Five must-see Finnish bands at Sideways 2016
This weekend takes place the first major summer festival in Helsinki. Sideways kicks off the festival season for me. And I’m ready.
Organised by Fullsteam as an alternative version of Flow Festival, the Sideways is virtually sold out with just a handful of tickets left at the regular ticket outlets. Again, Teurastamo, the old abattoir turned culinary and urban culture centre (sic) turned festival venue for the weekend, will be packed with modern festival goers, ready to enjoy a diverse line-up, which includes plenty of hip hop, a healthy selection of Finnish underground bands, stars like PJ Harvey, noise rock, krautrock, a dose of metal and even some dirty punk rock, local and international with Ty Segall.
Ok, the program looks pretty solid for two nights of music, but please Fullsteam, can we get some sun and warm weather? Pretty please with sugar on top. Last year’s edition, the very first Sideways festival, happened during autumnal temperatures and Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman did not need to produce his characteristic terrifying growl to produce shivers down my spine. This year the weather forecast looks promising and we might enjoy more favourable temperatures. In any case, PJ Harvey does not look like she’s going to split our throat as Jaz Coleman does, right?
Anyway,… Sideways is built around a big star, which will attract the audience with the bigger pockets of middle-aged indies. In 2015, that band was The Jesus and Mary Chain, and this year the star is PJ Harvey. This is the first time Polly Jean will play in Finland and will present her latest album The Hope Six Demolition Project. To my ears this is a solid effort, but as with her previous offering Let England Shake, I have tremendous difficulties to listen to the album in one sitting. Both albums feel, well… dull. Still, I’m curious to see her live show. She’s already in the category of once-in-a-lifetime kind of artists and I’ve never seen her on stage before.
As I already said, the rest of program is very diverse, so everyone can find something to their liking when not enjoying side activities like drinking (champagne, wine, craft beer and… ugh Heineken à 7 euro) and festival-level fine dining (burger, pizza, tacos, falafel, noodles, sushi, yummy… à 10 euro). There’s plenty of that in Sideways. Prepare your wallets!
Drinks and food are a given at any festival, but the single most awesome side activity at Sideways is the arcade saloon. Yes, classic videogames. For anyone who grew up in the 80s and 90s this is a huge deal. There’s a chance to play again Super Street Fighter II Turbo, arguably the best fighting video game ever, even thought it was very polished compared to the the original Street Figther II. I can still remember some of the special moves. How could I forget? A quarter counterclockwise and punch… Hadoken! Do you remember that? Glorious.
Another great game is Super Sidekicks 2. That was an arcade game but there was also a Neo-Geo version. Neo-Geo, the Rolls Royce of consoles. So classy, so luxurious. I never knew anyone who could offer a Neo-Geo. I only got to know about it reading magazines. Something I knew I would never own. Super Sidekicks 2 was such an addictive football game. The game included only a handful of teams and all the players looked pretty similar. Same body, maybe different skin or hair colour. Somehow the homogenous graphic were comforting. No distractions. The player movements weren’t very fluid and running was sloppy. But oh boy, the game was addictive.
You guessed it, dear reader, I’m looking forward to playing Super Sidekicks 2 as to see PJ Harvey played Big Exit. Do you want to know more? My pal Lauri covers the game selection in his Sideways post. Read it.
Let’s go back to the music. This post is called Five must-see Finnish bands at Sideways 2016 (shameless click-bait headline), so let’s get down to business.
Talmud Beach is a band to watch on a hot day while drinking a six pack of beer. Cheap, warm beer, leave that fancy craft beer for another occasion. Equally inspired by ZZ Top and Blind Willie Johnson, there’s nothing very sophisticated about these three balding bearded men playing blues rock. It’s about being shirtless and sweaty, about sticky boogie thanks to fat bass lines and subtle guitar licks.
I could tell you a few reasons why you should not miss Black Twig at Sideways. I could write about the heartfelt dreamy melodies. Maybe about the fuzzy guitars. But the main reason to see Black Twig is Blaze on a Plain. That’s the title of the band’s newest album and it is excellent. Seriously, it is. A little gem of guitar driven indie rock.
The band has been around for a few good years already but, I must admit I’ve never seen Oranssi Pazuzu live. Maybe I don’t attend enough metal festivals. The band is pushing the boundaries of black metal, entering into unexplored sonic dimensions through drone, psychedelia and a myriad of mind-bending, ear-damaging sounds. Their latest album got a 7.9 on Pitchfork and that’s super good, right?
After the implosion of Jukka Ja Jytämimmit hours before their show at Flow Festival, bassist Mara Balls went solo and put together a new band to, basically, keep on rocking, and rocking hard. The heavy bass commands speedy songs in a hallucinatory Finnish version of Motörhead.
Echo Is Your Love
In the small Finnish underground scene, just manage to play for a long time. After an hiatus, veterans Echo Is Your Love are back. Originally formed in 1998, they played a perfect combination of pop vocals and noisy guitars. They also have the most beautiful band name.
Lake Jons – In Time
The promo picture shows three long-haired young men in the woods, wearing denim and wool sweaters, posing in front of a vintage small-bodied acoustic guitar on top of what it seems to be an improvised tent or tipi. The image presents an accurate portrait of the weekend-in-the-cabin sound of Lake Jons. It’s laid-back folk-pop done by city boys.
Earlier this year, the trio published its debut Explorer EP and fellow blogger Jukka Tulensytyttäjä raved about the first single I Come Clean. It’s a very strong debut, indeed, and the band sounds like it’s been playing this music for a very long time. Bands are not supposed to sound this good in their first release.
A few days ago, Lake Jons returned with a new song entitled In Time. While this track might not be as magical as that EP, the production is equally outstanding, and the vocals are stronger, very charismatic, somewhere between Bon Iver and Ben Bridwell.
In Time tells about the importance of taking chances and, coincidently, this is the time the band will have to take its chance to become one of the most interesting bands in the country. In the coming months, Lake Jons will record their first full-length. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear this album early in 2017. I’ll be very curious to see if the band will bring more rock guitars, as hinted in In Time, or otherwise, it will take a pop direction as in I Come Clean.
Premiere: Paltsa-Kai Salama – Summer of Nothing
Sun is shining strong in Finland this week and this unseasonably hot weather calls for an upbeat dancing-in-the-sun song. We are lucky! Today Rosvot premieres a new single by Black Lizard’s Paltsa-Kai Salama, and it’s just that: a refreshing and groovy tune.
Despite its nihilistic title, in Summer of Nothing Salama sends some positives with a song driven by a catchy reggae-funk beat, and a feel-good desire. The singer’s first solo single, Ran Out of Love, reminded us of early seventies California folk-rock, but Summer of Nothing fast-forwards a few years in the decade and goes for a late seventies Grateful Dead’s Shakedown Street type of disco-funk jam.
Paltsa himself explains the idea behind Summer of Nothing:
“The song is my attempt to pay heed to mid 1970s reggae and funk influenced tracks by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Rolling Stones. Summer Of Nothing refers to fixing your life, not necessarily within a particular relationships but as a whole. It’s about wanting to feel good again.”
After a few solo shows earlier in the year, Paltsa has put together The Paltsa-Kai Salama Band which will make their live debut very, very soon (see dates below after the video).
Watch the video for Summer Of Nothing and see the band play in their rehearsal room.
13 May – Paltsa-Kai Salama Band (+ Black Twig) Korjaamo , Helsinki
04 June – Paltsa-Kai Salama, Purple Clouds Psych Club, Tampere
10 June – Paltsa-kai Salama (+ Lee Ranaldo Trio) Kuudes Linja, Helsinki
Black Twig – Sunday TV
Sunday TV is the last track off Black Twig’s third full-length Blaze on a Plain and closes an album, which is packed with uplifting, easy-going guitar pop sounds. Possibly the strongest batch of songs the band has produced.
According to the media blurb, Blaze on a Plain is self-recorded, self-produced and self-engineered, in true DIY fashion manner. This time the band recorded over a longer period of time, but playing mostly live, with minimal overdubs. The immediacy and simplicity show throughout the album, with the songs flowing at a fast pace, but always sounding very relaxed. Despite a few interludes of fuzzy guitars, Black Twig always puts melody first at all times and that makes the music pleasant and very agreeable. Definitely, this is a bunch of songs to listen on a sunny day by the pool or lake, drinking a glass of lemonade.
Blaze on a Plain is out now on vinyl, cassette and digital via Soliti.
Record Store Day 2016: Shut Up And Take My Money
This Saturday is the ninth annual edition of Record Store Day and, yes, like many other obsessive record collectors, I will also be in line early in the morning, ready to spend my hard-earned savings in a bunch of exclusive releases. Any day should be record store day, but the third Saturday in April has gotten a little bit more significant. At least it’s a day when record shopping becomes mandatory, because you have to support your local record store, right?
Yes, originally, the event was created as a way to support indie record stores, but in the last couple of years criticism is increasing and questioning if RSD really helps record stores. The exclusive releases that attract buyers in the first place are also killing all the fun. Prices are becoming ridiculously high, speculators are buying the specials release, which hours later (or even before RSD) appear on eBay and Discogs with an even higher price tag. A good amount of money that should support record stores goes somewhere else.
The whole Record Store Day idea has gotten a little bit weird. Instead of spending time in the record store, buyers and collectors, like old ladies on the sales opening day, are storming into the shop to get their hands on the exclusive releases, elbowing their way through. But If they don’t luck out at the store, there’s always the internet. Or in the worst cases, those eager buyers will sell what they just bought to make some easy money from other eager record collectors.
Nevertheless, for good or for bad, people are spending good money on records. That should be good.
The exclusive and limited release are also a nightmare for collectors and completists. As not every release reaches all markets, it gets difficult and financially painful to get ahold of some releases. If you’re like me and want to have everything from your favourite, RSD is nerve-racking, it creates voids in your collection.
This year, the item I’m anxious for is the reissue of the Heartworn Highways documentary and its soundtrack. The film, which covers the beginnings of the outlaw country movement in the seventies, comes in hand crafted custom wood box, an LP-sized 80-page book, bonus DVDs and a double LP of whiskey coloured wax. I just want it. But this release is limited to 1 500 copies worldwide and none seem to be reaching Finland. Heartbreaking.
Of course, I could skip going to any stores on RSD and invest my money on one of the Heartworn Highways copies that I’m sure will be on eBay early on Saturday. Will I do that? Of course, not. There are plenty of other goodies to find.
Looking at what will be released in Finland, this is my shopping list.
V/A : Nuggets – Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vault
The Nuggets compilations are essential for any fan of the first psychedelia era. This one was first released in 2004 and includes a selection of 24 obscure psychedelic and garage songs from the mid sixties. The original release has been long out of print, so this is a a very good opportunity to get this album before it’s gone again. What makes the deal sweeter: it comes on purple marbled vinyl.
Big Star : Complete Columbia: Live at Missouri University – 4/25/93
Only a band like Big Star would make a comeback in a place in the middle of nowhere like Missouri University. In the nineties, Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens reformed Big Star with the help of The Posies Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer. The first reunion show is not published in its entirety in a double LP.
V/A : The Other Side of Sun: Sun Records Curated by RSD, Volume 3
One of the highlights of record store day has been specially curated compilations from the Sun Records catalog by participating record stores. This year, the release is even more special as it focuses on obscure soul, garage, and psychedelic gems, rather than the classic rockabilly sound associated with the label.
Grateful Dead: Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ – 4/25/77
How many Grateful Dead albums can you have? Every record store day offers a Grateful Dead live album. These releases have unearthed less known shows, not available before. Now it’s time for a complete show from 1977 in a 4-LP box. The artwork is beautiful and the show has an incredible setlist (http://www.dead.net/show/april-25-1977), including New Minglewood Blues, Terrapin Station, Scarlet Begonias and Playing in the Band > Wharf Rat > Playing in the Band sandwich to end the show.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Kiss my amps vol. 2
This is a case of total completeness. A random selection of recent Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers live cuts do not seem to make the most attractive exclusive release. However, this set, which includes covers of The Byrds, Little Feat, The Monkees and The Travelling Wilburys, will be a nice companion to the live anthology box set published a few years ago.
Game plan: where to buy first?
How to get my hands into these records? It’s not that easy as it seems. Some items will be available long after the day is over, but some others will just fly off the shelves in a matter of minutes. With all the record stores opening at the same time, what will be the best place to start?
Fortunately, there are still a good amount of record stores in Helsinki, and a few of them are RSD participating stores. On their websites and Facebook pages, Black & White, Keltainen Jäänsärkijä and Levykauppa X have at least partly published the list of records they’ll be selling. But can I trust those? What if something has not be announced? Where will be there the bigger lines?
It’s time to create a game plan.