It seems the biggest and harshest parts of the coronavirus pandemic are behind us at last, which means that festival season will go forward in Finland. The first festival we attended this summer was Rockfest at the Hyvinkää Airport, featuring fantastic headliners like NIGHTWISH, SCORPIONS, and none other than the legendary IRON MAIDEN to cap off the weekend. The first day was June 2nd, 2022, with NIGHTWISH in the headlining slot.
Arrival to the festival was much the same as normal, though there were some serious shenanigans if you were hoping to come by car. There’s always a lot of walking involved to get in and out of the area, but the ticket exchange went smoothly and the queues weren’t too bad.
The festival area was set up in more-or-less the same manner as it always has been, though it felt a bit more open this time around, if memory serves, with bigger bar areas and no carnival rides. The first thing that caught our attention was a room set up with bats outside called “Raivoomo,” which was essentially a place where you can work out your rage by smashing an old machine of some sort with bats. This led towards the food area, which had a selection of different stalls, including one for those who didn’t want alcohol in their drinks.
Most of us were coming from work, so, unfortunately, we weren’t all able to check out LOST SOCIETY‘s show due to the unfortunate early start of the festival, though our photographer was able to catch the last bits of their set. The modern metal band is a staple in the Finnish metal scene and truthfully, it’s a shame they were playing so early on. The majority of the audience had not arrived yet for their show, or were hiding from the rain, but that didn’t seem to bother Samy Elbana and co. who, judging by the last few songs, seemed to deliver an energetic show – no surprise there. which started unfortunately early at 16:00.
After LOST SOCIETY, the audience had the choice to check out either BATTLEDRAGON on the Black indoor stage or STATIC DRESS on the Red stage. We opted to check out BATTLEDRAGON first, despite not knowing any of their music. It was great that the festival kept the original organizer’s vision of giving the opportunity for some lesser-known bands to perform. While the music is there, it did feel like the stage was a little bit too big at times for BATTLEDRAGON, but practice makes perfect, I’m sure we’ll hear a lot more of these guys in the future.
We also briefly went to check STATIC DRESS. The English hardcore punk band from Leeds was also unknown to us, however, they definitely kept the punk spirit alive with an extremely energetic show, which was captivating to watch. Vocalist Olli Appleyard definitely knows how to warm up an audience even when the weather is terrible.
After that, it was time to head to the main stage for FEVER 333. The American rock band was one of the main highlights of this festival. Unfortunately, their debut show in Finland was caught in the heavy rain and the audience that they so deserved was mostly hiding out. Thankfully, their biggest fans gathered in front of the stage, and despite the shitty weather and muddy puddles of water on the ground, there were even a few mosh- and circle pits. As expected, the band totally killed it on stage with songs like “Bite Back,” “One Of Us,” and “Burn It Down.” One of the great things about FEVER 333 is that this band has a political message that needs to be heard. Singer Jason Aalon Butler‘s speeches involved political messages supporting minorities all around the world and yet, while his speeches are to be taken very seriously, his performance as a singer was both incredibly demanding and so energetic. From jumping around on stage to climbing the lighting tower, there probably wasn’t a corner of the festival that Butler didn’t see. His band mates shared the same energy: guitarist Stephen Harrison twirls around on stage, spinning his guitar often around his body, jumping up and down from left to right, and even drummer Aric Improta isn’t stationary behind his drum kit. If there is one thing to be specifically remembered from their show, it’s how Butler mentioned that in the rock and metal scene there are not that many POC, they thanked the audience for being so open-minded and welcoming, and specifically Finland for making them feel safe.
Leaving such an intense and wonderful performance behind us, we opted next for British rock act CYPHER16 rather than the ever-so-popular DIABLO (one of those bands that play at every Finnish festival). The moody rock music was the perfect type of music to unwind. However, it seemed like the band was having some technical issues at the beginning of their show, which meant that there was a bit of a delay. Guitarist Will Cass, unfortunately, couldn’t make it to Rockfest, so filling in for him was KJ Melgoza. Being a bit unfamiliar with their music, it seemed like there was a nice atmosphere in the audience, with a nice turnout. Altogether it was an energetic performance and an excellent opportunity to hide from the rain.
The first of the big-name acts that we caught was BRING ME THE HORIZON, who had a pretty decked-out set of screens on the stage, which displayed a nice selection of trippy visuals and lyrics throughout their show. Vocalist Olli Sykes hit the stage in a motorbiking outfit to big cheers and a wildly pink background, blasting through a few familiar new songs before calling out that he knew it was shitty and rainy, but they were still planning to rock our world. He called for many pits and their set had a good selection of familiar tracks, like “Mantra,” “Tear Drops,” “Wonderful Life,” and “Drown,” but there was some thrashier and heavier material in there as well, like “Dear Diary” and “Parasite Eve.” Sykes paced around the stage like a lion stalking his prey, continuously asking for pits, but demanding the biggest one of the weekend for “Happy Song.” The downsides to the set were the poor sound quality – we could pretty much only hear the bass and we were near the sound booth – and the fact that the camera guys were only interested in watching Sykes, so it was hard to see the rest of the band running around and headbanging. However, the silver lining to the bad sound was that the thick bass in “Wonderful Life” blasted right into our faces. There was a divider from the sound booth running to the main stage, which also gave Sykes the opportunity to walk through (with, amusingly enough, a full entourage despite the barriers) and give everyone high fives during “Drown.” They finished up with “Throne,” making sure that everyone had danced and moshed themselves warm despite the rain.
Next we headed to the second stage for BLACK LABEL SOCIETY. Frankly, we had no idea what to expect from BLS, but these guys surely delivered. If you were to describe to someone what classic heavy metal from the 1990s sounds like, just show them Zakk Wylde on stage. They came out in what was truly terrible weather, so much so that their fog machines were blasting horizontally, and provided us with thick, slow, and heavy metal that had a big focus on the guitar. Zakk Wylde is all Viking hair and a braced stance, looking real dramatic in the rain. The thumping, heavy sound of the low end was fantastic and it was good to just rock out and headbang to keep us warm in the pouring rain. Also, fortunately, the sound quality was much better over on this stage and the camera workers were letting us see everyone, not just the main man. While he was mostly just shredding away, occasionally there would be some time dedicated to letting the guitar feed back, as he stared around at the audience, unimpressed, until everyone was screaming. While we didn’t personally know any of his songs by name, they all more or less rocked, ranging from grinding grunge to some relatively funky tracks as well. Ultimately, a festival scenario is the perfect place to check out what BLACK LABEL SOCIETY has to offer, and what they had to offer was pure, traditional, denim & leather-clad heavy fucking metal.
The mainstage was, of course, saving one of the best for last, as NIGHTWISH was the final band to grace its platforms on the first day. Starting out with “Noise,” the show followed suit with their recent show at Jäähalli for the first few tracks. One of the few songs included that they hadn’t played during the recent stadium show was “Sleeping Sun”… an unfortunate choice of a track for a night when it’s raining, cold, and everyone kind of just wants to go home – not quite one of those nighttimes that you want to last for a lifetime, even if the music is good. Everyone looked happy and played well, though Floor Jansen was really holding down the fort on the performance front – there wasn’t a lot of movement on the whole, with the vocalists making sure that all eyes were on her, so perhaps no one was paying attention to the rest of the band anyways. “Ghost Love Score” is always a hit and they ended their set with “Greatest Show on Earth” and a fairly good selection of fireworks. However, despite the band putting on a really great show, there wasn’t anything especially memorable that would have made this night stand out from their other events… it was simply a good NIGHTWISH performance, and we’ve come to expect that from the band.
The last band of the night was BLIND CHANNEL, but alas, despite our interest in seeing them, we were simply too wet and cold to stay a minute longer. Admittedly, it would have been nice to see what’s become of them. We maintained an impressive streak of not missing their club shows from about 2015 until their Eurovision appearance, so it would have been interesting to see if they have moved up to their new label maturely, or if they’ve sold out like so many before them. Unfortunately, our assessment will have to wait for another time. Perhaps they’ll have an album release show later this year.
Thus concluded day one of Rockfest 2022… it feels like there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to see a lot of bands, but we had a big day coming up on Friday…
Written by Bear W. & Laureline T.
Photos by Laureline T.