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by Kevin Goss-Ross / Images by Kevin Goss-Ross & Christoffer Rosenfeldt / 23.12.2014

Originally published on 17 July 2014

The last time I was duped into doing anything for Mahala was back in 2011. It was time for Oppikoppi “Unknown Brother” and Roger Young pulled a flaccid, leaving me to my own devices. The now infamous Barashenkov wrote that piece, and we got into trouble because he called someone something they didn’t like to be called. He smelled better than Young and tasted better than McGee, but he didn’t hang out with me much.

When Roger jumped ship after some or other dispute with the Mahala Boss, the glitz and glamour was gone and like an upper class whore I decided I’d rather get paid for my work. Since then, I’ve moved to Ireland – the Pinetown (poor-town) of Europe. This year I’m going to miss Oppikoppi for the first time in years and I needed another festival to get out all that pent-up animal in me. So I was easily convinced to join photographer Christoffer Rosenfeldt on his annual pilgrimage to Roskilde in Denmark.

So it came to be that I approached Mahala for tickets to Roskilde with my tail between my legs, a day before press accreditation closed, thinking to myself that the monster music fest would probably laugh off a tardy third world blog. (*Fuck you Kev – Ed!)

But Mahala came through with tickets and so it came to be that two expat South African photographers headed off to cover the largest music festival in Northern Europe to bring you this fine reportage.


It’s hard to write a review of a festival in a foreign country while sidestepping a review of the country it’s in. That said – it’s hard to review anything if you’re not a writer! Let’s just say this: Denmark has its shit together more than any country I’ve ever been to. It’s hailed as one of the happiest countries in the world, with an 87% voter turnout and one of the world’s highest per capita incomes. The Danes are happy and they have money to spend, so it’s handy that they have Roskilde – a behemoth of a festival hosting 130 000 people over eight days and making it (for a while anyway) Denmark’s fourth largest city.

For those of you that only know the name Roskilde because of the Pearl Jam disaster of 2000, here’s some more enlightening history. The festival was first held in 1971 and was created by two high school students. Roskilde has always been a non-profit affair, with all the festival profit going to charity. The festival has generated around 26.4 million Euros (excluding 2014) and is run by a massive 31 000 volunteers. Some do it because they believe in all the hippy ethics and the ‘Orange Feeling’ everyone is on about all the time, but I suspect that most do it for the ticket. It’s a fair deal too – four, 8-hour shifts over eight days for a free ticket (tickets go for around R3700) and staff camping isn’t a bad deal.

Over its 40-odd year history the festival has featured a massive selection of acts, ranging from Bob Marley to Nirvana and Rihanna. Roskilde has a daily newspaper, a radio station and even a specially built train station with a real classy and spotless double-decker train running from inside the festival to the local town every half hour. The local town of Roskilde has a number of huge supermarkets, which seem bizarre in relation to the relatively small town. They must make a sizable chunk of their annual profit from the festival, and are ready to relieve you of all your money in exchange for tents, gumboots, mattresses, camping chairs, sunscreen, canned fish and cheap(ish) liquor.

We arrived on the Monday, and with the main stage only opening on Thursday, it was a real test of self-control to balance longevity with reckless festival-style indulgence. The only way we were going to survive this ordeal was to load up on lots of booze and sugar. So we took the train to Roskilde and raided one of the giant supermarkets; returning with canned mackerel, Jagermeister, lots of whiskey and too much Red Bull. A diet to satisfy both the child and the (make-believe) adult in me.


The thing about an eight-day festival is that it is eight days long. Unfortunately you can’t just come for the last four days of music because the first four days are the most fun. The campers seem almost militantly passionate about making their own party happen where they camp and spend the year leading up to the festival constructing over-sized boom boxes. Some are more box than boom, but bigger is better, and if you’ve got lasers on yours all the 5am MDMA zombies will flock to you like you’ve got bacon strapped to your head. Tese things are powered with tractor batteries and most have wheels. (You’ve got to be really dedicated to getting fucked up/laid to drag something like that to a festival.)

South African festival goers have gotten pretty lazy, what with being able to camp next to your cars. Sure you’ll maybe be arsed enough decorate a sofa, but until that sofa has lasers and its own smoke machine, I’m unimpressed.

Roskilde revelers are kept entertained during these first four days with skate/rollerblading competitions at the local skate park, loads of art, ‘champong’ (champagne ping pong), box wine tastings, and beer bowling (basically sitting in camp chairs trying to knock over the opposing team’s can – I don’t really get it). There is something to do 24 hours a day, every day.

Eventually Thursday arrived and we discovered that someone fucked up and we wouldn’t be allowed into the photographer’s pit. Obviously with an event of this size, shit happens, but how the fuck we were marked down as “writers” not photographers, will forever remain a mystery. If you want to see pictures of the acts performing, I’m sure the Google-God will sort you out.


As for a music review – again, you’re shit out of luck. How anyone reviews a live performance is beyond me. Any way you swing it, you’re going to be somewhat biased. You either like a band/genre and might be too enthusiastic in your praise, or you just don’t know a genre and ignorance will ensure that you are prejudicial. The only way you could possibly have something legitimately negative to say is if someone pulled a Yoko Ono. Then there is also the fact that big music festivals are the worst place to watch music… ever.

I will, however, be so bold as to say that the Rolling Stones were awesome, and that Mick Jagger still shakes his ass like he’s making butter. They let Keith sing two songs and even though he’s probably the coolest person in the world, the drugs that made him cool have ensured that he’s not exceptionally eloquent. The Arctic Monkeys were out to show everyone that they’ve grown genitalia since ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not’. It’s amazing what a 50s asshole haircut will do for a person. The little-known Danish act with the questionable name – The Awesome Welles – were one of my favourites of the festival. Their live set at the International Press village was intense, but I’ve got a feeling they’re one of those bands that are so much better live than on a recording, and I’m never sure whether that’s a blessing or a curse. Another Danish gem was TRENTEMØLLER. I wasn’t all that interested in their DJ set on the main stage, but I was quickly sold on their indie rock synth harmony mess of a full live band playing songs everyone but I knew. Rob Zombie surprised most by being very, very good. The man is nearing 50 and looks homeless but his deal with Satan is clearly paying off. I’ll admit to being a bit distracted by waiting (and hoping) for songs to be interrupted with a “This is Barney Simon’s Night Zoo!”, but I still got a good 90s mosh in. People watched Stevie Wonder because it is fuggin’ Stevie Wonder! And thank the dark lord that Drake cancelled and was replaced by Jack White, who closed the main stage.

After the Deftones finished their set, I threatened two young English journalists with a quick stabbing if they gave them anything but a five star review, proving my own theory that reviewing music is a farce. Luckily it would seem that the Deftones aren’t too popular any more, which meant I didn’t have to wait for hours in the golden circle line. They were obviously the best show of the entire festival, but I knew that before I got on the plane.

Roskilde is basically Oppikoppi, except it’s held in a less hostile environment and the people are all so beautiful it seems like they’ve been selectively bred. The people mostly speak ‘foreign’ languages punctuated by sounds resembling Karoo Afrikaans brei, but are fluent in English and exceptionally friendly. I didn’t see a single fight – when tensions were high and things looked to be reaching breaking point, the situations were resolved (on more than one occasion) with dance offs. Good old European diplomats.


If you have too much money, love festivals and enjoy whiskey-boarding your liver for four days before the entertainment area even opens, get yourself to Roskilde. The people are beautiful and friendly, it is better organised than anything you’ve ever been to and as an Irish tourist T-shirt would say – “The Craic is Mighty”.

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*Images © Kevin Goss-Ross & Christoffer Rosenfeldt

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