20. Reykjavíkurdætur – “Tista”
Female Icelandic rap troupe Reykjavikurdaetur features nearly 20 members, though the number at performances fluctuates. At the bombastic Roskilde Festival, during the official warm-up days, it was difficult to count exactly how many people crowded onto the stage, their intense concoction of mosh-wrestling spilling off the edges of the stage. The Daughters of Reykjavik (as their name translates to) arrived wearing lightly opaque plastic jumpsuits — of medical scrubs — over underwear, though those coverings were in varied states of disarray by the time they got through wrestling across the stage, ripping them apart, and dragging each other from one end to the other by the feet. Their set featured crowds roaring to songs like “Hæpið” and “Ógeðsleg”, which show their preferred lyrical agenda — everything from the politics of their homeland to sexual violence. New track “Tista” stole it all, though, the most passionate, visceral performance of the set just one song in, boding well for whatever’s next for this inspiring crew.
19. Whitney – “So Sad”
Of course Whitney would sound great covering the Everly Brothers. The golden, nostalgic haze and dramatic vocals on their strong debut, Light Upon the Lake, should’ve made the compatibility obvious, but the song still came out of the sweet grass of left field. “So Sad” does, after all, feature teardrop vocal lines, mellow heartbreak, and shuffling acoustic guitars, fitting in with the other highlights of their set. “It breaks my heart to see us part/ So sad to watch love go bad,” Julien Ehrlich sang in his waif-like falsetto, Max Kakacek’s guitar following in lilting arcs. “This is the first time we are playing at a big festival,” they announced. But with a charming performance like that and a well-worn melody like this one, they felt like they’d been doing this for a while.
18. Slayer – “Raining Blood”
Looking at the schedule, you couldn’t miss the lightning bolt stamped right next to the name Slayer. That symbol was reserved for “HIGH ENERGY CONCERTS,” sets at which there would be “expected moshing, dancing, etc.” And when Kerry King and Gary Holt picked out the iconic guitar riff to “Raining Blood”, that lightning bolt still felt like an understatement. I could’ve sworn I felt a zap up the spine with every chord. The sign of the horns was raised high throughout, bodies bouncing in manic energy with Paul Bostaph beating out on his hulking, Venus flytrap-like drum kit. Tom Araya’s raw growls and stampeding bass led the charge, but the guitarists stole much of the visual attention: King with his massive chain and demonic guitar and Holt with his wild-flung hair and shirt bearing the words “Kill the Kardashians.” Those head-banging riffs continue to cause dangerous HIGH ENERGY, even 30 years on.
17. Calypso Rose – “Fire Fire”
We should all hope that we have the energy and enthusiasm of Calypso Rose when we reach the ripe age of 76. The Tobago native has been performing for decades, and with a live show like this one, there’s no reason to think she’ll stop anytime soon. She and her top-tier calypso band closed their set with the pulsating “Fire Fire”. Rose weaved her microphone back and forth between her legs like a fancy basketball dribbler and later pulled back her jacket to show off her wriggling hips. To play a full set, let alone to close it with such massive energy, is a testament to her impressive stage presence and longevity. The continued chanting of her name and multiple group bows from the band felt utterly fitting.
16. Santigold – “Disparate Youth”
When Santigold released 99¢ earlier this year, her critiques of consumerism overpowered the music, leaving her pop thrills stuck on the sales rack. But in live performance, Santi White’s energy burns brighter than all of the jumbled videos, backup dancers, and the like. That’s particularly true when paired with the massive pop hook of a song like “Disparate Youth”, White’s vibrant dance moves accentuated by her oversized Byrne-ian shoulder pads, making her silhouette even more mesmeric. The dancers looking bemusedly at their selfie-stick-held phones still seems like a bit of an unfocused artistic criticism, but a chorus like that speaks for itself.