|Blow Up Vol. 3
|13/10/2017 – 14/10/2017
When you are battling withdrawal from the lack of summer festivals, you try to compensate scrolling already published line-ups of future concerts, looking around your area for interesting gigs, — hoping, once the warm season rolls in, to be able to attend at least one of the summer festivals. Luckily, Helsinki is very rich in live events and sometimes even small festivals pop up, with quite big acts and at moderate prices.
Blow Up is a small but interesting live music event — mostly for doom, stoner and sludge acts, organized in two nights and now at its third editions. The place chosen to celebrate such orgy of mess and beautiful things is Korjaamo, a small and sufficiently roomy building, used, in the past — listen to that — as a repairing station for broken trams. The word korjaamo means, fittingly, a place in which various kind of vehicles/things are repaired and considering this semantic revelation, listening to live music in a hall where an old tram stands proudly beside the bar counter, doesn't seem that weird. Korjaamo is now used principally as a cultural center where, among other things, it is possible to organize film screening and gigs, but, faithful to the tradition, the name was never changed to fit the new purpose.
The third edition of Blow Up took place on October the 13th and 14th, hosting beautiful acts; Unfortunately for me, the tickets for both days were sold in the blink of an eye and buying them separately would have been too expensive. As a consequence, I decided to attend only the first of the two nights, on Friday the 13th.
We arrive at Korjaamo — me and my loyal companion Toumas — a couple of minutes after Russian dark ambient act Phurpa took the stage. I was quite interested in their live appearance, because I remember how people were rapturously praising the act after their show at a festival some years ago.
On that occasion, I missed them. At the beginning we were in the back rows and since the two members of the self-described (on their Bandcamp) "Tibetan Monastic Choir" were sitting cross-legged, I couldn't see anything but drums, probably set up for the following band, covered by a black sheet. The only thing I could hear was a long and dilated throat singing, — undoubtedly evocative and suggestive — sometimes interrupted here and there by percussions and metallic ringing. Slowly we moved forward, noticing the hooded Church Of Misery's guitarist among the audience and on stage, various wind instruments, percussions and other objects used to produce sounds of various origins. After a while, I could conquer an unobstructed view of the stage for a good half an hour and I quickly changed my first feeling about what I was witnessing. When I was at the back of the room, I had told myself that resisting for one hour standing and listening to tills without even being able to identify their origin would have been an uphill battle against boredom. Now, closer to the stage and the action, I was intrigued and involved.
Phurpa plays an authentic musical ritual, akin to the Bon's ritual, Tibetan oldest Buddhist tradition, woven by ancestral and shamanic elements. It was like being caught in a trance. It has been one of the most unconventional show I have ever seen and, after fearing to be bored to death, I was totally hooked.
You can't choose when a ritual shall end, but there is a running order to respect and Phurpa were compelled to leave the stage, called from the side of the stage — by a young lad that was trying to grab their attention gesticulating and from above; not by Buddha, but the stage lights switching on and off. First out-the-box group and at the end of the day, I found myself captured and converted. I did not believe they have published recorded material, but, amazingly, they have.
To recover the additional minutes of Phurpa's show, the stage was prepared quicker than expected to permit the Englishmen Warning to step on the stage.
The band founded in 1994, plays doom with melodic vocals and disbanded 8 years ago. Exceptionally they reunited this year, first at Roadburn and now here in Finland. At both occasions they offered their album "Watching From A Distance" in its entirety. Clicking at around one hour, the five massive and slow tracks were pleasantly welcomed.
Patrick Walker, the leader, interacted continuously with the audience in a lively way, spicing up the ambience with a story from the band's past. The anecdote deals with a fan from Germany that did not like one of their show, proffering a disapproving remark toward Patrick himself. «Your bass player wears sweatpants, while you…», I do not remember whether he said, «You are too happy»; or something along the line, but, the accuse concerned Patrick not being doom enough. Well, well…
Church Of Misery
At 22.05, 10 minutes in advance on the planned schedule, Japanese stoner-doom band Church Of Misery took center-stage sporting the now iconic 70's influenced pants leg. It was not the first time I have been at a Church Of Misery's show, so that was the highlight of my evening. The Tokyo quartet, that deals with serial killers in their lyrics, changes members almost on every album — only founder-bassist Tatsu Mikami is always present — so this incarnation of Church of Misery was different from the one that made me headbang in 2014.
Philosophical reflection aside, a bit of stoner was sorely needed after Warning's solemnity and Phurpa's ritual I had to admit and the audience felt the same: mosh pit appeared, someone tried to stagedive and, sadly, there were some technical issues. The guitar player was unable to properly hear the drums and we couldn't hear the vocals. However, after the first song, things got better.
Japan is not our typical ideal country when you think about stoner-doom bands, yet the Nipponese act did not let down one more time. At the end, we strolled to the merch table to put our hands on a limited-edition t-shirt issue specifically for the tour. Only the XXL size was left and I guess that is clear indicator of the audience's approval.
Now we are in the heart of the festival and only two bands have still to appear before us. A beautiful backdrop was put behind the Portland-based Usnea (what a wonderful place Portland must be) ready to thrill us with their funeral doom. At the core of the Americans' show is the new full-length "Portals Into Futility", from which the band played three songs: "Eidolons And The Increate", "Lathe of Heaven" and "A Crown Of Desolation". At this point of the evening, being an old lady, I walked away from the stage to stretch my poor legs and to find a place to sit a bit, but since Korjaamo is not that big as a concert hall, I did not miss a note.
Usnea didn't interact much with the audience, yet their warm reached us through their music. While not exactly a solar and joyful genre, their funeral doom hit our hearts. I can't write more details, as my position prevented me from having an undisturbed view of what was happening on stage.
Still, it was a powerful and deep musical experience and I was happy to be there.
It's late now and people start going home. The festival is not over, though, as there is yet one act scheduled, the last cartridge of the night: Italian Ufomammut. I've never been to one of their gigs in Italy — weird, isn't it? — but considering the power trio from Piedmont plays in Finland roughly once a year, the fact sounds less ridiculous or unbelievable. I was quite excited to see my countrymen conquer the Finnish audience as I know they are appreciated and lauded here. The new album "8" hit the streets on September the 22nd, so there was plenty to choose from.
Sound quality was excellent and the live show was satisfying even from a visual standpoint, thanks to the backdrops alternating behind the drummer Vita. Psychedelia, Stoner, doom: what else? Unfortunately for us, we had to go before the end of the show: public transportation wasn't readily available at this hour of the night. I was disappointed. To make things a little better, on the bright side, having been at my first Ufomammut's show, — in Finland — made the experience, if possible, even more worth remembering. It is nice to know that Italy is appreciated for something else rather than the usual suspects, pizza and mafia (?); the cause of appreciation being music, makes things even better.
Blow up entered the list of the festivals I need to keep an eye on. Even if there is a year in front of me, I will be as much alter as possible, so I won't miss the chance to get my hands on the two-days ticket. I guess the second night was as entertaining and unforgettable as the first — Saint Vitus are playing (one of my most wanted)- but, despite missing a part, I can consider myself satisfied.