Ankkarock 2007 - Finland, 04-05.08.2007
The Gathering - Last Gig With Anneke, Finland by Ivor (30)
Ankkarock 2007 - Finland, 04-05.08.2007 by Ivor (27)
Ankkarock 2007 - Finland, 04-05.08.2007 by (30)
The poultry-related jokes (Ankka means duck in Finnish) have all been made by now, so we will just quack straight to the point: Ankkarock, the last large-scaled metal festival in central Finland, was held on the first weekend of August in Korso. To me personally - a bit boring on the whole. However, given that over 31,000 people visited it during two days, a very successful event from the organizers' perspective.
Poetically speaking, it just seemed like all the really cool metal ducks flew off to Germany's Wacken and left Korso low and dry this year. Because relatively big and interesting Finnish bands are obviously more interested in making their appearances at Wacken, Ankka was left with quite a poor selection of artists, especially on the first day, except perhaps for Kotiteollisuus and the last ever The Gathering show with the singer who has been with them for the last 13 years.
Ankkarock is set very near to Vantaa airport but in picturesque scenery nonetheless and covers an extensive forestry area with a small lake in the middle - sadly no ducks present this year. So, a wonderful place to spend a hot August weekend. Many came with children and even babies, which only made the whole event cosier. Suddenly, after a week of raining and Autumn-like moodiness, Ankka came with hot Sun and perfect cloudless skies, to remind to use that Sun-block.
There was a lot more to enjoy besides the music: the festival offered many cuisine stalls of different cultures, ice-creams, sweets, as well as various merchandise, clothing and accessories. You could also try yourself in a Sumo wrestling match, have a go at shooting cans to win a ridiculously huge stuffed toy or climb un-scaleable ladders to win something else useless and ridiculous while entertaining the by passers.
Then there was Hevi Karaoke - an already classic entertainment for a Finnish ear and an absolutely unmissable exotic for a foreigner. It was run in a nicely set bar area (thus entrance for 18+ only) at the lake and generously compensated for the lack of Heavy Metal riffs at Ankka this year. This famous Finnish national sport has already attracted much attention from abroad and those karaoke DVDs are selling well - so make sure to at least see it, if not even perform. For some going on stage with a microphone is nerve-wrecking enough, and if not - you could have your adrenaline boost at bungee jumping, a novelty Ankka offered this year. This new entertainment was set right near the main stage and was very busy during the entire two days. For a fee of 60 Euros you'd get a lift on a crane to what must be a spectacular view over the festival area and the surroundings, and then an unforgettable free fall downwards, almost as if into the crowd.
The festival itself includes 3 different stages and 3 bar areas; one was a bar within a bar, set as a Native American village with all the attributes included. If only you would have enough energy to move yourself in that heat from one location to another, considering how large the area is. Perhaps this was the major downside of the event, how awkward it was to manoeuvre over the hills and through the crowd, to reach from one stage (Puistolava right at the main entrance) to the second (Korsolava right at the back of the area) and third (Rocklava located near Korsolava).
There were always two bands playing at the same time on either two of the stages, so it was tricky to stay on schedule and not miss the beginning of any band. Because of that it was practically impossible to see a band finish - you already had to run to see someone else starting. Thus, if you are going there for the music, I suggest you have your wish list well organised, so you would not miss anything. If you have missed the actual show, there is always a live airing of the current act on the large screen, as every stage was equipped with one. Another nice feature was that before the artist was announced and brought on stage, a small interview was shown on the screen with this artist to hype up the crowd.
There was also a possibility for camping very near to the festival area. The traffic was quite heavy before and even worse after the festival, so you had to bear that in mind too. The train station was overcrowded and the trains were literally stuffed and constantly delayed on that Sunday night. Oh, and also beware of a major pro-Jesus demonstration during the whole two days right on the way from the train station to the festival. The religious activists secured an avoidable location up on a hill, the same as the previous year, and were loudly promoting and circulating what is light, love and so forth…
As last year, Ankka's schedule was changed as the festival was in progress. It was happening again. Bands had cancelled, been switched and replaced for other acts, which was annoying of course. This way Walk The Line was put to play instead of Poisonblack, who were announced to have gotten sick, but knowing from this band's previous appearances, it is easily guessable that most likely the frontman simply was too drunk to stand in front of a mic. What was supposed to be among surprises of Ankka 2007, the Russian rockers Leningrad had also cancelled and were replaced with a less known Russian act Spitfire.
From more pleasant surprises, Finnish Kotiteolisuus attracted much of the attention with having a special guest Tuomas Holopainen on the keyboards that time. The leading duck of the festival, Toni Virtanen, the frontman of Apulanta, was scheduled as Saturday's headliner, up against The Gathering's last show ever in their current lineup, so this logic of organizers I did not quite follow.
Spitfire are from St Petersburg, which was formerly called Leningrad. So all in all, something in common with the originally planned and then cancelled band. I think Spitfire were better suited for the kind of audience at Ankka style-wise: very cheerful, danceable and unpretentious easy-to-follow music and simple lively lyrics, as opposed to rougher Leningrad. A band of many members was a good choice to really entertain the crowd and set the Summer party mood, playing with somewhat Reggae/Ska/Punk rhythm and very random funny lyrics. Sung with what sounded like an American accent (think Blink 182 and Sum 41) they got many people dancing, even though I really doubt anyone really knew the band before, although it was not their first time on stage in Finland.
Seeing me taking notes, some especially active Finnish dancers in the crowd asked me to mention how much they are enjoying this music, especially "dudes with the trumpets and trombones," so Spitfire - way to go, woop-woop!
Those Glam-Rockers are veterans at Ankka already, and they are very much loved by the audience of all ages. Their Finnish headlining shows are mostly sold out and we have already a younger Glam generation on the rise from this ageless band. Among the rest of the artists in Ankka's line-up, Hanoi Rocks fitted very nicely with the Swedish acts, The Ark, The Sounds, Mando Diao, and were suddenly so favoured at the festival this year.
Michael Monroe's hyper energetic vibe is seriously contagious. It was hard to resist, as he danced and played and sung, even though his slightly exaggerated manners and facial expressions were a bit alarming at times. His constant changing of outfits only brightened up the already vivid performance. Mr. Monroe was not at all limited by the stage, as he climbed on and off it, even above it along the stage frame, getting also in the way of the camera operator when someone in the audience waved a giant red rose, the symbol of the band, into the air. The singer could not overlook such a token and reached for it with a bit of risk and then many times during the show the rose was a centrepiece.
Later on his hyperactivity only grew, as he jumped into the front rows more frequently to collect more souvenirs from his fans, feather boas, banners and soft toys, then skilfully climbing back up the stage and hanging those trophies all over the stage! And this level of attentiveness towards the fans only triggered the crowd more, this band really showed how involved and appreciating they are of their listeners.
They were not let go off so easily when their set was over - Hanoi rockers were asked for the encore, 2 more songs with yet another sparkling outfit. It is also impossible not to compliment Michael Monroe on excellent fitness condition, as he showed off his very muscular trained arms, as well as his ability to do leg splits, which he demonstrated very generously too. At the end it felt like the band just would not leave at all. As the last songs were obviously over the singer was still jumping around, running along the edge of the stage and crushing the microphone stand. And the whole time among the over-satisfied audience you could hear Mick Jagger's name coming up, as his band has just played Helsinki a couple of days ago and the image of an unstoppable rocker is still haunting Finnish Glam fans.
The ground before the stage was practically packed already - quite an unusual sight for such an early hour on a Sunday, after preceding nights of heavy drinking and after-parties. In anticipation of the new album "Silent Waters" soon to be released, Amorphis are now actively touring. Having just returned from Wacken Open Air, they were obviously in a very cheerful mood, Nicolas was practically glowing in the dark! Only it was not dark, but boiling light but nonetheless… Esa with a fresh haircut was also exceptionally happy.
Last year the band was taken to the main stage, whereas this year they were on Puistolava, the stage right at the entrance. Regardless of the location, you could still hear Tomi's animal-like roaring swallowing Ankka's entire grounds and the airport field nearby. Even later, when I was already at another stage, at another artist's set in progress, I could still hear Tomi well enough to figure out which song it was and what line in the lyrics he was on - with "House of Sleep" Amorphis concluded their immaculate performance. They rightfully deserve to be a headliner for a festival of such scale.
Dir En Grey
The most exotic act of the festival drew so much attention; I did not know whom to look at. The stage and the Japanese rockers, or the over-the-top ecstatic crowd. Recently Asian music, characters and other arts are very popular in Finland, especially among the younger manga and gothic Lolita enthusiasts, so having a band like this play is a guaranteed sell-out. Dir En Grey came on stage with a certain arrogant and somewhat angry look, so I take it they are well used to this kind of reception: screaming, crying and screaming more.
Music-wise, very decent nu-metal with some electronic elements, a little bit in style of Korn, only with a lot more aggressive and constantly moving frontman. All in all, a very captivating show, definitely one of the very few highlights at this year's Ankka.
The 69 Eyes
Last year the joke of the festival was on Terasbetoni and their vacuum-tight leather pants. This year the Eyes were it, only tasteless and annoying. Their hairstyles and pseudo-rockabilly outfits are getting more ridiculous every time you see them. First it was funny, slowly changing to sad and disappointing, and now it reached the point of being simply irritating: when are they finally going to have enough self-respect and quit it already?! Come on Jyrki, give way for the youngsters, at least they can get away with those cliché rockstar tricks, while still remaining cute on some level…
One bad album after another, the songs are the same, let it be "Rockers," "Devils" or whatever, all sound the same and redundant. This band should no longer have the right to play their older songs, like "The Chair" or "Brandon Lee" - it seriously hurts to hear what this band has done to its own hits. The way "Brandon Lee" was performed at Ankka, it was unrecognisable until almost the end. Except for the lyrics and the title, it seemed to have nothing left of the original song. It is exactly the same as Jyrki's face - the more plastic surgeries and makeovers applied, the uglier it becomes…
Jussi69 was especially generous after the show, as he jumped to the front of the stage, turned around and putting his tight white pants down, demonstrated his skinny bottom. He then left only after generously throwing a few of his drumsticks and one drum plate into the front rows.
Seems that with every next show this band is adding increasingly more special fire and sparkling effects, of different strength, colours, shapes and patterns. On one hand we had very ice-like stage decorations but on the other burning heat and constant bursts of flames at every more or less heavy riff of every more or less fast track. Where did all this suddenly come from?! Of course it was very entertaining but with this rate of progress it will soon get in the way of everything else.
Beautifully set stage, as always with this band nowadays, although musicians themselves have very little dress-sense (not that it matters much for power-metal anyway), their stage design is flawless: held in dark-blue shades, imitating a northern deep night, with a huge round mood and a pack of wolves howling in unison. The drummer was set to look like among the night creatures, and it was extremely effective in a well-done light show (mainly in blue and white colours). The platform above the drummer was decorated with band's logos all over, as well as the sound boxes and monitors along the stage, some of which imitate ice cubes, all have the same band logo. Very tasteful all in all.
The set seemed short, Tony moved, spoke and joked a lot. The band performed mostly songs from the newest album "Unia" ("dream" in Finnish) and few older songs but of course not without the all times (and Hevi Karaoke's) favourites "Fullmoon" and "Tallalulah." Tony himself was very cheerful and even playful, as always. Although, this time with much less silly faces and more mannered behaviour but nonetheless, good entertainer, manoeuvring between his band mates and constant fireworks.
Actually, the temporary new guitarist Elias Viljanen (Evil Spirit) was still replacing Jani Liimatainen, who must have been still compensating for the military or civil services. Although the official reason was not disclosed, the known fact was that Mr. Liimatainen has been avoiding his army duties for more than legally allowed. So that in the end even his heavy-metal musician status could not help. On a brighter note, Elias was doing an excellent job. He won the crowd a while ago and now as it seems, he is well accepted and supported by the Sonata fans.
Already classic "We need some vodka" anthem of this band, closing almost every one of their performances, was especially well-received. However, what I did not understand was why did Russian flag come up suddenly in the middle of the crowd?!
Nine Inch Nails
"We've been fuck a lot of times to Finland this year, thinking of getting a place: looking for a roommate." commented Trent Reznor and I tried to scream back that yes-yes-yes, my apartment has one room to spare, but they started the next track too soon and sadly I didn't manage. But who'd refuse, if this kind of hot man in uniform would ask?! This band is perfection and for this alone Ankkarock festival was worth waiting for during the past two boring days. Last year it was Ministry who totally stunned all the 30,000 visitors, this year the relay went to NIN. Next year it must be Marilyn Manson, no less.
All dressed in matching khaki uniforms of different colours arm bands with the NIN logo, the band took off to a very energetic start. The show was polished down to the last move and very skilful improvisation on top of this - it was flawless. The guitarist was especially going at it, I was worried all the time that he will knock over the camera operator right in front of him. Trent threw away his tambourine into the audience, that is quite a souvenir from an Industrial band to have and especially from the legendary Mr. Reznor himself!
The entire festival I was wondering what that metal screen above the stage was for but with NIN's appearance it was clear it was part of their set. During certain tracks the screen came down and a very intricate light work was projected over it to enhance the music, as well as the musicians, as they were changing from front to behind of the screen. In addition to the changes in the stage set and all the lightworks, the band was also frequently changing their instruments and multi-skilful frontman played practically everything there was on stage.
Very effective was the performance of the trio with laptops in front of that same screen and distorted green lights behind them, especially in the dark, with a setting sun in the background. Of course the absolute must-play "Hurt" was done very movingly by Trent on keyboards alone. However, it was disturbed by the fireworks and the atmosphere was ruined. The singer was not too pleased with this, so he held a minor pause to let the fireworks finish, and as he was joined by the rest of the band, the festival closed on a very powerful, yet melancholic note. Later on the way down from the festival the crowd was singing that same "Hurt" acappello in unison...
At the end the uber-active guitar player smashed his instrument in half right near that same camera operator but this damage is peanuts compared to what happened at the band's earlier performance in Helsinki in April, where no instrument survived the show.
No festival here goes without colourful hot-air balloons but at Ankka it was not as impressive as the closing fireworks, in different shapes, patterns and colours. A good ending to the nigh, only a few minutes early to smudge the good impression off of NIN. The last big festival of the Finnish Summer was officially over, although up until end of August there are still some smaller ones scattered all over Finland.
Written by Marina Sidyakina.
Photos by Marina Sidyakina unless noted otherwise.
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