It must be hard to compete against Sauna Open Air, arguably Finland’s second biggest metal festival, but Kivenlahti Rock managed the job nicely, by recruiting Cradle of Filth, for example, and having a range of family-friendly radio bands as well. So, since you can’t realistically attend both festivals, how do you choose between the two? For me, it was a matter of which one accepted my accreditation request… however, there are more important factors to evaluate.

  • Location: Both are set against the water, but if your waters are the southern sea, Kivenlahti is considerably easier, and cheaper, to reach. Not to mention that you can easily go home instead of needing to camp. But if you enjoy the weekend camping in the not-yet-warm middle of Finland, then Sauna’s got that.
  • Bands: Sauna offers up some interesting choices of bands I might have liked if I was born 10 years earlier (perhaps that number would be 20 years for the average-aged festivaler). Motley Crüe, & Duff McKagan, not to mention (although I will anyway) Thor? Might have been interesting, but I don’t know that I’d pay for that. Kivenlahti, however, is cheaper, so paying for a roster full of stock-bands doesn’t seem so bad, unless you’ll be seeing all those same bands a million other times this summer. And then, both festivals gave us Amorphis, Kotiteollisuus, and Profane Omen, so the choice becomes less difficult. Both are 3 day festivals, but Sauna’s days are a bit shorter, with quite fewer bands.
  • Meininki: Sorta hard to translate, but meaning the general feeling you get from the festival. Certainly more metalheads at Sauna, and a lot more locals at Kivenlahti, and each group has their own special attributes and impact. There are more crazy looking people to observe at Kivenlahti, so that’s kinda fun. Both festivals have similar drinking rules, in that, you can’t, unless you buy beer in specially designated drinking areas, which are similarly far from the main stage. And any alcohol you try to sneak in, will be confiscated, definitely.

So, this year’s choice was, obviously, Kivenlahti Rock. Being only interested in the metal band performances of this festival, we skipped Saturday altogether, although Kiuas, Diablo, and Kotiteollisuus would have been good to see if I wouldn’t already be seeing them at half of the summer’s other events. Nor did I choose to stay and watch Apulanta headlining the day. Oddly enough, everyone else apparently disagreed with my logic, as Saturday was the only day of the festival to sell out.

Early on Friday the festival began, and the weather was not at all inviting. It was no more than 10 degrees and constantly raining, although umbrellas were not permitted. Free rainjackets were available through the gate, though, so no problems there. First band I saw was Suburban Tribe. They tend to be musically a bit KorNy, but are still quite enjoyable to watch, thanks to Ville Tuoni’s charismatic stage presence. He’s also a major on-stage flirt, and any girl near the front of the stage knows he’s singing all his songs just for her. Additionally, ‘Ville is Finland’s best singer!’, or so screamed one drunk fan during the set. He’s got a unique voice, as heard in the clean vocals from back in Amorphis’sTales from the Thousand Lakes‘ record, as well as during a Faith No More tribute gig last year at Gloria in Helsinki, where he showed extremely diverse and powerful vocalizations that remarkably resembled Mike Patton’s own style.

As the next two bands were un-metal and therefore un-interesting to me, an interlude to the local pizza/kebab joint was in order. I only mention this because the action at the pizza place was perhaps more exciting than the bands might possibly have been. Here, a young guy at a nearby table was repeatedly falling asleep while eating, and when the owner tried to rouse him, he’d respond quite slowly and druggedly that he wasn’t done, that he wanted more, or anything he could say just to stay there. But as all the tables were full, the owner uncomfortably continued to wake the guy up and demand that he leave. Finally, he grabbed the guy by the back of his collar and dragged him out of his chair, across the floor, and out the door, visibly choking him, and left him out on the gravel. The poor drunk couldn’t at all react in his limited capacity. I could only think to stare in amazement. In America, we sue people for that kinda stuff. Tough luck, guy.

Returned to the gig in time for Stam1na, who had just begun their 10-gig “Kymppihän riittää” tour. I had seen Stam1na at perhaps 8 festivals last summer, and surely they performed more than that, so this year they’ve limited their gigging and drastically changed their set. Stam1na is always fun to watch, with Hyrde’s characteristic stage twirls and the generally wildly flowing hair and stage domination of their axemen, but this performance seemed to be a little tired and lackluster compared to their usual. Maybe because their choice of songs, while providing a break from their been-there, done-that set, was not as enthusiastinating, or as well intended for a live show. Still good, still fun, but missing that “it”.

Next was either to sit and drink somewhere while waiting for Cradle of Filth, or then begrudgingly watch some Lapko. As far as alternative rock bands go, this wasn’t sickening. I actually found myself recognizing and almost enjoying some songs, although I won’t be heading to the store to pick up their records any time soon. It had a little bit of a punk rock feeling, and some explosive bursts gave the songs an edgier and more respectable flare. The singer had quite a funny stage walk in his tight-legged pants, and had an otherwise unique stage persona.

And on to Cradle of Filth, the highlight of the evening for myself and most others. They played a very familiar set, as although I don’t listen to the band myself, I recognized nearly every song as being one of their very many hits. The sound was good, and the playing was sincere, although I’d have trouble saying the same about their tiny female keyboardist. She seemed to be chewing gum through the whole set, and looked otherwise quite bored, only that she was chewing her gum to the rhythm of the songs. Dani Filth was, as always, amusingly short, but somehow commanding. It’s really cool to watch him hit the high notes, and every time he goes into the same pose, as if to free these hell-screams from a hard-to-reach part of his core. It’s impressive that he still can do that, and have such a wide vocal range after having been doing it so long. About mid-set he made a remark about the unfortunate weather we were having, something like: “It’s fucking cold, isn’t it? My nipples are erect!” Perhaps some female fans will be having pleasant dreams after that comment. I’ll not.

Sunday’s return was met with pleasantly warm weather and clear skies. And Profane Omen, storming away on the tent stage. Kivenlahti did well at picking energetic “hevi” bands, and Profane Omen put the rest, possibly even Stam1na, to shame. They just had that fire, and it was hard to ignore. Except for me, perhaps, who was overly focused on the next band, who’s new record had been released just a week earlier and instantly hit the #1 spot on the Finnish charts, while also hitting a string in the center of my being…

Amorphis. Epic heroes of the Finnish mythological society, gracing us once again with their revered presence (or whoring themselves out again to the summer festival circuit, but I’m sure as fuck not gonna complain). Although these guys have never had the most dynamic stage act, Tomi Joutsen’s arrival to the band created a central visual focus, and his passion on stage lends credibility and sincerity to the poetically fictional lyrics. It’s impressive how he whips his plaited locks so forcefully, and he must have some strong-assed neck muscles. Their set was not to disappoint either, provided you were already familiar with their new record. They introduced three new songs to their set, in addition to their first single ‘Silent Waters‘ which they had been playing live during the spring. Of course, a handful of classic songs had to be removed, but instead there was a sense of renewment, and the whole gig was refreshing.

During Amo’s set, Ville of Suburban Tribe, who had played on Friday, passed by in the VIP drinking area, and I half-drunkenly (at 4 in the afternoon!) questioned why he wasn’t on stage performing backing vocals for “Into Hiding“, and if he ever has in his later career. He said that he has, and that I should talk to those guys about it, because he’d love to do it. Being that they were playing the same festival, it’s a shame that it couldn’t have been arranged, but I suppose on one of their first performances for the “Skyforger” record, they wanted the focus split a little differently. Maybe next time, buddy.

In my nearing-drunken state, which is my preferred Amorphis-watching condition, I also spotted pop-metal star Ari Koivunen, and I childishly and excitedly whispered of being a paparazzi, and snapped some covert photos from my iPhone so that he’d not notice. I think he noticed, and thus was covering his face. I guess his sunglasses were not quite enough to masque his recognizable aura. He was also spotted earlier in the general population checking out some Profane Omen. Nice to see him show some support for the little guys.

After a few more beers, and a quick, puzzled look at Finnish jazz hip-hoppers Don Johnson Big Band, it was time to call it a day. All things told, it was a cozy and relaxed festival and an alternative to the trouble of trekking to Tampere.

-- Lady Enslain

Kivenlahti Rock 2009 photos

Enslain Magazine