KARJUROCK 2016 - The 10 year anniversary -

From its’ humble beginnings as a small party for 500 people, Karjurock (”Hogrock”) has grown into one of the biggest festivals in the western Finland. It is undoubtedly THE biggest festival that’s held in the countryside, nowhere near any of the bigger cities. From Turku, the biggest city of the west-coast it takes about an hour by car to get to Lokalahti, yet once again the festival sold a record-breaking number of tickets, with the total number being somewhere around 15.000.

Unlike some of the other Finnish festivals with the word ”Rock” in the title, Karjurock actually had several ROCK bands in the line-up. Not exclusively, there were some big-draw pop artists and even a rap act or two, but overall the vibe the festival was pretty ”old-school”. You know, good musicians playing real instruments and singers singing… in this age of ”macbook and turntable” artists all this might be a bit old-fashioned but so am I, and I hope that Karjurock doesn’t change its’ ways either.From its’ humble beginnings as a small party for 500 people, Karjurock (”Hogrock”) has grown into one of the biggest festivals in the western Finland. It is undoubtedly THE biggest festival that’s held in the countryside, nowhere near any of the bigger cities. From Turku, the biggest city of the west-coast it takes about an hour by car to get to Lokalahti, yet once again the festival sold a record-breaking number of tickets, with the total number being somewhere around 15.000.

Unlike some of the other Finnish festivals with the word ”Rock” in the title, Karjurock actually had several ROCK bands in the line-up. Not exclusively, there were some big-draw pop artists and even a rap act or two, but overall the vibe the festival was pretty ”old-school”. You know, good musicians playing real instruments and singers singing… in this age of ”macbook and turntable” artists all this might be a bit old-fashioned but so am I, and I hope that Karjurock doesn’t change its’ ways either.

The festival started on thursday with a ”family day”. The ”metal dinosaur band” HEVISAURUS and pop singer ANNA ABREU were the biggest names of the day, and attracted a good-sized crowd. As for RockUnited team, our Karjurock started on Friday. The weather wasn’t favourable, it rained almost all night but thankfully not too hard. We were pretty well prepared for a bit of rain so it wasn’t a big deal for us.

A few acts had already performed when we arrived to the site. The highly popular rap act JVG, punk rockers Klamydia and reformed eighties’ punk/new wave legends Pelle Miljoona Oy had already performed. In hindsight, it might have been interesting to see the latter, which featured the notorious, legendary Hanoi Rocks guitarist Andy McCoy. He did make a cameo appearance during the night, but more of that later.

The first band we saw was YÖ, the band many ”true rock fans” love to hate. I’m not that true apparently, as I do like the band. I was actually a big fan of theirs when I was around 12 or so, and have followed their career ever since. Only vocalist Olli Lindholm remains from the original line-up, and over the years the band’s style has changed towards ”iskelmä”, a very Finnish genre that could be described as radio-friendly, adult contemporary pop with emphasis on the lyrics.

Apart from the haters, the band has a wide crossover appeal and their music was enjoyed by the old and the young and people in-between. The youngsters sang along to their golden oldies so they had studied the band’s history, but the newer songs were popular too. Yö has managed to keep themselves rather relevant and unlike most other eighties’ bands, when they say that they’ll play something recent the crowd doesn’t rush into the bar!

Maybe not a highlight of the show but definitely the most talked about event took place during the second song ”Likaiset Legendat” (”Dirty Legends”). That’s when Mr. McCoy stumbled to the stage and emptied his beer bottle at Olli, who was very surprised and not happy at all. There’s been conspiracy theories that it was all a set-up the get some footage for the Bam Margera-filmed documentary, but I doubt that. Olli isn’t that good an actor, he was clearly rather pissed off about it, but to his credit he remained calm and didn’t let the incident interrupt the gig. According to the security guys, McCoy was then escorted out of the festival area.

The rest of the show went smoothly,. The band played most of the band’s major hits and setlist staples, including the Jay Lewis-sung ”Deadline”. Olli may be the frontman, the face and the leader of the band, but I think Jay is far superior as a singer. He has a solo career and other projects but they seem to be always on the back burner, which is a bit of a shame.

There were two stages, the main stage and the ”Rock Academy” stage in a tent. VIPER ARMS took the tent stage next. They are a female-fronted rock band from Turku, and in their case ”female-fronted” means that only the drummer was a guy. Apparently he is a hired hand.

The band’s hard rock has influences from all over the place, some of the songs had a punk’ish vibe, while others were more metallic. Throw in a bit of power pop and grunge and you’ve got a real viper soup… The band’s singer/guitarist Niina surprised me with her versatility. She handled the more melodic stuff nicely but also possessed a rough, aggressive style that was very suitable for the more edgy songs.

The surprise inclusion in the setlist was a cover of Samantha Fox’ 80’ies hit ”Touch Me”. I’ve always kind of liked the song and the Viper-version turned it into a real rocker. If anything, the band could have rocked it up even more. The crowd liked the song and I think it would be worth recording. I could imagine that it could be a rock radio hit.

As headliner of the Friday, the festival organizers had hired BONNIE TYLER. The now 65-year old singer made her first breakthrough during the late seventies with the hits ”Lost In France” and ”It’s A Heartache”, both of which she performed at Karjurock. Her most beloved tracks are from the mid-eighties though, from the albums which she recorded with Jim Steinman.

Tyler’s setlist relied heavily on her 80’ies stuff, with a few songs from her latest album, 2013’s ”Rocks & Honey”. The dreadful Dieter Bohlen-helmed pop albums of the nineties were thankfully completely ignored.

The CCR cover ”Have You Ever Seen The Rain” opened the set, which was rather funny as it was pouring down as she sang it… yes, Bonnie, we have seen it.

The set highlights were the two massive Steinman-penned hits ”Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and ”Holding Out For A Hero”. Unofortunately, due to time constraints we didn’t get to hear ”Hide Your Heart”, which she has performed on several of her recent gigs. We did get to hear ”The Best”, a song that she introduced in her witty way: ”This song was a huge hit – but not for me! It was a hit for my idol Tina Turner, who recorded it two years later than me!”

Tyler’s distinctive voice is still in decent shape, as husky as ever. Some of the high notes she didn’t reach anymore, but I’ve gotta give her credit for trying and not altering the songs drastically. She had a great band backing her up, including a familiar looking bass player. I knew that I had seen him before, but couldn’t remember where… a quick google search revealed that he was Ed Poole, who played in Romeo’s Daughter at last year’s Rockingham festival.

The festival continued after Tyler’s show, but we headed home. It was now pitch dark and our walk to the parking lot was interesting in complete darkness. The parking lot – a field – had gone rather muddy and some cars were stuck. We got out just fine but the next morning the light of day revealed that our car had gotten a real mud treatment.

 

Saturday was a bit more ”metallic” day but had its’ fair share of pop artists. One of the biggest names was Jari Sillanpää, who is actually the biggest selling Finnish solo artist of all time and his debut album holds the record of being the biggest selling domestic album of all time. With the diminishing sales of physical copies, I don’t think anyone can challenge him anymore.

Sillanpää’s first claim to fame was winning the ”King Of Tango” title back in 1995, but there were no tangos in the setlist. Instead there was traditional schlager (or ”iskelmä”, see my description above), pop, ballads, reggae… and ”Gangnam Style”. Most of ot was not my kind of music at all, but he was appreciated by the crowd, I can’t deny that. The best part of his set for me were his hilarious comments: ”It’s nice the we were booked… despite being damn expensive!”

We took a break from the festival and visited the nearby town of Uusikaupunki for a while, as there wasn’t anything of interest in the line-up for the next couple of hours. When we returned, KILPI was just starting their set. We’ve seen the band several times before and they’re always a solid live band. This time they had something new, namely Elmo Karjalainen on guitar. His status as a permanent member of the band was confirmed a while ago. This was the first time I’ve seen him with Kilpi, and he definitely added some action to the stage! His presence reminds me of Yngwie Malmsteen, he’s not just playing his guitar, he’s in constant motion and throwing shapes like the best of ’em. And yeah, the guy can shred.



The band played a good ”Best Of” set with a few newbies from their recent ”Juggernautti” album. Vocalist Taage Laiho proved once again that he’s one of the best metal singers in this country, his singing sounded effortless and there was no need for key changes or cutting around the corners. A good gig!

Local heroes (?) DINTURIST played their set in the tent, and they were... something different. They played covers of pop and rock hits which isn’t particulary special, but their vocalist was. The rest of the band were ordinary looking guys, but Jukitsu Hyytiä looked like a mad butcher in his red plastic overalls. A sight not easily unseen. Local MP, a former body building champion and singer Kike Elomaa joined the band for a couple of songs, performing one duet with the Red Butcher and singing one song on her own.

After the somewhat disturbing, yet strangely entertaining set by Dintourist it was time for another metal band, namely STRATOVARIUS. This Finnish Power Metal institution recently released a 3-CD ”Best Of” set, yet oddly enough, they didn’t even mention it, only their 2015 release ”Eternal” was promoted by vocalist Timo Kotipelto.

Just like Kilpi, I’ve seen the Stratos quite a few times before. I’d say that this was one of the better gigs of theirs, the level of energy didn’t drop at any point and every song got a good reception. Over the last few years the band has proved that they’ve overcome the departure of main songwriter Timo Tolkki. Now there are several songwriters in the band, and the newer songs stand proudly alongside the old classics.

Timo Kotipelto is a good frontman with lots of experience of commanding huge festival crowds, and he took control of the Karjurock crowd as well. The fists were in the air when he asked them to be, and most of the people were happy to sing along to ”Hunting High And Low” and other hits. On albums, Kotipelto’s very Finnish accent can be a little distracting but one doesn't really notice such minor things in live environment.

The next band on the tent stage was JAILBREAK, a cover band specializing in metal and hard rock classics. I wasn’t that enthusiastic about seeing another cover band, but damn, Jailbreak put on a good show and we ended up watching their whole set.

The tent was sparsely crowded when they kicked off their set with ”Welcome To The Jungle”, but it didn’t take long for the people to gather around. Jussi, the drummer of Kilpi was back on stage along with Jari (guitar), Aki (bass) and superb vocalist Ansu.

The band played classic tracks from W.A.S.P., Deep Purple, AC/DC, Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister. Especially ”Fear Of The Dark” and ”We’re Not Gonna Take It” turned into stadium-sized singalong parties and we could have easily listened to a few more songs, but that was not in the cards. Jailbreak were one of the most positive surprises of the festival, no doubt about it.

Karjurock was winding down for us, but we stayed for a while and listened to a few songs by KAIJA KOO. She was very popular, and I think there were more people watching her show than any others. She does have a nice selection of catchy pop songs with a wide crossover appeal and I liked what I saw and heard.

SPARZANZA would have played at 2 a.m., but we have seen them a couple of times before and aren’t fans, so we headed home instead. We were thankful of the great music we had heard and already thinking that we’d be back for Karjurock 2017 as long as there a few good acts in the line-up. Even though the festival is in the middle of nowhere, the athmosphere is good and relaxed. Or maybe just because it is?

Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos by Mira Suutari-Toivonen, a few additional photos by Kimmo Toivonen
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