29.7.2022 Rock in the City @ Keskustan Koulun Kenttä, Kerava

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If you live in Finland but haven’t heard of the Rock in the City festival yet, for shame! This festival takes place in many cities around the country, with various different artists playing at each iteration. While some featured artists like Alice Cooper in the headlining slot, others featured DEEP PURPLE, such as the event taking place at the Keskuskenttä in Kerava on July 29th-30th, 2022. However, the first night featured POPEDA in the main slot, with interesting pulls like DAMPF, BROTHER FIRETRIBE, and KORPIKLAANI also on the schedule.

As this was our first time at Rock in the City Kerava, we were interested to see what kind of venue and production it would have, as Kerava is known to be a bit of a dive bar of a town. URIAH HEEP and DEEP PURPLE are nothing to turn one’s nose up at, however, so we deemed the festival interesting enough to explore and hopped on the train after work on Friday to check it out.

The festival was located in a convenient and walkable distance from the Kerava train station, at a gravel football field that is part of a schoolyard. The area featured a general merch booth (as well as a merch booth dedicated solely to POPEDA – wild!), one booth to sell silly garbage (like Pikachu hats, lonkero jerseys, and other novelty items), and a variety of food carts and drink stalls, including one dedicated to craft beers. There was a main stage on the left side of the far end of the field, and an extremely modest second stage right next to it, each with their own south booth, designed so that bands were able to play one after another with very little delay in between.

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make it in time to see grunge/stoner rock act, MUSTASCH, but luckily we had caught their set at Tavastia last week with SMACKBOUND. We had been interested in getting out there in time to check out TEMPLE BALLS, but upon arriving at the festival, we realized that they were no longer anywhere to be found on the timetable. This meant that when the first of us arrived after work, the last few songs were playing by the completely unknown artists of YPÖ-VIIS, a Finnish punk band. We were surprised to find a pretty good turnout already at the festival for their set and they seemed to know the band and be enjoying the show.

Arriving in good time like this also allowed us to catch TURMION KÄTILÖT, who are usually a good time at a festival, though this summer they’ve been a little off their energy. While they often bring along their freakshows to their summer events to spice up the stage, the small size of the second stage in Kerava wouldn’t have allowed for that. They focused on a lot of new material from Global Warning,” such as “Naitu,” “Kyntövuohi,” “Viha ja rakkaus,” and “Sanoo kun riittää,” with “Syntisten laulu” as the final track of their set.

We’ve heard the name NEGATIIVISET NUORET kicked around quite a lot recently, but haven’t had the opportunity before now to see them on the stage. They had an unusual energy, in that half of them were pretty wired up on their punk-influenced rock, while the other half seemed at half-mast. We didn’t know any of their songs by name, but the audience didn’t seem to mind the partial energy, as they knew the material and were dancing along happily.

DAMPF was an easy highlight of the event, as the new band of Swedish Eurodance legend Martin “E-Type” Erikson. They recently released their debut album, “The Arrival,” so they have been hitting the Finnish festival circuit pretty hard as a result. E-Type proved to be a great performer, jumping into the photo-pit, trading for lonkero with the crowd, rocking out with the audience, and generally getting them all engaged, and their horror-Victorian look was great. The sound was unfortunately not great at the beginning, but it’s easy to believe that mixing three vocalists is no easy task; luckily, the audience didn’t mind and were just happy to have them. They played the debut album in full, all but for one track, including favorites like “Winterland” and “The Other Side.”

After the release of Feel the Burn during the pandemic, and after having to forego a tour with ONE DESIRE, it was great to finally get a chance to see BROTHER FIRETRIBE back on stage. A bit like many before them, their energy wasn’t fully up to what we’d expect, although the rather depressing Kerava setting could certainly be a factor in draining energy from artists, if we’re honest. They opened up with what felt like a bit of a slow version of the festival’s title track, “Rock in the City,” which got the crowd putting their hands up and spilling their beers. Fortunately, the band’s music doesn’t lose much from the lower energy, as the performance was still strong overall, and AOR doesn’t need you to be jumping to give you a good feel. They followed with “Indelible Heroes” and “Taste of a Champion,” but the highlights were “Night Drive,” “Heart Full of Fire,” and “I Am Rock” in the encore.

After this was LORDI, who just recently released “Lordiversity,” a collection of seven albums to back up the concept from the Killection faux-best-of album. The stage was decked out with replicas of the band monsters’ heads and all sorts of props and prints. The players must have appreciated the mild weather in their outfits, though as was becoming a pattern, the performance seemed a little limper than usual. They started their show with “Get Heavy,” “Borderline,” “Dynamite Tonight,” and included some familiar classics like “Devil is a Loser,” “Hard Rock Hallelujah,” and “Would You Love a Monsterman?”

Were you expecting to see Jonne Järvelä of KORPIKLAANI in black lipstick? Because we sure weren’t. Well, he matches violinist Olli Vänskä‘s guyliner, at least! All right, interestingly non-folky make-up choices aside, this local drinking folk metal band brought a hefty crowd of drunken people to the front of the small stage in order to play tracks like “Verikoira,” “Ennen,” “Kiuru,” “Mylly,” alongside classic drinking songs like “Jägermeister,” “Tequila,” “Beer Beer,” and “Vodka.” Naturally, the crowd went bananas, at least if they were still sober enough to stand.

EPPU NORMAALI were the last artists we caught, putting on a pretty standard display of their Finnish rock music, though this set was noteworthy for having pianist Iiro Rantala as a guest. He certainly added new dimensions to the tracks with his briskly skilled keywork. They opened with tracks like “Ei sankariainesta” and “Suolaista sadetta,” with classic fan-favorite (and drunk-old-guy-at-the-bar favorite) “Baarikärpänen,” in the middle, and finished with “Tahroja paperilla” and “Kitara, taivas ja tähdet.” The only disappointment was that they didn’t play “Joka päivä ja jokaikinen yö.”

Thus, in order to make our various rides home in time, we had to forego the set from the legendary Finnish rockers of POPEDA. We were told that their set included tracks like “Matkalla Alabamaan,” “Lihaa ja perunaa,” “Tahdotko mut tosiaan,” with “Kuuma kesä” closing the set and the encore was a cover of vocalist Pate Mustajärvi‘s big hit, “Ukkometso” – definitely sorry to have missed that! We noticed that the set also included the EPPUPOPEDANORMAALI cover, “20 vuotta sikana,” so hopefully that meant the crowd got to see an appearance by the EPUT during this set. We, however, were on our way to recharging for the next day.

Text by Bear Wiseman
Photos by Laureline Tilkin