The existence of Korso Rock Festival only very recently made its way onto our radar, a mere handful of days before the event itself. With a rather unfamiliar line-up, we thought maybe we wouldn’t bother, but when Volymian, a promising new band from southern Finland, and Blind Channel, whom you know we’ve been kind of into lately turned up on the Friday roster, we figured it’d be worth our while to wander over and see if this festival was worth a few hours of our evening, or more!
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I confess to having been pretty skeptical about this festival. These guys have a slogan that is essentially asking if Ankkarock (a festival once held in Korso) could be revived. First of all, I was confused by that because they’re not calling themselves Ankkarock, nor are they hosting the event in Ankkarock’s old location. As well, even though they boasted free entry, their own website didn’t have the line-up listed until a day or two before the festival itself, and if there was a timetable on the site, I never found it. Instead, you had to look on the Facebook event page (of which there were two, incidentally) in, of all places, the photo gallery. As such, I felt that no matter how cheap or free your tickets are, very few people will go to a festival if they don’t know the line-up.
With this in mind, the aforementioned bands still appealed to me enough to grab a new junior photographer and go have a peek, at least for that first day. The evening was dark and gloomy with a foreboding grey sky, but hey, it’s rained at every other festival I’ve attended this summer and it hasn’t killed me… yet!
We arrived in Korso with a bit of time to find the venue and have a look around. Okay, the venue was not hard to find, which is the first point in its favor. The festival was located hardly 100 m from the Korso train station, which was delightfully convenient. It didn’t offer much other than a place to get food and drinks, and a few places to sit, but there were two small stages to allow for smooth change-overs, one of which was hosting an unknown band called Damage Limit as I arrived. I didn’t get a chance to watch them, but from what I managed to hear, they didn’t seem too bad.
The festival area was quite small as a whole and not a lot of people were there. Volymian started their short, 40-minute set around 21:00, with a nice intro song that may be from a movie score or something (I approve). As they started playing, I briefly got the impression that the music was a lot more alternative in style than I had originally noticed on listening to their debut album, though Markku Kuikka’s vocals are still rather power metal-y. And while on the subject of Kuikka, he was sounding quite nice on this night. The mix was a bit jumbled in places, but if you wandered around the crowd, it didn’t take long to find a decent balance. The second song, “Damnation of Love,” was the first song of note, with a quite decent, if short, keyboard-guitar solo duel part. It turned out that this was the band’s second gig ever, so it was cool to see a handful of very enthusiastic fans in the small crowd. Kuikka is clearly the most experienced performer of the group (after all, the guy is in or has been in quite a few bands, Status Minor and The Ragged Saints to name a few), as he lacked the stiffness or nervousness the others had, which of course is natural if this was their second time on a stage. Fear not – they loosened up a bit towards the end and started to rock out a bit more. “Inside Out” had some pretty good energy and has a lot of potential as a live track, and I liked the heavy intro to “Under a Million Stars.” I might have even enjoyed the songs live a bit more than on the album. This is perhaps the ‘youngest’ band I’ve ever covered (experience-wise), and I think that if these guys keep at it, they’ve got some potential and could work very nicely in a club setting someday.
2. Damnation of Love
4. Inside Out
5. Under a Million Stars
6. Maze of Madness
8. Line of Fire
Both bands we watched were on the main stage, though we heard a great deal of Bad Apples’ set on the second stage, a Guns N’ Roses cover band that had filled Elisa Järvelä’s empty timeslot, complete with cheesy wigs – one of the guys had the signature Slash look, top hat and all. Their music was quite good, though I’d be lying if I thought the singer did a good job of Axl Rose’s vocals. Though to be fair, Rose’s shoes aren’t the easiest to fill.
It was worth sticking around to see Blind Channel though! I’m not going to lie, these guys are quickly becoming one of my favorite live acts. This was a tiny festival with a tiny crowd, and there was only a handful of people (other than their group of huge fans who follow them everywhere), yet as their show progressed, people of all ages were drawn in (my favorite was a lady dancing in the crowd who had to be at least in her 80s). I suspect even passer-bys from the street might have come through the gates to see what was happening because their music has such great party energy. And they didn’t skimp on the effort – even in such a small-scale event, they gave it their all! “Unforgiving” got things off to a good start. It’s rare to see a band and a crowd jumping in such perfect synchronization. I also learned that during, I believe, “Hold on to Hopeless,” you should put your right hand (specifically) in the air, though I have yet to learn why (other than it just feels good to put a hand in the air). A song called “Bullet (With Your Name on It)” might be the perfect song to describe what exactly ‘violent pop’ is, because it is poppy, but it’s also very loud and heavy. You’ll have to hear it for yourself, but it’s a good tune! And I’m not gonna lie, probably half the reason I showed up to this festival was so I could hear “Deja FU” live (and yes, that’s Deja F-U!, not a typo of ‘deja vu’). It needs a little practice still, but with that in mind, it was still everything I hoped it would be – energetic, fun, and oh so easy to party to! Nico Moilanen just fucking NAILED the fast rapping part, which I found really impressive considering they haven’t been performing it for very long. Another song called “Enemy for Me” is great for letting out some anger, and of course, “Darker than Black” was a highlight. People young and old were dancing and ‘moshing’ (three people is not much of a pit, but at least they were doing their best) and you can’t blame them – it’s hard to stay still when listening to this music. Their encore was their cover of Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t,” which I am not ashamed to say is way better than the original. They closed out by throwing a couple shirts into the crowd and coming into the photo pit to have a little meet ‘n’ greet as “Backstreet’s Back” played. Apart from the setting (a gloomy night with mediocre lighting), it was a great (if short) show.
Seriously – I need an album from these guys so I can listen to this stuff at home. I need to listen to it at the gym. I need it for parties and to wake me up when I need to be up early. They sound like so many bands I like, yet the combination makes them so different at the same time. So lucky me, the boys announced that their album is coming out on October 1st, 2016, and there will be an album release party at Virgin Oil – so save the date! This is going to be a show you don’t want to miss!
2. Hold on to Hopeless
5. Bullet (With Your Name on It)
6. Deja FU
7. Enemy for Me
8. Darker Than Black
9. Don’t (Ed Sheeran cover)
We had originally been quite undecided about whether or not we’d come back again over the rest of the weekend. Ikinä was tempting on Saturday, but not enough so to tempt me into skipping my sauna hour, but a windy yet warm Sunday was a perfect opportunity to peel my hindquarters off the couch to come see Crimson Sun again. I had only watched part of their show at Tuska, so this time I wanted to see the full set.
First of all, something seemed to have happened because they were meant to play at 17:00, but the rockabilly possibly-Hurriganes cover band, Road Runners, playing before them had started about 40 minutes late (I was told) and finished up at 16:50; since the main stage had already been taken down, Crimson Sun had to wait for the other band to clear the stage before setting up and doing their sound check. Naturally, that doesn’t happen in 10 minutes. There was no rush with sound limitations at that time of day though and they took the time to do things right.
To show up at 16:45 to see a band and end up waiting about an hour and a half was a bit discouraging, but as soon as these guys stepped on stage, I did not regret my decision to leave my house on this lazy Sunday. They got off to a great start with “The Storm” and even though the sound was again a bit sub-par, I was almost a bit glad that the keyboards were a bit louder because I was able to better appreciate how cool Miikka Hujanen’s sound is. I also really began to appreciate the grit in Sini Seppälä’s voice. She sings beautifully, but she has some harshness in there that adds another layer of depth to her vocals, and I love it. I’m always so impressed when small people have huge voices, and alongside that, she’s full of smiles and enthusiasm, making her a wonderful front all around.
I also like how their music occasionally reminds me of other music without sounding like a rip-off. “Eye of the Beholder,” for example, had what sounded to me like a bit of something I couldn’t place (possibly Scar Symmetry) with a hint of Soilwork – two sounds you wouldn’t necessarily expect to blend well, but do! Other highlights included “Portrait of a Ghost,” which has a great keyboard/guitar part, and the powerful closer, “Memories Burning.”
I saw many people walking by and pausing to listen, so I wondered if the removal of the main entrance (which had been by the aforementioned closed main stage) had prevented some people from coming in, since the new entrance was in the bar area. There weren’t very many people watching, but the performance didn’t remotely suffer from it as everyone on stage gave it a lot of energy, with Joni Junnila (guitar) and Jukka Jauhiainen (bass) rocking out and showing what that glorious hair can do. And their effort was rewarded. We weren’t the only ones to come out just to see them as there was a handful of people who were there singing along and cheering after every song.
Coming into this set, I was tired, cranky, hungry, and impatient from the long wait for Crimson Sun’s set to start, so it speaks worlds about their performance that I immediately forgot all of that and was completely absorbed in their music from start to finish. I have to say, if you enjoyed their album, you should really check out one of their gigs. Their music translates beautifully into a stage setting and completely comes to life. It will be worth your while!
1. The Storm
2. Eye of the Beholder
3. Clockwork Heart
4. Towards the Light
6. The Herald
7. Portrait of a Ghost
8. Enter the Silence
9. The Spark
10. Memories Burning
So do I think Korso Rock can revive the Ankkarock spirit? Well, there is potential but they’re not there just yet. That said, the two days we spent there turned out to be surprisingly fun and totally worth our while. There was good music, good atmosphere, and good opportunities to see some bands that are on the rise! And Friday’s Radio City announcers were pleasant and seemed quite entertaining (though I confess I didn’t catch much of what they were saying in Finnish). While Sunday felt a bit disorganized and they need to generally get their lineup out there sooner, the three bands we watched were certainly worth checking out, so as a whole, the festival felt like a success. They had a decent overall turnout and at least we had fun, so who knows, we might just come back next year!
Photos: Miia Collander