GALLERY: 11.2.2023 Maria Makaaberi & Mara Balls @ Kannusali, Helsinki


There haven’t been overly many good places to watch rock shows in Espoo, but in the last few years, Kannusali has emerged as one of the most interesting sites in town. They field a steady run of shows from interesting indie artists, selected veteran artists, and interesting newcomers. On Saturday February 11th, 2023, the setting combined the two: MARIA MAKAABERI opened the evening with their fresh take on punk rock and the main event was MARA BALLS, who have for some years been one of the most interesting indie/alt-rock groups – not least because of their ferocious live energy. So naturally, we headed out to check what the underground cave in Espoo had to offer.

MARIA MAKAABERI opened the evening to an audience slowly pouring in. One can say that, as the audience grew, so did the performance on stage. The performance was somewhat shy at the start of their set, as the band opened with their more gentle pieces. Once Una Harnett switched from behind the keyboard to guitar, however, they started to get into gear and soon the place was rocking. MARIA MAKAABERI sport some feminist anger and an air of DIY, very fitting for an all-female punk group. They ask no permission and demand their own space, yet manage to remain sympathetic and approachable at the same time, an admirable feat.

After a short break it was time for MARA BALLS to hit the stage. While being the name of the 3-member band, MARA BALLS is also the artist name of the singer/guitarist Maria Mattila. This might have been the last show for the trio for some time, as bassist Aapo Palonen is moving to study abroad. All the more reason to get a dose of the trio’s energy, completed by drummer Antti Palmu.

MARA BALLS‘ performances have always been very tumultuous – sometimes everything falls into place for a beautiful and complete experience, on occasion everything seems to fall apart, and there’s always a sense of living in the moment and improvisation in the way the band performs and presents themselves. This night at Kannusali was no different. There were moments of great intimacy, like bassist Aapo Palonen sticking his finger into Maria Mattila’s guitar solo, a surprise surge forward from behind the drums by Antti Palmu to demand the audience come closer to the stage, and a moment of fear when Mattila herself collapsed during the encore – and the relief when it turned out it was just a case of an earplug fallen out of her ear.

And of course, the music just delivers. Mattila has a natural ear for hooky melodies and mantra-like text lines that form a solid bases for the band to knit their combined musical effort on. When MARA BALLS play in tune together, one can’t say they are a machine but rather a unit. Something more organic and adaptive than punctual and repetitive. And that’s where the joy of seeing them live comes from.

Maria Makaaberi

Mara Balls