Back in late 2000s, I discovered a magical place in the heart of Helsinki, after my previous hangout, Hevimesta, closed its doors around 2006. This place, as you probably have surmised, was Heavy Corner. Back then, Hevikaraoke was still a thing, which basically was an extremely limited selection (a bit less than 200, if I recall) of hard rock and metal songs put into a focused song list, and since Hevimesta closed their doors, the only place that had it back then was Corner. As an enthusiastic fan and singer, it was just natural to migrate onwards.
My first impressions of the place weren’t that great, however. The bar – if not cramped – was small, and so was the stage. The atmosphere was really crummy and I don’t think the smell from the men’s bathroom could be natural. I think that particular scent still haunts those poor pipes to this day. However, over time the place grew on me, like alcohol-fueled toxoplasmosis. Our group of friends grew in number over weeks and months, and suddenly I noticed there wasn’t single person in that place I didn’t know. It became my home away from home, a living room where there’s always someone to sit down and shoot the shit with. And I honestly think that it just became better over time.
Around late 2008 or early 2009, one of the hosts asked online if there were any people interested in learning the job. A friend and I applied, and we both received our training and decided to host the first night together, since we were both still learning the ropes; there was so much to memorize after all. Our first hosting nights ended up being (unofficial) afterparties for Tuska Open Air. With those particular trials by fire sorted out, we divvied up the available shifts, and agreed to host every other weekend, unless the other was unable to, for whatever reason. My brother-trainee, however, later on found a real job (ha!) and left me in sole possession of the hosting. I think I met Bear – our lovely editor-in-chief – around this time.
At first, I hosted while being mostly sober, having maybe a beer or two throughout the evening, but at some point I decided I had enough of all those drunk people, and since I couldn’t rightly sober them up, I decided to just join them, and the quality of my hosting only went up. While I’m still iffy about the *ahem* legalese around that particular arrangement, none of my customers ever complained. I think it was just fun for them to have an employee that was at least as intoxicated as they were, and it never (well, barring that one time… Scotch was involved) affected my work, because I was just that good at it. But before this goes into a self-written tribute for King Karaoke the Third (the drunkard), I’ll get back to the bar itself.
Being – if not a center piece – at the center of a bar gives you a good idea of the atmosphere of that particular place. A lot of my friends and regulars had a ton of leeway in doing stupid shit there, but I never saw them abuse their freedoms. The human drama that is ever-present ebbed and flowed throughout that place, and I heard and saw a lot of it, being in the middle of it all. Not to mention that we were a tightly-knit community, so all the drama was immediately at hand. Crushes were rebuked, whirlwind romances were had, couples found each other, heated arguments happened, and tears were shed. All-in-all, pretty standard bar stuff, but the difference was that I felt (and was) a part of it all, and it was a piece of Heavy Corner’s soul.
A big chunk of said soul came from the employees. The bouncers were always laid-back because they knew there weren’t going to be any disturbances. They must’ve cursed me out a lot of times for pouring my heart out to them on multiple occasions, but damn it, they had to earn their pay somehow. All of them (except that one, you know who if you went there) were excellent dudes and could hold a conversation about pretty much anything, so on quiet evenings I just talked to them about whatever. Then there was our resident barkeeper, Abigail, who – despite her diminutive stature – could be stern and downright intimidating if put in the mood. The presence of the two bulky men in the cloakroom probably helped the impression as well. My karaoke-mentor (if you can call him that), Sami, was also a huge part of that place, having a stunning, powerful voice and no-compromise attitude towards assholes, which garnered applause on more than one occasion. There were others, of course. The glass collectors that shifted in and out and secondary bartenders all contributed to that particular soul.
And at one point I quit. The owner changed and the new one didn’t want me to drink as much on duty anymore. Completely understandable, but that doesn’t keep a diligent alcoholic down. I was gone from hosting for around half a year, though remained a regular customer. The hosts that replaced me for a time were… eccentric. There was this weird Russian dude who was decked in similar gear to Arnold in Terminator 2 (sunglasses and all) all year round and did push-ups during long instrumental sections, which garnered a lot of amusement among the customers. Another one was this guy, whose name I forget, that apparently didn’t know that other settings on the mixer existed other than BASS TO ELEVEN. Then there was the opera singer lady, who I saw maybe twice, so I have pretty much nothing to say about her. And after about 6 months, as I was leaving, one of the bouncers grabbed my arm and said “Kalle, please come back, all these others suck.” There’s no hyperbole here, this is exactly what happened. So I did, and everything was like it was before.
For a while.
Corner changed owners around two or three times during my tenure, but this last one was to be the doom of the place. They got rid of most of the staff in Corner and replaced them with friends(?) of his. They were really swell dudes as well, so I had no complaints there. The karaoke hosting was switched from the stage to the DJ box, which was alright, if unnecessary. The swankiest upgrade was the smoke machine, which was used to annoy Germans. Our playlist got upgraded too, but the physical song lists weren’t, so people weren’t 100% sure what they could sing. The switch from karaoke CDs and DVDs to digital versions wasn’t unwelcome either, since some of those had taken so many blows, scratches, and bruises that they barely played the songs they were meant to. Regardless of all of that, the place slowly slid downhill into its grave.
The last 6 months were looking a bit sunnier, with a newer generation coming in and replacing some of the regulars that had long since left, but sadly, they were not enough. All the staff and regulars knew that the place was coming to an end, so no one really gave a shit anymore during those last few months, my favorite example of that being this exchange with a customer:
Me: sorting through tickets and deciding I need a smoke, so I lit up a cigarette in the DJ box
Customer: “Can you do that there?”
Me: dead-pan look on my face “No”
Customer: shrugs shoulders, lights up a cigarette
Keep in mind that the smoking ban had been in effect for somewhere around 5 years at that point. No one cared even in the slightest.
Looking back at my time in Corner, there are (of course) things that I would’ve done differently. I could have mended some bridges I had burnt earlier, been more attentive to my friends in need, and started dating that one redheaded lady that I did like (seriously what the fuck was wrong with me?). But the truth is, I loved my time in Corner. I made so, so many friends back in those days, a lot of them who I’m still in contact with and come to rely on, as good, reliable friends [ed: like me, right? -BW]. But as always, times moved on, people grew up, and/or switched interests. Life happened, and that’s alright.
Heavy Corner closed its doors on Sunday 23rd of October 2011, and we sent it off with the bang it deserved. Rest in peace, may your soul settle somewhere worthy.
The KSF Hevikaraoke song list can be listened to HERE
Written by Kalle Uotila