Have you ever attended a festival 3 minutes after discovering that it was happening? Well, yesterday we certainly did! Have no idea that there would be an online rendition of Helsinki Psych Fest on April 17th, 2021, it was by pure chance that it came to be playing on our speakers for the entire day.
The festival was comprised of three parts: the pre-party, featuring ELEKTROSHAMAN, ASTRAL BAZAAR, Philip Holm, and Jere Kilpinen, the main event, and the afterparty. The pre-party took place before the show and we missed it the day of the event, but fortunately it stayed online so we were able to tune in later. ASTRAL BAZAAR was the highlight of these, though each of them had a little something special to share with the listeners. You can still find the full pre-party online on YouTube.
Unlike most festivals we generally attend, this was a rare instance where I actually wasn’t familiar with a single band beforehand. This meant that every act throughout the day was a genuine surprise. There was also something truly enjoyable about feeling like you’re at a festival while going about whatever it was you might have been doing that day. Going shopping? Doing yard work? Sitting in a park, being socially distant? Doesn’t matter where you are, you had access to the music. If you had a screen, you might have even seen some cool effects, like JAPON had with their trippy logo at the beginning of their set. There was also no overlap of bands or need to run from stage-to-stage all day, missing some acts because they were playing at the same time as others. Also, most psych acts are pretty laid-back and jam-like, so seeing the band perform isn’t the highlight, it’s hearing what they come up with in the moment, live, so having the screen wasn’t essential to the experience. Even better, there was almost no gap between the sets, as there wasn’t a need to change sets and move instruments around. Everyone seemed prepped and ready to go the moment their set started, meaning that – apart from the rather annoying song that played between every set (fortunately accompanied by some psychedelic imagery) – there was practically no break between bands. All music, all day!
Obviously, not knowing the bands means I can’t talk about what songs the bands were playing. As well, there was a scheduled break that didn’t seem to happen when it was supposed to, so at times (if you weren’t participating in the chat), it was impossible to know who was playing when. Every band who played had a certain flare, though some of the foreign artists, like L. Don Ohkami and THE BLANK TAPES from the US, had very poor quality streams (visually). That said, there wasn’t a single band playing who didn’t have some sort of stylish contribution to make to the psych scene. The bands ranged from pure grunge stoner riffing that almost dances into black metal territory, to general jam-styled psychedelic music to get people dancing. While there were two or three bands who had genuinely atrocious vocalists, the music itself was always great. A few of the highlights included TATU JA TUTKIMUSMATKAILIJAT, ETERNITY HOURS, THE WHIES, THE ROARING 420S, and TANGERINE SUNRISE (who played a depressingly short set of merely 12 minutes); most of the bands simply got better as the night went on. If there was one band who didn’t quite strike me, it was TINTED HOUSE – not for their music, which was great, but for the vocalist’s presence in the stream. She was by far the most talkative person the entire day, which was not her fault but the sheer fact that she was talking so much felt weird against every other band that barely greeted the viewers. She also seemed nervous, because she rambled and kept pretending like she didn’t know which songs were coming next. However, don’t take that to mean their music was bad, because it was far from it. Just as the band leader, she didn’t seem very comfortable when she wasn’t singing.
The festival ran until midnight and was followed by an after-party. As someone approaching their middle years, I didn’t have the wherewithal to stay up to listen longer, but my partner watched the entire first performance and half of the second and he claimed that it was great, so I’ll have to take his word for it. As far as we know right now, it isn’t still available online – it was live, but perhaps didn’t stay available afterwards except for the platform’s subscribers?
Ultimately though, this was a really fun online festival! It makes me a bit sad that other bigger festivals haven’t tried to do online events like this very much. I’d love to attend a Tuska online, or a Nummirock online. Since vaccinations are still underway and the world likely won’t be back to normal in time for most festivals to go forward, this could’ve been a fun way to stay afloat while the world tries to eradicate this virus. I’d call Helsinki Psych Fest 2021 a rousing success and I hope to see them continuing in the future, online or in person! Kiitos, Tiivistämö!