When you attend an online psych fest and have a surprisingly fantastic time, it makes perfect sense that you might be interested in attending the next event in person. Such is the case with the Helsinki Psych Fest at Tiivistämö, which was online-exclusive in 2021 due to the pandemic, but was back at its venue on October 15th, 2022, for its fifth iteration. With yet another list of bands that we haven’t listened to before, but some whose names were familiar, we figured that it would be worth our while to go check it out once more, live!
We arrived at the venue before things officially got going in order to do an interview with THE UFO CULT, who released their latest album the day before the show, and Keith Mosfet and co., whose band came from the Netherlands for the event. We had been to Tiivistämö in the past for a variety of reasons – theatrical plays, comic festivals, a room you couldn’t get into at Tuska because it was overcrowded, etc. – but never for a club festival before, so this was an exciting opportunity to see how this Suvilahti industrial site venue would work; it has been known to host raves from time to time, thus making it seem like a solid choice to host such a festival. The overall event was minimal – there was no food, for example, but there was a merch stand and two bars, hosting beers from a local brewery. Even better, the audience at this event was very relaxed and friendly; for someone who is used to metalheads that are completely plastered, being among chill hippies was an extremely pleasant change of pace. People were drinking, but they weren’t fucked up, obnoxious, or aggressive. It was great!
If you’ve ever attended an event like this before, such as Kosmos Festival, you would know that psychedelic festivals benefit hugely from the visual production, with colors and patterns being the name of the game. This year’s art production was done by Riikka Arte and Sir Michael Madness and completely took over the bar side of the venue with their Labyrinth of Love, with black-lit fluorescent artwork layered all throughout, and a truly spectacular collection of paintings to go with it, some of which had shifting lights on them that changed the color spectrum so intensely that it was impossible to say what the original paint colors could have been. Truly, depending on how much you enjoy psychedelic art, the cost of the ticket may have been worth it alone just to come experience the colorful majesty of the Labyrinth of Love.
The doors opened officially to the bar-side at 17:00, with the first artists planned to take the stage at 18:00. The first act up was Elliot Webb and immediately we began to think that this event should have included some sort of vintage style photo booth or something, just because so many of the bands and attendees were wearing truly spectacular outfits. In this case, the man of the hour could only be described as Snoop Marley, but less rasta or hip-hop and more straight-up hippy. Speaking of, their style was laid-back and ambient, very ’70s flower child style, that would occasionally dip into that laidback Cuban/seaside vibe. They seemed to have snuck at least one cover song in there, but their overall set was very pleasant, if a bit slow to get the festival kicked off. We recognized one song name, “Green Reflections,” which is the first track from their full-length of the same name.
Next up, we took a turn into the droning stoner psychedelic sound with THE UFO CULT, a collection of locals, who had a spacey, synth-heavy sound. Playing a mere three songs in their slot (they have really long songs!), they nevertheless showcased a surprising variety, as none of the songs sounded like the other. The mix in the venue was a little bit unfortunate, as we could hear in the one track that there was some really nice, fiddly keyboarding happening, but it was very hard to hear; meanwhile, single long notes from the organ were extremely loud, so it was hard to really appreciate the nuances in their music. However, since they released “Mothership” on October 14th, they’ll be having their album release show at Tiivistämö on November 2nd so if you missed out on this event, there’s an even better chance to see them coming soon.
Now, up until this point, we had experienced a fairly chill festival and the local Finns were being themselves – hiding at the back of the venue and not moving. Enter outgoing Canadian Keith Mosfet, who was absolutely having none of this (yes, you could even see him dancing in the crowd before his show, trying to get people moving up to the front). THE MOSFETS (it seems they’ll be changing their name soon) were an absolute kick up the tailpipe for the crowd as Keith refused to let anyone stay in the back as they roared some “oooh-ya-yayas” at us. The multinational foursome from Amsterdam decided that we hadn’t had enough energy and proceeded to blast our asses off with music that can only be described as psychedelic garage rock with depressing lyrics and a very energetic and dare I say positive vibe? Frankly, it was very confusing, but deeply entertaining, to hear someone sing about (for example) getting dumped at the prom and then start playing really aggressive music, when you’re expecting to hear a melancholic ballad. If you’ve ever wished that someone shoved a rocket up STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK‘s musical butt, this might be the sound you’d end up with, though we could hear some of that Canadian flavor coming through in a very clear country influence in at least one track. Truly, an unexpected but very fun set that finally got the local zombies on their feet!
MATILDA HUGO & THE MAGICAL FEVER were next up on stage. They were particularly visually interesting, as the vocalist was in something far closer to a Gothic kink outfit than anything remotely psychedelic, while the drummer and bass player were in the vintage ’70s hippy style that most of the other bands were sporting. This was also true of their sound, as the bassist and drummer were proper proggy hippies – shout-out to the bassist whose constantly fiddly bass lines were one of the highlights of the afternoon – while Matilda was shrieking and bouncing like a punk-rocker. It really goes to show that you don’t need a huge band to make effective music. Hell, you don’t even need a guitarist. Speaking of music, their sound covered a lot of territory, teasing the BLACK SABBATH stoner sound and even taking a deep dive into some extreme metal territory. The metal bands of Finland should take note, as they regularly fail to put their bassists to good use! Overall, their show gave the feeling of being seduced by a vampire while at Burning Man, which was unexpected and very interesting.
At this point, there was an intermission on the stage as the crowd took to the great outdoors to watch Tuliryhmä Roihu‘s fire dancers perform for a while. They had a fabulous selection of famous hippy songs to perform to – material from THE DOORS, THE ZOMBIES, and DEEP PURPLE being of greatest note – and we wondered if the ladies were going free-form as they seemed to start at will, without any dedicated choreography, which was very cool! From flaming poles to hula-hoops and fans, they showed off quite a bit of talent and truly, what is a psych fest without at least one fire dancer?
Alas, the time came for our final band of the night, as we weren’t able to stay in Helsinki because of transit, so DEATH HAWKS were our headliner of the night. After two diligent screamers, their more mellow and chill sound was a nice change of pace, returning more to the flowery style that Elliot Webb had used, especially considering both bands were at their prime when jamming/soloing. These guys were also once of the few names we did recognize beforehand, as they’ve been around the Finnish scene for some time. Truly one can never guess what kind of sound a psych band will have from their name, as DEATH HAWKS sounds aggressive but their sound was pleasant and mild. Once again, the bass was a standout, though the band’s collective hairstyles were also worth seeing.
Unfortunately, we had to miss out on another familiar name, MARA BALLS, whom we first heard about back in the 2017 Femma-gaala, as well as the very-long-named TMI FRANK NIELSEN & THE FRANKS, some sort of overview of UFOs, MAA ILMASTA, and the nighttime DJs, but social media suggests that the party continued well into the night without us.
Helsinki Psych Fest‘s 5th edition turned out to be a very pleasant experience and one that we’d be glad to repeat! While there could have been a food truck of some sort, ultimately it seemed like most attendees did come after dinnertime, so maybe that was on us. The use of space and production was very nice and even though a few artists were running late with their sets, the whole event still felt quite relaxed on the whole. The atmosphere of both attendees and organizers was very pleasant and we’re sorry that we couldn’t stay longer. Here’s hoping they’ll be back again next year, perhaps with a few more stages?
Written by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Arto Alho