It’s been a while since we’ve seen KORPIKLAANI in a club setting, and as you might know, we’re not ones to skip a good folk party. This time, the Lahti troupe has teamed up for their Finnish Vittu Soikoon Tour with Estonian METSATÖLL and the Helsinki-based epic metallers of CRIMFALL for a few selected shows. So, we set out for two of the gigs, with Lene L. bringing you the report from Tampere, and Miia Collander with photos from Helsinki. Check out the gallery here.
My heaviest folk phase took place somewhere around 5-7 years ago, and I’ve mostly been into the more subtly folky bands, so I have rather different relationships with all of these acts. CRIMFALL I’ve been following closely ever since the first time I saw them in 2010, whereas KORPIKLAANI is reminiscent of my early teenage years, and a band I realized I had only seen at festivals, so I deemed it justified to fix such a statistic. In any case, they have always been essentially a party band for me, something I put on when I listen something very folky in general. METSATÖLL is the least familiar out of the three: I have seen them once or twice quite some time ago and never really listened, and I was curious to see if I had missed out big time.
So, against this background, it was definitely in my best interests to see CRIMFALL, but alas, a hold-up at the doors kept me out for the entirety of their set. Not a good start for any gig experience, but since it had been years since seeing the other two as well, I pushed my annoyance aside right on time when METSATÖLL started their set. There were plenty of METSATÖLL shirts in the audience, so it was clear even before they hit the stage that the crowd was probably fairly excited about these Estonians. For good reason too – their merry brand of folk metal managed to move the audience from calm chatter to cheering and clapping in a matter of seconds. There weren’t many quiet moments after that; only during “Se on se maa” did things die down a little bit – even as “a song that needs no introduction,” and though I would assume its message about one’s home country would resonate among Finns, it might not be their most popular live track. Luckily, the slight lull was short-lived and the atmosphere perked up again with the next song.
There is something funny in the Estonian language to Finnish ears, how it sounds familiar but not exactly, and gives it a somewhat archaic and slightly fairytale-ish air, which goes with folk metal quite neatly. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons Finnish folk fans seem to be so fond of these guys? Not to forget how much fun – both on purpose and not – the band and their audience had whenever singer/guitarist Markus “Rabapagan” Teeäär or multi-instrumentalist Lauri Õunapuu did their speeches in Finnish, cracking jokes about how all Estonian love songs talk about brewing beer, urging the crowd to dance, and so on. And hey, you totally got us with that bagpipe and kantele.
For a support act, METSATÖLL was given a generous time slot, which was nice, since the audience and the band seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. The Estonians delivered a solid set of almost an hour, leaving the stage with “Lööme mesti” and referring to Finns as their beloved northern neighbors.
Running a quarter an hour later than announced, KORPIKLAANI took over around 23:15 with a violin intro that got people clapping along. Speaking of violin, as some probably already had noticed from social media, TURISAS violin virtuoso Olli Vänskä climbed on stage with the band, kicking it off with “Viinamäen mies.” It was soon clear that the tiny YO-talo stage edged on slightly too small for a band of six, but that didn’t slow them down one bit – quite the contrary, as Vänskä, accordionist Sami Perttula, and singer Jonne Järvelä danced around it for a good half of the set. As the audience caught in on the fun, it didn’t take long before I was asking myself, why the hell I hadn’t seen KORPIKLAANI in a club before?
The set was loaded with one track after another and Järvelä spared his speeches for the start of it, his first noting that it was nice to see the place so packed just before the fifth song of the night, “Erämaan ärjyt.” That, of course, is not saying he wasn’t communicating with the audience; his huge grins and little antics on stage were amusing to watch even from afar, with other band members following suit. What with the setlist, it was a fine mix between danceable and slower, heavier songs, emphasis naturally on the danceable side, and the latest album, “Noita” (2015). It doesn’t happen too often, but I couldn’t find myself bored at any time – the question of whether it was thanks to not having many expectations towards the setlist or if it was simply that good doesn’t really matter in the end if you’ve been thoroughly entertained, right? The club setting and lengthy set also gave the crowd an opportunity to enjoy the slower songs, which don’t always make the cut for festival setlists, and revealed to me a slightly different side of a band that I had before considered only to be a light, jolly, good times drinking song troupe. That they indeed are, but also so, so much more.
Speaking which, I’d like to take some time to express my astonishment at Jonne Järvelä’s range of singing styles and intense stage presence, which for some unknown reason had remained unnoticed before. The dreadlocked frontman is truly like a shaman on stage, belting out trochaic meter rhymes like incantations; for a moment, you’re transferred to a whole another place and time, watching the red-light clad figure muttering archaic words in his gravelly voice. Recorded tracks just lack some of that magic, and I need to watch more closely the next time I catch Korpiklaani at a festival to see if it’s just a matter of outlet.
For “The Predator’s Saliva,” another guest was welcomed on stage, as Joey Severance (who also appeared on the recorded version of the song) of Tampere-based TORNADO joined the band to perform his lines. Severance’s visit, donning skull-shaped face paint, was a special addition to start the tour, as was, at least in my opinion, seeing Olli Vänskä playing with them. His presence hit me with an exhilarating rush of nostalgia towards folk metal shows and his unmistakable sound – mixed delightfully clearly, for which I send my thanks to the sound techs – was just the little extra that turned a regular gig into a memorable one. Numerous solos were especially Vänskä’s time to shine, along with Perttula, and never fail to make me wish I still played violin myself. Regarding this, “Kultanainen” deserves a mention of its own; I rarely write a note about loving anything in full caps, but I did have one on the violin and accordion in that song.
A very special kudos needs to be given to the audience too: they took some time to really warm up, but once the dance pit started somewhere along “Vaarinpolkka” at the latest, there was no stopping. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits from start to finish, and visibly loosened up towards the end of the set – dancing, chanting “iske!” during “Rauta,” and jumping and sweating.
After summoning spring with “Kylästä keväinen kehto” and “Crows Bring the Spring,” followed by “Wooden Pints,” the band took a little breather, returning shortly after for an encore. Our guess was that it would consist of crowd favourites “Vodka,” “Beer Beer,” and “Juodaan viina.” Indeed, the two first out of these were heard, with the small venue bursting into excited noise when Järvelä asked “are we having some today?” before “Vodka.”
In the end, we got ourselves a hefty hour and 45 minutes of KORPIKLAANI, for which there are no complaints whatsoever – by the looks of it, at least the audience could’ve gone for hours still. Personally, I think I’m feeling a strong pull towards folk shows again, and I’m definitely going to check out these fellows at more club gigs in the future. While I’m still anxious to get an opportunity to catch CRIMFALL (and recommend that you do the same), it’s impossible to not be happy about going out to enjoy some good old folk songs on a Friday night.
1. Viinamäen mies
2. Pilli on pajusta tehty
3. Tuonelan tuvilla
5. Erämaan ärjyt
7. The Predator’s Saliva (feat. Joey Severance)
8. Sumussa hämärän aamun
16. Minä näin vedessä neidon
19. Kylästä keväinen kehto
20. Crows Bring the Spring
21. Wooden Pints
22. Vodka (encore)
23. Beer Beer (encore)
Written by Lene L.
Photos by Miia Collander