“The most impressive part of all of this insanity was the sheer passion motivating these 50,000 people”. Our American intern compares the opening of Roskilde Festival 2015 to the many American festivals he has visited.
It’s five minutes till the gates open. People have been lining up for hours now, some even for days. Empty beer cans line the gates that are haphazardly containing the masses. An electric energy hangs over the crowd, consisting of patrons that can hardly contain themselves and some that can hardly contain their alcohol.
Two minutes to go. The groggy yet enthusiastic bunch begin to pick up their tents, seats, and coolers, anything light enough and small enough to fit in their arms. The rest – canopies, speakers, cases upon cases of beer – is carefully stacked, like some sort of drunken version of Tetris.
Ten seconds left. Voices become excited, heads turn towards the entrance and cheers erupt as the gates open.
Then… Nothing Happens
The wait is now over, the festival has begun, but the energy that enveloped the crowd a mere 5 minutes ago is now gone. The cheers die out and the masses begin a slow, sheepish crawl towards the camp sites. No running. No tarps being thrown down to save a spot till the rest of the friends arrive. No sense of urgency.
This is how your average American camping festival opens. And what I saw Saturday at Roskilde Festival was far from it.
I’ve seen and experienced many different things in my first two weeks in Denmark, but this has been the most intense experience so far.
I had heard people talk about the opening on multiple occasions. They described how runners line the front of the gates, and sprint into the camp site to find the best spots that they and their friends will call home for the next eight days. But it still didn’t prepare me for the real thing.
The Front of the Line is No Place for Stragglers
As soon as the clock struck 4, a horde of people rushed the camp sites like a wave breaking on a beach. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a tent pitched up as fast as they were in the first 5 minutes. Some canopies were up even before tents had been unpacked. Caution tape and tarps were essential for marking off the good spots because, once a spot is claimed, the other guests have to make quick decisions to find another spot just as great as that one.
Yet, I think the most impressive part of all of this insanity wasn’t what was happening on the field but the sheer passion that was motivating these 50,000 people.
If You Have Slow Friends, You’re Gonna Have A Bad Time
Talking to some campers after the excitement had settled down, I quickly found out that getting your desired camping spot can make or break your entire week at Roskilde. Some groups valued being close to the party. The lucky and the fast of these are now set up in camp site C, one of the many party camp sites, in the corridor connecting City Center West to C Tower.
Other camps valued the idea of getting at least a little bit of sleep during the festival. These groups were usually situated in the back of the camp sites, far away from the homemade speaker systems supplying loud party music to campers. However, it seems to me no matter how far from the party areas you decide to camp, you’ll probably be guaranteed background music well into the early morning.
At American festivals, you’re usually told where to camp on a “first come, first served” mentality. The first in line will usually get a better spot, where as those in the back are forced to a spot far from the festival site. At Roskilde, it seems like regardless of your spot in the line, you can still end up getting a spot that you love, simply because you have the power to choose – or because you outran the person next to you.