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.
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
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.
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.