SOMETHING IS ROCKING IN THE STATE OF DENMARK…

[B]No knee-deep mud? No take home E-coli? No lightning strikes into the stands? Clean toilets? Can this be a 'proper' late-'90s music festival? 'Ja!' cries STEPHEN DOWLING, 'It's Danish, it's Roskilde

ROSKILDE FESTIVAL

Denmark

So it rained at Glastonbury – again. No disrespect, but when Roskilde (about 40 minutes by train outside Copenhagen) deigns to take place on the same weekend, there really is no contest.

Our Nordic colleagues have the festival to end all festivals. Scandinavian efficiency, government subsidies, heavyweight talent, over-zealous cleaning squads… everywhere you look, the Great Danes cock a leg over their lesser Somerset counterparts.

The Thursday warm-up has seen Tortoise, Tori Amos, Tricky, BLACK SABBATH and KRAFTWERK reward the early arrivals.

On the sun-spattered Friday, BERNARD BUTLER throws caution to the wind and goes for the gusto approach. Where his London Garage gigs were an acoustic dip in the water, he and his band (minus Andy Miller) positively storm into proceedings here. The monumental ‘I’m Not Alone’ comes down with enough gravity to seriously rival its recorded version.

Ska veterans THE SKATALITES take to the stage soon after Jamaica beat Japan 2-1 in the World Cup. Understandably, they are over the moon, and the set they deliver is fantastic – an hour or so of music made straight from the heart… and various other places not connected to the brain.

The LO-FIDELITY ALLSTARS too are in great form, buoyed perhaps by the thought of their gig at Glastonbury the following day, they race through stunning versions of ‘Vision Incision’ and ‘Disco Machine Gun’.

There has to come a low point to the night, and unfortunately, it is left to be GARBAGE to deliver it. Like their show at London’s Brixton Academy earlier in the month, this is ragged and lacklustre. The ‘Version 2.0’ songs do not translate at all well in the live arena; only evergreens such as ‘Vow’ and ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ can attempt to stop the rot.

Come Saturday, and Roskilde’s festival superiority is readily apparent. There is no litter – not even cigarette butts – to offend the eye. The plastic glasses that elsewhere signify festival enjoyment are being scooped up by youngsters keen for the 1 krone refunds. The toilets – steel yourself, festival-goers – are far from overflowing and cleaned every hour. Surely, summer music heaven.

The bill is squeaky clean, too. Every band who makes the flight over the North Sea seems to pack along with them all their best tunes and the desire to give the punters their krone-worth. MONEY MARK is in great form, alternating madcap freforms with glowing pop tunes like the magnificent ‘Maybe I’m Dead’ and ‘Hand In Your Head’. A perfect taster for what the Beasties will unleash later in the night.

There have been a few bill causalites, most notably The Verve, of course, but also Marilyn Manson and Echo & The Bunnymen. THE STRANGLERS are the replacement for MacCulloch and Co, and surprisingly get a warm response from the Nordic hordes.

PULP come on and play a blinder. Jarvis Cocker wrings every ounce of glory from the band’s headline slot, destroying the criticism that their newest songs are tantamount to live suicide. Sure, it’s the hits that get the most applause, but ‘This Is Harcore’ especially seems to be well on the way to becoming a live staple.

The festival’s musical highlight comes with THE BEASTIE BOYS, replendent in matching blue boiler suits, striding the stage like kings. Roskilde goes crazy. ‘Hello Nasty’ has been eagerly-awaited like no other album this decade, seemingly, and though the crowd are unfamiliar with the likes of ‘Body Movin” and ‘Remote Control’, they react with the same energy as they do to ‘Time To Get Ill’. Including your this NME.com scribe who momentarily loses grasp of his journalistic integrity and crowd surfs his way to the front. Strange what the Scandinavian air can do to you….

Stephen Dowling