Written by Lucy Coulson

Photos by Felix Adler

Roskilde Festival is usually a pretty steady mix of people who have either been here every year of their lives, or are entering the orange gates for the first time: people we refer to as the veterans and the virgins.

We found an innocent Roskilde virgin, James, 25, from Australia, and sat him down with a veteran Dane, Jens, 53 – with friend Fred, 62 – and let them exchange stories, experiences and wisdom. When we arrived at their camp, we were offered homemade walnut snaps in small plastic cups. It was 11.30am. Oh Roskilde.

Jens: Skål!

James: Yeah skål.

James: So how long have you been coming here?

Jens: I first came here in ‘82. The festival started in ‘72. So that was the great jubilee year… 10 years in. I must have been 17 years old.

James: Was Roskilde a common thing back then?

Jens: No, it was not that well known at all back then. We were living in Jutland, so to get there we took our bikes and got on a ferry, then we biked from North Zealand. On the way it was getting a bit late so we went to a farm we were passing and asked if we could sleep in the barn. So we did! Then the next morning we finished the next 30-40 km to the festival.”

James: How big was it?

Jens: Well, it seemed very big. But of course it wasn’t. I was just small.

James: How much was the ticket?

Jens: I think it was about 400 kr. A bit different to what it is now.

James: Who was headlining?

Jens: Gnags… a Danish band. That was as big as it got back then. But a year after, there was a very nice British band in the afternoon, they went by the name of U2. And I remember we thought to ourselves: well that’s a nice band to see on such an afternoon. I think we said they should play here again. Haha.

James: And were you here every year after that?

Jens: No… I was here ‘82 and ‘83, then I was at another festival for some years in the 80s. Then we came back in ‘92. That was a good year. Denmark won the European football championship. So we saw the final here with some Germans. Nirvana and Pearl Jam were playing that year — they both had to postpone their shows because we of course had to see the game. I don’t think they were used to that. When Kurt Cobain came on stage he said *puts on American accent* “Well, congratulations with your sport contest.”

James: That’s hilarious.

Jens: Yeah so I’ve been here about 26 years all up.

James: Are there any standouts from over the years?

Jens: Well ‘92 was exceptionally good. But 2001 was also a good year. It was a year after the Pearl Jam catastrophe. It was in a way: how can this festival come back from this? There was a certain feeling that year… like, can we rebuild? And we did. The Neil Young concert that year was phenomenal. It was a three hour concert. They made some deals with backstage because they wanted to play more. Haha.

Jens: But enough about me. How’s your first year been?

James: Well I hadn’t done a lot of festivals back home, so I am quite the virgin. But I was lucky to have some friends who are mostly Danish so it’s been a very authentic experience for me: beer bowling, the whole thing. I got a bit of a fright when I went to take a shower and it was communal. That was a surprise. The Danes are quite liberal in that sense.
We’ve had quite an excellent set up at our campsite. So that’s probably been my favourite part so far. Chilling during the day, playing some music, and yeah… drinking lots.

Jens: Do you think you’ll be back next year?

James: Yes! For sure. Maybe not the whole week… but yeah, a few days for sure. Is there any advice or practical tips you’ve gathered over the years?

Jens: Take a shower in the afternoon. There’s no queue then. That’s number one. If you wake up in the morning and need to go to the toilet, go into the festival. There’s no queue, there’s no people. You can stand here in the camping area for 45 minutes but if you go into the festival you’re done before the fifth person in line is in.

James: Do you guys ever lose each other? How do you stay in touch?

Jens: That’s the funny thing. We spoke about it yesterday. It was so different back then. We didn’t have phones obviously. There was a place called ‘the meeting point’. They would put up little stickers; little notes, and if you couldn’t find your friend you would check to see if there was a note from your friend telling you where they were.

James: There must have been hundreds

Jens: Yes yes, hundreds. We also used the flags and speakers to try and find each other and coordinate. We had a special meeting spot too behind Arena. That was called Green Stage in the 80s. Each stage had a colour; blue, green… Orange was white. Apollo was blue.

Fred: One other piece of advice is to forget about time. I still have this feeling when I’m checking in here and I’m checking out there and everything in between is a different kind of time and space. Clocks don’t exist. That’s how I take it all in.

James: Have you got a favourite memory?

Jens: There are some iconic concerts. I remember Neil Young, probably in the 80s. I remember him playing Harvest Moon, and the full moon was just sitting there, right behind the stage. That was amazing.
What about you?

James: Just waking up, opening my tent and seeing the windmill. It’s such a Danish thing. And the blue sky. Starting the day right.
Do you think you’ll be here for many more years?

Jens: As long as it’s physically possible, I will be here. Some years ago I was in a camp with a guy who was 73. He’s stopped now but he was here since the start; since ‘72. And he stopped 3 years ago. It got too tough.

James: Was he still drinking and partying then?

Jens: Oh yeah. And smoking stuff. He didn’t hold back. Here with his children and grandchildren. And he’s even played here! You’ll have to catch him next time. He has some good stories.

Thanks boys. See you next year!