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Saturday, June 28, 2003

And now, live from Denmark....

The Danish lay out the computer keyboard much differently than I am used to at home (the punctuation keys are all over hell.) So that, combined with the fact that I will not have time to do much editing here at this internet cafe in Copenhagen, may make for a rocky read in spots. Forgive me for that.

After an uneventful trip from Minneapolis, I landed at Copenhagen airport on Friday morning about 0915. The two pints of Heineken I'd had in Amsterdam at 0700 was helping to take the edge off the tired eyes from lack of sleep.

There was time for brief exploration and a necessary short nap before catching a train to Roskilde.

I'm glad I chose The Roskilde Festival this weekend, which takes place the same weekend as the Glastonbury Festival in England as the reports from the BBC suggest a possibly rainy, therefore muddy weekend at the sister festival across the way.

Roskilde so far has been my second favorite European Rock Festival, next to the Witnness Festival in Dublin as far as friendly fun goes. Safety, convenience and good sense abound at this festival. Remember, this is the festival where several young men, mostly from Germany, died in the mosh pit at a Pearl Jam performance just a few years ago. These days, there's a red light/green light approach to allowing people into the front area up by the stage. When it's full, it's full. End of story. And this in no way seems to detract from enjoying the show even outside the frontstage area as it's an entirely transparent safety measure as far as the rest of the audience goes.

Roskilde is a cleaner festival than most. The bathroom facilities are not bad, and in many cases pissing troughs line the walls of the festival where people would pee anyway if they weren't there. Brilliant move. And as far as garbage? There's a 2 Kroner deposit (about 2 cents) on all plastic beer cups. Surprisingly, due to this there's almost no litter. If you don't return your cup, someone else will.

I arrived one day late to the festival which started Thursday, missing Thursday's headliner, Metallica. (I don't feel bad about that actually.) Ironically, the first act I managed to catch at Roskilde was punk rock polka stars Los Lobos, playing the main (Orange) stage around 7 p.m. Between songs, Los Lobos quipped, "Yes, we're Mexicans," to the joyful and enthusiastic crowd of maybe 25 thousand. It was a great set, and I was glad that so early in my trip I realized the real point of my pilgrimage. Los Lobos ended their set by saying, "Thanks a lot. Iron Maiden's up next." How often do you get to say that and have it actually be true?

A little later in the Arena the Raveonettes performed their psychadelic Sonic Youth-like music obscured almost completely by smoke and a light show. Jumping back to the Metropol stage I caught a few songs by The ska-influenced hip hop act, The Streets. Their latest UK hit segued respectfully into a faithful cover of The Specials "Ghost Town."

Then I went to Iron Maiden, and I never thought I'd say this, but you know what? They're fucking great. Their entire set was a high energy, wave the Union Jack, prance around, singalong fun time, especially a set highlight for me, "Die With Your Boots On."

I took a brief jaunt back to the Arena for a hauntingly beautiful set by Sigur Ros. Tears abounded, even my own. This show was probably the highlight of my first day at Roskilde.

Then Coldplay took over the English standard on the Orange Stage from the Maiden and performed another moving set that opened with Politik and God Put a Smile on My Face. Notably, Chris Martin spoke only Danish between songs for the entire duration of the set that I caught.

Of course the problem with this show was that Coldplay had gone onstage at 1 a.m., and since I had a 30 minute busride back to Copenhagen I figured I should catch the 2 a.m. shuttle in order that I'd be able to get up the next day and do this all over again.

Tonight, among others, Blur and the Sounds are on my "to see" list. Off I go again...