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Monday, June 30, 2003

I survived the Roskilde Festival 2003

Well, I did it. I can cross Roskilde off my list of things to do for 2003 on the list hanging on my fridge in Minneapolis.

It was sad to see the festival wrap up though. If you've been involved with theater, it had the same sort of sadness as striking the set after an enjoyable and successful run of a show.

I won't be able to post any festival photos until my return home. In the meantime I found a site that features many photos here that appears to give a nice, fairly comprehensive, photo-journistic overview.


Bjork was the perfect choice as a festival closer at the Orange Stage. Attendance results are in for this year's festival, about 75,000 people. Most of them came together in the center of the festival grounds to watch the elven one, whose fabulous green hat was an early star of the show. Pictures will have to wait until my return, but imagine the outer leaves of a large sunflower with the middle cut out, except that the petals are green instead of yellow, and there is one of these wrapped around each ear with an opening towards the front. I'm sure that doesn't do it justice, but screw it, I just realized there's a picture of it on the front of her website.

Bjork's show also featured an onstage pyrotechnic's show that would scare the hell out of the Fine Line staff. (According to today's Strib the Fine Line will open again on July 9th with a performance by Lowen & Navarro. Jets of fire, similar to the effects that caused the Great White fire in Rhode Island that killed a hundred people this spring, but probably 5 times the size (and there were dozens of them) lined the stage as an actual fireworks display went off from behind the stage.

I figured I'd be a good boy when Bjork finished and just go on home on the midnight bus, despite the fact that there would be final shows featuring Filur, DeathDisco and Malk de Kojin playing in the Arena until 4:30 a.m. But this didn't mean my adventures were over.

Festival Safety personell had done a terrific job up until the end of the night of keeping people from lighting even small fires, burning mostly small wooden lawn chairs. No sooner would you get one lit than 4 to 6 workers in blue vests would run up and pour water on it.

However, once the festival ended and I was making my way to the bus at the edge of the East camping ground, the fires started to grow larger. I had more than an ample chance to watch due to a bus fiasco that I'll get to in a minute. The fires I could see at the edge of the campground were veritable bonfires. I watched as people threw erected tents, poles and all onto the flames. Billows of black ugly smoke started to waft across the sky.

Did I mention it never really gets dark in Denmark? The sun kind of goes down around 10:15 or so, but then you are left with a kind of post dusk/pre-dawn twilight for pretty much the rest of the night. I saw this lovely light as late as 3:30 a.m. Then, of course, the sun comes back up at 3:30...

The bus fiasco: Although the Danish were surprisingly rude in the beer and food lines, pretty much pushing their way around less agressive and overly polite folks by myself, the first time I worried about someone getting hurt was when trying to catch the post festival buses. I'm a little bad at crowd estimates, but let's just say about 400 to 500 people left through the East Exit around midnight supposedly to catch the night busses that run hourly. At midnight, there were no busses waiting as there had been the previous nights.

At 12:10 the first bus showed up. Have you ever seen a pack of hungry wolves attempt to devour a single piece of meat? The bus was swarmed, and not slowly, but in a big rush. There was no way that all those people were going to fit. There are times when the phrase "There's always room for one more" just ain't true.

Maybe 10 minutes later, another bus showed. Same result, but the crowd had grown. The bus was swarmed even before it got to the busstop, leaving those who actually were waiting in line suddenly at the very back of the list. 12:30, maybe another bus came. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going anywhere soon. I found a comfy abandoned chair and simply sat and watched the Danish sky, the smoke from the growing fires rising in the distance, the lights of the festival looking like a small city. It was chilly, but I'd brought an extra coat and didn't care.

Some folks took cabs, but again there was swarming and some arguments. There was a line for taxis, but again people were swarming them up to 100 yards before they reached the stand. It was nearly 2 a.m. when I struck up a conversation with some girls from Germany who had asked me the time. We got to talking in half English, half German, and the little bit of Danish I have now picked up. (I'd noticed earlier when talking to the guys from the Isle of Man that my accent is all screwed up already. Being a social chameleon of sorts, I am now speaking English with a slightly Danish accent, which sounds a little bizarre.)

I suggested a Taxi to the German girls. I'd been thinking of taking one myself as they did appear to be less popular than the bus. The bus was 65 kronen from the festival to Central Station in Copenhagen, about 35 kilometers. I figured the distance was similar to taking a cab from Minnetonka to downtown Minneapolis, something you wouldn't want to do unless it was an emergency, but it was getting to be nearly 2 a.m.

I had 400 kronen in cash, not enough for a cab, but the cabs did take credit cards. I ended up sharing a cab with the three German girls, Constantin, Kristin, Regina and Sara. We dropped them in a neighborhood referred to as the North Bronx of Copenhagen. My driver told me it was one of the more seedy areas of town, but somehow whenever I travel I manage to get myself straight into those areas. That's how it happened this time.

I ended up paying 80 percent of the 594 kronen fare (about 60 dollars). The girls had a 50 kronen note, a nearly full buscard, and some change. But hell, I'm on holiday, so the money's not that big a deal. Besides, I made some friends, and I had to get home. I gave them my "rock hack" card, and if they email me as promised I may have a place to stay next time I visit Copenhagen.

What does all this have to do with Rock and Roll? Well, the festival experience is much larger than the music for one. Even shy folks like myself do tend to meet people eventually, usually on the last day of the festival when people are worn down and more chatty. Festivals take a lot out of an old man like me, but you get out of things what you put into them. Flying to Europe to do something crazy like seeing rock shows is definitely something you don't soon forget.

Museum Erotica

Now I have two days to try and explore Copenhagen. But I got the cheesy and boring Museum of Erotica out of the way yesterday morning. I must say it's not worth the admission fee, though they do give you a handy guidebook as part of the admission. Making your way through the three floors of exhibits that chronicle the history of sex through the ages you get the strange and probably incorrect impression that sex was at its sexiest in around 1970. However, you also realize that Marilyn Monroe stands around across the ages as one of the most amazing women who ever lived.