Roskilde 2019: Feature: Beyond Music – Roskilde´s “House of Chroma” and “Ambereum” Create a Forum for Creative Expression

Original article written for The Copenhagen Post

Beyond Music

Roskilde Festival is often touted as being a festival that “goes beyond music.” Indeed, #Rf19 has been described by its organisers as “8 days of music, activism, art, camps and freedom” and to this end, much has been done this year as in many others to create a forum to house the needs of an increasing eclectic festival that attracts a varied and demanding demographic.

Central to this is Roskilde´s arts programme, which tends to create novel, inventive forms of creative expression, which this year, manifested themselves most clearly (we feel) via the House of Chroma and Ambereum areas, both of which combine colour, aesthetics and other elements of performative design.

The Modern Festival Narrative

Whether these areas have been sculpted in response to the likes of festivals such as Heartland zoning in on creating powerful manifestations of creative dialogues that do veritable justice to the “beyond music” intent or whether they emanate from the demands of an increasingly diverse, increasingly aware audience demographic is debatable. What´s not, however, is the future of spaces such as these in the festival narrative, particularly at an event such as Roskilde, which faces the unparalleled challenge of moulding a festival that responds to the increasingly obvious challenges of the world today and the generations to come.

This said, balancing multiple stakeholder interests and ensuring each gets adequate representation in such fora is always going to be a next-to-impossible task and invariably, there is a big difference between intent and actuality. Let´s have a closer look at how the shared spaces of House of Chroma and Ambereum fared against their expectations this year.

House of Chroma – Performances, Workshops, Music

House of Chroma loaned a page from the Buckminster Fuller inspired Dome of Visions concept and with it, the intent to create a liminal space in which ideas, debates, workshop and music could flow freely.  The throbbing epicenter of the art scene, the dome was designed by the Brazilian artist Eli Subrack (also known as Avaf – Assume Vivid Astro Focus,) and like other works by him, explosions and accentuations of colour feature prominently as a dynamo for creative expression.

And what better way to manifest the qualities of such a space than for Eli to invite his pals from the Brazilian Queer Resistance Movement to declare the house open on Wednesday? Using exaggerated, intense expressions of the body amidst a backdrop of theatrical voices and electronic music, the Brazilians wove a tapestry that connected their inconceivable reality with that of an imbibed, privileged but nonetheless curious audience.

Despite this indefatigably vivid opening, House of Chroma was also as much about the familiar everyday and not merely the inconceivable extreme – familiarized. Activism and its new facades were explored comprehensively and in  a matter-of-fact manner by a sit-down with the 2011 Occupy Wall Street co-founder, Micah White, ambient soundscapes were created by the Danish musician, Sofie Birch and Norwegian Sissel Toolas took us on an olfactory journey of 50 scents gathered over 30 years of research.

And there was more – rap music as a vehicle for green climate activism in the form of a workshop and subsequent rap battle hosted by the NGO, Rapolitics, spoke directly to the hearts and states of mind of Roskilde´s millennially-influenced audience and the Girls Are Awesome movement also made a House of Chroma appearance that went beyond the obvious discussion of on-stage female empowerment, focusing instead on what happens behind the scenes, through a talk with Karen Vincent from SheCanPlay, Jenny Rossander from Lydmor and sound engineer Jessica Petersen from Roskilde Festival.

Sensory Experimentation

Indeed, each House of Chroma happening managed to pull of the rare feat of being exceptionally distinct in composition and execution – often appealing to multiple senses and at times, zoning in on one, as was the case with Sissel Toolas’s olfactory journey.

If we speak of a future in which we must harness our collective energies to re-think the challenge of creating sustainable change, it is clear that we must also go beyond what we can see and hear and as such, sensory bombardments that speak to other ways of seeing and experiencing reality make for a potentially powerful agent of change. House of Chroma may not have set the Roskilde world alight as far as this goes but as a bare minimum it provided a space in which room to think differently and participatorily if only within the realms of a plastic dome draped in psychedelic colours.

Ambereum: Vivid space with room for one´s imagination to wander

If House of Chroma was the capital of the Art Zone, Ambereum was the second city that quite often outwitted its larger counterpart, whether by accident or design. Where House of Chroma´s dome crammed varied influences together into a creative space that at times felt crammed or constricted, Ambereum was more spacious and less intense.

Described as “an area for DJ´s, art, relaxation and raves,” the Orange and yellow-walled ambient space hosted performances and sensory discoveries by day such as the fun-sounding yet anti-climatic Japanese artist, Tomoko Sauvage, whose use of water in ceramic bowls as an instrument concept flattered to deceive.

By night (from Thursday through to Saturday,) the area morphed into a nightclub-esque  metropolis, under the auspices of Berlin-infused electronic music, courtesy of artists such as Boris, Roi Perez, Virginia and others.  This set up that worked quite well and stood in stark contrast to the more laidback nature of the space during the day.

All in all, Ambereum´s relaxed confines provided a comfortable, if not soothing space for festivalgoers young and old to relax and dream in and this only adds to the festival narrative, particularly given the sheer size and cleanliness of the area.

Beyond Music: a Narrative for Change – Today and in the Future

In tandem with House of Chroma, Ambereum managed to create a creative forum that appealed to the beyond music intent that the festival organisers are focusing their efforts on with greater intensity. While their execution could have been more refined, more varied and perhaps even more accessible, there can be no doubt that there was more focus on the arts as a central component of the festival narrative this year.

As the festival struggles, as the world around it, to adapt to the demands of creating a more sustainable society, there can be no doubt that creating a narrative that fosters creative dialogues that go beyond the mere consumption of musical performances is one way to lead the charge.

Wu-Tang Clan Disappoint at Roskilde 2019

Original article written for The Copenhagen Post

New York hip-hop legends, Wu Tang Clang, arrived at their show at Roskilde´s Orange stage a cool 20 minutes later than scheduled, as replacements for one of this year´s most anticipated acts, Chance The Rapper.

No strangers to bailing from big moments themselves (cue their 1997 episode were an internal brawl at New York´s airport that saw them miss their flight to their show at Roskilde,) one might have been excused of feeling that the 9-man strong act  owed Roskilde´s masses a strong performance. Unlike Chance though, at least they showed up and honoured their commitments, at least partially, for there were actually only 8 of them present.

Spitting out veritable classics such as “Severe Punishment” and “Duel of the Iron mic,” the clan´s frontman, Ghostface Killah did his bit to breathe life into a concert that, despite his best efforts, didn´t end up hitting the heights one might have anticipated.

Refreshingly, however, the old school virtuosos did showcase their versatility by doing an array of covers – with everything from The Beatles to Nirvana getting the Wu-Tang style-up. Top on the list of these was, unsurprisingly, their rendition of House of Pain´s mammoth “Jump Around,” which stoked the crowd into a frenzy, but then again, when has this track not done so?

This notwithstanding, there are no doubt plenty of aficionados of the old school of hip-hop who had perhaps wished that Wu-Tang had stuck to their guns and kept their rhymes within their extensive repertoire of some of the best hip-hop that has ever been produced.

Moreover, their own tunes were delivered shorn of the panache and personality that the missing members of the group on the evening (Method Man and Raekwon) could and would have given them, all in all making for a performance that didn´t quite live up to the expectations one had of it.

As one of the few representatives of hip-hop of old at Roskilde this year, it is fair to say that one would have expected more of the New York boys, who spurned the chance to mirror if not better the performance of another old school legend (Nas’s) show on the same stage in 2017.

Roskilde 2019: Jpegmafia’s Livid Performance on The Appollo Stage Was Quite Something

Original article written for The Copenhagen Post

Chaotic, frenetic, insane… manic even. There need not be an end to superlatives that best describe the show that Baltimore rapper, Jpegmafia delivered at Roskilde Festival´s Apollo stage yesterday.

Afrofuturism vibes

Looking and sounding at times like an afrofuturistic Marvel hero that could easily  have been part of the cast of The critically acclaimed film, Black Panther, Jpegmafia was excellent on the evening.

In fact, come to think of it, he does resemble a certain Chadwick Boseman, one of the stars of the aforementioned flick and his crisply-produced beats would certainly be at home in its Wakandan universe, but that´s a hypothesis for another day.

Bare-chested in the chilly afternoon wind, Peggy, as he is affectionately known by his fans, took to the stage with a point to prove, from the get-go. A staccato sequence of openers during which he flung himself into the crowd repeatedly, set the tone for what would be a show that left this reviewer wondering what the heck he´d just seen at the end of it.

But it was not all frenzied fanfare – Jpegmafia has a knack for kicking back and letting it all sink in momentarily, between his wordy renditions. While his pauses, emphasized with a chilling glare towards the crowd seemed awkward at first, they grew on the partisan crowd with time, as chants of “Peggy, Peggy, Peggy!” rang out.

“How to build a relationship.” Was one of the softer tracks to grace the stage after the blur of openers, though even this tune got a beefing up in its live version – sounding raunchier and more pronounced than its studio form.

Too chaotic at times?

The show then dipped somewhat as Jpegmafia spat out one seething stanza after another – the issue here being that there was seldom a minute or two to catch one´s breath amongst the cavalcade of vitriol that was flung from the stage.

This said, the front-row of the crowd loved every minute of it and gave Peggy a hero´s welcome every time he sprang upon them. Stoked, his confidence grew and with it came deeper, more contemplative moments within the furore – a welcome touch of quality to a show that sometimes felt like a closed metal container with a hissing cobra and a screaming man running around in it.

Nowhere were the aforementioned contemplative moments more pronounced than close to the end of the show, in which the Baltimore man managed to get the entire show to sit down ahead of the performance of his “Rainbow Six.” This had a even more of a soothing effect given it was shortly after one of the tracks he, by his own admission, has “retired in the U.S.” The explicative riddled “f*** Morrissey.”

Roskilde 2019: Tirzah Delivers a Tame Experience at The Gloria Stage

Original article written for The Copenhagen Post

As the rain hammered down on the second of the music days at this year´s Roskilde Festival, the dark, warm, indoor Gloria scene made for a welcoming reprieve from the elements.

It came as little surprise, therefore, to see the intimate scene as packed as it was, prior to the concert of one of this year´s most hyped names – British collapsed pop artist, Tirzah.

A tame introduction at best, with the not-so-apt-an-opening-track, “Guilty,” from her 2018 album ‘Devotion’ did little in the way of creating the warm atmosphere that Roskilde´s fatigued masses so desperately hungered for. As a track, its studio production is a raunchy mess of vocoder-infused weirdness and monotonous instrumentals. Played live, it somehow managed to sound even worse, however.

And so begun what would ultimately be a concert that never quite got out of second gear – Tirzah, praised far and wide for her distracted, parallel pop sensibilities, whether by accident or design, pulled off the unique feat of delivering track upon track of unilateral nature, with each sounding and feeling all too similar to its predecessor.

Throw in a subdued crowd and a composed stage presence that would be perfect in a church concert and what we ended up with was a performance that had the back row fighting to keep their eyes open in Gloria´s obscure confines.

It wasn´t all off-key though – tracks such as the adorable “Holding on” did do their bit to breathe life into the forlorn masses. Similarly, her 2015 production off her eponymous album, ‘Make it up,” towards the end of the show, infused a welcome dose of electro club vibes, giving Gloria some remote semblance of a party worth attending. Moments like these were few and far-between, albeit all the more colourful against the backdrop of a show of pale proportions and somber platitudes.