I am going across to Helsinki to see four gigs from the Von Hertzen Brothers in four evenings to mark the 10th anniversary of the band. They will be playing each of their four albums on a different night, and so tonight will see their debut album, Experience. It is going to be a wonderful opportunity to hear every one of their songs, seeing as how I only became aware of them for the first time at RoSfest in 2010, and I am sure a few others will be included in the sets.
So I was my usual with packing…and at 0630 on the morning I was flying out I was still trying to get it sorted. I left the house at 0800, already thinking I had left it a little late to be getting to Heathrow airport for my 0955 flight to Helsinki via Copenhagen. The traffic was as expected along the M40 and the M25, and I got to the long term parking for Terminal 3 at 0850. I needed to get to the baggage drop for 0915. I got to the baggage drop at 0915. Security was fun. Really, it was. I was wearing my Scarpa walking boots and the guy asked if they would set off the sensors. I said they had not before, so he let me through…and the sensors went off. He said it was not the boots, just a random one, “it thinks you need a massage”. As he was frisking me he asked where I was going and I told him Helsinki. “Is that where you finish ?” he asked, in his Irish lilt. “Just how many times have you used that one”, I replied. “Well, my wife’s a Swede”, he said, “which was a turnip for the books.” Honestly, they need more people like that working in this place ! I needed to get to the Gate for 0935. I got to the Gate at 0935. I have got to get myself better at this, because ‘just in time’ is not the way to go. We were due to take off at 0955, but sat on the runway and eventually took off at 1020. I read some more of Soul Music by Terry Pratchett and listened to my iPod Shuffle, which still has my Peru selection on it.
Von Hertzen Brothers – Let Thy Will Be Done
Lazuli – Les Malveillants
Phideaux – I Was Thinking
Credo – Ghosts Of Yesterday
The Tangent – Where Are They Now ?
Peter Gabriel – The Rhythm Of The Heat
Gazpacho – Desert Flight
Rush – La Villa Strangiato
We landed rather smoothly and on time in crosswinds, so here I was at Copenhagen airport at 1150 UK time (1250 here) and a flight to Helsinki at 1505 local time. So I did some stuff for the office off my BlackBerry while listening to
Godspeed You ! Black Emperor – The Dead Flag Blues
Now that was an experience and a half. The connecting part of Copenhagen airport is just like a shopping mall. Really not quite like any other Duty Free area I have encountered. They appear to give change in local currency, though, so I did not go shopping. Instead I got to Gate B15 and started typing this. I did like the sign I passed – God rejse Have a pleasant flight. I got a message from Tiina Karppanen on facebook saying there was no snow in Finland. I had presumed there would be. Tiina had very kindly offered to put me up at her uncle and aunt’s house just outside of Helsinki, and it would be good to see her again.
The Pineapple Thief – So We Row
Porcupine Tree – Even Less
OSI – Terminal
Pure Reason Revolution – The Bright Ambassadors Of Morning
Jethro Tull – Hunting Girl
Porcupine Tree – Deadwing
The Waterboys – The Pan Within
Matt Stevens – Rusty (The European Perspective session)
Gazpacho – The Walk Part 1
Panic Room – Apocalypstick
We took off at 1410 and I dozed. I noticed we were flying above the clouds at one point. I read a little. There was no free food on this flight either. I think I am on the Scandinavian version of EasyRyan.
Rush – The Analog Kid
Crippled Black Phoenix – We Forgotten Who We Are
Lazuli – Abime
Blackfield – Christenings
Tinyfish – Nine Months On Fire (live)
Porcupine Tree – Arriving Somewhere But Not Here
Von Hertzen Brothers – Let Thy Will Be Done
and finishing the flying with the same song which had started it was a nice little thing thrown in by the iPod Shuffle, and especially as it was the Von Hertzen Brothers. We were being blown about on landing again, but again it was pretty smooth. For some reason my BlackBerry did not pick up the time change straight away. It was 1530 UK time, and 1730 local time. I went to wait for my baggage to arrive. I received a text from Tiina saying she was stuck on a bus in traffic, but then almost immediately another text saying she was here. My bag still was not here.
Rainbow – Eyes Of The World
AC/DC – You Shook Me All Night Long
Tinyfish – Wide Awake At Midnight
My bag came through at 1747 and we took a taxi to Helsinki, arriving at 1815. We needed food, so went to the Chinese restaurant two doors down from the venue. Not necessarily a wise idea in the UK to eat at any place close to a music venue, but the food here at the Dragon Spring was excellent. We chose the 2 Person Special Dinner, which meant for me it was the Peking soup, then a selection of chicken with mushroom and bamboo shoots, beef with satay sauce, sweet and sour pork, and deep fried king prawn. Pudding was deep fried banana with chocolate ice cream. I had a diet coke to drink. Once I get back to the UK I need to get back to my eating regime. And from there we had the not so long walk to the venue, where there is already a queue forming. The queue is all female until I get there. This is not like a Prog gig in the UK. The wind is making it quite cold standing there, so we are happy when the doors open on time. Yes, this is really not like a Prog gig in the UK !
The first support band is Los Hermanos Del Corazon, who have set up in the bar area outside of the main stage area, in a corner now known as La Casa Del Corazon. The ‘band’ are the three Von Hertzen brothers dressed in ponchos and sombreros, with acoustic guitars and a Jonne with a massive triangular acoustic bass guitar. They proceed to play a number of Spanish/Mexican themed songs. It is a lot of fun and everyone, band and audience, is enjoying it, whether it be the more traditional sound or harder riffing numbers. Kie is leading the vocals, in Spanish, sometimes going more deeper with them. There is a swaying number which sounds like a lament, then another harder riffing one which leads into melodic vocals and very Spanish-sounding guitars, but before that comes to a close they open the doors to the main stage at 2030 and people disappear off to get to the front row. I stay to the end and then head in, knowing Tiina will have secured a place at the front, and find that the second support band, The Massa Ja Psykoosi, had started to play. It is Juha Kuoppala and Mikko Kaakkuriniemi, the keyboard player and drummer from the Von Hertzen Brothers, and they are playing some jazzy lounge music, very much with a 60s feel. They are positioned on a platform to the left of the main stage and are both clearly having a great time, playing about within the numbers, setting up the finishes. They bring it to a close with a version of I Feel Good by James Brown, and come to an end with huge smiles on their faces. We have really enjoyed it too.
And now to the main event – the Von Hertzen Brothers playing the whole of their debut album, Experience. I have only heard a few of these songs before live, so I am very excited to hear it all. Hearing the theme from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly as part of the background music while we wait just adds to the atmosphere for me. At 2129 the lights come up enough for me to see the setlist. There are some very interesting encores planned. And at 2130 the crowd begin to clap for the band to come on. Looking around, the crowd is not much different to the queue I saw outside, being predominantly female and younger than me. It really is unlike a Prog gig back home. The venue has really filled up by this time as well, which is always good to see. Mikko (the drummer) and Juha come on first to applause, and as the intro from the album comes through, the brothers take to the stage. Apparently the intro is a recording of them talking many years ago, discussing who was playing what in the band. I am standing in the front row to the left of the stage, in front of Jonne. There is the big, bold opening to Brother and then the sound circles, with a 60s, ethnic vibe, hitting into bursts of vocal harmony before it stomps away with Kie riffing his screeching guitar into some phasing, and then it floats. The sound crashes into a screaming solo and explodes, the song racing away with a higher melody before continuing straight on into Experience with its big, Indian, opening riff and hook. It blasts away and shuffles hard, with the crowd so totally into this. You cannot help but bop along with the rhythm as the sound swirls all around and the vocals push hard, as rhythmic as the rest of the track. So simple, so effective, so wonderful. Beside You calms things down a little, with Jonne adding some keyboards as it rolls gently. Mikko sings on top of the flowing melody before the guitar crunches through, and I realise what an excellent sound there is in this venue. Everything is crisp and clear, and that means there is a wonderful sound as Mikko continues to sing on top of chiming guitar and gentle keyboards, and the audience is silent, sucked into the emotion of the song. Then the sound is going with the drums, breaks open and rolls hard, and that is how you properly build into something truly anthemic. Next up is Nothing Left, with the crowd clapping along as it comes together with buzzing guitar and swings along with a sharp edge, suddenly changing and becoming more urgent with a different, harder sound which pushes back into the original sound and then continues into a sustained, crashing finish which carries straight on into Devil Of A Girl (switching its place on the album) with the crowd clapping along again as it races away upbeat behind a strong, ethnic sound and rhythm, and the crowd are bouncing as it drives hard to another crashing end.
Of course, all the chat between songs is in Finnish, so I have no idea what is being said to the audience, but they seem to appreciate every word which is said to them. The music is providing me with more than enough enjoyment to make me very appreciative. They continue with Another Worthless Day, the sound from the guitar echoing into thick, rounded keyboards as Mikko sings on top, with backing vocals from Mikko the drummer as the track eases along melodic and gentle, another simple one and yet so full of emotion. The bass edges in while the guitar softly pierces through and plays around, before it all fades to silence. We return to the album track order as gently screeching guitar flows us into Immortal Life, then settles before the vocals take us into big, melodic phasing, the sound uptempo and driving, soaring ever higher. It rolls along with a full, rounded sound, very easy on the ear, wonderful melodies surging through, and too soon it fades to a close. Tiina tells me at the end that it was dedicated to a special friend of theirs whose mother had died the night before. This was a lovely tribute. I Gave Up sees Mikko on acoustic guitar as he softly sings, building it into a mournful ballad, and the sound edges along into some considered electric guitar which then pierces high into harder strumming on the neck of the acoustic while Mikko on the drums begins using a shaker. The sound has taken on something of a samba feel as Dreamworld begins and as the vocals come in the keyboards pulse through that sound as it shuffles along, before it rises higher and then smashes open and rocks hard into the chorus. For some reason I take a look down the front row. There must be at least 20 people along the front, and I am the only male. This is so different to Prog gigs back home. The sound settles and pushes along, developing as it moves along into the chorus again, then turning edgy through some complex guitar, fading down again into the atmospheric sounds of Hush Hush which eases along before gradually fading down with the lights flashing, and the sounds continue on into Time And You with the guitar circling deep against pointed keyboards and lightly tapping drums. Kie sings as the sounds swirl, and as the vocals rise the drums tap in harder and the track gradually grows before the sound phases into screeching guitar. It fades down, then begins to grow again with the vocals, the whole sound wonderfully atmospheric, breaking open in bursts, building into a full, rounded sound and pushing on to a fading finish behind the keyboards which produces a huge roar from the crowd and clapping for more.
A stool and loudhailer are brought on to Kie’s side of the stage before they come back on. They sing Happy Birthday. It is all done in Finnish, of course, but I am later told that it was for their father, who is there tonight. They begin the encore with a song listed on the setlist as Dream On Blues, and which appears on the recently released vinyl version of Experience as Dream On. Kie sits on his high stool and the sound circles sharply as he sings through the loudhailer, before it kicks into a hard railing down dirty blues number, mallets on the drums, a very interesting little mash up. They continue with It’s Over, another ‘new’ song from the vinyl edition, the guitar echoing in with a piercing sound as Kie gets comfortable on his stool, before it flows away melodic, a wonderful guitar hook, an equally wonderful rounded bass line as the sound eases along. The guitar runs and then screeches away and soars, before calming to Kie’s voice to end. This is the first song they ever wrote and this is the first time they have played it live. I feel honoured to have been here for that alone. And now a look ahead to tomorrow as they play Let They Will Be Done, riffing into a big rocking hook before blasting away. Very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin. The huge sound rocks hard, even bigger than the album track, the vocals powerful and soaring, some more guitar flourishes added in, the drums rattling through into the screeching guitar sound, a false ending which is sustained into the original hook, and they crash it on into a sharp finish. Brilliant. Much more of that tomorrow. Open Water Stormy Weather opens with a wonderful vocal harmony and is another which blasts off and rocks away, reminding me of how uptempo and direct the album Approach is, and already building the excitement for seeing it performed in full tomorrow. This is another huge sound, which settles with the crowd clapping along before a big guitar flourish sees it blasting away again, Kie jumping all over the place on stage. His never seems to stand still and his energy level is quite amazing, and infectious as we bounce along. They bring the song and the set to a stunning finish. High tempo, high energy, high voltage – tonight has been excellent, but, oh, on the basis of the last two songs tomorrow is going to be so good. They leave the stage around 2300 and despite Kiss A Wish also being listed on the setlist they do not return. Not to worry, we will get that tomorrow.
All three of the brothers come out to the bar area afterwards, and I am pleased and surprised that they recognise me. As well as being able to congratulate them on such a brilliant performance, we have time to chat a little, and I am able to talk with Kie about my recent time in Peru, in return being told about his time in Ecuador, in the mountains enjoying some flute music. And Mikko tells me how he is looking forward to heading off to India when these gigs are done. It is all fascinating stuff. Tiina and I go to get the bus, but we would have been waiting in the cold for an hour, so I decide we will take a taxi instead. We are still high from the gig when we get back so we watch some music videos, including an acoustic version of River by the Von Hertzen Brothers, and Upside Down by Gazpacho from their A Night At Loreley dvd, which just happens to feature a close up of me in the crowd. A nice finish to a wonderful day.