Henry’s Dream offered an intrepid voyage into the surreal
July 18 – 20
Founded and organised by a team of ambitious, quirky visionaries and their close pals, the premiere edition of what may emerge as one of the most artistic festivals in northern Europe was a sensory immersion unlike any other.
The location of Henry’s Dream had been kept secret until only a few hours before it was launched. Curious dreamers were driven via shuttle buses to an abandoned industrial site just north of the Roskilde Festival grounds.
Upon arrival, the wandering sound of a whale-like drone accompanied a cornucopia of colourfully-clad artists who performed around the entrance and upon warehouse rooftops. The scene was as close to a replica of the flower power 60s as one can come across in modern-day Denmark.
The ‘Dream District’ consisted of several well-designed stage areas, each of which had its own unique identity within the fabric of the festival’s overall dream atmosphere. There was a music temple, a 24-hour rave house, a ‘Totem Zone’ and a ‘Lucid Zone’. While some of the scenes resembled the traditional performance setup, others shattered the boundary between performers and the audience, with stages placed in the middle of dark warehouses filled with mist, illuminated paper mache globes and symphonic light shows.
In such areas, it was possible for the audience to get a 360 degree view of the bands, a daring performance design element that paid dividends by immersing the audience in the performance ritual. Equally remarkable was the fact that there was no band schedule and very little information at the festival itself about the acts, many of whom were experimental nomads who veer provocatively between genre lines. Particularly noteworthy concerts included the Danish alternative band Broke, Icelandic psychedelic rockers Dead Skeletons and CTM, the solo project of Choir of Young Believers’ cello player Cecilae Trier.
The haphazard concert schedule helped to cultivate a sense of immersion in the loose, hazy atmosphere, though many would undoubtedly have preferred a bit more structure and communication from the organisers.
A clean, well-organised camping area was available for those who braved all three days and a calm, well-behaved public who cleaned up after themselves was a welcome antithesis to the destructive “let’s leave all our junk behind” mentality of Roskilde. But placing the camping area right alongside a busy motorway, a good kilometre or so from the festival site, left much to be desired.
For a debut festival, the ambitious organisers’ have a few things to improve upon, but overall their intention to create a parallel society devoid of the structuralist constraints of the everyday worked remarkably well.
These reptile rockers come with spring in their step
Oasis booker Michael Olson and David M Allen, a producer who’s made music for the likes of The Cure, knew that they’d spotted something special when they got involved with promoting and producing music for Reptile Youth a few years ago.
Since their discovery in 2008, this electronic rock duo have gone from strength to strength, touring extensively around the world and performing one of the best shows of 2011’s Roskilde Festival, among other achievements. Their performance at a sold-out Lille Vega on Friday was something of a homecoming show following their recent globetrotting, and they were clearly glad to be back on their home turf.
A rugged, frenetic and over-zealous opening act by the name of Broke set the tone very early on, firing a hefty dose of dark-coloured disco music with aplomb. The partisan crowd were generous, but nonetheless saved their energy for Reptile Youth’s appearance. Two songs in and the duo from Aarhus had the crowd swaying fervently to the tune of ‘Black Swan’, the first track on their eponymous debut album from 2012. In addition to their own productions, a sleek touch to the night was a cover of John Lennon’s 1971 protest anthem ‘Gimme some truth’. Reptile Youth’s version bore all the cocky hallmarks of the original, coupled with reverberating synthesizer stabs and a Kavinsky-esque tone that could easily have been at home in a certain Nicolas Winding Refn movie.
Wild, ecstatic live shows and unending energy on stage have become synonymous with Reptile Youth’s performances, and Friday’s festivities were no exception. The end of the concert resembled a circus arena as tracks such as ‘Shooting up sunshine’ and their signature song ‘Speeddance’ were accompanied by some of the wildest crowd surfing antics imaginable by the lead singer, the peak of which featured an audacious clamber onto and jump from the balcony at Lille Vega. Few musicians would attempt such a stunt – and fewer still would get away with it.
Reptile Youth’s use of the space available and the manner in which the crowd unanimously responded to their antics is a testament to just how solid an act they are. The last time they performed at Roskilde Festival it was in the diminutive warm-up Pavilion Junior arena, but don’t be surprised to see them on the main stage in a few years time if they continue their occult assault of the pop-dominated Danish mainstream.