimed to the rising sun “I’m dying, I’m dying!”
The night was over, and our goddesses had fallen. The battle was over, and we had put up a mighty fight, but the real world persists, and Roskilde takes no one with her, so we went to sleep for the final two hours before our last march down the festival avenues.
The final morning arrives and a bleary-eyed young man emerges, first with his head, tasting the air, then the rest of him appears and he sits down in front of his tent opening. He manages to produce a cigarette, from where is unclear, and rests it between his fingers, staring into the intensely hot but gloomy morning. His red eyes are infused with a shell-shocked look as they fix on a point just outside of space and time.
Another man appears up the road, with a moaning cry like some primordial, sloth-like, rumbling creature, and walks about, seemingly at random. His eyes are two round, red orbs, searching the ground. He finds what he’s looking for and urinates against an abandoned tent. Soon the campsite is awash with dirty coughs, spits, packing, mumbling, and a lonesome ranger with a guitar, rendering a melancholy tune as the sun, too, is overwhelmed and subsumed by hazy grey clouds that bring with them a light, trickling rain, as if too exhausted to bring its full, biblical potential to bear against the garbage wasteland that Roskildefestivalen has become.
It was a melancholy feeling that day as I sat with my camp members, incapacitated by the drink and the sun that had deigned to return after the cleansing showers, looking over the dirt path by our camp, at the people on their way home. The sad, last march of the Roskilde festival-goers. A downcast look in their eyes, they trudged with carts and bags, loaded with matrasses, sleeping bags, disheveled clothes, carts with beer, sound systems, footballs, hats, a friend passed out, enjoying a ride through the shanty town of tents and pavilions, and piles and piles of garbage.
We smoked our last cigarettes and squinted under the sun, defeated, finally, by the Orange Feeling (the name given to the pseudo-mystical effect of attending Roskilde Festival; it is the vomit in the clear plastic bag; it is the sun rising in the fog; it is the croak one develops after a day of battle; it exists outside of judgment; it simply is). Beside me lay a half-eaten chicken sandwich, on its way to decomposition and martyrdom. Days of glory were past as the sinful returned home in a slow trickle, yet we could not cast stones, for we too would be on our way. Roskilde was over, for now, and the bubble had burst.
Soon we were making our way through the trash carpet, avoiding ripped and shredded tents, empty crates of beer, matrasses, cans, bags and boxes of bread, vegetables, jam, and fruit, balloons, signs, clothes, abandoned lives of a hardy, alcoholic folk. Broken pavilions and tent poles littered the ground and stuck out like the legs of large insects, on their backs, confused and dying, scrabbling at the air for relief. We smoked our second round of last cigarettes. I came, I saw, I partook, but lo I did not conquer, for Roskilde forges her own path, and none can stand in her way. We can only follow along for a short while before being shaken off, and forced to return home, tails tucked between our mud-spattered legs. What we had fought for – I’m sure it was different for each and every one of us – but I like to believe that there was some commonality shared in our collective rejection of the outside world, for just that while, those ten short days of love and destruction, bacchanalian festivities and veneration of humanity.
And then we sat, having bid farewell to Maya and Louise, and Mark and Mikkel with a last beer, on the bus, an 8 hour journey to Oslo, and home. Isolated behind tinted windows, we sat and looked out the windows at the Swedish countryside, as it swept past, quiet and green and rolling, with pine-trees and boulders, punctuated with red or blue houses dotted on the landscape. The AC’d cabin of the bus was the only sound I heard, the faint murmur from other passengers creating the backdrop for the truly beautiful Scandinavian nature rolling by. The clouds, highlighted now by the high evening sun, pointed our way home, shaped like the breaking waves in a Hokusai print, their frothing crests rounded off by the guiding winds. Though occasionally covered by a cloud, and shaded by the bus’ tinted windows, the westering sun was a white light orb, now followed by a ghost trailing on the ground below, because what now sat in the bus back to Oslo was but a fragment of what we left behind at Roskilde. 

sublime light - this is Gus at Roskilde 2012 - whadda cutie

and some people take 'roughing it' to the next level - Roskilde 2011

casual Gus - 2011

"The heterotopia turned dystopic", as I'm assuming Foucault would describe this.

I would too

Beer Bomb!

The liminal sublimity of it all. AAAAH CAMPING LIFE FOR LIFE
So that was Gus and his account of the sixth largest music festival in Europe.
Just for those of you who don't know and are too lazy to google it, Roskilde is an annual live music festival held in Southern Denmark, established by two high school students in 1971.  These kids obviously had the right idea in mind.
After reading this, I'm sure ya'll join me for the pilgrimage to the North. Roskilde 2013. It has to be done

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