A group of smaller bands from the former municipality of Nastola did something of a comeback two-stop mini-tour in Finland in the beginning of 2018. They stopped first in Helsinki’s Semifinal and went on to Lahti, where it was held in the small (yet apparently legendary) club of Torvi. Being music lovers of all bands, big or small, it only felt fitting for us to catch the latter show on January 20th, 2018, and report on it.
The (self-proclaimed) specialist that I am in up-and-coming artists and/or relative unknowns, this trio certainly piqued my interest; research into them revealed long histories, lengthy hiatuses, and only the bare necessities with which to work. Punk/stoner/grunge being the promised styles of music in the promotional flyer, my expectations were set. At least this time I had a good excuse for not being familiar with the bands. Admittedly, I also managed to arrive about halfway through the first band’s set, so my evening’s experience was not 100%. Finding my spot near the stage and with a clear view of the performers, the evening was well underway when I managed to settle in.
FLESHDANCE was supposedly the punk part of the hype, yet styling themselves as ‘nasty hardcore,’ but seeing as there’s some overlap between these two genres, we’ll move along. Established way back in 1991 and later disbanded during the same decade, only to reform in 2006 and playing their last (known to me) gig in 2009, this troupe has had their share of lengthy pauses. The venue – legendary as it might be – didn’t translate well into FD’s overall sound. Every now and again there was a recognizable snippet of a riff, or a familiar vocal part of a song, but generally it was extremely hard to make out any discernible or memorable sections. With fair certainty they did play “Jäätölömies” from their “Macht Frei” album (the only one available on Spotify), which had a nice groove to it and, as of the more memorable songs of their limited discography, was rather enjoyable. Due to the scant amount of space on stage, the live show of theirs was pretty much as energetic as it allowed them to be and thus was kind of wasted on a punk/hardcore band.
KAMEL – describing themselves as, “Desert rock from Nastola” – was the second troupe to climb on the stage. The ensemble’s performance had a somewhat macho air about it – which worked in their favor – and their songs were a lot more thoughtful and introspective, which was a welcome change of pace from the former. The drums struck pleasingly hard and loud throughout the small venue and there was a sense of danger in the air; something akin to being in a spaghetti western mixed with a Nordic sense of despair was the feeling I got from listening to these guys. The bass reverberating throughout most of their gig and enveloping the space, it seemed to have a positive effect on the concert-goers, as there was much more movement in the club and on stage as well, the musicians seemingly enjoying the controlled chaos. The lead singer, Toni Koskipuro, seemed to have an outstanding amount of control over his voice and the feeling, the color, it gives to the music and was thoroughly enjoyable for that. The band left the stage to a massive wall of bass that left a deep impression from their performance. Listening to KAMEL after the fact, they easily transcend the meager milieu of Torvi and thus I hope that they grow a bit bigger than they are right now.
LAUGHING SAM’S DOLPHIN was the grunge-section, which did deliver on their promise. Being a venerable band formed in the, “late ’80s, early ’90s,” to quote their Facebook page, their latest (and only, as far as I know) publication was on a C-cassette, but their songs are on YouTube. To make a somewhat reductive analogy, they sounded like a trashier ALICE IN CHAINS, which as a shorthand works to describe their overall feel. Their performance was energetic, constrained by the confines of the cramped quarters, clearly cheerful of their comeback. Despite some technical difficulties, their enthusiasm for the reunion shows was clearly evident.
On the whole, this small-timer evening was a fun jaunt, all things considered. Personally, I find the courage to reform a band after almost a decade (or two decades for LSD) to be extremely noteworthy and admirable. The bands brought their own soundscapes out on this evening. If they have a chance to fine-tune their live-sets and put out some more material, I can see any of them becoming more popular. KAMEL, to my ear, was the most polished out of the three and I’d really, really like to hear some more desert rock. I’d rock out to it while driving the desert bus.
Written by Kalle Uotila