* LIFE IN SWEDEN *

Part 1: NUMMIROCK 2009 FESTIVAL REPORT

Part 2: GUIDE TO SURVIVING NUMMIROCK




NUMMIROCK FESTIVAL REPORT

Our journey to Nummi, as many others’, included, between the two of us, 4 cases of beer, 2 six-packs of lonkero, 2 bottles of Gambina, and 2 packages of sausage. 72 hours of planned malnutrition later, we were without clean usage of our vocal chords, achy, and in an alcohol-induced aftershock, which we combated in the only way Finns know how. Drinking again, the whole 5-hour drive home. Yes, another excellent weekend at Nummijärvi.

But when does Nummirock ever disappoint? While yes, the bands selected for this year were very commonplace, with the exception of some American bands like Hatebreed and Warbringer, and yes, most of us went home with our heads throbbing from alcohol abuse, and our bodies from passing out on the wrong side of our tents, going to Nummirock is always an adventure and a memory, if only we can remember it.

THURSDAY

The ride to Kauhajoki was pleasant, as we opted to hitch a ride with Heavy Metal Tampere’s bus from Helsinki. Dragging our suitcases full of 24-packs of beer TO the bus was less pleasant, but then followed a long drive where we were happy to already have beers on hand. A trivia competition was held with some humor that I rarely understood but still found somehow funny. But in general, a bus full of metalheads is always a great atmosphere. There were a surprising amount of chicks coming to Nummirock, so this wasn’t your typical sausagefest. Just a metal haven.

The bus arrived on Thursday evening, with plenty of time to set-up tents and work up a buzz before Rytmihäiriö were to play the tent stage. When I went to photograph the band during their first songs, I was directed away from the stage by the photo-pit guard. After some negotiations at high voice, he finally says that, only one photographer may be in there at a time. Who in HELL made up this rule? Though not spacious, the pit had room enough for half a dozen photographers, and this guy is looking down his nose at me and telling me I can’t do my job in Finnish.

Thankfully, this made me so furious, that I sought comfort from Rytmis’ other pit. This is a band that, if you have some familiarity with their material, demands you to mosh around and bang your fist. Although sung totally in Finnish, the comical lyrical nature of alcoholism and resulting homicides, alongside catchy chorus lines and aggressively thrashy riffage, has real impact and rage. An excellent way to begin the weekend.

FRIDAY

We awoke on Friday to see our campsite utterly destroyed by the night winds and, likely, our drunk friends last night. Pieces of canvas and tent poles were scattered across the ground, along with remnants of snack food and tuna cans. Friday’s line-up began with Medeia at two, so we had had plenty of time for partying throughout the night and extra sleep in the morning. This was a good thing for some, particularly our friend Lauri who woke up outside of his tent with mild hypothermia, and Jaakko, who’s hours-long puking session sounded literally like guttural vocals. The first must-see of the day was Hatebreed, six hours later. Having watched several songs, however, it didn’t quite satisfy. Hatebreed’s place is in a mid-sized club with a packed house, of which ¾ of it is a mosh pit. At Nummirock, with the volume not quite maxed and the sun along our backs, it didn’t have that ideal energy, and the pit was disappointingly tame. I wanted to see some badass hardcore moves, but with no other hc bands on the bill, this wasn’t the crowd that practices those moves. And I just couldn’t keep wondering how Jamey Jasta manages to see anything with his bandana wrapped just over his eyes. Not so impressive.

What was impressive, however, was the next band, Forever One. Performing on the tent stage, which was used for cover bands and beer sales, this Sentenced cover band from up in the North really embodied the sound and spirit of Finland’s dearly departed supergroup. The vocalist had a similar rasp in his voice, and they copied the songs as exactly as one would hope for, without trying to better or alter something already so faultless. Having personally never seen Sentenced live, this was a very emotional set for me, and quite clearly for others around. Especially when they dedicated ‘Lower the Flag’ to the recent passing of Miika Tenkula, flames were ignited inside many of us. Perhaps the proceeding tears were just to extinguish them, or perhaps I just want an excuse for my watery outburst during their final song. It’s unfortunate that some of Nummirock’s attendants were unaware of this tribute band, because I’d later realize that their set was overwhelmingly the highlight of the festival.

Following this act was hard. American thrashers Warbringer were welcomed to their first Finnish stage, and played enthusiastically, but didn’t manage to stir up much enthusiasm from the other side of the railing. Napalm Death came next, and did what Napalm does best, creating a death metal fury. Finalizing the night at one o’clock at night was Ajattara, who were the festival’s only band to play in something resembling darkness. This naturally suited them well, as darkness is synonymous with their style. The Inferno stage was more crowded than throughout the day, meaning either that people managed not to pass out yet, or they had just woken from passing out earlier that morning. The tone of the set was quite malevolent, and the surrounding foresty atmosphere added impact. Ajattara played a largely varied set, including distorted renderings of some songs from their newest acoustic album ‘Noitumaa.’

SATURDAY

Waking up on Saturday felt wrong. I wasn’t ready for this to be the last day, and it didn’t seem like there was enough time to do everything. There was often a conflict between wanting to party with friends, drink their random mixed concoctions, and pass out on the grass, and then watching all of the bands including the less known ones on the tiny, never crowded indie stage. Then as well, there were shops selling random metal-lifestyle merchandise and band shirts, and interesting looking food stands. And my inherent Finnishness made me want to jump in the lake, or cook sausages over the campfire all evening. If I were to have my way, Nummirock would last a week, and there would be perhaps four bands playing each night. Alas, such it is not. Having said this, I was still impressed with myself for having managed to see every band I was interested in, and not oversleeping with a nasty hangover. Well done, me.

At noon began Black Light Discipline, whose electronic goth sounds could be heard quite loudly from the campgrounds. The weather, by this day, had taken a chilly turn, and I wasn’t so inclined to leave the warmth of the campfire until absolutely necessary. It may have been 14 degrees at the warmest, but the lake was exhaling some uncomfortably gusty winds, and no amount of clothing was making it more bearable. Already two hours later, Horna was playing on the Inferno stage. It was an unlikely timeslot for the festival’s blackest of bands, and would have seemed much more appropriate without so much sun burning their wicked flesh, but I was surprised by how good they sounded. The beginning of their set had the tiniest hints of melody among the riffage, and some songs were even memorable. And vocalist Corvus, in his white, blood-drenched apparel, was entertaining, if not a little bit fearsome. This dose of black metal was highly needed to balance out the festival.

Next up on the mainstage was Poisonblack, who were my second dosage of Sentenced-less-ness. Nonetheless, many of Poisonblack’s songs, even if never heard before, have such a familiarity, and a heartfelt feeling, that they help to dissolve that yearning for what once was. Though not terribly interesting on stage, I don’t suppose that Sentenced was either. I briefly wondered if Ville Laihala had been watching Forever One’s set yesterday, although I doubt he had even arrived yet.

Nor, on that note, did Pasi from Ajattara stay to watch his former bandmates in Amorphis on that following day. I’m told there’s no bad blood behind this, however, just busy time schedules. It’s a shame, really, I’m dying for the day that Amorphis plays some sort of a 20th anniversary show perhaps with all their previous vocalists joining them on the stage for a few touching moments. Moving away from fiction, Amorphis played an excellent set of a different kind at Nummirock – they gave this crowd of rabid headbangers some unexpected blasts from the past, including ‘Magic & Mayhem’, ‘The Castaway’, and the first time I’ve ever heard Tomi Joutsen singing Tuonela’s heaviest hit ‘Greed’. Naturally, there were songs from their newly released ‘Skyforger’ as well, and for this I was grateful. Truly though, in an act of skyforgery, the sun had finally come out of hiding, making the days mayhem turn into magic. THE SKY IS MINE, BITCHES!! Ahem. At least the sky belonged to Mr. Joutsen, who claimed to have taken a plunge from the festival’s bungee jump platform some time that day. Wish I had witnessed that!

Just prior to Amorphis was Zonaria playing on the beach stage. This was their third time to Finland in just under a year, and so these Swedes’ coming was less than exciting. The minimal size of the crowd seemed to back that statement, or else their two previous treks hadn’t gained them enough of a fanbase in Kauhajoki, Finland. This was actually the only time I made it through the front gates without there being an unsurmountable line. But yet, Zonaria has one thing that’s really going for them. These boys are really, really good looking! Yes, I said it. I wanted to watch Zonaria because they look cool, they all have greatly moving hair and use it to its full head-twirling potential, and they have such vigor. The songs are of a heavier Gothenburg style, and although I should love them, I just don’t find anything holding me to their riffs. Maybe three more visits later, something will catch me.

After Amorphis, I had the distinct honor of interviewing Ms. Angela of Arch Enemy. Wandering throughout the backstage a few minutes prior to our scheduled time, we couldn’t locate the band’s bus or personages, and started getting nervous. We decided to ask around if anyone had seen her, and perhaps we asked the wrong group of people when Torture Killer’s vocalist Juri Sallinen said that, he didn’t know where they were, but should we see her, we can tell her that he’s all available for her! Sure, Juri. We’ll be sure to repeat your enthusiastic love message directly to her.

The interview, despite our nearing drunkenness, went well, and lasted about three times longer than I was prepared for. Angela has a lot to say, and is an inspiring young lady, making me feel almost guilty for disgracing my body with alcohol and filth. Although I appreciated her philosophies on health and respecting yourself, I couldn’t wait to run to the beach bar and pilfer more half-consumed random drinks. We can’t all live like you, Angela. I’m living the Nummirock lifestyle.

The extended interview caused an overlap of Entwine’s set, and I missed out on photographing the band. Yet, while quarrelling with the photopit guards to let me in for just one song, I was just in time and in place to watch vocalist Mika Tauriainen’s closest attempt at walking the plank. I’ve commented before on how much he resembles Captain Jack Sparrow, particularly in his facial fuzz, but when he jumped off the stage into the oversized photopit, and proceeded to walk towards the crowd across the wooden beams that seemed to support the stage, I was half expecting a bottle of rum to be shared with the crowd. Mika’s a great frontman, theatrics aside, and it’s no surprise the ladies adore him. I just adore his raspily whiny and tender vocals, and enjoy their set every time.

Arch Enemy was quite possibly the most anticipated band of the weekend, and when they hit the stage launching into “Blood on Your Hands”, there was no questioning why. The ferocity of their sharp guitar sounds and tight sound is that of an experienced and forceful act. The band is adorned in a theme of red and black, all sporting red arm bands wrapped around black sleeves, perhaps to match with Michael Amott’s blazing red hair and guitar. Angela Gossow has her metal fingers extended out to the sky like blazing pistols, and a lion’s fire in her expression. Each member had their chance to shine with impressive drum and guitar solos scattered throughout the set. But for me, the ultimate, and most empowering moment is always during “We Will Rise,” which was played just before their encore.

One unfortunate thing about the layout of the main stage, is that there is no nearby area in which one may drink. The closest is the Fosters Stage tent where the cover/tribute bands play, but it’s distant from the main stage, and there’s only a small railed area you could stand from and actually see anything. And so, to make up for lost time, it was back to the campground to attempt to re-achieve that comfortable drunkenness before seeing Stam1na, who may indeed have been drunk already. As the weekend’s final band hitting the stage at 12.30, they had the optimal crowd and moment, and looked more energized and wild than usual. Stam1na has been one of my favorite discoveries since coming to Finland, and, having seen them at over 10 festivals in one and a half years, they’re rather unavoidable. For their set, I made sure to be nicely wasted, and found myself walking around the area afterwards singing lyrics to their songs, in Finnish (and not really knowing what they mean!) Their choruses are simply so catchy, they transcend language skills.

And then, after a final night of partying and waking up (hopefully) in a tent, it was time to say farewell to yet another excellent weekend in Nummijärvi. Our bus departed for Helsinki at noon, while others had to endure several more hungover hours waiting for their driver to be under the legal alcohol limit for driving. While exiting the campground, every driver was subjected to a quick breathalyzer test – which would NEVER have happened in America – and you could also pay for a test before you started driving so that you’d know it was safe to start heading home. I wouldn’t doubt that some guys had to stay an EXTRA night just to drain out three nights worth of poisoning themselves. Yes, another excellent weekend in Nummijärvi.


GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE WEEKEND

Relief: Another year at Nummijärvi successfully survived. If you’ve not been to Nummi, you are unlikely to understand that simply surviving this festival takes a great deal of know-how. Especially if you are low on cash, it’s important to know the best techniques to stretch your budget and still remain nicely buzzed and reasonably nutrient-filled. And so, I’ve compiled this guide so that you don’t waste your trip or waste away without being wasted.

Rule #1: BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze). This might be obvious, but the layout of Nummirock is such that you have two free camping areas starting just meters away from the festival gate, and you may travel in and out as often as you please. And of course, since you brought your own beer, you’ll want to be out more than often than in. Yes, I know there’s good bands playing for whom you coughed up quite a bit of dough, but be honest to yourself. The bands are just a bonus. This isn’t Tuska or Jalometalli, you came here for the campground, and fucking around with your friends. You came for the meininki. And if you plan well, you’ll still be able to catch Hatebreed, or Napalm Death, or Horna. So… what to bring to optimize your känni?

  1. 16 bottles of vodka – This should probably suffice. Of course, I mean the smaller Finnish bottles of Leijona or Kossu or something of the like, and bring plenty of obscure shit to mix with it. This is how you make friends at Nummi. And double fisted pouring of vodka and diet coke down your throat will lead to the bands sounding a lot tighter. If you make it there to see them.
  2. 4 cases of laivakalja This is the tax-free, stronger beer we buy on the boat to Sweden or Estonia. To be shared between two people, naturally. Better to do this if you are travelling by car than hauling it from your place, to the railway station, through central Helsinki, and to the festival bus, and then through the rocky, grassy camping grounds in a suitcase with a broken wheel. Not speaking from experience, or anything.
  3. Lonkku The safest choice of festival drink, as it still tastes great warm, and flat, and spilled on the ground.
  4. Boxes of wine – I don’t know why, but nothing is more refreshing than some hot red wine on a cloudy day.
  5. Gambina! – Need I say more? Particularly necessary if Rytmihäiriö is playing.

Rule #2: Do Not Try Breathing Fire with Lighter Fluid. We’ve heard that doing such a thing will lead to throat infection, possible lung damage, and white, bubbly lesions on the skin around your neck. Where did we hear this?

Rule #3: Bring Your Own Sausage. Unless you have friends, in which case you’ll be offered sausage every time you pass someone you know. This is the obvious food choice for the weekend, but additional choices are as well available.

  1. Marshmallows – For real, I think no one in Finland has ever before roasted marshmallows, or even SEEN the white, fluffy kind! Not nutricious, as such, but the best camping snack of all time, and fun to teach adults how not to incinerate theirs.
  2. Cold pizzas – About 500 meters from the campground exists a grocery store. Here you can buy small cold pizzas for less than a euro. The way to eat these, I’ve learned, is either to fold them in half and eat like a calzone that someone forgot to bake, or to place them on the grill. Remember to grill both sides so the sticky burning toppings are left on the grill to be collected by the next sausage to roast.
  3. Avocados – Okay, I don’t really understand this one. You might want to ask our friend Jope. He’s from Poland.
  4. Tuna – This must be a Finnish thing to eat cold cans of tuna throughout the day, but if this thought doesn’t disgust you, then it really suits camping life. You can also spread this wet, slimy fish product onto a grilled piece of bread. Yum.
  5. Chippies! – Two bags should do nicely. Fireballs don’t at all mix well with beer, but to hell with that. It just works. And potato chips can also be toasted on the grill. If you’re Finnish, you probably grill everything, anyway. But be prepared for the grounds of your camping area to be blanketed with smashed cheez balls and cans spilling over with leftover tuna grease.

Rule #4: Prepare for the Weather. No matter what the weather forecast says, it’s not. And no matter whether it’s sunny skies or rainy coldness, the weather is going to suck. Period. The morning heat fries you in your tent like the insides of a sausage, and the days can be completely without the sun appearing, with frosty lake breezes whipping your skin. Dress in layers, or else your husband will hear you whining the entire weekend about how much you hate Finnish climate and want to go home. (Again, not speaking from experience…!) But do stay awake until at least dusk, as you’ll be in for a delicious view of the unsetting sun wallowing along the horizon and coloring the sky with majestic strokes. Take a picture, because you’re probably too drunk to remember you saw it.

Rule #5: Do Not Expect Decent Mosh Pits. While yes, I got an elbow to the jaw and some random battle bruises from Rytmihäiriö’s pit action at the Thursday night pre-show in the tent, this room is the only place for a viable pit for Finns who don’t quite know how to do it right. The pits here become too open too fast, and with only 4 drunk guys throwing each other around, it just doesn’t hold together or form outer walls. Naturally, there should have been an excellent pit during Hatebreed, and I was hoping that, at least NOW Finns might get this right. Well… no. FAIL. Especially for Hatebreed, I expect a pit that I am even afraid to stand too close to. I suppose you can’t expect much in a pit of twelve, compared to Wacken’s pit of twelve hundred, although we seem to manage okay in the States. Ah, well, can’t win ‘em all.

Rule #6: Do Not Attempt to Kiss Your Husband in the Drinking Area, While You Are Standing in Gen Pop. If you were to make such an erroneous tempt of fate, you would be immediately pulled away by some hardworking security personnel whose job is to ensure that, should you possibly be underaged even though you’re almost 30, you cannot breathe in the fumes from your husband’s alcoholic breath. Just stand from across the fence, at least 10 meters back, and wave jubilantly. We don’t want trouble now, y’hear?

Rule #7: Clothing is Optional. There ain’t no person here who’s gonna give you shit if your cock is swinging in the breeze. This is unfortunate for those of us who are impressionable, but it’s true. You can swim naked in the Inferno Stage’s lake, watch Arch Enemy without your pants on, or pass out anywhere you like, and no one will want to touch you. But, while you might not care at the time, remember that there are cameras and journalists all around just waiting to pimp you out on the net.

Rule #8: Why Buy Beers When You Can Rescue Them? People must be in an awful hurry to get to some other place than the Inferno stage, because on every visit there, you could find each table covered in ‘empty’ bottles, of which 2-3 have half or more of the drink left inside. Instead of being a TOTAL leach, though, it’s proper decency to purchase the first Foster’s yourself, and then rescue the surrounding abandoned drinkage while consuming your own. Be sure, though, that it really is abandoned. The worst possible thing you can do to insult a Finn (or Horgh) is to take his beer.

Rule #9: Do Not Call Foreigners ‘Se’. This is the ‘it’ word that also is used colloquially to refer to a he or she. If said foreigner is minimally fluent in Finnish, he/she might not appreciate the degrading casuality of this word, and you may have to spend the next several hours apologizing to him/her and warning your friend that he/she ought not refer to him/her that way, as it might hurt his/her feelings. Yeah. Not cool.

Rule #10: Do Not Be an Asshole. This is the big one. Some examples of being an asshole follow.

  1. Cutting the line because you have a backstage pass. And then waving it around and yelling “Sorry, I need to get through, I’m from America!” No one wants to fight you in English, and so, they just don’t. Or maybe they’re just drunk and didn’t notice. But be decent, and stand in line like the rest of these folks, although the lines do tend to extend the limits of reason, and get to this point at just the moment when I, I mean, the dude swinging around his pass, needs to start photographing some bands because I, er uh, dude, has only 3 songs in which to accomplish this feat.
  2. Burning your tent on Sunday. There’s high grasses in the camping area, and doing this could accidentally… uh… burn those grasses so that it’s easier to walk and more pleasant to put down your tent? Hmmm… Well, this ceremony is still probably an asshole thing to do for some reason. I’ll let you know.
  3. Asking stupid questions during interviews. Do not, in any case, ask any band member in an interview, ‘So, did you know, that cats like straws?’

-- Lady Enslain

Nummirock 2009 photos

Interview with Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy

Interview with Angela Gossow



Enslain Magazine