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Jaime Renee

5 Things I Didn’t Expect From my First Day at Roskilde Festival


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.”

Fotograf: Kasper HJorth
Photo by: Kasper HJorth

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

Photo by: Tobias Nicolai
Photo by: Tobias Nicolai

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!

Photo by: Kasper Hjorth
Photo by: Kasper Hjorth

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.


Came for a Ticket, Stayed for a Lifetime


Roskilde Festival draws international volunteers from all over the world, and many of these volunteers return again and again. We talked to a couple of these volunteers to understand what makes the volunteering experience at Roskilde Festival special.

Flying over 8000 kilometers overseas to volunteer at a summer music festival for 8 days, where you survive solely on caffeine, four to five hours of sleep, and the moral support of your volunteer team. Music, merriment and a foreign language blast into your ears at all hours. The night and day is lit up by a sun that seemingly never sets.

When described, being an international volunteer at Roskilde Festival sounds like a “once in a lifetime” experience. For many international volunteers, however, it’s not just once, but instead is a yearly lifestyle; they keep coming to experience the Orange Feeling for years, and it seems to be the volunteer experience that captivates them.

Photo by: Kasper Hjorth
Photo by: Kasper Hjorth

Roskilde Festival Cares

Take Stephanie Clemente, an American volunteer at Roskilde, who – like many international guests – chose to volunteer to attend the festival for free, but were then converted into a die-hard Roskilde volunteer once she had experienced the festival.

“Here as a volunteer, you definitely feel like you’re a part of something bigger,” Stephanie says. Not only does her volunteer work make the festival rewarding, but the appreciation shown by Roskilde to all volunteers does as well.

She values the clean bathrooms and warm showers, the meal vouchers that provide delicious food, and, especially, the volunteer village and lounge where volunteers can relax and enjoy a strong sense of community. And let’s not forget the parties that the volunteer teams host as well. Stephanie even dreams that we could do an all-volunteer party at Roskilde someday.

Photo by: Kasper Hjorth

Latin Holiday

Cozily set up this year near the Apollo stage is the campsite of the self-named Latin Crew, a group of over 20 people from Latin America, most of whom are volunteers. Andres, Chilie, Acere, and Francisco are all Roskilde veterans who share the common background of being Latin American.

Andres said, “We started at the festival with like, four, five guys from Venezuela and Colombia. We made the Latin Crew camp and we bring our Venezuela flag everywhere. We take it to shows so we can always find each other.” While Andres and several others from the Latin Crew live permanently in Denmark, their friends from back home fly out to Roskilde every year to volunteer and visit.

Each year, they gain new additions to their Crew – like Pedro, who is volunteering at Roskilde and attending the festival for the first time this year, and he’ll be doing it next year. “I’m going to repeat, definitely. I already know,” he said.

Lost in Translation

But being an international volunteer at Roskilde comes with challenges that are exclusive to non- Danish-speaking people. “My first time volunteering I was the only English-speaking person and they just didn’t know what to do with me initially. They always had to find someone to translate for me because some of the others weren’t very comfortable with speaking English,” Stephanie said.

Since her first festival, she has far less trouble with the language difference. “Sometimes I have to speak up and say ‘Hey, I’m here!’ and ask them to repeat something in English,” she said, “Of course they always switch over very easily.”

Photo by: Kasper Hjorth
Photo by: Kasper Hjorth

Taking it Easy

The volunteers of the Latin Crew help each other with the language barrier, since a handful of them speak Danish. Chilie and Andres, for example, translate anything that their friends need to know from Danish into Spanish or English. They aren’t too concerned with the drawbacks of the language issue, however.

“Since we are from Latin America, we are more relaxed about things,” Andres said, “We just sit back and we’re fine.” If they were from another part of the world, perhaps the challenges of being an international volunteer would be more aggravating for them, but the Latin Crew doesn’t get too concerned.

Instead of translating everything, these guys would rather change the duration of their shifts. “I would rather work shorter shifts and then have more of them,” Chilie said. Despite the 8-hour shifts, though, the Latin Crew says they wouldn’t go to the festival as regular guests. Picking up trash or cleaning a few bathrooms is well worth it for them to experience Roskilde as volunteers.

Inspired and intrigued by Stephanie and the Latin Crew’s stories? Join Roskilde as a volunteer and experience the Orange Feeling for yourself! Send an email to volunteer@roskilde-festival.dk and you could be part of the crew for next year’s festival.

Calling all Volunteers

Both Stephanie and the Latin Crew encourage anyone from anywhere in the world to volunteer at Roskilde. “I would recommend volunteering to anyone who comes to Roskilde, especially if you’re coming alone because it provides you with a natural community,” Stephanie said. She shares her experience with her network of friends and colleagues back home in the US, and the word-of-mouth recruiting is the same for the Latin Crew.

From New York to Venezuela and everywhere in between, international volunteers spread the word about their volunteer experiences at Roskilde, a festival which many international guests might not otherwise hear about. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and the experience of volunteering at Roskilde Festival is enriched by having volunteers from all over the globe.