|The 69 Eyes
The second day of Ruisrock had already kicked off around noon, with domestic acts such as Lapko and Disco Ensemble leading the way. I arrived to the site just in time to see The 69 Eyes, the highly popular gothic rockers. These self-proclaimed "Helsinki Vampires" didn't shy away from the sunlight, but gave us a very good set with all the hits and more. And damn, these men in black do have a lot of hits - "Brandon Lee", "Feel Berlin", "Gothic Girl", "Devils", "Perfect Skin", "Never Say Die", "Lost Boys", just to name a few songs in the setlist. With a vast back catalogue to choose from, I didn't quite understand why they had to include a Doors cover "LA Woman" in the set too... it was well-recieved though, so maybe it was a justified inclusion.
The 69 Eyes sounded good and looked like rock stars on stage, which is not necessarily that common these days. Vocalist Jyrki and especially drummer Jussi are big media persons in Finland, and while it does seem like their presence is quite strong on stage too, they don't overshadow the other members of the band (Timo-Timo and Bazie on guitars and Archie on bass). Jyrki is a good frontman, and Jussi is obviously a graduate from the "Tommy Lee's school of entertaining drummers". His playing is really energetic, and it's no wonder that he's is very good physical shape. And oh how the little girls sighed when he jumped to the edge of the stage and poured beer into his trousers...
As soon as the echoes of the vampire rock had faded, the legendary Finnish glam rockers Hanoi Rocks cranked it up on the beach stage. Lead by the founding members Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy, this band is still a hard act to follow, a fact which the headliners Primal Scream were about to find out. This gig was one of the very first few with the new drummer George Atlagic, who joined the band in May. With him in the ranks, there are actually more Swedes than Finns in the band, the other two being guitarist Conny Bloom and bassist Andy "A.C." Christell. Anyway, George proved himself as a solid drummer, maybe a bit less flashy than the previous drummer Lacu, but a steady timekeeper nevertheless. This was also the first time for me to see the other "new guys" of the band, and they seemed to fit the band both musically and visually. Ex-Electric Boys frontman Conny has already proved himself as a good vocalist, and indeed his and A.C.'s backing vocals added some muscle to the choruses.
The true stars of the band were Monroe and McCoy of course, the ying and the yang of the band. While Monroe is a whirlwind on stage, an unstoppable rock'n roll rooster with all the classic frontman moves and then some, McCoy is the loose cannon who's performance can be a bit of a hit or miss, depending on the day (or night) and the refreshements he has enjoyed. This gig didn't start too well, as he almost fell on his face during one of the first songs. Monroe, who is known to be non-drinker, didn't look too happy. Thankfully McCoy shaped up and stayed up for the rest of the gig. His guitar playing was still quite good, but his backing vocals seemed a bit erratic.
Michael Monroe might not be the best vocalist in the world, but when it comes to showmanship, there are a few who can compete with him. People have learned to expect all kinds of stunts from him, and sure enough, he did his now-traditional "climbing towards the roof of the stage"-thing, a few costume changes, a bit of saxophone playing and a lot of interacting with the crowd.
The setlist was surprisingly heavy on the new stuff, with at least four songs from the band's latest studio album "Street Poetry", including the title track, the first single "Fashion" and "Powertrip". The band's next single will be the instantly catchy "Teenage Revolution", which might actually do quite well, if it gets to the playlists...The songs from the previous two albums were left out the set though, with the exception of "A Day Late, A Dollar Short", which went down very well. The new songs got a good reception, but it was the 80'ies classics like "Tragedy", "Don't You Ever Leave Me" and the closing number "Up Around The Bend" which turned the beach into a big singalong party. Yes, I know that "Up Around The Bend" is a cover song just like "LA Woman", but I think that Hanoi Rocks have pretty much adopted the song to be one of their own, and it's a cornerstone of their set.
Von Hertzen Brothers
Von Hertzen Brothers were the next band I thought I'd check out. I had heard good things about them, but their material was completely unknown to me. I went with an open mind and ended up being positively surprised.
The band consists of three Von Hertzen brothers (amazingly?), all quite seasoned veterans of the Finnish rock scene and all highly talent musicians. The band's music could be described as progressive rock, but that wouldn't do it justice really, as it's more accessible and melodic than prog rock usually is. While I was listening to the band's stunning harmonies, I found similarities to King's X, who played something slightly similar back in the late eighties.
Compared to the colourful rock'n roll circus of Hanoi Rocks, VHB were a bit bland visually, but then again, which band isn't? Vocalist/guitarist Mikko Von Hertzen has enough charisma to hold the audience in the palm of his hand, and his brothers back him up with extreme musicianship, along with the two other musicians on stage, drummer Mikko Kaakkuriniemi and keyboard player Juha Kuoppala. The light show was good too.
From what I could gather, they played at least these songs:
Bring out the Sun,
Let Thy Will Be Done,
Somewhere in the Middle,
Disciple of the Sun,
Primal Scream from UK were the headliners of the big beach stage. Having only heard their hit "Rocks" back in the nineties, I didn't really know what to expect. I decided to grab something to eat before the band started the set, and sure enough, the first couple of songs sounded quite decent while I was eating my takeaway dinner on the beach.
As the band's set went on, their songs started to sound weaker and weaker. I finished my meal and went closer to see the band, which really didn't help at all. I have rarely witnessed a more boring live act, the band members seemed to be barely awake and especially the vocalist Bobby Gillespie was as flegmatic as one can be. He may have sung okay, but he barely moved from his spot and his chatter inbetween songs was quite lame. Usually the frontmen try to get a reaction out of the crowd, but Gillespie just couldn't be bothered.
The band had a considerably smaller crowd than Hanoi Rocks. I was able to walk to the frontrow quite easily, and snap a few shots of them. Quite why this band was the headliner I don't know... maybe it was demanded in their contract. I tried my best to tolerate the ever-growing boredom, but after a few songs I thought that enough is enough, and walked across the area to the Niittylava, the other main stage of Ruisrock.
HIM were about to start in 30 minutes or so, and to my suprise there were already hundreds of people waiting for them. I wasn't too optimistic about my chances of getting a few good photos of the band, but tried to find a decent place. No such luck, as more and more people flocked closer to the stage and most of them were in a "good festival spirit"... Having a thousand euros worth of camera equipment with me and being in the middle of a few thousand drunk and disorderly people didn't suddenly feel like a good idea, so I gave up and walked to the less crowded area.
HIM eventually started their set, and they sounded ok. At least "Right Here In My Arms", "Wings Of A Butterfly", "Buried Alive By Love" and "Wicked Game" were among the first few songs. At this point, I had pretty much given up hope of actually seeing the band (apart from the screen), let alone get any photos, and concentrated on being out of the way of the intoxicated youngsters... and believe me, there were a few of them. It's a fact that a big gathering like this is nothing more than a good excuse to get wasted for some, and to hell with the music... I guess I'm just too old, boring and serious about music to understand.
Once I had played the dodge-the-drunk game for some time, the wind started to play its' tricks on the sound and I decided that it was my que to leave. The bicycle ride back home in the warm night of July was nice, and separate routes for cyclists and pedestrians worked well at Ruissalo. I only had to ride among the "Night Of The Living Dead" for a few hundred metres...