Like so many other bands, alternative rockers FLAT EARTH were forced to postpone their spring shows due to the coronavirus; in this case, a short run of European dates that would’ve included the band’s first appearances in Germany and the UK. However, instead of resting on its laurels, the group put together a hometown live stream gig at Tavastia in Helsinki on May Day.
The stream began with backstage footage, showing the band preparing and writing down the setlist. This was nice, as you don’t always get these kinds of behind-the-scenes peeks in streamed shows (or concert films, for that matter), even if it wasn’t representative of a regular gig since the atmosphere in the room must be different when you can hear the sounds of a live audience. You could also see vocalist Anthony Pikkarainen and drummer Gas Lipstick taking the hygiene guidelines seriously, doing an elbow bump before going on stage.
The set began with the title-track of the band’s “None for One” debut (2018), followed by “Subhuman,” and right off the bat it became apparent that there was nothing to complain about regarding the quality of the stream. The mix was clear and balanced, giving enough room for each instrument, as well as the backing tracks, and the cameras were not static, as there were multiple angles and even a rotating camera in the middle of the stage. Instead of performing to an empty room, the band members were positioned in a circle, facing each other, which gave the performance a bit of a casual rehearsal room vibe, despite the addition of a wind machine. Perhaps this – along with consciously having to keep a bit of distance – was why the band seemed a little stiff at first and it felt like they needed some time to get used to the circumstances of playing to an audience without any immediate feedback.
By the time they started the new single “Draining by Your Flame,” however, FLAT EARTH seemed to find the right groove. The catchy tune was performed with conviction and if its more rocking sound is an indication of what to expect from the second album, it probably won’t be compared to the instrumentalists’ former bands HIM and AMORPHIS as easily as “None for One.” The rush of having some fresh material to play must’ve helped the band let loose, as Pikkarainen in particular sounded more confident for the remainder of the set and you could even see Gas clapping with his drumsticks in his hands during the middle break of “Cyanide,” seemingly encouraging the viewers at home to follow along.
After “Blame,” which had served as FLAT EARTH‘s introduction to the world 2 years ago, the band “pulled a Post Malone” (referring to the rapper’s recent NIRVANA tribute live stream) in Pikkarainen‘s words, by covering NIRVANA‘s “School.” Their rendition seemed to have gained some extra aggression since I saw them supporting ALICE IN CHAINS last year and Linde’s guitar solo was heated to say the least. After just six songs, Pikkarainen thanked the people who had made the stream possible and the band wrapped things up with “Blunt.” A ballad closer could normally be a downer, but it felt like an appropriate ending after Pikkarainen had told the viewers to stay safe and take care of each other, and the band’s performance of the song was heartfelt.
While FLAT EARTH‘s set was rather short at just 35 minutes, it was understandable given the fact that they only have one full album out at the moment and the great audio and video quality made up for it. The stream offered a bit of comfort to those left yearning for live music this May Day and gave foreign fans a first taste of the band in action to compensate for the postponement of the European dates. The stream was also special to me in a way, because ALCEST‘s gig at Tavastia in February was the last show I saw before the lockdown, so seeing the familiar venue on the screen without any audience was oddly sentimental. Hopefully we’ll get to see these guys live in person again as soon as it’s safe and hear some more new stuff!
1. None for One
3. Draining by Your Flame
6. School (Nirvana cover)
Written by Wille Karttunen