Selected highlights of
Finland’s oldest city festival Down By The Laituri has evolved from a ”home-made”, rebellious little festival to a big mainstream event, targeting a slightly more mature audience than in the beginning. The trend among event organizers these days is to cater to companies and others with a lot of disposable income, which was easily evident at this year’s DBTL: at times it seemed like every other person had a VIP or a guest pass!
The festival took a head start on tuesday June 22th with the leading Finnish stand-up comedians, but we weren’t able to attend that event. Neither were we present on the festival’s first ”official” day, when bands such as Apulanta, Egotrippi and Kaija Koo performed. On thursday there wasn’t a lot of rock in the line-up either, but our photographer Mira did check out a couple of acts. She saw Suvi Teräsniska, one of the most popular young Finnish ”adult pop” or ”schlager” singers and enjoyed her gig. Nineties’ eurodance artist Haddaway played a singback show and proved to be a funny showman. If his name doesn’t ring a bell, how about ”What Is Love” and the movie ”A Night At The Roxbury”… yeah, ”that song”. No, you don’t have to do that thing with your head anymore!
On Friday we were both present. Unfortunately Poets Of The Fall played early in the evening so we missed their performance, I would have liked to see them. The first band we were able to catch was AHOLA, the hard rock band of Teräsbetoni/Northern Kings singer Jarkko Ahola. They played on the smaller of the two stages. Things didn’t start out great, as the start of their set was delayed by some 30 minutes.
Eventually Ahola was allowed to start rockin’, and that is exactly what they did, with a song called ”Rock’n Roll” from their latest album ”Tug Of War”. The band sounded good, and Jarkko himself impressed me with his effortless, yet powerful vocals. I like his singing style in Ahola better than the over-the-top Teräsbetoni style. Obviously there’s some overlapping, it’s the same guy after all, and a few Ahola songs do have traces of Teräsbetoni in them. The latest single ”Still Metal” being the obvious example Visually Ahola the band is pretty down-to-earth and they rely on the music to do the talking.
The setlist featured a lot of material from the new album, with only a couple of songs from the band’s debut. I actually like the debut more than the second album, so that was a slight disappointment, although I must say that the newer material worked quite well live.
The crowd wasn’t really familiar with the band’s material, and their reaction to the band was a bit lukewarm. Jarkko was pretty realistic about their status, and mentioned that they didn’t have any hits to play, even though on of the tunes had been ”played on the radio at least four times”…
Thanks to the delay, Ahola were still playing when we had to started finding our way through the crowd to the main stage. The self-proclaimed purveyors of ”Merry Metal”, Reckless Love were about to start their set.
I am a bit of a RL fan, this being the fifth or sixth gig of theirs I’ve seen. The band is well-oiled machine on stage, and you can count on them to put on a good show. With a setlist that was almost identical to the one they played at South Park Festival earlier this year, the band won over the crowd easily.
Despite me being a fan, I was there as ”a serious journalist”, and I made some objective observations. It sounded to me that the band might have cut down the use of backing tapes. I can’t say for sure but I only noticed that ”additional help” was being used during ”Night Of Fire” and the ultra-smooth ”Beautiful Bomb”. Props to Jalle Verne and Pepe for providing great backing vocals throughout the set.
Olli Herman bounced on the stage like he tends to do, and inevitably took off his shirt in the end of the set, much to the delight of the young (and older) ladies in the audience.
I Love Heavy Metal
Friday’s headliner was LENINGRAD COWBOYS. They are a strange phenomenon. Basically they are a cover band, but definitely with a twist. They have a unique look with pointy shoes and over-the-top rockabilly hairdos and an obsession with everything from the Soviet Union. Their covers of rock classics are given a special ”Leningrad” treatment, with smatterings of accordion, horns, balalaika and whanot added for extra flavour.
Behind the massive pompadours you’ll find some of Finland’s top musicians, such as vocalist Ville Tuomi (Suburban Tribe), guitarist Varre Vartiainen and keyboard player Okke Komulainen. Currently there are 13 members in the band, and indeed the stage was pretty crowded!
I quite enjoyed the band’s set, although we didn’t stay till the end. There’s plenty of things happening on stage all the time and the band plays well-known tracks. Even the few ”originals” they played sounded rather familiar, like ”Machine Gun Blues” and ”Space Tractor”. Both songs take shamelessly advantage of some traditional russian folk song melodies. What else…well, Elvis made an appearance and sang ”Blitzgrieg Bop” by the Ramones. He’s not dead after all?!
On Saturday the first act on our list was Uniklubi. They broke through with a goth/glam image similar to that of Negative, Private Line and others back in 2004 but unlike those bands, their songs had Finnish lyrics. Their first single ”Rakkautta Ja Piikkilankaa” (”Love And Barbed Wire”) was one the biggest hits of the year and helped their debut reach platinum status. The band went on a hiatus in 2011, but have returned to the scene this year with two new members and new music.
I haven’t been particulary familiar with Uniklubi’s material, although I’ve heard their hit singles and quite liked them. Now that I’ve seen them live, I will certainly check out their albums, as the band was an entertaining live act with good songs. Jussi Selo is a charismatic frontman and a fine singer, the guitarists Janne Selo and Pasi Viitala added the rock edge to the songs and the new rhythm section of Teemu Mäntykorpi (bass) and Jani Auvinen (drums) played like they’ve always been in the band. Good stuff.
RESSU & JUSSI were the next artists we had decided to check out. Ressu Redford, the vocalist of 80’ies pop band Bogart Co., nineties dance act Sound Of RELS and a solo artist, is one half of the duo, while Jussi Rainio is the other half. He used to sing in a band called Neon 2 who scored some major hits in the nineties. For the last few years, the singers have been playing gigs together, singing their past hits and some recent material.
The R&J gig was highly popular, with the tent full of enthusiastic fans. Some of the loudest singalongs of the festival took place during their set. ”Älä Mee”, Ressu’s cover of Nilsson’s ”Without You” and the Neon 2 hits ”Tässä Talossa” ja ”Polku” were really big hits with the crowd.
Pop/Rock singer IRINA was another very popular artist and the frontrows of the smaller stage were crowded well before she was scheduled to start. Irina has had several big radio hits here, and her setlist included most of them, "Hiljaisuus", "Vastaukset" ja "Pokka" to name a few.
I was very impressed by her performance and her excellent band. Irina is a great singer and performer with a non-pretentious. lively style, and she has a handful of fine songs.
The last band of the day for us was THE RASMUS. They’ve been away for a while, but have recently regrouped. I don’t know whether they are working on new material, at least no new songs were played at DBTL. Instead we got an enjoyable ”Greatest Hits” type of a show. The tent was again packed, obviously there's still demand for the band!
Highlights of the show for me were the opening track ”No Fear”, ”Livin’ In A World Without You”, ”F-F-F-Falling” and ”In The Shadows”, although there really wasn’t a dull moment during the gig. Hopefully the great reception they got will encourage the band to come up with great new music.
Unfortunately, there were a few really annoying drunk ladies who required more and more space for their ”moves” as The Rasmus gig went on, which made it hard for me to enjoy the gig thoroughly. Why is it that certain people always have to try to make a spectacle out of themselves? Who wants to watch a drunk "bird" flapping away like a crazy seagull?
Sunday was the last day of DBTL and it was a different kind of an event. Unlike the previous days, there was a huge queue at the gate. The average age of the audience dropped some 20-30 years, and the VIP/Guest pass holders had vanished. The beer taps had been closed, but there was a lot of sweets, chips and soft drinks available. There was only one performer in the line-up, but for this crowd, he was more than enough. I’m talking about ROBIN, the teen sensation who has been the biggest selling artist in Finland for the last couple of years.
Our daughter, aged 6, is a fan of Robin so we’ve heard more than our share of his music and even seen him live a couple of years ago. He’s really grown into a good entertainer over the last two years, even though I’m not that fond of his teen-pop tunes. He had a trampoline on stage, which he and the band used to good effect, and there was definite chemistry between him and the band members.
The temperature inside the tent was getting dangerously hot, and a few young girls were carried away from the frontrow even before the set. It was quite a stroke of genius to have a dance instructor as the ”warm-up act”, it was already warm enough... The security people had their hands full, either with girls passing out or cups of water they were handing out to to thirsty teens.
My daughter and the hundreds of other little girls enjoyed singing along to hits like ”Frontside Ollie” and ”Boom-Kah”, and I did notice that the moms were singing along too...
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
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