With three fantastic days behind us, we for the last time packed our bags to spend our last day in Hyvinkää. A hectic and busy last day was looking brightly towards us, the weather had cooled down a little bit, and there even was a pleasant wind blowing over the festival grounds.
Instead of going by car, this time I opted for public transportation, meaning that I skipped the first band to perform at the festival. However, I was there on time to witness LORDI play their monster metal songs that made them the first Finnish band ever to win Eurovision, and consequently the first Heavy Metal band to win. I remember watching Eurovision as a kid, and thinking damn what a cool band and song, and always had hoped to see them live. My first time to watch LORDI's performance, was in fact on ROCKFEST. So, I couldn't be more excited to see the band finally play their tracks, including the world renown "Hard Rock Hallelujah".
After LORDI, I made my way through the crowd to watch the Finnish electronic/alternative rock band SARA. I had never heard anything by the band before, but a friend of mine recommended me to go see their show. Personally, I'm not all too much into electronic, melancholic stuff, but the band played a decent show, and the audience seemed to love the show. Definitely a band that I'll be checking out in the future.
Afterwards it was time for OCEANHOARSE at the Kivi Stage. The four-piece recently changed their lineup, and introduced Joonas Kosonen as their new singer. The two shows I have seen with Kosonen, have been a great success. He takes the band to a new level, and fits in nicely with the music. While during those two shows he was still getting used to it, it was clear to me that the warm-up round was over, OCEANHOARSE went for a knock-out instead. I think it's safe to say that this was perhaps the best show I have seen so far from the guys, the played their singles, some unreleased tracks, and an Ozzy Osbourne cover "Bark at the Moon".
After OCEANHOARSE, it was time for UGLY KID JOE. Unlike many people gathered at the festival, I actually never listened to the band. When people would tell me that they're famous for "Cats in the Cradle", I'd tell politely that I only know the Cat Stevens version. Nevertheless, I heard great things about the American rock band. I immediately understood why, the music of the band, and their performance was very uplifting, and the whole show felt like a party. Front man Whitfield Crane made sure the audience was entertained as well, at some point during the show he brought out a paper and read "pitäkää vitun metalli", we all know why Google Translate doesn't do its trick when it comes down to Finnish language. Another great moment was when Crane spotted a guy named Eska in the audience who was wearing an alligator costume. He not only dedicated the last song of their set to him, but also invited him on stage. Eska was rocking out insanely to UGLY KID JOE. Success.
After UGLY KID JOE, I hurried my way to the Kivi stage where THE OCEAN was supposed to perform. I was looking out to see the German progressive metal act play live for the first time, and frankly the were one of the main reasons to attend ROCKFEST for me. Unfortunately, the band was struggling with technical difficulties, and therefore I had to hurry to be able to shoot DEF LEPPARD. Very unfortunate, hopefully I'll be able to catch them soon again.
I made my way to the main stage, and noticed just how many people gathered again for this day. The turnout of the festival was definitely a lot better than the previous year. Whether the festival was completely sold-out, I'm not sure, but the mass of people was enormous for a Finnish festival. I had never had the opportunity to see DEF LEPPARD live, but they also were one of the highlights of the festival for me. The seasoned hard rock act brought their classics to the grounds of Hyvinkää and performed an energetic, and nostalgic set. The audience knew every song, and was singing along loudly, clapping, cheering, and much more. It felt like a warm welcome for the band, and I can't say anything but that it was a really amazing performance, and definitely one of the best live acts that day to perform. The band played hits such as "Hysteria", "Pour Some Sugar on Me", and "Photograph".
After DEF LEPPARD, I had an arranged an interview with OCEANHOARSE, and therefore was not able to see THE 69 EYES play their set. The first and last act I was able to see after the interview, was the biggest reason for attending the festival: KISS. I once had the chance to see KISS live, but due to an accident, I was not able to see the actual show. Today was supposed to make up for that. I marched my way bravely to the photo pit, while my feet were almost dying off completely. The band opened with a bang with "Detroit Rock City", and I hardly could believe that I was standing so close to the band.
The stage by itself looked really impressive, and I just couldn't believe my eyes most of the time while I was shooting. After 1.5 songs my time in the photo pit was over, and I noticed just how big the audience was that had gathered to see the band play their show. Paul Stanley kept referring to Hyvinkää as Helsinki, I have heard that this is a thing he does. Nevertheless, I don't blame him, I don't think he would have known how to pronounce Hyvinkää in the first place.
The band played through most of their hits, there wasn't a song that I at least didn't recognize. Halfway through the show is where, at least for me, a couple of things could have changed. I personally don't like overly long solos, but almost half of the set consisted out of guitar solos, drum solos, whatever solo you can imagine. ERIC SINGER played what in my opinion could be described as the longest drum solo in history. A lot of crazy things also happened, fireworks, explosions, a lot of fire, and pyrotechnics, campy stuff, blood, a KISS show basically seems like a heavy metal extravaganza of epic proportions, almost unimaginable. The typical KISS concert has all of this, and even more.
KISS may not be in the best shape anymore, and the glory days have been over for a while, but I have tons of respect for these guys for still doing a show as huge as this one. Hearing hits like "Detroit Rock City", "Lick It Up", "I Was Made for Lovin' You" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" was definitely worth the wait and the while, and made a perfect ending to a great festival weekend. After the show was over, I was waiting at the media tent and even caught a private view of the fireworks above the main stage, an expressive show after an amazing couple of days.
ROCKFEST - THE FESTIVAL
Now that I have given an overview of all the bands, it's also important to talk a little bit about the festival itself. The previous editions had been a challenge to attend because of the organization. This year, things seemed to finally go a bit more smooth. It didn't take me as long as usual to get my accreditation, the security staff seemed to know a little bit more than nothing, and people were friendly. I had some talks with visitors and it seemed like major problems, like last year with the wristbands, stayed out.
What I would like to talk about as well is the fact that the festival is on the more expensive side. You have to pay extra for almost everything, €3 for a decent toilet visit - well the Baja Maja's were free of course. Food was on the expensive side, a burger without fries for about €12-15, even though the selection was various, there could have been a bit more healthier choices. Drinks, however, without pantti were on the cheap side, and very reasonable.
The way to the festival is pretty clear, and it's great that there are a lot of trains going all night to Helsinki, and other major cities. The shuttle bus, in my opinion, should be included in the ticket price. The fact that it's also impossible to buy a one-way ticket is fairly annoying, it was in general cheaper to take an Uber from the railway station than the shuttle bus.
The fact that there are afterparties where local bands get a chance to play, and labels get to organize gigs for some bands on their roster, is great. However, these afterparties are overlapping quite much with the festival, it's almost next to impossible to attend them, unless you skip the first act, but if you do that the ticket price immediately becomes a tad too high. €18 for a show consisting out of small acts, is way too high, and this is perhaps also the reason why very little people attended these shows. Moreover, at least at the venues in Hyvinkää it wasn't all too well advertized that there were shows at these bars.
The lineup consisted out of a great mix of bands, there was a little bit of everything, every genre got represented, and a mix of those bands that everyone at least loves, or considers them as a guilty pleasure. Considering the amount of huge bands performing at the festival, the ticket price was reasonable in my opinion. All-in-all ROCKFEST 2019 was definitely the best edition of ROCKFEST so far, even though I preferred the lineup of the previous year, a lot of improvements have happened organization-wise, and I'm already looking forward to ROCKFEST 2020.