Kendrick Lamar

Roskilde Festival 2023 review | Blur, Lizzo, Kendrick Lamar – what more could you want?

Unfurling over eight days, Denmark's Roskilde Festival brims with unique music, immersive art, and a dedication to sustainability and creativity; it's a utopian adventure waiting to be explored.

Unfurling over eight days, Denmark’s Roskilde Festival featured heavyweight performances from the likes of Blur, Lizzo, and Kendrick Lamar. It’s hard to think of a festival with a better line-up. Brimming with unique music, immersive art, and a dedication to sustainability and creativity, it’s a utopian adventure waiting to be explored.

In an orange haze of utopia, Denmark’s Roskilde Festival promises more than just Top 40 hits. From quirky attendee-constructed ‘dream cities’ to eccentric neon art installations, Roskilde’s 8-day celebration thrives in a bubble of self-expression. The non-profit affair is truly a creative sandbox – and this limitless DIY mentality, working so closely with young people and encouraging their creative and personal growth, keeps hordes returning year after year.

Sonically, the Roskilde line-up only emphasises this sense of creative freedom. Prowling the Roskilde site, the plethora of talent on offer is astounding. One moment you’ll be soaking up the life-affirming steel drum chants of afro-futurists Fulu Miziki, all before delving into the chaos of Copenhagen hardcore outfit EYES, only to then stumble upon the psychedelic snake-charming mystique of Japanese trio Kuunatic.

roskilde festival women 2

Credit: Flemming BoJensen

No sound or aesthetic is off-limits, with acts from around 40 countries on the line-up. Long into the night, you can find yourself lost in the thick of bright, exhilarating noise. Cloaked Columbian tropical duo serve up strangely demonic whirring tunes before you twirl over to Prisma’s floating indie-rock laser fest with your litre box of rosé wine.

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The night almost makes the music hit that little bit harder, Nova Twins’ gritty grime punk reaches new heights in the rain, or Perturbator’s dark synth prowess totally otherworldly in the Apollo stage’s cloud of dry ice and red pulsing lights – all before wobbling back to your tent and discovering a DIY set of DJ decks have been installed next to your tent, so you’re condemned to dance until the sun rises.

Roskilde Blur

Blur (Credit: Christian Hedel)

From morning until evening, Roskilde’s design allows even the smallest performances to feel like a headline knock-out. All artists can utilise the light setups of their respective stages – meaning an afternoon Gaia tent slot from Ghanaian gospel singer Florence Adooni can transcend into something twinkling and spectacular.

The full-blown production makes it impossible to resist floating over to catch a random act; you find yourself captured by the blue glow emanating from a stage while en route to another set, only to be then immersed in Marikiscrycry’s pulsing, impassioned choreographed art pieces, or being lured into the Gloria stage’s pitch-black depths, Witch Club Satan’s ritualistic Norwegian black metal performance intense, stunning and horrifying in equal measures. At Roskilde, smaller acts can shine.

Kendrick Lamar Roskilde

Kendrick Lamar (Credit: Christian Hedel)

But that’s not to say the big names aren’t aplenty – Kendrick Lamar’s sharp-tongued headline set is devilishly smooth, and his no-nonsense delivery enthrals crowds. At the same time, the Pied Piper of Twerking Lizzo knocks out a totally contrasting set, bristling with sass, joy and self-love. Britpop legends Blur also pull off a belter of a set, Damon Albarn constantly rushing down to sing iconic tracks squarely into fans’ faces at the barrier.

Yet, aside from the big names, Roskilde Festival is undeniably ahead of the curve in the line-up. Lizzo actually had one of her biggest first breaks at the festival, a fact she emotionally praises on stage mid-set. Blæst is a fabulous example of Roskilde’s encouragement of new talent; the Danish pop act opens up the main stage on Wednesday, having levelled up from performing on the campsite stages in previous years.

Lizzo Roskilde

Lizzo (Credit: Christian Hedel)

Even Lil Nas X’s headline set is a sign of Roskilde supporting the stars of tomorrow. The slot is one of his first at such a large scale. Performing a suitably ridiculous set with huge horses, snake puppets and yeti costumes, Montero dominates the stage with a glowing confidence that hints towards many festival headlines sets in the years to come.

Elsewhere, the pop girlies have definitely smashed Roskilde this year. Rina Sawayama’s set perfectly balances class and performative sass, sashaying round in latex and stunning in the name of pride month. At the same time, Caroline Polacheck serves up an endlessly graceful set of ethereal croons. Spanish pop princess Rosalia performs to one of the most packed-out crowds of the weekend, serving up a charming display of all-singing, all-dancing, scooter-cruising Chicken Teriyaki magic. It’s a refined burst of spectacular pop prowess (that deserves to be on the main stage!).

Roskilde Christine And The Queens

The forward-thinking Christine and The Queens (Credit: Christian Hedel)

Perhaps the finest embodiment of Roskilde’s embracing of quirky, forward-thinking acts is Christine and The Queens. Performing a near-manic set, the French performer blurs the lines between music and theatre, a bravely avant-garde move for the main stage of such a huge festival. It’s stunning and harrowing, which truly sets Chris apart.

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This platforming of future stars is an exemplary reflection of the festival’s core values; Roskilde has its sights set on the future, not just from a creative standpoint. From recycled art pieces dotted around the site to the mandatory 90% organic products at all food stands to the literal windmill that can be seen behind the Eos stage, Roskilde is a festival that cares about the planet’s future. With mental health aid and social workers patrolling the campsites, there’s also a deeply rooted care for future generations too (if the festival profits being donated entirely to children and young adult charities wasn’t proof enough.)

Weyes Blood Roskilde

Weyes Blood (Credit: Christian Hedel)

As the festival’s tagline proclaims, Roskilde is a smelting pot of ‘music, art, activism, camps and freedom.’ With its almost staggering level of music and art, it’s a must for anybody wanting to immerse themselves in a creative space for a week. So, if you can handle sleeping in a tent for eight days right next to 24-hour-party-ready festivalgoers, Roskilde will certainly not disappoint.

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