Festival Report: Wanaja Festival 2012

Hämeenlinna is a city (with a population of 60k) some 100 kilometres north from Helsinki. A somewhat of a beautiful place during summertime (for example, the national park Aulanko). The city’s name stems from the iconic castle of Häme, built around the beginning of the 14th century. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the city was also the home of a long-defunct festival, Giants of Rock, which saw acts such as Dio, Sepultura, Suicidal Tendencies, Helloween, Motörhead, Anthrax, Obituary and countless others play live — some could argue that some of those bands were in their prime at that time. (Check out Sepultura’s gig on YouTube.) But enough with history lessons…

by Mikko K. & Matti Manner

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Wanaja Festival, held with the castle as a backdrop, is a more mainstream two-day summer party that mainly caters towards the pop, rock and things-in-between loving crowd — albeit there’s often been some metal to spice things up a bit. Last year saw two sold-out dates and the UK’s Therapy? and Manic Street Preachers, but this year, things seemed to have been slowed down on purpose (financial crisis perhaps) and the line-up consisted exclusively of Finnish talent.

― You wanna go to Wanaja?
― Huh?
― Wanaja? Wanna go?
― Sure.

So we picked up our broken bones, depraved minds and our gear, bracing ourselves as we marched in through the festival’s gates.

Consider this a quick look at the Finnish music scene in general.


Since we forgot to photograph Elokuu, here’s a picture of some of the hardware stored right next to the Häme-castle. Doesn’t get more metal than this.

Mikko K (MK): When we arrived, Elokuu were playing on the main stage, cashing in on the nostalgia-craze that seems to be going on at the moment, where fields are golden, sun is either shining or casting long shadows and the girl from the next-door farm is mighty fine. The group’s frontline consists of B-tier Finnish reggae artist Nopsajalka and rapper Juno. While the somewhat small crowd was eating that shit up, we decided to begin our day with a plastic pint of reasonably (for a festival) priced beer.

Matti M (MM): Woe these couriers of entropy! Elokuu, what an awful excuse for music and an even worse soundtrack to drinking beer. Even the two goofs blabbing into their mics did not look that excited by the filth they were spewing. They looked as into it as two hookers on an all-night long street sweep motivated just by the fearful thought of being caned in the uterus later by some shady pimp character if they were to go back empty-handed. At least there was relatively cheap beer.

Haloo Helsinki. For ages 14-19 and 30-45.

MK: Haloo Helsinki was up next on the second stage, playing early for its major fan demographic, ie. kids, teenagers and those about to step into adult life. Sympathetic pop-rock with easily remembered choruses and instantly recognizable hooks. The show was surprisingly energetic for what it was. Three albums in, I’m predicting there’s plenty of more coming in the future (Ooooh!)

  • MM: The singer Elli succeeded on making herself look very unattractive on the stage, as she resembled Courtney Love’s bastard daughter in every photo I took.
  • MK: You monster. It should always be about the music and nothing but the music.
  • MM: You almost sounded convincing.

Kotiteollisuus — Finland’s Black Label Society?

MK: Kotiteollisuus is a household name in the Finnish hard rock scene. Watching the band perform live brought the eternal question (from 2006) to mind once again: why would anyone still want to see them live? They were probably more tired live than on CD and their long-running schtick of manly frontman Jouni Hynynen belittling the audience lost its sharp tongued edge a long time ago. Occasionally they throw in a riff or two which, in a different context, might actually lead to a better experience, but no such luck here.

MM: Gather up your food stamps and coupons, there seems to be a never-ending retirement party on the stage. About ten years ago, I was sort of a fan of these guys, and then they made that cursed Helvetistä Itään record. An album that became their so-called breakout record followed the awful Finnish tradition of writing songs about living a shitty mediocre life filled with melancholy. The kind of music that soothes the semi-alcoholic, fatalistic and melancholic Finn by giving him something to thrive on — mainly sympathy and acceptance for being a hopeless sandbag to society. After they found a way to cash in, they’ve kept making that same record over and over again. The heavy sound and attitude that I kinda dug back then was replaced with parody-like apathy and righteously earned self-loathing. Seeing them farting up the stage again made me hope that somebody would climb up there and give these guys a wristwatch or something.

Pariisin Kevät guitarist for hire.

MK: The first and previous time I saw Pariisin Kevät (Spring of Paris) play live was on TV and the set was crushingly painful, mainly because of primus motor Arto Tuunela’s vocals as he aspired to become something unique and particular. I was expecting the worst again, but when heard live, the dude didn’t sound that bad at all. The music itself is basically classical ‘indie’ with its goods and bads. Not my bag, but props to Tuunela since he’s responsible, apparently, pretty much for everything that’s going on in the band’s music as the live outfit is merely there to play the instruments when he cannot.

Arto Tuunela. A full-time hippie.

MM: Seeing that Tuunela guy live and up close gave me the creeps. I might be paranoid, but something is not right with that hippie. And I am not saying this just because he is a hippie… or maybe that was just it. Is he even a hippie? I thought real hippies do not use prescription drugs, or do they? If they don’t, then why is he singing about not taking them anymore? Now I am confused…

Quite possibly the festival’s bigger (positive) surprises, Freeman.

MK: Freeman (Leo Christer Friman) is a legendary rock-artist who’s responsible for many of the now-hated songs that receive quite a bit of airtime (for example: “Ajetaan me Tandemilla”). He is part of the canon though, and at Wanaja Festival he was backed up by an army of able musicians such as Lauri Porra (Stratovarius) on bass and Zarkus Poussa on drums. Needless to say, despite the light content Freeman threw a rocking set that at times reached quite progressive tones. A good match for a summer day.

MM: I was out getting extra gear from HQ during this gig, but I had seen Freeman play live under a year ago. Back then, I kinda liked what I saw and heard, even though it is not something I would throw in while wanking off in my humble abode. Some harmless and ultra-catchy pop-rock that does not get on my nerves at all. This time, I got back during the last few songs and they seemed to have added some progressive-like elements here and there which I had not heard before.

Metal + dusk is an unbeatable combination.

MK: Friday’s only ‘pure’ metal band manifested itself as Stam1na took the stage. Always a whirlwind on stage, the band did not disappoint and provided an hour’s worth of thrashing as the sun began its steep decline. Like most Finnish bands, the guys are no strangers to dorky Finnish humor and they conquered the stage dressed up in working-class outfits. The festival’s only wall of death was seen as well at the band’s command. Earlier, Kotiteollisuus said some words about jokingly about Stam1na, so the band dedicated their “Kadonneet Kolme Sanaa” track to Hynynen, replacing the ‘human’ in the lyric ‘I hate you human’ with Hynynen. Too bad they too were only joking.

Deep down, Hyrde is actually a nice man.

MM: Yup, I gather they are best backstage buddies [with Kotiteollisuus], having toured the same Finnish rock circles together all these years. On stage, Stam1na is something of an antithesis to Kotiteollisuus when it comes being animated during their live performance. It has been a while since I last saw them and they appear to have kept their act solid during those years. Sometimes I still wonder how they got so big so fast and generally accepted by mainstream music listeners…

  • MK: Must have something to do with signing up with Sakara Records (operated by some of the guys in Mokoma). They seem to do things right.

MM: …not to say that that it is a bad thing or anything. Quite the opposite. In ways they seem too fast, loud and maybe even too edgy to be regarded as a household name so easily. Maybe it’s just that their lyrics sometimes give off a poetry-boyish mystique, which then makes everything feel that much more deep and sensitive for the ladies.

  • MK: When you think about it, the Sakara Records’ roster is full of tongue-twisting grammar foreplay. Speaking of language, Stam1na actually had their only English-sung song “Nomad” in the setlist.

Michael Monroe. It’s him.

MK: The evening’s headliner Michael Monroe needs no introduction. After finally shedding Hanoi Rocks off his shoulders some years ago, he’s since found a new drive after going solo back in 2010. Having turned 50 recently, the man shows no sign of taking it easy — as far as the stage performance goes. Dude’s an energetic piece of rock’n’roll and brought Overkill’s Blitz to mind; these old guys are simply shaming a lot of younger rockers. The New York Dolls’ (and Hanoi Rocks’) Sami Yaffa manned the bass, Steve Conte and Backyard Babies’ Dregen the guitar, with Karl Rockfist on drums. Pretty tight group that made the female fans quite eager.

Love is in the air.

MM: I agree with the above about Blitz and Monroe. Both of them seem to have been sculpted out from the same rock made of pure rock`n`roll, with stardust sprinkled all over them afterwards. This was my first time seeing Michael live and all the rumors about how Michael Monroe has the it-factor, and how he never fails to put on a show — I can’t argue with that. Once the band started it was clear that a world class rock n’ roll circus had just rolled into town. Most of the songs they played had more hooks than one could find from the island Tortuga circa 17th century, while some of the material could be labeled as generic hair-band stuff. A sublime show that had most of the crowd jumping from joy ended with a cover, as they busted out a Finnish rock classic “Get On” from Hurriganes. Naturally some of those trademark Michael Monroe leg-splits were performed in the middle.

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  1. Commented by: Apollyon
  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    great writeup M; plenty of bands in the Finnish scene I’ve never heard of. will have to hit on Spotify or YouTube later on.

  3. Commented by: Noel


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