It is about time to open the festival season! And is there a better way to start it than to head North to the land of never ending festivals – Finland? I think not. With that said, I’ve decided to head for Sauna Open Air in Tampere which took place between 8th and 9th of June.
I’ve been to couple of Finnish festivals before, including this biggest one, Tuska Open Air. Compared to this behemoth, Sauna could be considered fairly humble. Furthermore, even though there were only two stages, I felt equally tired because I had to run between them all the time, ’cause the schedule was THAT tight. But hey, being both tired as a pony after a long ride and sunburned are two inescapable festival features and we know it well!
But enough of my babble. Without further ado, let’s get get going!
The Finnish summer arrived pretty early this year and the sun blessed all Sauna Open Air attendees with some seriously intense heat. I arrived at Ratina Stadion pretty early to get myself a pass and explore the area.
The festival for me started with Egokills. They’re a young hard rock/heavy metal band from Tampere with a fresh vibe and hippie looks, which made them pretty pleasant to watch. I’d love to see those dudes in a smaller venue someday. I guess it would work to their advantage more than a festival stage.
After listening to a few songs, I’ve climbed back over to the stadium pitch to see Stratovarius. I’ve never been a big fan of their music, even during my power metal phase a couple of years ago. Namely, I know a few songs heard here and there, but I never felt like I need to know more of their music. Anyway, they’re clearly a big deal here judging from the number of devoted fans that showed up at the Radio Rock Stage. Apart from an incredible voice, Timo Kotipelto earned himself a lot of credit for having really good contact with the audience. But I’ll still give my freshly gained Stratovarius experience a “pleasant, but so what?”
Right after that, I got back to the Inferno Stage where another band, Bloodred Hourglass, started to set up. Soon they’d begun and… oh man, this was it! Their aggressive thrash/death metal blend hit my taste like knee to the groin. Their performance was bursting with energy, in spite of the fact that they had to perform in the full sun. It’s a pity that the crowd size for these guys was rather moderate, since it was such a great act.
My personal feelings towards the succeeding band, which showed up right after Bloodred Hourglass are somewhat mixed. I’ve never understood the Children of Bodom phenomenon, since their music made me more annoyed than cheerful. But duty is duty, so I obediently moved to the pit. Call me biased, but I found their show disappointing and payed more attention to what was happening in the first rows than to the stage. The boss was lurking around the festival area somewhere though, and as an only moderate fan of Bodom herself, she thought this, her first experience seeing them live, was fantastic, so it seems to just be a matter of personal taste.
Unlike Children of Bodom, next band stole my heart and soul in approximately 15 seconds. You say thrash is dead? Well be prepared, because Lost Society will render all of your arguments invalid! Those peeps were promoting their latest album Fast Loud Death and they’ve already got a deal with Nuclear Blast. The quartet from Jyväskylä gave us a quintessential thrash metal gig – it was fast, furious, and neck-crushing. To quote a classic: “That was brutal.” The band members also came up with a damn original scenography. Who came up with the idea to have a giant hairy plastic replica of a woman’s genitals to cover a smoke generator?
Later on, the atmosphere alternated to a slightly more delicate one, namely Opeth. You can say anything about Mikael Åkerfeldt, but not that he has no balls. That man dared to talk about Swedish superiority in ice hockey on stage and the crowd reaction was pretty easy to predict – he got booed instantly. Music-wise though, their gig was a soothing performance, almost a relaxing one, and a nice break after a few hours of angry rampage.
The funny thing about the next artist is that every time I see them, it’s in the blazing sun, which doesn’t do the best job of creating proper atmosphere. Common knowledge states that trolls turn to stone when in contact with daylight, but luckily that rule doesn’t apply to Finntroll. And thank the gods, because a metalhead’s life would be incomplete without this jolly band. I was looking forward to their performance after I heard that they’ve updated their image a bit. No disappointment there – with trollish ears they’ve looked awesome! At this point I should also mention props to Vreth, who performed in a thick uniform in this summer heat. Their show basically packed the Inferno Stage area with people rocking to the lively folk melodies. ‘Cause, let’s be honest, it’s difficult not to swing while listening to them.
First day was closed out by Nightwish. I was also looking forward to their show, since I badly wanted to see how Floor Jansen is doing as the new singer. My verdict is: ladies and gentlemen, we all can now go to Nightwish gigs again without worrying that our ears might bleed once the vocalist starts to sing! Finally! In a nutshell, Floor sings and looks like million dollars, feels onstage like a fish in the sea, and can make the crowd go nuts in mere seconds. After the first three songs, I decided to call it a day because I was melting like a snowman in spring and needed a rest.
I had been waiting for this day with greater anticipation, as Sunday would be my first time seeing many of the bands on the roster. The weather was slightly better than on Saturday – overcast, to give the attendees a necessary relief from the heat.
After a brief glance at Ghost Voyage‘s gig (doom metal is not my cup of tea), I settled around the Radio Rock stage waiting for Stam1na‘s show. I suspected that Stam1na’s gig would be… uh… avant-garde. But when the guys entered on the stage in Hawaiian skirts and floral leis, I couldn’t help but go, “”Whaaat…?!” However, that’s what I primarily love this band for – the most twisted sense of humor the metal scene has to offer! Stam1na is a big deal here in Finland and whenever you’ll have an opportunity, go see them at once. Apart from that wicked humor, they can also offer you a fine selection of fast and furious songs that will made you join fly into the moshpit immediately, setting you on fire as a bonus. Hyrde, Kaikka, and Pexi ran around the stage like crazy, moshing for the entire gig. Seriously, these dudes have some kind of motors in their necks.
Next in line was Omnium Gatherum, whom a fellow photographer had recommended to me. I went there without much for expectations, however, I can never despise a piece of good melodic death metal. Especially the one with ingenious and catchy riffs combined with a fine roar from the vocalist. I couldn’t ask for more. I couldn’t stay for the whole show though, because I had to make to the Stam1na signing session as soon as possible in order to see the Hardcore Superstar concert.
I got there nearly on time to discover that Hardcore Superstar’s studio tracks are cool, but the live versions are simply mind blowing! Jocke Berg dashed on stage like a lunatic, and at the same time, had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. Hell, I even caught myself singing along with the crowd. At a certain point, Jocke decided that they need some girls on stage and guess what? Two lucky ladies actually got pulled up there, were treated with a shot, and got an opportunity to sing along during “Last Call For Alcohol” which was incredibly fun to watch. Honestly, this was probably my favorite set from the whole festival.
Next was a band whose name I can never spell properly: Crashdïet. I’ve never been a big sleaze or glam metal fan, but I do admit that there was some insane catchiness in their songs, which end up stuck in your head for the rest of the day. They also have some extremely devoted fans, because some of them were actually waiting the whole afternoon in the first rows, which shows some serious dedication!
Next up: Sabaton. Man, I’ve seen these guys so many times that I don’t even know what to write about them anymore. It was the usual thing – like a bolt of lightning, Joakim sprinted on stage like a madman while Pär, Chris, and Thobbe did their best to keep up. What surprised me was the actual setlist, which focused on mainly on Carolus Rex with very few additions from the older records.
I skipped the last few songs so I could make it to the Hatebreed show. I was slowly starting to feel a little bit feverish, but Americans had a strong enough performance that I forget about my bad shape for a while. Their shows are always like a kick in the jaw – compelling and making you focus on here and now. In this case, the here and now was heavy headbanging!
The closing act for Sauna Open Air was Volbeat. After a long, soothing intro, the band finally showed up on stage, providing the crowd with a set of incredibly catchy, groovy songs with a solid dose of humor. It was quite a surprise for me to see the newest Volbeat member, who was no other than Rob Caggiano, the former guitarist from Anthrax.
With that, Sauna Open Air ended. I said farewell to Tampere and hoped I’d be able to hang out there again in the future!
Text/photos: Maria Sawicka | Ed: Amy Wiseman