After two days of experiencing first hand what the rock and heavy metal community stands about, Hyvinkää wasn’t done yet with celebrating. As mentioned before, RockFest expanded their festival in many ways, one of them was by organizing the festival for a longer span of time. Two extra days assured that everyone was able to enjoy the wide variety of bands, from nu metal to thrash metal, a broad audience was attracted to the airfield of Hyvinkää. And then fun of the days before didn’t stop, because yet again the bands playing on Friday were excellent.
The day started out a bit earlier than the other days and even though a lot of people stayed for the last acts yesterday, the turnout for the bands scheduled early was already quite impressive. For me however, the day only started out with Arion at Kivi Stage at 16.30, meaning I missed Adept and The Holy. Arion is fairly new to the scene, but with their participation to Eurovision song Finland they have gained quite some popularity already. Their latest songs for their upcoming album, were also an instant success and have been making people really anticipating their new album. I have only had the chance to see the band once, and didn’t know that much about them yet. Going to their gig, was a way for me to discover their music and I was pleasantly surprised afterwards. The guys seemed to have some issues with their soundcheck, which meant that they entered the stage 15 minutes later than scheduled, meaning they had to cut their setlist a bit shorter than originally planned. The guys, however, didn’t let it get to their heads and managed to deliver a strong set. The band surely looked like they had a lot of fun performing. Moreover, the concert must have at least been a memorable day for bassist Gege Velinov as he celebrated his birthday the exact same day. The audience was eager to sing “happy birthday” for him, but no time to lose, as they had to continue with their set because of the tight schedule. The band played a good mix between old songs and the latest singles and even played exclusively a new song for us. The ultimate proof that the new album will be a great addition to our shelves. Perhaps there were not that many people present, because unfortunately for the guys they were scheduled at the same time as Mokoma, but the ones there, were really feeling it. Shouting along, headbanging, you name it. There’s a new wave of power metal bands on the rise, and bands like Arion is definitely what it needs to gain more and more popularity.
After Arion, for me it was time for Amorphis. The progressive metal band is one of Finland’s main attractions of the festival and of course the amount of people going to see their show was instant proof of that. The new album “Queen of Time” is one of the best Finnish releases of 2018 in my opinion. I haven’t seen Amorphis performing live that much. This, being one of the first shows I have so far witnessed, was not only musically impressing. If there was any awards that would go to the stage and props and so on, Amorphis definitely would win. The stage was set and it looked very beautiful. Their album cover flaunting behind their backs, with an addition of here and there some of Ukko’s hammers accompanying them. In combination with the set that Amorphis played, all sounded very impressive. The intro was a longer version of the short intro played during “The Bee” and from the start already made me super excited. And let’s be honest here, not only do the songs on the new album sound amazing, live they’re of a much higher quality. The band played a lot of songs from the new album, with here and there some other songs. A song I did miss however was the duet with Anneke Van Giersbergen “Amongst Stars”. Obviously it’s a little bit tricky to do a song like that without having to play Anneke’s parts through tape, but it would have been fun to hear a version without Anneke. That being said, Amorphis’ show was definitely one of the highlights of the festival and I personally can’t wait to see them play live in a venue for the first time.
Festivals are not always about listening to music, a lot has to do about the atmosphere, festival food, merchandising. Because of the problems with my wristband of the past couple of days, I have been focusing quite much on listening to bands, without grasping any of the atmosphere around me. So in between Amorphis and Megadeth decided to take a break to experience some of the food and drinking culture. There were a lot of possibilities for snacks and food. Of course when in Finland, you need to understand that the prices of food are already quite high, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that the food wasn’t cheap at all. However, since alcohol is so expensive in Finland, those prices at least stayed similar, so this was kind of a relief. Highlights of the food part were definitely the coffee/whiskey ice cream, the pulled pork/chicken burgers and the Rockfest burger and of course enjoying a gin tonic in the drinking tent, was also a really nice experience.
And then it was time for another one of the most anticipated shows, Megadeth. The unfortunate thing about the Megadeth show was that for some reason only a handful photographers were allowed in the photo pit. With this “first come, first served” system and the fact that the organization kept changing the place of entering the photo pit, I was not included in the served-party. I mentioned in my previous report that there had been two moments I was a bit confused about the set. This was the case with Megadeth. Before the show started to build up and reached its climax, it was already over. Leaving out some hits from their usual repertoire, such as for instance “A Tout Le Monde”. Nevertheless other than that we were served with great classics such as “Hanger 18”, “She-Wolf”, “Tornado of Souls”, “Symphony of Destruction”, “Peace Sells” and of course “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. Dave Mustaine had the impression of being a bit tired, nevertheless as usual his playing was tight as hell and accompanied by Kiko Loureiro and for instance an insanely talented drummer such as Dirk Verbeuren, the band has really a steady lineup that can assure top tier performances at all times. Again, a band like Megadeth shouldn’t be scheduled to play only one hour of their songs. The 11 songs they were played, were top notch, but unfortunately left me and many others with a craving for more. As Turmion Kätilöt at Perkele stage, was quite full I decided to call it a day and head home. While walking to the car on the tones of “Tirehtööri”, I noticed that the audience had a lot of fun there. Smiling faces surrounding me told that it was a quite successful evening yet once again.
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I was not able to return to RockFest for the last day. Luckily for me, I will see many of the acts during other festivals, so I wasn’t really bummed about it. But I do have some more general aspects to cover about the event.
Timing of the event was maybe a bit unfortunate as Southpark festival in Tampere was also scheduled during the same weekend, which with bands like Ghost, Accept and Helloween also attracted a lot of visitors. This meant that the turnout of the festival was lower than the year before when they managed to attract Rammstein to the festival grounds of Vehkala. In two days the festival managed to attract close to 50000 visitors, while as now only a total of 60000 visitors in 4 days.
The organization clearly took care of some of the mistakes of last year’s event. The different sections that were there last year were gone. This was good, because in this way the whole thing felt a bit more organized and there wasn’t as much of a chaos. The festival grounds were also better than the previous version, however because of the sandy ground, there was a lot of dust all around, which honestly for people with allergies must have been a complete nightmare. The photo pit was a bit strangely organized as there was a lot of random things in there. I have yet to encounter another photo pit anywhere else in the world where the festival put the speakers. This meant that we had less space to move around freely and the obstacles certainly didn’t make our job easier.
The cashless system as mentioned is a good idea, but needed some improvements, maybe it was too soon for a new kid on the block to already implement this newer technology into their festival. The first day seemed to be causing chaos because of it, but the organization handled it quite well.
All-in-all Rockfest was a good experience to me, let’s see what bands they bring in next year, it will be hard to top up this lineup.