TUSKA OPEN AIR 2017 – Day I – Helsinki, Finland
Tuska 2017 marks 20 years of Pain in Helsinki – or, by the full name Tuska Open Air Metal Festival – and its 6th year in the Suvilahti field, conveniently located in the Sörnäinen neighborhood. It is a mid city festival with decent walking distance to all sort of transport and little time afterwards to the central station and the bars there. Or you can altogether just skip the central area and walk up towards the many many bars in the vibrant Kallio area. Either way, I find this event to be so pleasant to attend due the fact that due its location and due the fact that they don’t try to book all the bands out there and don’t force you to split in 6 or more pieces in order to catch them all. It is a relaxing festival and it offers plenty of time for atferparties or simply after-pizza and beers. There is of course the musical factor involved as well, but many said this year’s lineup was weaker than expected for such an anniversary edition. And yes, I agree that they do not bring the biggest headliners ever, but if that’s what it takes to keep it cozy and friendly and relaxed, then by all means, skip the big names and keep having this Tuska spirit that I love to come back to every year.
The industrial area hosting the event is in a constant change. Now it seems that they tore down at least one of the buildings from the previous years. I should maybe make a more clear mental note of it so I can actually compare next year. Anyways, the reason I am mentioning it is that it leads to the festival area being reorganized almost on a yearly basis. Now, for example, the food court was moved to the right just as you pass the security control. And the merch was on the left after the same security control – meaning a bit ‘outside’ the stages area (it’s a matter of few tens of meters). But far enough to make me forget about checking the merch and I regret that since besides the usual tshirts, I know there were some exquisite anniversary items, including jewelry. But I believe they can be ordered online as well, so maybe it’s a good task to keep on to for when I am done with the review.
Inside the festival area you’d have the main stage with the VIP area next to it, a big tent stage and the 3rd stage would be located indoor in one of the buildings. Next to this building they placed up a small exhibition with posters from all of the previous editions and I saw quite a lot of people passing by and stopping to share memories from those past editions. The toilets got also a bit re-arranged and I’m pretty sure the organizers must have gotten some complaints from few prude specimens. You’d have to walk through pissoirs in order to reach the blue toilet boxes, since everything was cramped together in a small space. It was certainly different from all other festivals and I believe it worked just fine unless you’d own some very strict principles about toilet splitting between genders.
The beer areas were about the same as last year – one big area with lots of beer sales, special beers tent, cocktails, Valhalla tent and a burger place and one smaller area connected to the tent. Both areas offered views towards both stages but only the big area had some sitting places and some covered tents where you could avoid the dust on Friday or rain on Saturday. The reason the beer (well, alcohol) areas are needed is because Tuska is an all ages festival where it has always been a joy to watch the teenagers screaming or moshpiting to their favorite tunes, that otherwise they’d never get to see live. It doesn’t allow you to go with a beer in front of the stage though, which might be considered a minus for many. But if you can’t enjoy your favorite artist without alcohol, I’m pretty sure the problem is within you.
Another big plus for the Tuska festival (I should research if they do it at other Finnish festivals as well) is the presence of a big trailer hosting a supermarket that sells basic festival survival items: water bottles, sandwiches, juice, icecream, chocolate, biscuits, ponchos and some more stuff. At decent prices. Which actually make it worth waiting in the queue – if there’s one. In there you pay under one euro for a bottle of water – which you can constantly refill for the 3 days – while at the beer selling points the water was maybe 3 euros or so. And for those on low budget it’s surely a life saver to have the option of a 3-4 euros sandwich versus a minimum of 8 euros for a tiny portion of food in the food court. Altogether I find all these details aimed at making the experience accessible for everyone. And enjoyable for everyone.
I have been a photographer at this festival for the past 4-5 years. This was my first year without the photogear, but a lot of the times I was still ‘judging’ the concerts as if I was behind the camera and the lens. It took me the whole first day to figure out that I can actually sit down and not have to stress to pick up my bag and run to the next concert in between a Long drink and a tour to the toilet. My group of friends and I arrived on Friday around the time when the first band on the Radio Rock main stage has started. It was Brother Firetribe who includes Emppu Vuorinen from Nightwish on lead guitar and who delivered a 50 minutes dose of good old cheesy 80s heavy and glam sounds. The guys are enjoying being on stage and they even get some of the audience dancing as far as I noticed on the big monitors on each side of the stage. I have to mention that Friday was an extremely windy day, so they haven’t really dared to lift those monitors as high as usual. And the big pile of speakers that were hanging high on each side of the stage was moving quite much, but luckily the stage technicians know their job well enough and no accident happened during the event.
ANNEKE VAN GIERSBERGENS VUUR Live @ Tuska Open Air 2017
Up next inside the Väkevä tent it must have been one of the most loved females vocalists in metal – Anneke van Giersbergen and her new project called Vuur. The amount of crowd has suddenly gone up by hundreds and that’s a good sign. The lovely siren pays them back with her amazing voice and energy and most of all, her gorgeous smile. She’s a joy to watch, her new tunes have nice good vibes and riffs but it was good to hear that she offered something for the nostalgic crowd and played some Gathering songs. It was a pity she only got to perform such a short set especially since I do not have any personal interest in Wintersun, who were up next on the main stage. Since it was getting even more windier and it was almost impossible to keep your eyes open, I didn’t even bother to go towards the stage so there’s no memories of this concert. Up next in the tent we had the chance to watch the Mexicans in Brujeria and their extreme metal music and somewhat extreme outfits. At least one of the guys in the band was not wearing pants and most of them had their mouth covered by bandannas, just like in all the promo photos I saw of them. It is a band with quite some history behind (formed in 89) and who decides to mainly sing in Spanish about some of the biggest issues faced by Mexican society – religion, immigration, narcoticas. They do express a lot of hatred through their live brutal performance which leads to a good deal of pits and good response when there are chants anti Trump. I’ve never seen them live before, but I guess the Marijuana tune with Macarena rhythm is probably always the fun part of the performance and it was cool to look around and see the ‘mean’ metalheads doing the Macarena dance.
SUICIDAL TENDENCIES Live @ Tuska Open Air 2017
More pits and crowd madness was to be expected next on the main stage as Suicidal Tendencies were taking over. As much as I find it enjoyable to watch this madness, I had to find my way into the indoor Inferno stage and watch Pekko Käppi. I discovered this project at Roadburn the year before and I was so surprised to see people perform on those instruments, that I totally had to take the chance to watch them again. Pekko is a player of Jouhikko, the ancient Finnish-Karelian bowed lyre and he is accompanied by K:H:H:L aka Tommi Laine, (cigar box guitars, percussions, vocals) and Nuutti Vapaavuori (cigar box bass, percussions, vocals). The trio delivers a psychedelic mix of indie folkish tunes which might make even more sense if you spoke the language of the Finns. But I find them fascinating either way, since those peculiar instruments are so ingeniously used to play blues/folk combos with an obvious hint of Finnish folklore in the background. And lots of good mood.
After leaving the tent I got to watch few minutes of Suicidal Tendencies and to my surprise and amusement they managed to gather a good crowd of people on stage. It seems like I did miss a good concert but well, I did enjoy the Finnish weirdness more. Once the main stage went silent, Insomnium took over in the tent stage and started their hour of death and melodic tunes. I’ve watched them live several times and they’re on of these bands that seems to ingest a good dose of batteries before a show as they deliver some of the most insane head spinnings I’ve seen. They’re very talented musicians and there’s a riff bonanza all over their tunes, but it always happens that it feels like there’s almost too much of it. But it’s totally a great thing to have a band full of talented folks and where there’s always some skills to look for.
DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT Live @ Tuska Open Air 2017
Friday’s highlight was about to start on the main stage – Devin Townsend Project and most likely guest appearances by the lovely Anneke. And she surely did show up and this surely has been one hell of a Devin Townsend show. I had just seen him the previous weekend in Norway and that was awesome. But I think he does get an extra boost from playing this Finnish festival – he performed on its stage two times in the same year, and twice if I am not mistaken – and you can see it. Despite the fact that these guys had to travel to Canada from Norway, stay one or two days there then travel back to FInland and then they’d be off to some other European cities, there’s nothing of the mad schedule that shows in their live performance. All you hear is the beautiful music, performed close to perfection and most of all with so much excitement. Devin is always shifting his face between looks that one can associate with cute and those that can make you pee your pants with laughter. Just like in Norway, The March of the poozers was the song for his ballsack. But unlike Norway, Anneke joined him on stage for Kingdom. Oh what an eargasm that was. Why couldn’t they play it on repeat several times? And again, just like in Norway, Devin found a way to mention that the older he gets the less f*cks he gives and he encourages us to do the same and to basically enjoy living our lives instead of getting stuck in stressing over useless details. I personally found that quite inspirational and way more refreshing than all these ‘Hey <insert festival name here> Are you having a good time?’ kind of speeches. The stage totally needs more Devins.
A general consensus among most of my friends led to the decision to skip Sabaton, so Day1 at Tuska ended here for us (actually Mayhem played in the tent while we took this decision, but I’ve seen a bit too much of them lately and since they usually drown the stage in smoke, it’s quite useless to bother to see them).