Roskilde Festival can be quite difficult to explain to those who’ve never been here – and to the festival veterans it’s hard to make the normal spectacular. Thus, we asked our American intern to list 5 things that surprised her.
Day 1 at Roskilde Festival 2015 was an overload of the senses for this first-time American volunteer; the smells of beer and bodily waste, the blending of sounds from DJs and stereos, as well as the whooping and chattering of festival-goers long into the night.
Already now it’s unlike any festival experience I’ve had in the US, and impossible to imagine until it happened in front of my eyes. Here are the five things that surprised me the most.
1: The guests actually wait for days to enter the festival
I queued up with a throng of fellow volunteers next to the C-section of Camping West, one of the desired camping spots, to watch the festival guests enter the grounds and claim their spaces. What I was not prepared for was how seriously the Roskilde fans take this moment. They come as early as three or four days before the festival to be in the front of the queue.
Not even 10 minutes after they opened the gates at 4 p.m., there were very few spaces free of tarps or half-constructed tents in the C-section. I asked a group of Danes from Helsingør to explain their effective strategy, and I got a small lecture: “Two designated “runners” race ahead, while two guys – who by the way waited for 24 hours outside of the gates – and two girls slowly make their way forward with the beer and other necessities.”
2: Everybody has a different idea of a “good spot”, and they all have strong opinions about them
Which gate you choose for your entry depends on what camping experience you want to have. Some choose to live in a cleaner area, which looks better but requires more work from the campers in keeping the area well-kept.
Overall, there are some areas that are agreed upon by most people as “bad” spots, but as far as “good” spots go, there are differing views. A pair of Danes, Jesper and Tobias from Copenhagen, are friends but choose to camp in different areas. Tobias was very pleased with his spot near Dream City – the creative camping area built by festival-goers themselves – while Jesper preferred being close to the windmill in Camp West, with the food and beer vendors close by.
No matter what, everyone agreed that it is important for Roskilde fans to get a good spot. It is an 8-day affair, so you might as well be comfortable
3: They don’t sacrifice luxury just because they’re camping
While walking around Camp West after the gates were opened, as the Danes rapidly set up their campsites, I witnessed “Camp Luksus” – a three-cart, wheeled soundbooth and stereo system driven by a tiny zebra-striped tractor, and pulled by a team of eight guys, with two DJs spinning between massive speakers on top. These weren’t by far the only sound systems on the block! The campsite wasn’t even close to being set up and already Danes were rolling in their massive, impractical-yet-impressive stereo-systems on wheels.
The further it progressed into the evening of the first day, the more camps had their own giant stereos, with parties of people collecting around them. To a first-time guest, this is a strange camping procedure – after all, a lot of power is required to blast those speakers all night long. It seems extreme and rather luxurious, but without them, Roskilde just wouldn’t be the same. Walking down any row of a campsite is like walking down a strip of night-clubs – the challenge becomes not to find a party, but to decide which party to join!
4: There is, in fact, order amidst all the chaos
Despite the overwhelming influx of people bursting into the festival at 4 p.m., the tents frantically thrown up, and trash everywhere in a matter of minutes, the Danes are far more orderly than what I would expect from a massive, drunken group of elated festival-goers. Imagining what this situation would be like in the USA, I am positive that there would have been fights breaking out over camping spots, far more trash, much more noise, and a complete lack of the orderly squares in which the Danes manage to keep their tents.
The perfect grids maintained by the Roskilde Festival fans are impressive, and this says a lot to me about the type of people camping here. These squares they fall in to are pre-established by volunteers, but the festival-goers pay strict attention to them and don’t stray outside of the lines. The fans love and respect the festival, and understand the importance of keeping some semblance of order and organization for safety’s sake.
5: The most shocking part of it all – Danes start talking to strangers
The moment the festival opens, Roskilde Festival’s atmosphere magically breaks down the every-day social boundaries of the Danes. Suddenly people are smiling at each other, even though they don’t know each other at all! I think I talked to more Danes during the first day of Roskilde Festival than I have talked to in the 5 weeks I’ve been in Denmark.
On the streets of Copenhagen, the Danes seem to avoid eye-contact at all costs and would sooner squeeze past you in uncomfortable silence then have to interact by saying “excuse me”. Entering Roskilde Festival though seems to be a removal from the regular world, and an immersion into a new one, with different social boundaries (or lack thereof) and an all-inclusive, everything-goes vibe.
Suddenly you find yourself talking to countless new people, whether just for a moment, or for hours after a run-in at the Volunteer Village or City Center. Everyone is genuinely interested in meeting new people; it seems to be a focus of the festival, and certainly makes it easier for a first-time guest, especially an international one.