Karjurock... that's roughly "HogRock" in english I guess. As the name suggests, we're not talking about an urban city festival here, quite the opposite actually. Karjurock is held in the rural area of Lokalahti. To say that it's "in the middle of nowhere" might not be appropiate because it's really an hour away from the closest big city Turku, but the drive up there was somewhat eerie... there was very little traffic on the road, and as we got closer, the size of the road just diminished by every turn. And there on the edge of the forest, we found the parking place and the festival area.
"So it's this kind of a festival", said our photographer as we approached the gate. The festival was in full swing and and some of the people were swingin' as well, from side to side... Apparently the wristbands allowed them to leave the festival area temporarily, which meant that it was like a good ol' fashioned Finnish country wedding. You know, when half of the men suddenly realise they left something to the car, then return a while later but not walking quite as straight as before! There was a strange "shadow festival" taking place on the nearby hill as well, with people camping up there to listen and see the bands. Their "seats" might have been of "limited visibility", but they were also free. Weird that they were allowed to be there, and considering that the tickets to this event weren't particulary expensive, embarassing for them... c'mon people, support live music and stop leeching!
We had chosen to see the more hard rock/metal -type of acts of the festival's line up, and the first of them was KILPI. I've seen the band quite a few times over the last few years, and their traditional melodic metal always works well in a live setting. They have a strong fanbase in the area as they are an Turku-based band, and indeed there was a decent-sized crowd watching them. The whole band seemed to be enjoying themselves, and played a tight, energetic set. Since becoming keyboard-less a few years ago, I feel that the band's emphasis has shifted more towards riff-based, "Acceptian" metal which isn't necessarily the direction I'd like to see them going. I might be in the minority though, as stomping tracks like "Viinapiru" and "Tuli, Vesi, Ilma ja Maa" were clear crowd favourites.
The band's latest single "Lautta" was aired, and vocalist Taage Laiho mentioned that it's the band's first "power ballad" of all time, yet it hasn't been much of a radio hit. I kind of see why not - it's a decent song but somehow it just floats along. Well, "Lautta" translates as "The Raft" so...
The band's first hit "Nerokasta Ikävää" is all about longing for summer and warmth, and while it was a July night, it didn't sound out of place at all. The Finnish summer showed its ugly side as the temperature dived with each passing hour.
Once Kilpi had finished, on the small stage a cover band by the name of Doctor Doctor started their set. They did what cover bands usually do, played songs that everyone knew and maintained the party feeling quite well. I didn't really think they were that great, some of the "mash-ups" sounded a bit clumsy and it seemed that they were having trouble keeping the tempos together, but the crowd liked them. The vocalist certainly tried hard to get the crowd going, looking like a manic TV evangelist or an used car salesman on speed in his silver outfit.
The day's headliner was LORDI, the monstrous band who shocked the Eurovision Song Contest audience in 2006 by winning the whole thing with "Hard Rock Hallelujah". That year, the were the National Heroes in Finland, but since then, their star has somewhat faded. The two albums released after the ESC victory haven't sold nearly as much as The Arockalypse, but let's face it, it's understandable. The casual fans who jumped the bandwagon in 2006 were not likely to stay onboard for too long anyway.
Despite the fact it well past midnight when the band started, there were still quite a lot of people waiting for them. Once the band kicked off their show with "Bringing Back the Balls to Rock", the chilly night weather was temporarily forgotten. Although the band didn't have a full-on stage spectacle with bombs and stuff with them, they did put on a Show with a capital "S"...
I haven't seen the band since "The Summer Of Lordi 2006", and a lot has happened in these 6 years. The Lordi character himself has started to talk on stage, which creates a strange contrast to his appearance. Here's this scary looking monster... who appears to be a jovial kind of a geezer with funny stories?! Bassplayer Ox seems to be taken a more active role on stage, he's much more menancing character than Lordi these days.
As you might have heard, the band's original drummer Kita was given his marching orders when he "came out" with his other band Stala & So. He was soon replaced by Otus, who died in February 2012. Currently the drummer of Lordi is called "The Drummer", and he wears a temporary outfit... looking like a Muppet from hell. What we didn't know is that this so was to be one of the last ones with keyboard player Awa, who has decided to leave the group. Only a few days after the gig her departure was announced. A replacement has been chosen already.
At least for me, the gig didn't get the best start as the first few songs weren't among the band's strongest ones. Especially "Bite It Like A Bulldog" I could've done without, it's easily the worst single in the band's history. "It Snows In Hell" got the band to the right track, although it came painfully obvious that Kita's backing vocals were seriously missed. With Lordi barking the choruses with little or no support from the rest of the band they kind of lose their edge. In Lordi's case I'd actually encourage the band to use the backing tapes and use them loud, these choruses need that! Or maybe a monster choir?
The Lordi show featured special guests and theatrical elements, which added some entertainment value. At least "Granny" and a "Heavy Metal Thing" made appearances during the appropiate songs, and some blood was shed and heads chopped, if I remember correctly. As the set got closer to its' end, the temperature had fallen to around 5 celsius degrees and I was ready to leave to the warmth of the car, but there were still a song or two we just needed to witness... the unofficial National Metal Anthem of Finland was the not very surprising first encore, and during that even the most zombie-like festival goers woke up and headed closer to the stage to sing Hallelujah and then some. Yes, the power of rock can raise the dead... "Hard Rock Hallelujah" wasn't the last show though, the band's breakthrough hit "Would You Love a Monsterman?" got the honour of closing the show for the band, with fireworks on top of it. We watched that from the parking lot, with the motor running and the heating turned up to 11...
Bringing Back the Balls to Rock
Hard Rock Hallelujah
On Sunday, the festival continued with live music but some of the other facilities were closed. For some reason, the Sunday was marketed and sold as a separate concert. This meant that a lot of those who had partied hard on the previous two days weren't necessarily coming back for more. It looked as most of them had chosen to cure their hangovers with something else than rock music, as when we came to the site there was perhaps a hundred people there. And we weren't there particulary early, the gates had been opened some 6 hours earlier and 4 out of the 6 bands scheduled for Sunday had already finished their sets.
We were there to see Human Temple, who had gotten the prestigious support slot next to the headliners Apocalyptica. This Turku-based melodic hard rock band has released three albums over the last few years, and gone through a lot of line-up changes, most recent ones just weeks ago. The band's vocalist Janne Hurme is actually the only original member of the band. With a brand new rhythm section in the band, Temple played a solid 45-minute set with tracks from each of their albums. No covers this time, although they gave us a taste of one during the last minute soundcheck by playing a bit of Robert Tepper's "No Easy Way Out".
The new guys Gekko (bass) and Juha (drums) seemed to be decent additions to the band, especially Gekko's stage presence boosted the band's entertainment value. As Janne noticed, Gekko and guitarist Risto were romping around the stage like young stallions...
I don't know why, but the crowd seemed to be interested, yet intimated by the band. Only a couple of girls came to the frontrow, while the rest of the audience stayed polited a few metres away! Strange.
As the showtime of Apocalyptica approached, the size of the crowd increased quite a bit. I guess the turnout was a bit of a disappointment for the organizers though, as Apocalyptica was their biggest investment of all time. Anyway, the somewhat sparse attendance didn't bother Apocalyptica, who gave us an excellent show. I saw the band in Ruisrock a few weeks ago, and liked their performance there, but I'll have to say that the Karjurock gig left even a better impression on me.
Apocalyptica is a highly visual and entertaining band, and they have a strong grasp of what showmanship is all about. That balances out the fact that some of their instrumental stuff isn't that easy to get into. As usual, the Metallica covers seemed to get the most attention, as did the few songs with vocals by Tipe Johnson. He is a great vocalist and I wouldn't have minded at all if he had sung a track or two more. The US Rock Radio hit "I Don't Care" sounded particulary brilliant, with Eicca Toppinen providing good backing vocals to it.
That's it, my take on Karjurock 2012 or at least what I saw of it. There was a full day of bands on friday too, but we weren't able to attend. Besides, the line-up of Friday didn't offer anything that we would have really wanted to see. Anyway, it's quite amazing that a fairly successful festival can be arranged in such a remote location. If any of our foreign readers want to experience a real rural rock festival, this would be it. Especially with camping on site - that would be something different to all these city festivals with dozens of hotels within walking distance.
The ruthless weather of Saturday night took a toll on me, and I ended up with a good case of "summer cold" that has lasted for two weeks. What do we learn of this? Be prepared for harsh weather, even though it's July - it doesn't hurt to take that extra shirt and a scarf to a summer festival. I conclude my report to that piece of advice... now where's my cough medicine?
Review by Kimmo
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