Down By The Laituri, or DBTL for short, is a festival held on the river bench of Aurajoki, the river that runs through Turku. It's the oldest "cityfestival" of Finland, and has been held annually since 1988. It started as a more of an alternative to the normal festivals, but lately it has relied more on domestic mainstream acts instead of off-the-wall artistic performances. Still, apart from the official DBTL-shows, there's a lot of other live events in town during the festival week, and among the dozens of gigs there's surely something for everyone. The artists covered here represent only a part of the festival's line-up, there were some other bands of interest we could have covered but other commitments kept us occupied.
TUESDAY 29 July
The festival started on Tuedsay with a live performance by W.A.S.P., the notorious shock rockers from L.A. The band has been gigging a lot in Finland, and even though I can't say that I'm a huge fan, this was the fourth time I've seen them. Hell, sometimes it seems that they're playing here more often than most of the Finnish bands!
The main stage of the event was inside a big tent with the capacity of 1000-1500 people I guess. Apparently there were 1800 tickets sold to this concert, and sure enough, the place was packed. Many chose to stay outside the tent, which wasn't necessarily a bad idea. They were able to watch the gig from the screen, and apparently the sound was more balanced there. Not to mention that the temperature inside the tent was reaching sauna-like numbers.
Having seen the band a few times before, I wasn't exactly buzzing with excitement but looking forward to a good show. I and everyone else had to look forward for quite some time, since Blackie and co kept us waiting for 45 minutes before they were ready to start. Patience is not one of my strenghths, and after 30 minutes I was seriously annoyed. I hope that the band actually had some real techical problems, because if this was just the band acting as "rock stars", then they'd need to grow up.
Finally the show started, with an aggressive medley containing "On Your Knees" and a couple of less famous tracks, "Inside the Electric Circus" and "Hate To Love Me". Maybe it was the band blowing off steam with this frantic series of punches, I don't know. It did show that they were here on a mission - to bring some heavy metal for the masses. The more melodic and hook-laden hits "Wild Child" and "L.O.V.E. Machine" made the frontrows go crazy, and the whole tent was a sea of raised fists. "The Headless Children" was suprise inclusion to the set, and while it's not my favourites, it probably made a lot of old fans of the band happy. The rarely played "Widowmaker" was well recieved too, but when the band went straight into the classic ballad "Sleeping (In The Fire), another big roar of approval arose from the audience. Two slower tracks from the latest album were also played, and they both worked well. "Take Me Up" especially is one of the finest songs Blackie has written since the band's heyday. A long version of "I Wanna Be Somebody" ended the set, and it turned the whole tent into one big metal karaoke bar. This song is the definite W.A.S.P. song, uniting listeners of different age groups with its' universal message. After all, we all wanna be somebody, right?
The break before the encores went on and on, and I was actually thinking that "so that was it?", but since they were constantly pumping smoke to the stage and flashing the lights, I had the feeling that there was still more to come. Surely enough, after a 10-15 break, we were treated to a three-song encore, ending with a rousing "Blind In Texas".
Many people have praised the gig to high heavens, and while it was good, I didn't feel so strongly. Maybe it was the heat and the humidity, maybe it was the ungodly volume there in front of the PA cabins... or maybe I've seen them too many times lately? There's been some debating about W.A.S.P.'s use of backing tapes, and while it was obvious that some were used, I wasn't really bothered by that. The lead vocals seemed to be live, and both Mike Duda and Doug Blair seemed to be shouting the backing vocals at the top of their lungs, Duda even sharing lead lines with Blackie.
[ KT ]
WEDNESDAY 30 July
Wednesday was the first full festival day with several artists performing. The weather was very nice again, and it wasn't hard to predict that the tent would be full again later. KILPI had the honour of opening the day at 5:15 pm, early hours for a metal band and most probably for some of their fans too. They had attracted a few hundred people I guess, comfortably scattered around the tent and the bar area outside, so that everyone had some space to breathe. This would change later...
I've seen Kilpi a few times and they always deliver the goods when it comes to the music. Visually they aren't the most exciting live band around, but they have enough good songs to make up for that. The DBTL set wasn't necessarily the best imaginable one though, with some strange omissions (no "Katharsis", their entry to the Eurovision song contest). Still, vocalist Taage Laiho impressed again with his fine vocals, and the rest of the band put in a stellar performance.
The next artist (Tijuana Taxi & M.A. Numminen) didn't interest us in the slightest, so we took a break from the festival for a couple of hours. As we returned, the number of people had increased a lot, in anticipation of two legends of Finnish Rock, Popeda and Yö.
I wasn't sure what to expect from Tampere-based rockers POPEDA. The band has gone through a lot of line-up changes, the last being the addition of former Hanoi Rocks-drummer Lacu Lahtinen. Vocalist Pate Mustajärvi has struggled with his health and his drinking problems... and the band's material has been a bit of a hit-and-miss, with more misses than hits to be honest. But damn it, the band was on fire, and played a very good set, concentrating on their stronger material. What's more, Pate was in good shape.
The set consisted of the band's biggest hits with a couple of lesser known album tracks thrown in. The crowd was very much into it, singing along very loudly to the most popular songs. Pate ruled the tent like you'd expect from a seasoned frontman, and Costello Hautamäki played the guitar hero (not the game!) with conviction. The band did look like a bunch of weird characters - especially Pate with his pimp outfit, manic eyes and oiled hair and bass player Jyrki Melartin, who looked like might have interrupted a fishing trip to play a gig with the boys. Costello was probably the one who looked most like a member of a rock band.
The main set ended with a bunch of well-recieved songs, including the latest single "Kuutamohullu", "Kersantti Karoliina", "Kaasua", "20 Centtiä" and the official Finnish summer anthem "Pitkä Kuuma Kesä" ("Long Hot Summer"), which practically raised the roof of the tent a few centimetres I believe. The encores were a bit of a letdown, the band fooled around with "Jingle Bells" and a tango (with Jyrki Melartin on vocals), Costello sang one of his songs and even Lacu sang a song... which was quite horrendous. Pate returned for the final song, but he couldn't raise the vibe to the level of the main set.
YÖ have a long career behind them. Unlike most of the bands who had their first taste of big success in the eighties, Yö have been able to score big hits during the following decades too, and actually expand their fanbase. They've had their ups and downs and several line-up changes, and vocalist Olli Lindholm is the only original member these days. Still, apart from a new drummer Ari Toikka who joined the band this year, the current line-up has been together since 2000.
I've seen the band several times, on all three decades actually, and they haven't been always that impressive. However, just like Popeda and actually even more so, Yö were on fire too and played an excellent set. This gig actually renewed my interest in the band, and I've had a bit of "suomi-rock" fever ever since...
I guess it says something about the stature of this band, when I tell you that they played a 90-minute set of almost nothing but hits, and still there were several big hits that were left off the set. I can't think of too many bands who could do the same, domestic or international ones. Some of the more recent radio hits sounded much more rockier than their recorded versions, and the current version of Yö did justice to the older tracks too. The eighties' Yö were hardly superb musicians, but these "new guys" are highly professional and capable. In fact, not too long ago we saw guitarist Daffy and bassist Jukka Lewis playing with the Rainbow singers, playing those classic rock songs as if they had played them all their life.
Another thing I noticed was the fact that some of the older songs have really gotten a new life when they've been included on the Yö hit compilations. Tracks like "Kuorotyttö" or "Niin Paljon Me Teihin Luotettiin" were minor hits at best when they were originally released, but now it seemed like everyone knew them. Actually it seemed like everyone knew every song in the set, such was the volume of the "additional backing vocals" provided by the crowd!
In the middle of the set, Olli took a breather, and bass player Jukka Lewis sang two songs. I was very impressed by these songs and his vocals, he could be a lead vocalist himself and the songs were good. Hard Rock fans might know that he has actually been a lead singer, he sang on a Sargofagus album back in the early eighties. He has also played in Finnish cult metal band Oz, N.Y. based rockers Princess Bang and the sleaze/glam band Skin & Bones.
The whole gig was closed with the band's recent hit "Rakkaus On Lumivalkoinen", which has been one of the biggest songs in Finland during the last few years, and it was quite stunning to hear the whole tent sing along to it.
[ KT ]
Thursday 31 July
The GreenBee is a band formed by Tony Green (ex-Human Temple) and Marky Bee. They had an idea of forming a band already at elementary school. After involvements in other bands and solo projects The GreenBee saw its daylight a few years back. The band describes itself as a funk rock band.
During DBTL, Marky Bee seemed to be everywhere on stage: helping artists, hosting, taking care of media etc. But in the middle of all this he was singing with his band on thursday evening. The tent was not croweded, half full maybe. A huge amount of people were sitting outside the tent enjoying the warmth of the nice and hot day.
The crowd seemed to be curious and observating. Maybe it was because this band hasn't got enough publicity yet. But I guess that people were not disappointed at all in the band's performance. Marky Bee took care of the electricity and anergy on the stage. He proved to be a great frontman. He was the star of the band, only the guitarist Frank De Funk managed to step forward also. Other band members seemed to be concentrating on their instruments a bit too intensively. They did let loose every now and then, maybe there was some excitement in the air. There were altogether four people singing backing vocals: in addition to guitarists Tony Green and Frank De Funk there were also two ladies: Hanna Silander and Lotta Svartsjö making the sound richer.
In addition to their own material, the band played some cover songs as well. "Stone Me In To The Groove", "Where Are We Running" and "Fly Away" got all quite big applauses. Their own material was received pretty nicely. The crowd was not jumping or anything like that but it gave polite applauses after every song of their own. "Once Again" seemed to get pretty nice reception. I also think that "Come Inside" has some hit potential. The gig was guite short, they played only 40 minutes or so. A pretty cool version of "What A Wonderful World" ended their set. I guess I was not the only one who stepped out the tent with a smile on my face, I liked what I heard. Eventhough the band's music style is not quite what I prefer, their music did not leave me cold. Some may say that the warm weather did have have something to do with as well... Anyway I am curious to hear their album some day soon.
[ MST ]
FRIDAY 1 August
Back in the eighties, Yö and DINGO were rivals. Both bands originated from the town of Pori, and both bands played melodic rock. Yö broke through first, but some months later Dingo arrived and became the most popular band in the country. For the next two years, the younger female population of Finland suffered of a severe Dingo-mania, and while the band was way too pretty for most guys to like, I'm sure many of them secretly liked the songs. The Dingo-mania reached its' peak when the band released their second album "Kerjäläisten Valtakunta", which sold almost 200.000 copies. In a country with a population of five million, that is something quite special. After the third album "Pyhä Klaani" which "only" sold 80.000, the band called it quits. In 1993 they reformed, released one album and broke up again. Another reformation took place in 1998, only to end a few years later, as the band couldn't come up with new music. In 2004 Neumann reunited with original bassist Jarkko Eve, who had played on the band's first album, and put together a new version of Dingo. This new Dingo has gone through various changes too, and Neumann is nowadays the only original member of the band.
Whereas both Yö and Popeda and their fronmen had surpised me with their current good condition, Neumann did the opposite. Having not seen him recently, I was quite shocked to see the man almost double the size of his former self enter the stage. The band consisted of younger guys, who seemed to be enjoying their time on stage, but I don't know whether Neumann did. His vocals were a on the rough side, the high notes seemed to be hard to reach, and in general I got the feeling that he was very nervous. Maybe it was the new line-up? Furthermore, I don't know why he insisted on extending most of the first few songs. The additional choruses he sung and strummed solo didn't really add anything to the songs.
Dingo has a back catalogue full of hits and most of the big ones were played, but otherwise the setlist wasn't very well put together. The set started with a couple of their smaller hits and the first single from their forthcoming album which were all warmly recieved, then the band played two of their big hits, raising the athmosphere nicely. Then it all went downhill, first with a rather average new song, then two ballads back to back. As if that wasn't enough to damage the flow, Neumann left the stage and let the rest of the band play "Tobacco Road", an obscure Dingo song from some single or something. There was "Dingo" with players who were virtually unknown to everyone except the die-hards, playing and singing a song almost no-one had heard before... no surprise that many people thought it was their que to head to the bar again. Not that the guys were bad, but this wasn't what anyone came to see. And the song wasn't much to shout about either.
The last few songs were hits again, including the highly popular "Autiotalo" and "Levoton Tuhkimo", and they ensured that the gig ended on a positive note, but still, I think that the old rivals Yö gave a real beating to these dingos.
[ KT ]
Reviews by Kimmo Toivonen (KT) and Mira Suutari-Toivonen (MST)