15. Red Hot Chilli Peppers – “Under the Bridge”
Though touring in support of The Getaway, the Red Hot Chili Peppers knew better than to try and overload the massive first-night crowd with their new album. That’s not because The Getaway is a relatively understated affair that might not do well live — in fact, the title song and the live debut of “Detroit” fared pretty well. But RHCP are at the point in their career where they’ve amassed so many hits that any set needs to be jam-packed. And after a set that already featured more than its fair share of mega-jams (“By the Way”, “Dani California”, “Scar Tissue”, etc.), the crowd still needed more, all chanting “Red Hot” until the band returned (including the two girls in the front row wearing chili pepper costumes). And when they returned, Josh Klinghoffer and Chad Smith locked into a groove, Flea walked around on his hands, and Anthony Kiedis grinned like a Cheshire cat. They’re still the same goofy, talented kids that wrote “Under the Bridge”, the undoubtedly massive hook sung by thousands, filling the Roskilde night sky to a point where if it were a smidgen louder, it could very well have popped the air like a balloon.
14. Vince Staples – “Señorita”
Vince Staples goes from zero to 60 in less than a second. The young California rapper walked onstage with a mischievous grin, hands on his hips, looking as calm as could be. Moments later, he was leaping into the air as if jet-propelled, constantly floating off the stage. But as a chronicler of the harsh reality of Long Beach, that makes sense — Staples captures all of the brilliant life just as well as the violence and oppression. No song captures that reality and explosive personality as succinctly as “Señorita”, Vince steely-eyed and spitting intensely. The crowd nodded and roared along to the Christian Rich beat, the menace and darkness of the track creeping out slowly, the bass rattling heavy and low with ominous intensity.
13. Guardian Alien – “Spiritual Emergency”
Experimental duo Guardian Alien don’t make the kind of music that makes picking out a best “song” an easy task. The band have lived in many different incarnations, but now act as the duo of drummer Greg Fox and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Alexandra Drewchin. The two produced giant slabs of spasmodic noise, locking into grooves only to tear them apart into chaos. A particular highlight of the set carried strains of the DNA to the title track of 2014’s Spiritual Emergency, Fox ripping into a polyrhythmic hustle while Drewchin arched her back, tearing at the strings of her Lucite guitar. “I could rip you apart,” she seemed to repeat, though perhaps that’s just my brain filling in the narrative in between the clusters of sound. There was nothing else quite like Guardian Alien at Roskilde, the two approaching their own art with a meditative, sublime sort of drone.
12. Grimes – “Kill v. Maim”
At times during Grimes’ set at Roskilde, she seemed worried about a language barrier. “I know you probably don’t understand anything I’m saying,” she smiled. “Does anyone speak English?” And even if not everyone understood her inter-song banter, they certainly understood the language of rave-up fun that permeated her set. It hit all the high points of her catalog, opening on the sublime “Realiti” and a delirious rendition of “Scream”, Grimes hopping across the stage like a fluorescent bunny, the backup dancers like mini clones. And though she might’ve been singing to a backing track, that made her all the more able to bring the party to new explosive heights with the visceral “Kill v. Maim”.
11. Courtney Barnett – “Depreston”
For most indie rockers, “Depreston” would act as the breath of fresh air, the low-energy ballad snuck between the big tunes to give the band a moment of rest. Courtney Barnett, though, is not most indie rockers. The songwriter pays attention to life’s smallest moments, imbuing them with all of the passion and attention of the big hooks. And while upbeat jams like “Dead Fox”, “Avant Gardener”, and “Pedestrian at Best” all hit pretty dang hard, it was the relatively low-key “Depreston” that stole the show. The Roskilde crowd sang along to every word, the mass of accented voices nearly louder than the golden, surfy guitar pattern. The moment overwhelmed Barnett for a moment, a smirk and chuckle escaping from her otherwise cool and calm front.