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Sunday, June 29, 2003

Fu Manchu, Daniel Johnston and Blur

Yes, I saw those bands back to back, though not on the same stage.

Fu Manchu are the California band sometimes called the fathers of Acid Rock. Although they often get grouped in with that wishy-washy term "metal" there is rock and roll at the heart of their music, which made for an enjoyable experience, even if I was far from overwhelmed. "Godzilla" and "Hell on Wheels" were highlights, though they did play several new songs as well. After nearly every song, their Californian "Thank you very much" kind of grated on me after a while under the Danish sun.

My new prescription earplugs are doing the trick though. Fu Manchu is likely the loudest band I've ever heard in my life. (Think really loud, then turn it up 2-3 notches.)

Next was the American singer Daniel Johnston, an unstable 42 year old, who is currently receiving medical treatment. Beck and Bowie and Kurt Cobain have been fans. There was a lot of encouragement from the audience in terms of cheering and clapping along as he worked his way through his set. Clumsy, grey haired, and somewhat overweight, Johnston sang childlike songs accompanying himself first on a strummed classical guitar (that was miked, not plugged in), then on electric piano. The songs are catchy and do sound amateurish at first, or as if written by a child, but strangely woven into them is a lot of emotional wisdom that starts cutting to the bone after a while and you realize why this guy has 20 albums to his name and is appreciated by musicians and fans worldwide. Although I'm not yet terribly familiar with his music, I plan to educate myself upon my return. Lyrics like "No is just tomorrow to me and you" spoken in the context of love is something I won't soon forget.

After Daniel Johnston, I made my way into the "inner circle" at the main stage. This would be the spot where the fans were crushed as Pearl Jam played a few years ago. There was plenty of room to move around, but of course, it was still an hour and a half until Blur was due to go on and my bladder didn't hold out that long, so out I went to watch Blur from further back.

Songs like Beetlebum and Boys and Girls started off Blur's set. Lead singer, the dapper Damon Albarn set a serious tone when he said he was glad to be back in Denmark, "A free country" he called it. I couldn't help but feel there was a critical reference being made here to his home country of England.

I waited for my favorite new song, the single from Think Tank called "Out of Time." I got it about 6 songs in and was more than happy with the result. I managed to catch the entire Blur show plus 3 encores in between repeated beer runs. I was almost surprised at how huge these guys are in Denmark, but perhaps I shouldn't have been. This was a great show that definitely rivaled Coldplay from the night before as far as the reasons behind these crazy rock and roll expeditions to Europe go. Sadly, perhaps, I'm not able to find the same comraderie at US rock shows, despite the fact that I'm usually among friends. Sometimes, strangers are the best people to be standing amidst when you see a show, and when they're not even speaking English (except when they're singing along to the songs, of course) it adds an extra element of distance. And speaking of singing along, maybe I'm lame, but the Danish knew all the words to Boys and Girls where as I had a hard time keeping up even on the chorus despite the fact that I've been listening to it for years.

Blur will hit Minneapolis at First Avenue in a couple of weeks. I won't be back in time for that show, but I'm sure it will be a doozy. The 40 to 50 thousand screaming fans I saw appreciating them at the Orange Stage can't be wrong.

Oh, and speaking of singalongs, the busride from Roskilde station to the festival featured a dozen boisterous young Danes singing among other things, the lyricless theme from Dallas at the top of their lungs. The ride home at 2 a.m. featured more subdued music by some Danish teenage girls who were sitting just behind me on the floor of the bus (I was not only ahead of the yellow no standee line, I was allowed to sit on the bus steps.) The girls laughed through a couple bars of Edel Weis, and then tried to even get me to sing along to what was perhaps a Danish folk song I did not recognize. I did my best, but failed miserably. But successful or not in my singalong, that was a fun ride.

There's more, but I'm tired and need to get back out to the festival for Bjork. I will miss the Sounds because I didn't wake up until 1330 today for some reason. Perhaps I needed the rest.

As far as my typos and lack of the normal background info I provide on the music I see via pre-writing research, I'm much less worried about that today. I read my blog referral log today and noted that for the most part, no one is reading this except a couple of friends back in Minneapolis. Perhaps it's best that this amateurish, bloggish writing of mine stays hidden until I get a better handle on what I'm trying to do over here.

Oh, but one final note about the lack of trash at Roskilde. The reason the cup recycling works so well is that a beer costs a reasonable 18 kroner. Simple math shows that returning a mere 9 plastic cups to the refund station is enough to buy another beer. Enough said.

Oh, and I saw my first Husker Du t-shirt on a Danish festival goer today.