KuopioRock 2016 - Rocking, Drinking, And...Volleyball!
August 1, 2016, a year ago
Ah Kuopio RockCock, where metal, pop and volleyball all come together in one big mashup over a weekend in the Eastern Finnish city of Kuopio. While Finland is known for its abundance of heavy metal bands and its metal festivals like Tuska and Nummirock. Rockcock mixes it up a bit and combines pop acts along with metal/rock acts. So for the purposes of this concert report I am just going to report on the individual bands themselves instead of breaking down each day as there were some large gaps between the metal acts and pop acts time slots.
To give a bit of breakdown of the festival area itself, KuopioRock consists of three main stages. The Stadionlava (Stadium Stage) reserved for the main headliners and larger acts, the Puistolava (Park Stage) located under the shade of the trees in a small park area on the festival grounds and the Rantalava (Beach Stage) Located on the banks of Kuopio’s large lake the surrounds the city. The Beach Stage is where everything got started for me on the opening day.
Shiraz Lane opened up the festival with their brand of Finnish glam/hair metal. I was able to see Shiraz Lane a few weeks prior in Helsinki at the Tuska Pre-Show and was really impressed with the band’s sound and stage presence. For those unfamiliar with Shiraz Lane, think of bands like Hanoi Rocks, Faster Pussycat or Skid Row. The thing about Shiraz Lane however, is that while they are a fun band and have the party image they also have songs that lyrically tend to be a bit more mature than many bands within the same genre. And just like the show in Helsinki, Shiraz Lane put on another excellent show here at KuopioRock as well and it was a very fun show to watch. The band is starting to put together some positive momentum behind them here in Finland and I hope it gives them the push they need to get them to the next level as I feel they are a very talented band and deserve continued success.
Next up is Diablo playing on the Park Stage, another Finnish band that is very popular here in Finland. Unlike Shiraz Lane this is a band I just cannot get into. I too saw this band a few weeks prior at Tuska and was interested to see how they sounded. Sadly at Tuska, the band did not impress me and their sound could only be described as a hammer hitting a hot tin roof. So, now here at KuopioRock I tried to give them another chance. One the positive side, their sound was better it seemed. So that was a plus. However, I still did not hear any songs that seemed really spectacular in any form. Maybe it’s a Finnish cultural thing as to why they are so popular here but for me…I don’t get it. Nice guys though.
After Diablo a band that I have always said if they go bald their career is over took the stage. Their name is Stam1na. That is right the i=1 here. Stam1na is a hybrid form of thrash metal and…insanity. Again, here in Finland the band is very popular but I don’t think they have branched too far outside of the Finnish borders in terms of gaining a lot of popularity. From what I can tell (the band sings in Finnish) the band sings about funny topics and constantly swing their heads around in every song thus there is helicopter hair in every song. Thus my comment about the career being over if they go bald. Again the band is fun to see live, they have a good time and the fans here love them. For me…I have no idea what is going on when I watch them other than…hair is going everywhere.
Back on the Beach Stage we have Santa Cruz taking the stage. This is a band that has been able to break out beyond the borders of Finland and gain some popularity in the United States. They were featured on a US reality show where they were mentored by Sebastian Bach of Skid Row fame and subsequently got to tour with Sebastian on a US tour. Much like Shiraz Lane, Santa Cruz takes their influences from bands like, Skid Row and any other number of Sunset Strip bands from the late ‘80s. I have seen Santa Cruz several times and like Shiraz Lane they put on a great, fun show for a band of their style. They are fun, energetic and involve the crowd in their show. If you want to hear a song that helped put Santa Cruz on the map YouTube their hit single “Aiming High” and you shouldn’t be disappointed. Great show as always.
To close out the night for me was Whitesnake. Anyone who is a fan of hard rock knows who these guys are. They had one of the most iconic music videos of the ‘80ss with “Here I Go Again” that showcased Tawny Kitaen doing cartwheels on the hoods of Porches as David Coverdale lusted after her along with every teenage boy in America at the time.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to photo Whitesnake on the Stadium Stage due to reasons I won’t get into here. So I wandered out into the crowd to sit and listen to the show and see how Coverdale and the band sounded so many years later. Well…I have to say Whitesnake STARTED off pretty impressive with their song “Slide It In”, which was cool to hear…but shortly thereafter I started seeing some serious cracks in the Snakeskin Armor.
As the show went on, I noticed Coverdale didn’t have the mic to his mouth but I would still hear the lyrics…which at first made me think he was lip syncing. However, what I was seeing/hearing was the band pulling some tricks to cover-up the fact the Coverdale’s voice just isn’t what it once was. Basically, the backing vocals from the keyboard player, guitarist and bass player were turned up to the same volume levels as Coverdale’s to cover the fact his vocals are gone. Also, Coverdale is clever enough to get musicians whose vocals are very similar to what his used to be so you typically wouldn’t notice a difference when Coverdale decided to not sing a part of a song.
Well, pulling these little tricks come with a bit of a risk. The risk being, that when you turn up everyone to the same volume levels, you experience feedback and speakers spiking out from an overload of sound. So by this point I was done with Whitesnake and when they went into a 30 minute guitar solo I was out of there. No thanks.
Now we roll into the next day of RockCock and everything gets going with the hard rock band Lazy Bonez. Lazy Bonez consists of several musicians from various other bands from here in Finland. Most notably lead singer Tommi Salmela who comes from the Finnish metal band Tarot. Lazy Bonez have a couple albums out with their current album Alive featuring artists like, Tony Martin, Bernie Shaw and Simon Wright. I have got to see Lazy Bonez live a couple times and they always put on a very good live show with nice catchy songs. If I had to describe the band’s sound I would say they have an ‘80ss hard rock influence but with modern day production values. The band sounded great, Tommi joked with the crowd and the crowd really enjoyed the effort the band put in. Do yourself a favor and look up some of the band’s material like “Sweet Girl” and “Frozen Love”. If you are fan of good rock ‘n’ roll in an era where we don’t see many rock ‘n’ roll bands anymore, Lazy Bonez will be a pleasant surprise.
Now there comes a break in the metal bands playing at the fest and during this time Lazy Bonez and the next band I will be covering, Turmion Kätilöt take to the beach to have some volleyball metal action! This is an annual event for KuopioRock where they will have some of the bands on the bill take to the beach and have some friendly competition with some beach volleyball. It was fun to see that Marco Hietala was present and played on Turmion’s side. I spoke with Marco briefly and he confessed to me that he became a musician to avoid playing sports and that he was going to make his team lose. Haha. Still it was fun to see them play and I now understand why musicians do not play sports. ;)
So I just mentioned Turmion Kätilöt was going to be the next band I covered and so here we go. Turmion are a BIG band here in Finland and as a result they played the Stadium Stage to a HUGE crowd. To an outsider Turmion looks…very strange and behaves…very strange. They play some form of an industrial/dance/techno/metal and are fronted by two singers Spellgoth and MC Raaka Pee. They sing most of their songs in Finnish but they have a few that has English lyrics like one of their most popular songs “Grand Ball”. While I don’t understand many of Turmion’s songs I do enjoy several of their songs and they are always fun to watch live. Also, the band is friends with many other musicians here in Finland and during this show Marco Hietala of Nightwish, who are personal friends with the band came out to sing with the band for several songs. Tommi Salmela of Lazy Bonez and Tarot also joined the band on stage with Marco as well. All of this made for a great show and for the fans it was something fun for them to see as well and made the show a little more special for those who got to watch it.
Finally for me I got to check out Viikate (English translation=Scythe). Viikate take their visual style from old 1950’s Finnish romance movies. Musically the band sounds a bit like thrash metal or old school heavy metal. Out of all the bands I heard at KuopioRock this year Viikate had the most pure and clear metal sound in my opinion. While they too sing in Finnish like several of the other bands I review here their songs are easy to get into due to the cool guitar riffs the band plays. Viikate has been around since 1996 and it is cool to see they can still deliver a great live show and mix in a unique visual style that draws from their nation’s film heritage. A highly recommended band.
This marked the fourth time I have covered KuopioRock since I moved to Finland back in 2012 and as always the organizers have always treated me well and the experience is always enjoyable. On top of the music the festival offers areas for VIP guests who can sit and watch small burlesque shows, eat a nice meal and drink in the shade or people can wander around the beach areas and enjoy the nice scenery of Kuopio and play some volleyball or go swimming. KuopioRock to me offers a more in depth look of the actual music scene here in Finland. While many festivals here bring in bands from other countries, KuopioRock, while they do bring in foreign bands, will also support more of their fellow countrymen in trying to showcase their music. Which I feel is important.
I would like to thank KuopioRock for again allowing me to cover their show and I hope I can do it again next year!