A Rustie reports from the Roskilde Festival
by Jens Liltorp
Also See: A CNN Story.
An Associated Press story.
The Roskilde website.
Pearl Jam went on stage around half past 10 in the evening, and everybody's spirits were high. I'm not really much into PJ - my knowledge about them and their music is limited to what they've accomplished together with Neil. I saw them in 1995 at Heyday (also in Roskilde) perform together with Neil. I know only a a handfull of their songs - but PJ seems to have a very dedicated audience.
The show got off well and people were really into it... After a while, Eddie Vedder said a few words to the audience: that they were happy to be back, that he had been told that his name -- Vedder -- is of Danish origin, so he probably is from around these parts too... I'm not too sure about the name being Danish -- I've never heard it before -- but the statement got a big cheer from the audience anyway. I was nowhere near the mosh pit. I stood about halfway back behind the sound tower, close to the big screen with the stage close ups.
Without any prior indication that something was wrong, a guy from the Roskilde crew hurried up to Eddie Vedder saying something into his ear. Eddies attitude changed immediately. He became very seroius all off a sudden... He pulled himself together and told the audience that there was a problem up front and that there would be no music for the next 5 minutes. He told us that he was our friend, that we had other friends being hurt up front at this very moment and that we needed to make some space. We should think of him as a friend, and at the count of 3 everyone take 2 steps backwards. This happened a couple of times. All the while on the big screens you had either Eddie in a close-up or a shot of the stage as seen from the sound tower. You couldn't really distinguish what exactly was happening.
There was a lot of disturbance up front. Roskilde crew members in orange waistcoats were trying to get people out of the mosh pit. The picture would go back to Vedder, and it only from the expression on his face that you could realise that the situation was very very grave...
Eddie Vedder tried a couple of times more to get people to move back. Where I was standing, we did so -- but we had plenty of space already... At one point the situation seemed to get worse, and Eddie sat down in disbelief. Even crying, I think. When it seemd there was no more that that he or the band could do, they left the stage -- not to return again.
We still had the blurred picture of the Roskilde crew trying to get people out - but no clear idea about how bad it was... A couple of times somebody else -- the stage announcer and an American speaking man (maybe from the PJ management) -- got on stage desperately urging everybody to move back. But it was probably already too late at this point....
We were told that people were badly hurt, but no further details were given. I don't know how long this lasted -- maybe 40 minutes -- before it was announced that the show was over due to the accident. From were I stood there appeared to be a spontaneous reaction of solidarity and agreement from the crowd, by clapping their hands in aknowledgement of the decision but otherwise remaining very silent.
There didn't seem to be any point in staying, so I left the festival to go home. It was not until maybe half an hour later that I heard on the car radio that at least 4 persons died, and a number of people were critically injured... It was not until next morning that I learned the full extent of this tragedy -- that 8 people had died...
Since then there has been a lot of discussion as to whether it was the right thing to continue the festival or not. I think that you could argue both for and against it -- and either way your decision could be questioned... Maybe the right thing to do would have been to shut down the orange stage were it all happened... But again that would have increased the pressure on the other stages, creating another potential hazard. They could have, of course, shut it ALL down -- I don't know... A lot of people left the festival not seeing any point in staying.
Personally I went back the following evening and also Sunday afternoon. I had second thoughts about it, of course, but decided to go anyway. I think that the point is to carry on in respect of -- and with respect for -- those that are not here anymore. Sure, if you went to Roskilde just to party, there wasn't much reason to do that anymore... But one of the great wonders of music is that it brings together people and heals wounds. And in that respect I think it was OK to continue..
I won't go into reviews of the various bands but just give a brief account of how the festival was closed last night.
Shortly before the last band -- D.A.D. -- came on, the festival spokesman Leif Skov went on-stage to say some words -- the essence of which being that everyone should take care of one another. That there was value to the music. And to pay respect to the victims and their families.
Then the regular Roskilde closer, Danish group D.A.D., went on-stage dedication their first song to the victims. In the midst of the song -- electric but mellow -- they took out 8 torches one by one. They handed them to the audience -- each torch travelling in the night from hand to hand through the audience, accompanied by a lone soulful guitar. The torches would reach an area of commemoration and mourning - a place were people came to pay their respects by placing all sorts of artifacts, of importance to themselves, onto the ground.
There were many PJ T-shirts there. Many lights, incense, plastic electric guitars. There was a large cross made out of beer cans. There were many many flowers, messages left in writing on saucers, banners... The place was fenced lightly, and around it and inside youngsters sat or stood silently, all with grave faces. They comforted each other, some still crying, two days after the accident... The torches were placed there by the audience as they arrived one by one. Besides the sound of the guitar, it was completely silent... A very beautiful way of saying goodbye....
I wanted to leave something behind as well. I couldn't bring myself to depart with my MORE BARN! sweatshirt though. I decided that my Neil Young Appreciation Society badge was a fitting tribute, however small, from the Neil Young community... So I took it off and lay it on the ground there, with good thoughts and respect from us all.
May they rest in peace.
Take care all of you,
Was gonna fade away so young
With so much left undone
Remember me to my love
I know I'll miss her...
PostscriptFri, 7 Jul 2000 09:44:26 +0200
I'm sorry that I will have to tell you that in the papers yesterday it was said that yet another person died - a young man of 24 from Australia... So now the number of deceased are up to 9 persons...
I would never have thought that something like this could happen in our safe and regulated part of the world - but that is of course total nonsense... Something like this could happen anywhere, unfortunately...
So many of you wrote condolences on Rust, that I would like to point you to a page put up by the Roskilde Festival people where you can actually now send your condolences. Just click on the link "SUBMIT YOUR MESSAGE!", enter your message, and send...
Take care all of you,
Back to SAMPLE and HOLD
Back to HyperRust Home Page