Lucy Was Driving and Caroline Street

Posted: June 12, 2013 in Music

A weekend in Helsinki for me means squeezing in the chance to see five bands in one night, some familiar from earliear blog posts and others completely new to me. Two of those bands were playing at Bar Liberte, and I was able to listen to their full sets and get a little video to share with you.

Lucy Was Driving (acoustic)

Having never heard this band before, an acoustic set featuring only two band members was probably not the best place to start. The set consisted entirely of tales of heartbreak, sung in English. The nature of the set was country in spirit, if not in music. The audience of course chattered all over them, that being the peril of being the first band of the night and having a relatively quiet acoustic set.
As I listened, I came to wonder what the full band sounded like and whether any of the tracks were acoustic versions of their own material; I’m of the opinion that the songs might have had something extra in them if they were unusually emotional versions of the usual electricity-fuelled tracks. I wasn’t quite prepared for how extreme the difference between the usual line up and the acoustic set was. As you can see from the two videos below, there is no resemblance whatsoever and I have to admit, I feel a little sad that I missed the chance to see the full band play. I’ll have to try again some time.



One nice thing I noticed while looking into the band, is that they have a good website, with lots of current news that happens to be in English. They seeem to have been active in collaborating with others – there’s news of the recently released “Rock in Finglish” compilation, a concept born of the desire to promote Finnish bands who perform in the English language. Bands on the album include Fumble, The Spyro, and even the incredibly young and energetic rockers Dawn, who I remember from the Global Battle of the Bands competition last spring.

Caroline Street

We interviewed Tom Morgan in spring of last year, around the time when Caroline Street was being built into a full band. The interview contains a video of the first acoustic performance of the ‘Tom Morgan Trio’, but the band’s full lineup is twice the size and it was this that I finally got the chance to listen to at Liberte.
Tom reported himself that he has been looking to play at Liberte for quite some time, and also that it was their drummer’s last gig. I think that these factors combined with a year of practise together, and a short UK tour all contributed to the way that the band exploded onto the stage with a punch and put out an excellent performance. I’ve long suspected that I would enjoy the full band performances of Tom’s songs. Whenever I’ve heard him play solo I am left with the ghost of ‘the band that could be’ lingering in my ears (cue strange mental images) and am glad to report that the full band do indeed live up to that phantom promise.

The set played was a run through of their debut album, Salt N Vinegar, which is on sale now from the band’s website. The song I managed to wrestle onto video from the venue’s terrible lighting is the second track, “Bus Stop Rolex”.

The Spyro were due on stage next, but due to the usual habit in these parts of bands playing later than advertised, I didn’t get the chance to hear them – I had a date with a UK-based to band, who had been flown over to Finland to perform. That’s something for my next post though, stay tuned – and follow us on Facebook. We’re not spammy.

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Annie Mall

Annie Mall’s rock music and the It-factor of lead singer Sini Peltokorpi kicked the night into full-on party mode. This Helsinki-based band are already reasonably well-known, as can be seen from the media coverage on their website. It’s not hard to see why they do well, because they put on a fantastic, energetic show and know how to rock the stage the way it should be done – in fact, I’m going to go with a cliche here and say that the stage was not big enough for the performance. If I get the chance to see them in a bigger venue I surely will do, and bring as many friends along as possible; It’s good to show your friends a good time.

This is the band that made the strongest positive impression on me from the whole night and boosted my energy levels to the point that I could make it all the way to the early hours and the end of the show. They put on a set that was almost pure rock, but I felt the need to link an extra video in their section, a session recording, to contrast my live recording. It really shows the depth of the band and their ability to create beautiful music as well as put on a powerful live performance. The richness of the vocals, both in the timbre of Sini’s voice and the harmonies provided by the backing singers, is particularly good to hear. And that beat

Annie Mall’s upcoming gigs are listed as:

5.4 VANTAA The Lane
6.4 LOIMAA Bar Edgar
12.4 HELSINKI On The Rocks
29.8 HAMEENLINNA Suisto-klubi
30.8 OULU 45 Special
14.9 KOTKA Backroom

Alexander in Paris

Melodic indie rock that would have a mainstream feel in the UK or USA, Alexander in Paris played a smooth set of melancholy tunes. Consisting entirely of pretty young men, the space in front of the stage was immediately populated by a crowd of female fans, with the male music fans largely relegated to the third row of spectators and beyond. Most of the band took a turn at singing, including the drummer, who has a highly pleasant voice. The performance was good quality, but not very daring and I found it to be the least memorable of all the bands from this night. The tracks sounded familiar, as though I had heard them played as background music in cafes and on car journeys, for the past decade. If I had to sum up this band in one word, it’d be “safe” – no risks taken, no unpleasantness, no alarms and no surprises.

Risto

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I’m aware Risto is a big deal in Finland, and all of my Finnish friends think he’s the bee’s knees and all, but before I go into my review I feel I should relate my first experience of hearing Risto perform solo, some four years ago. It was upstairs in Bar Loose and the place was packed with excited onlookers. I was there with an international crowd of friends, the Finnish among us having recommended the gig highly. All I can say is that I did my best, but all I saw was someone mashing a keyboard dischordantly and repeating one word over and over on echo and calling it a ‘song’ in an attempy to be arty and ironic. The crowd seemed rapturous for it, and it eventually freaked me out enough to hide in the back corner of the room – where I found every other foreign-born person in the joint in an unhappy huddle. They’d given up on the ‘music’ long before me.

So to say I was dreading this headlining act would be putting it mildly.  I was expecting more of the same gimmicky, ironic not-music. Now I don’t know what has changed in the last four years, whether it is Risto or me, but I was rather surprised to find that I recognised nothing about this gig. It did not even compare to the last one I saw, to the point where I started to doubt that the artist I’d seen first was ever Risto at all. Surely someone who had been so awful couldn’t be enjoyable now. Have I simply become more Finnish? Was the previous gig a joke? Was I having SUCH a nice time in Jyväskylä that everything seemed wonderful to me?

Regardless of the reasons, it was a good gig and I am no longer able to claim that I dislike Risto, because I had a great time listening and dancing along with the rest of the crowd. I’m particularly happy about this, because the hostile looks I’ve received for admitting I’d seen Risto and not liked it in the past were a little unnerving. It’s terrible to disappoint a friend in such a way. If this was the artist they were thinking of, I can see why they thought I was crazy; it’s all okay now though, I have heard the other side of Risto and we’re cool.

All in all, Rentukka Rock was a great line-up, in a great venue, and I’d happily go there again if I find myself in Jyväskylä. They provide a puking urinal in the ladies’ loos, complete with instruction guide. What’s not to like about a bar like that?

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Ravintola Rentukka, a bar nestled amongst the student accommodation of Jyväskylä, was host to its own rock mega gig on Saturday 23rd of February. It was my first weekend in the town and I had no idea what to expect from the venue. The bar stands alone amongst apartment blocks and parks and the entranceway is accessed through a corridor with a distinctively institutional feel, but it is incredibly long and spacious with a generous stage, plenty of room for a dance floor and tables, games, retro consoles and humorous notes tacked to the walls.

The gig promised 7 bands, and we’ve covered six. I’ve a lot to say about the bands and plenty of video to process, so I’ve split this write-up into two posts. One of the original line-up, Oriental Jam, were also replaced by local band Desmond due to a last minute problem.

Hävitys

The band took to the stage, a group of men with short-cropped hair in tight fitting clothes, with the look of gym-loving hipsters who’ve not yet discovered colours or lumberjack shirts. The lead guitarist began playing a semi-intricate melodic intro which picked me up and carried me along to the point that I could almost hear the lyrics to come. And then: screaming. The drums threw an apoplectic fit and the two vocalists doubled over to spew what is advertised as ‘grindcore’ on the event page. It was a bit of a surprise, but I soon recovered.

The gig was entertaining and energetic, although the habit of drowning the distinctive melodies of the song in similar ritualistic bear-growing and fast drum beats made the whole set seem much of a likeness and was completely at odds with the appearance of the band. I’d normally be an advocate of breaking free of stereotypes, but in this case I’d encourage the band to live their genre and really give their all to putting on a stage show that fits the music. There’s definitely an appeal for it in Finland; when we went to the record store to buy tickets for this event, the music playing over the speakers was of a similarly hardcore metal breed. Not something you’d ever encounter in any of the mainstream British record stores I’ve frequented (but then, they’ve probably been foreclosed by now).

Hävitys were fun to watch, and seemed to have a lot of fun on stage. They were playing early, before the venue really filled up, but they still went for it, using not only the large stage but the area in front  of it, too.

Flash Gordon and The Masters of the Universe

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With  name like this and a description promising some form of surf rock, I was pretty excited about seeing this band hit the stage and they did not disappoint. They filtered onto the stage one by one, activating instruments as they arrived. The anticipated surf rock guitar riffs echoed out accompanied by sound samples, synths, drums and instrumental vocalisations. The compositions were contemporary and engaging and the whole set blended seamlessly, with the flow of the music indicating where one track ended the next began.
Just as we were relaxing into the music and becoming complacent, the band stepped up the stage show with the surreal entry of a white-clad stilt walker, beating a marching drum. It was unexpected and rather than coming over as a stunt, it fit the atmosphere perfectly and added a new element of excitement to the gig at just the right spot. The icing on the cake was the use of a theremin in one of the tracks towards the end of the gig. I was so happy that the band lived up to their name and my hopes, that I immediately feared that the rest of the gig would feel like a let down from this point onwards; It turns out that I needn’t have worried.

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Desmond

Desmond led us back from the fringes and towards the mainstream with some upbeat  indie-pop music with a county/folk influence. They had two singers, one with flawless English and the other with an incredibly strong Finnish accent. In keeping with an opinion that I’m sure is becoming my personal theme on this blog, I’d rather have heard the singer with weaker English skills perform his vocals in Finnish, because it means that I can get a fair assessment of them without any jarring discomfort. A bilingual performance from a band with two front men would have been interesting, particularly as they supported one another in a way that I often only see when siblings perform together.

The set was enjoyable, and it was good to see a local band to Jyväskylä (to my knowledge, the rest were all imported). The video footage of the band does not seem to do them justice, on review, but I’ll link it here anyway.

Just dropping in to reblog some news from Soundi magazine in English: One of our past reviews, and a personal favourite of mine, Color Dolor, have released their debut single “What is left?”. See the video for masquerades, and hear a gorgeous ‘produced’ version of one of their strongest set pieces.

 

Their debut album “Cuckoo in a clock” is slated to be released in spring. Soon! Can’t wait.

 

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Minttu & Olli, Dylan at Lava klubi

Posted: January 16, 2013 in Music

New year, new bands, new camcorder and a new venue.

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I headed to the Finnish National Theatre to check out their small Lava Klubi (Stage Club) venue. They host music here frequently and when I interviewed Tom Morgan he cited it as one of his favourite places to play, so I was keen to see it for myself. It’s a cozy venue, with nice lounge furniture – embroidered armchairs and a forest of hanging lights – but it’s a bit of an odd shape to watch bands in. It’s long and narrow, and the stage is positioned at the narrowest point, so that there is barely any space to watch from the front and the view from one side is completely obscured by sound equipment and the DJ booth. The entry fee was 5€, but there’s no hidden cloakroom fee. But enough about the venue, we’re all here for the bands.

Minttu & Olli

First up were the cute folk duo, Minttu & Olli, with a set of quirky and humourous songs with imaginitive and somewhat hard-to-follow lyrics. They had the catchiest songs of the evening, although I am not sure what any of them were about, despite them being sung in English. In fact, I think I’d have liked them even more if they had sung in Finnish and they seem to fit the home-music mold better. Part of the reason for it is, I think, that the grammar mistakes and the singer’s accents are a little too noticable and the playful lyricism that they employ would benefit from being performed fluently.

Below is a video sample of a song that I swear they said was called “Peter Andre”,  despite there being no clues to this subject in the lyrics. Unless you count the phrase “shameful material”. It’s a perky number.



Dylan

This band’s Facebook page descibes them as ‘Soul/Pop’ and I was relieved to hear something other than folk pop from the Finnish alternative scene. I enjoyed listening to them a lot, though (pet peeve) the audience became impolite at this point and started talking all over the band. That’s what you get in music clubs with a lounge layout, though.

The band provided the most polished performance of the night and I particularly liked the singer’s voice; she uses the full depth and power of it and can sing above the sound of a full band. Her voice is well suited to soul. One thing I would like is to hear her takes some major risks with it. In fact, a few more experimentations and risks injected into the whole performance could give the band a stronger hook; if they can keep the quality of the performance without taking themselves too seriously, then they could be onto something special. The lyrics were English again, and well-enough written (the odd minor error), but again were very serious. I was reminded of the words of Pulp front man Jarvis Cocker, who discussed he didn’t find success with his lyrics until he stopped trying to be deep.

I think Dylan have a more internationally acceptable style and I enjoyed their performance the most. Of the videos I captured, I have to go with placing a solo performance into this blog post instead of a full band video, because it’s a beautiful song. I do have another Dylan video on my YouTube channel and you can listen to demo tracks on their SoundCloud page as well.



The night headlined with Nok Nok, who we have reviewed before. Since the last review, they have released an EP and a single, Hotti Nätti Nuori Äiti (a romantic song about a MILF), which was voted winner of radio YLEX’s Saturday morning new music show. They have a couple of new tracks in the works too, which they previewed at the gig. The new tracks are a little rough now, but having seen how their song-writing process develops, I know they’ll soon be among the best in the set. Below is the official video for their single.
Also, fun facts: VäinöVaäinö of Kuningasidea fame produced two tracks of the Nok Nok EP and can be heard singing backing vocals in Hotti Nätti... Bet you didn’t know that.

Lossi T & Juoksut at World Village

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For all of the second weekend in July, Alppipuisto (Alppila park) has been host to music events. I headed along on a Friday to check out the bands in Elephantasy. I got there in time for Lossi T & Juoksut to perform. I’ve seen these guys perform a few times recently, notably at the World Village Festival and at Kallio Kukkii festival. In fact, the pictures and video in this post are from the World Village Festival performance, because the glare of the sun behind the stage in Alppipuisto was terrible for photography.

This 8 member band perform Finnish language rap, with down to earth lyrics about trying to scrape together a few cents and that feeling you get when you’re just so darned hungry. They pulled in a really good crowd from passers by at the World Village street stage. At Elephantasy they did try to drum up some enthusiasm, and the crowd applauded happily, but no one was going to dance because the sun was out for a change, and we were all stretched out like cats on the grass. Even so, their newly released (self-titled) album sold well.

Juice from Lossi T handling Album Sales

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Saïsba

Saïsba at Elephantasy 2012

For all that African influenced music is popular in Finland at the moment, the difference between the way that Finnish popular rap and reggae sounds and the way that close-to-the-roots African music sounds is quite pronounced. It was particularly noticable when listening to Saïsba wedged in-between Lossi T & Juoksut and Kuningasidea.

From Senegal and Finland, this is a new project, who were playing live for what I believe was the first time. Having absorbed enough sun, people came up to dance to the music, which was lively and relaxing simultaneously. Part of me wishes I could have understood the lyrics, but I was also glad of the opportunity to listen to the voice as an instrument. I’m not sure what language(s) the band perform in, but I am reasonably certain it is not French – the range of options that leaves to choose from is quite high, according the the impressive list of languages that Senegal hosts.

All in all, this was quite easy listening, and I could easily have listened to it in the background all day, tapping my foot to the rhythm subconsciously.

Kuningasidea

Kuningasidea are officially Too Big For This Blog, what with being signed with Warner, having their single played all over the radio and even hosting an excellent gig at Ruisrock on July 6th. For Elephantasy they came on stage dressed as native Americans, though hopefully not the same group that MC Venakko & Kielipeli sing about in their most controversial song (warning: it’s not for kids, or even most adults!).  However, I didn’t get any decent pictures as the crowd converged upon them, leaving me way out back.

Elephantasy Afterparty Jam at M-Bar
What I did plan to say about these guys is that, if you want to check out something a bit more underground, then you should come to one of VäinöVäinö‘s open jam sessions at Mascot when he’s not too busy touring to host them. Last time I saw one there was a guest performance from Tuure Kilpeläinen, and the quality of the improvisation at the jam sessions is unbelievably good. Imagine how happy I was to discover that the Elephantasy after party at Mbar was hosting an open jam!

Playing on stage were members of Kuningasidea, Nok Nok, Lossi T & Juoksut, DJs including Goldshift and several guest MCs, including Lossi Turunen (aka Räppäävä Taksikuski). The MC performances were in three different languages, all excellent, and the music was perfect for M-Bar’s terrace. It was the cream of the day’s events, for sure. I’m still happy on it, two days later and I wish there was another next week.

Kudos to the Elephantasy organisers for all their hard work and the great acts that they put on.

Straktobeam at Siltanen

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Music

It was high time to check out some more electronic music, so I headed to Siltanen’s Oireklubi in Kallio to check out a band called Straktobeam. The preview I’d heard on SoundCloud gave me the impression of 1980s computer game soundtrack music, which would have pleased several of my friends from back in the UK, but I was a bit apprehensive that I would suffer from an overdose of it. I needn’t have worried, because there was a little more variety to the music than that. It helped that the band have a drummer – playing actual drums, not a drum pad – to complement their KORGs and laptops. They knew how to move, too, and were entertaining enough to watch even in preference of the engaging video material provided via projector. I definitely enjoyed the music and there was a fair crowd inside listening with me, even though the terrace was warm and inviting. There could have been a little bit more banter and audience engagement between songs, I thought, especially as the venue was hosting a watching audience rather than a crowd of dancers. Towards the end of the gig the band did mention that they will be playing at Flow festival in Helsinki.

Some of the projected video material was more engaging than others, though all had clearly been carefully selected. For ‘Tetris 2.0’ there was Tetris-themed backdrop, much in keeping with the game soundtrack feel I already mentioned. During other tracks there were also a “Straktoman” platform game, clips of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Power Rangers and a young Sir David Attenborough, in a wet suit, superimposed onto the front of a roller coaster ride. So there was plenty of humour on display, but I struggled to match the rhythm of the music to the rhythm of the animations at times.

There’s not much of Straktobeam on YouTube, it would be nice if there were a reasonable quality track along with their own animation, but perhaps they don’t want to give it away. Fair enough. You can check this video, it’s not the clearest, but it’s a taste:

All in all a good gig, and I now have another item added to the list of wicked and arbitrary things that I will do as an evil dictator: I will force a live band to play soundtrack music to all my gaming sessions.

See, Straktobeam, see what you have done?