Festival Report: Sauna Open Air 2010

Sauna Open Air―held just a few minute walk away from the central of Tampere-city, Finland―had the pleasure to start off my music summer this year, even though the weather was anything but summer-y. The line-up has often relied on heavy metal and hard rock, with a strong sense of 80s in the mix. It’s like Sweden Rock Festival, but quarter of the size. There’s also a huge local component to the festival, with small, medium and big Finnish bands getting a ton of airtime. As a cherry on top, the festival also seems to cater to a theme; offering something different and/or something ‘new’. This year the ingredient was metalcore. Without further a due, let’s reminisce!

by Mikko K.

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Thursday, June 10th
The weather on Thursday wasn’t bad. Despite some clouds up in the sky and some wind building up, there was no need for the hoodie I was lugging. In fact, it was actually quite warm and sunny.

Apparently there had been some ill-feelings towards the festival from the get-go, as the gates had opened up at four p.m — 15 minutes before the first band had taken the stage. A lot of people—I presume teens in their prime—had missed the opener. Just like me. Except I didn’t care, as goth-rockers The 69 Eyes really isn’t my bag, even if singer Jyrki 69 is a fellow comic book enthusiast (and an illustrator). Arriving to the scene two hours late, I didn’t have to wait at all and was basically able to walk right in. Unfortunately, it meant that I had also missed Insomnium who might have been interesting, but like they say on the streets: Whatever.

As I hadn’t received a confirmation about my press super powers, I had to leave my camera bag to Batcave. I shouldn’t have, as it turned out I had been granted a photo pass. The festival itself was staged like a narrow tube. The main stage was at the end and to reach it, you had to walk past the merchandise booths (clothes and food [plenty of variety, a big bonus!]) that greeted you soon after the entrance. In the middle was the second stage, right in between Pyhäjärvi-lake and an armada of Porta-Potties. Had there been a lot more people, a bottleneck might have formed up, but not this time. Movement was unrestricted throughout the festival, even the bigger acts had amassed larger crowds. Watching bands play while drinking your worries away was a possibility, as two separate areas had been designated for alcohol consumption. One for each stage. However, bringing your own beverages to the festival area seemed to be frowned upon.

I was just in time for Los Angeles’ Steel Panther. I’ve never been a fan of Mötley Crüe or any other hair-anything-outfit (unless you count Guns N’ Roses), but Steel Panther took me by surprise. Not because of the music—going in from one ear and coming out of the other—but because of the stand-up nature of the whole show. Quite frankly, despite some humor within the songs, the in-between banter was far more entertaining. Although, I wasn’t sure how to feel about six-year-old kids dancing all crazed-up to a song called “Asian Hooker”. Good parenting, perhaps? Anyway, the industry veterans on stage seemed to enjoy themselves just as the crowd seemed to appreciate their toilet humor. And considering the amount of hairspray in the audience, it’s safe to say the ’80s doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Too bad it seems like Stallone has to revive the movie counterpart all by himself. Oh yeah, Steel Panther did do a song that stuck to my mind for some reason. Definitely becoming the musical high point of the show: “Paradise City”, I believe it was called. Had the band been around 20 years ago, that song could have been a major hit!

Norway’s Audrey Horne was up next on the smaller stage. The Norwegians—named after a Twin Peaks character—tried their best to rile up the puzzled audience with their grunge-tinged hard rock, but it didn’t seem to cause that much of excitement with ticket buyers. Considering Arve Isdal of Enslaved is part of the group, I was kind of expecting something more, but was unmoved by what I heard, even if vocalist Torkjell Rød had learned all the proper frontman mannerisms. Too bad his voice didn’t seem to work as good as on the Youtube videos I had checked out some days earlier (yes, people, I do try to educate myself). The band reminded me of how one of the best things about festivals is checking out the audience and see what’s latest in fashion: I saw things you’d not believe.

After a handful and a half of songs, I strutted to the main stage area and shut my brains off. When I woke up, to my horror, I was surrounded by faces painted black and white, looking all excited and amused. Judging by the band t-shirts everyone was wearing, there was no doubt about Thursday’s main act: Kiss.

“What the fuck am I doing here? ” I thought to myself just as the band started their hard rock ritual 10 minutes early: “You Wanted The Best, You’ve Got The Best” said the announcer as the hard rock monolith landed on stage and fired up a show that would last for two hours or so. Highly coordinated and choreographed, the show didn’t seem to deviate from the grand plan. Camp all the way, goes the saying and with Steel Panther, the sexual innuendo was to be expected. But with Kiss… well, there’s just something—not wrong, but sad—about 60-year old guys waving their packages and doing air-cunnilingus to tits underage in the front row. Plus, Paul needs to drop that whole act where he turns his back against the audience and starts wiggling himself and his ass like a snake high on hormones. I heard some guy in Austria got jail-time for that shit.

[ Pictured on the left, Peter Criss was seen at the city after the show. ]

Otherwise the show was pretty much what you’d expect from a Kiss show. You had your basic big-act-antics with bazookas, blood spilling and everyone flying on wires and everyone getting some alone time with the audience (read: solos). Hell, they even let Peter… Eric Criss… Singer sing a song. And talking about singing, Paul had some issues with his voice, whereas Gene sounded pretty good. The band, after a somewhat reserved start, seemed to become more positive towards the end.

Supposedly the gig was about the band’s latest Sonic Boom album, but as expected, the biggest reaction came from the old-but-gold hits (mainly “I was Made for Loving You”). The Kiss Army in attendance seemed to be thrilled and excited, with some screaming “This is the best show I’ve ever seen”, but quite frankly, I, personally, was indifferent about it all. Sure, seeing Kiss is a curiosity of sorts (much like the relationship between Erik and Stiffy’s mom) but the show didn’t exactly wow me. If they decide to put any of the material they shot to Gene’s reality show, I’m the guy who’s looking at his watch. Or at least making the gesture as, sadly, I don’t own a watch.

And with a bang, whilst Thursday was over, the Festival was just getting a groove on.

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  1. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    Awesome read Mikko

  2. Commented by: Jodi

    Metal journalism at its finest!

  3. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Did you happen to go the Hammer Open Air a few weeks ago? The lineup for that was pretty outstanding!

  4. Commented by: Apollyon

    Unfortunately no. Both festivals took place at the same time. I thought about cloning myself, but realized it would take 20 years (give or take) and 9 months…

    Anyway. Hopefully we’ll get to cover some of the smaller fests next year.

  5. Commented by: Biff_Tannen

    Jesus tapdancin’ Christ !! How tall is that guy in pic that starts the article ??!!! He looks like he’s 8′ 5″ !

  6. Commented by: Apollyon

    I wish, but unfortunately it’s only the perspective’s fault.

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