Selected highlights of
Down By The Laituri, DBTL for short, is an annual city festival in Turku, Finland. It takes place around the river Aura which flows through the city. There is a designated festival site but also most of the local bars and clubs have joined forces with DBTL and have special program during the week. The RockUnited team spent a couple of days at the festival, and checked out some bands our readers would be interested in.
The opening day of the festival was dedicated to metal and rock bands in the main tent. Timo Rautiainen and his new band Neljäs Sektori had already played when we arrived to the festival, as had local rockers Gangster Of Love. The first band we saw was The 69 Eyes, those self-proclaimed "Helsinki Vampires". I've seen them a couple of times before and was looking forward to their set, but ended up being slightly disappointed. Here's why....
THE 69 EYES' set opener was "Love Runs Away" from the band's latest album "Red". As the festival promoters had chosen to give DBTL a subtitle of "The Festival Of Love", the song suited the theme somehow. I thought it was a good song and promised myself to check out the album sooner or later, but something was missing of the band's performance. I don't know why, but I felt that they weren't giving us their everything, they were a bit stagnant. A couple of older numbers followed, "Framed In Blood" and "Gothic Girl", and then another one from "Red". The band didn't seem to warm up, except for drummer Jussi 69 who always plays in a very entertaining way.
An older song "Wasting The Dawn" was probably a great addition to the setlist for the diehards, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears for the others. "Dead Girls Are Easy" included some sing-along attempts, and fair enough, the frontrows sang their hearts out.
The level of energy on stage seemed to rise when the band kicked off "Perfect Skin", one of their more recent hits. The crowd got into it, the band got a boost from that and the rest of the set seemed to flow by nicely. Not that surprising since they had saved many of their hits to the end, including the absolute highlight "Lost Boys".
For a casual listener the biggest problem with The 69 Eyes may be the fact that most of their songs sound very alike, the tempos are similar and Jyrki 69's chosen singing style doesn't really offer variety either. Maybe they need to re-invent themselves somehow, without alienating their following? Still, they are a good band and I've seen more impressive gigs from them, this just wasn't one of their better days.
Love Runs Away
MOKOMA are a metal band who sing in Finnish. I hadn't really heard their music before, only enough to know that it's way too thrashy for my taste. The first couple of songs did surprise me a bit, the band's singer Marko Annala didn't growl and grunt as I had expected him to, instead he sang them properly. Besides, compared to the gothic cool stage presence of the previous band, Mokoma were from another planet. They may look like a bunch of drifters with their beards, dreadlocks and worn-out t-shirts, but they had a real connection with their fans and they were very energetic performers.
Eventually the clean vocals seemed to give room for more extreme style of singing and the songs moved more towards thrash, and we decided to take a break and headed out.
Last band of the day was another metal band singing in Finnish, KILPI. I've covered several of their gigs before and their DBTL performance was one of the better shows of theirs. The band was celebrating their 10th anniversary and played a lot of songs from their first album. They had also taken into account the theme of the festival and played a lot of love songs, possibly more than usually. I had nothing against that, as I prefer their melodic stuff rather than their stomping metal songs.
The band's set was preceded by some gringeworthy "comedy" by the event's MC Kaki, who's a former reality TV celebrity. It was thankfully soon forgotten, once the band blasted out their AOR anthem "Villin Vaaran Kosto" and their breakthrough hit "Nerokasta Ikävää". The band seemed to be more lively than usual and one could tell that they were really enjoying to be on stage.
The band's vocalist Taage Laiho doesn't seem to have bad days, he must be one the most reliable vocalists around. As I think I've said before, the band's overall vocal power is admirable - the whole "frontline" of the band sings well and there's no need to rely on canned backing vocals.
The band's setlist was an interesting one because of the love theme and the anniversary thing. They played some songs that aren't exactly staples of their set if I am not mistaken, but that didn't seem to bother the crowd. A large percentage of the people were very familiar with the band, and tracks like the latest single "Rakkaus Vapauttaa", "Ihminen" and "Yhtä Ihoa" got a good reception. As encores, the first album's first and last tracks were given an airing, in keeping with the anniversary theme.
Villin Vaaran Kosto
Samaan aikaan toisaalla
Thursday's line-up didn't offer too much for us, but we checked out two artists. First of them was JONNE AARON, the vocalist of Negative. He has gone through a transformation from a glam rocker to a down-to-earth adult pop (or even "schlager") singer. The transformation has been successful, he has found a new audience and he seems happy singing in Finnish.
Aaron's gig started with him being taken to the height of 104 metres on a crane, which makes him a World Record artist for the highest gig ever or something like that. He only played one song up there though. Understandable, as one can't really interact with an audience that's "somewhere down there".
Once Aaron returned to the tent stage, he continued to perform tracks from his solo album. He and his solo band had a good time on stage and the songs didn't sound too bad. Later in the setlist Aaron played some covers he had performed in the hugely popular TV show "Vain Elämää". That show is based on the Dutch format called "De beste zangers van Nederland" in which 7 singers live together in one house for a week, and each day perform versions of each others songs. The two soundtracks of the series have been the biggest selling albums of the past decade, and each artist got a nice boost for their respective careers.
Next artist to check out in our schedule was ANSSI KELA. He recently released a critically acclaimed new, self-titled album and has enjoyed a real revival of his career with plenty of airplay for his latest singles.
I haven't really paid too much attention to Kela's career, apart from hearing his hits on the radio. The DBTL gig will change that, as he played a very good set and made me realize that his music is quite literally Finnish AOR (that's Adult Oriented Rock but you knew that, didn't you?). The songs from the new album are very 80'ies styled, with elements of synth-driven pop of the era and hi-tech AOR of the likes of Rick Springfield, while the older songs range from catchy, melancholic pop to guitar-driven rock. And it doesn't hurt that Kela's current lead guitarist is none other than Tuomas Wäinölä, who has played with Kotipelto and the Raskasta Joulua ("Heavy Christmas") project, among others.
Set highlights included the latest singles "Miten Sydämet Toimii" and the very Springfield-like "Levoton Tyttö", an older song "Karhun Elämää" which reminded me of Dep Leppard and the anthem of people of my age, "1972". A good gig, very entertaining and easily the most popular one we saw at DBTL this time around. And yeah, extra points for the Eddie Van Halen guitar!
Miten sydämet toimii
That was DBTL 2013 for us, as we were elsewhere for the rest of the week.
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
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