The Roskilde Festival - 30 years of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll

The Roskilde Festival is nothing short of a phenomenon - pretty much like evey other rock festival in the world, but still.

The History

It all started in 1971 - Inspired by a load of other festivals, like the Woodstock, a series of festivals were held in Denmark. In 1971, they decided to arrange a festival in Roskilde, a fairly peaceful little town with about 50,000 inhabitants, roughly 35 km (20 miles) from Copenhagen. The 1971 festival pulled a total of about 20,000 people, had one stage and a grand total of 20 bands.

In the beginning, the festival didn't have a proper profile, and had some Jazz, some pop, some Rock etc. Without a proper musical profile, you wouldn't attract a nice amount of guests, and a festival without guest.. well.. you know.. it's just not the same.

In 1972 the festival was repeated, and again the following years. The festival started developing, reaching its "destination" towards the end of the 70's

In 1978, the huge Orange tent/stage (that is still in use, and is still an icon and symbol for the festival) was bought from a Rolling Stones company. By 1978, the festival had 3 different stages and started to get a proper profile as a rock festival.

In 1981, though, the Roskilde Festival did no longer define themselves as a generic music festival, but rather as a full-fledged rock music festival. Around the same time, the festival started developing as a cultural event, incorporating performance arts, etc.

In the middle of the 1990's, the festival had to start limiting the number of sold tickets, because there were just too many people who wanted to come to the concerts. At the same time, food and sanitary facilities were improved

In 2000, the whole world got to hear about the Roskilde Festival.. Sadly.. During a Pearl Jam concert, eight people were crushed to death by the crowds, and three more were rushed to the hospital in critical condition. Of the three, one more died, bringing the total death count up to nine. The festival was, of course, shocked by the news, and several bands (among others The Cure) decided to cancel their concerts. After this, all festival arrangers in Europe reviewed their security measures, and (fortunately) there have been no major accidents since.

The Visitors

Festival fans are more or less a separate breed (just like E2, really). Old hippies, youth, old punkers, new punkers.. All united around the fact that they love music, and want to see their favorite bands live. The visitors are one of the true reasons why people keep going back to Roskilde again and again - no wonder that you hardly meet anyone who's only been to Roskilde once (they either go back, or say "I'm definitely going next year" :)

In any case - there is something special about being at a giant camping with thousands and thousands of people, usually in a small camp with lots of people you know pretty well. The mood can't really be described - it has to be tasted!

The genius thing about a concert like this, of course, is that you pay a certain sum of money, and you get to go to as many concerts as you want. I like to think of Roskilde as the most expensive camping in the world, and loads of free concerts :)

Year   Number   Visitors  Bottles
         of               of beer
        Days               sold

1971      2      10,000   
1972      4      15,000
1973      3      18,000  
1974      3      21,500
1975      3      26,000

1976      3      32,500
1973      3      31,000 
1978      3      36,500
1979      3      40,000 
1980      3      50,000

1981      3      51,500
1982      3      57,500   
1983      3      60,600
1984      3      64,800   
1985      3      56,900

1986      3      56,900
1987      3      58,700
1988      3      62,100
1989      3      56,300     512,000
1990      4      70,600     675,000

1991      4      60,500     499,000   
1992      4      64,500     757,000
1993      4      76,500     779,000
1994      4      90,000   1,236,000
1995      4      90,000   1,340,500

1996      4      90,000   1,200,000
1997      4      90,000   1,460,000
1998      4      76,000   1,158,000
1999      4      71,000
2000      4      76,000

Now you are of course wondering why I list how many bottles of beer are sold.. Well..
1) because I can
2) A rock festival without beer is like Ice Hockey without a puck. And without ice. And without players.

The Music

The Roskilde festival has pulled some fairly big names over the years. Here I will list some of the most important ones (alphabetically.. Whee!)

The festival has attracted lots of mainstream rock musicians, but it also prides itself on allowing smaller acts to get on stage, mainly in the Rock, Metal, New Metal and Punk genres, but there are also Techno / Trance acts in a separate tent/stage

More Info

If you are considering going to Roskilde, Have a look at Incidentally, this (and was also the source for this writeup.

Oh, and if you plan to go to Roskilde 2002, why not join Alchemy and myself for a few beers one of the days?


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