Semifinal is the stepping stone for acts longing to get to the more prestigious stage of its big brother Tavastia – arguably the number one venue of the Finnish rock club scene, at least now that Nosturi is gone. On Friday, November 11th, 2022, we headed out to Semifinal to see some of the new talents hoping to get their heads above the surface of the Finnish pool of rock talent. It was a two-act night: AIRI’S warmed up the stage and the night was headed by THE VANTAGES.
AIRI’S took the stage with their groovy pop-rock approach. The band is set up around lead figure Joni Hartikainen on guitar and lead vocals. Behind Hartikainen, there is a nicely knit unit, where Tuomas Hokkanen (backing guitar) and Silja Silander (keyboard) provide the melodies, and Thomas Aura (drums) and Julius Lindberg (bass) back it up with their rhythms. During the show, the room kept filling up bit-by-bit, as it seemed most of the crowd was there to see THE VANTAGES. AIRI’S, however, took advantage of the raising intensity and had heads nodding and even managed to twist a few dance moves out of the crowd by the end of the show. The band’s style varied quite a bit from song to song, but it seemed they were at their strongest whenever they pushed down the accelerator to play some of their more groovy material.
After AIRI’S, it was time for the main course of the night: THE VANTAGES. Starting with the large background banner set up behind the stage, the styling of the musicians, and the well-balanced sound of the music, everything suggested that the band means business. Tim Mikkola (vocals) is a great Ville Valo-inspired head figured for THE VANTAGES. When he hobbles around the stage, he’s got a that pull that a good band leaders is known for. While Mikkola is definitely the lead figure, the rest of the band should not be overlooked. Mikko Janatuinen (lead guitar), Anton Froloff (backing guitar and keyboard), Aleksi Larkovuo (bass), and Henrik Schröter (drums) form a strong support upon which Mikkola can lay his rockstar act.
THE VANTAGES reach from more Goth-like depths all the way to Brit-pop sounds, bringing to mind the likes of SUEDE and THE CULT. There’s a definite feel of ’80s and ’90s retro here but not without a personal touch. It’s not hard to guess these guys will make the step to the bigger stage at Tavastia, once they hit a song or two that clicks everything just right.
Photos by Arto Alho