31 May 2008, Sieravuori
Yes, seeing Indica play live was a very good experience. When you really get into a band, sure, you want to see them perform; but with this band it can be a bit of an adventure. I've seen bands in other countries (than the UK) before, but going to this gig was very different from any other I've experienced. And I have the impression that even if you live in Finland, going to see this band can often be an adventure. Indica play regularly all over Finland, in big and in tiny places, and Sieravuori is about as out-of-the-way as it gets in Southern Finland.
So how come this particular show? The answer is to do with having started on the long road (does it have an end??) of learning Finnish. Which trying to understand Indica's lyrics had something to do with. And I've visited Finland once, and now a good opportunity to go again came up, because a friend, another student of Finnish, was going too. I checked out the gig list, and decided to stay another couple of days so I could finally see the band.
But... then the fun started. Sieravuori is an outdoor leisure/sports place, situated on the shores of Lake Pyhäjärvi which is the largest lake in this South Western region of Finland. I looked at the map. I looked for train stations. I wondered about car rental, even though I hadn't been outside Helsinki yet. The head guy at Sieravuori was helpful, he even suggested he might be able to sort out some local transport; and then an unexpected offer of a lift came from a guy on the Indica forum.The forum is one of the good ones. I've noticed a lot of that sort of generosity going on, and that's just in the English section. Anyway, I risked booking my return flight for the next day, a Sunday. Then the most tragic thing happened... losing the lift was a very minor consequence. But I did now wonder how it was all going to work, if I could even go. Trying to ensure a reliable taxi on a Sunday morning, before a train and then bus to the airport, looked unrealistic. But then, by and by, a plan emerged, and come Saturday the 31st of May I found myself in the excellent company of Wizzu and Shindig going up a dirt track to Sieravuori. Thank goodness for satellite navigation. That last bit would have been interesting otherwise. I've been in groups of people staring at road maps arguing about which way to go. It can be very amusing provided you don't care where you end up.
The early part of the evening went by quite quickly. We enjoyed the delights of the cuisine in the restaurant. We saw the band eating in there when we went in; they seemed in good mood. I kind of wished I'd been up to saying something interesting in Finnish. We forced an apple pudding on Shindig. This sounds unkind, but, if one suffers, all should suffer, right? Shindig unkindly suggested that the apples might not actually have been picked by Granny that very morning, which I cannot believe. We sat there listening to the soundcheck going on next door, the perfect background music.
However, before the show, something very different was in store for us. It seems Indica had been booked to complement the National Finals of a big sporting event, a sport which none of us had ever heard of, called baarisähly (right). We sat on the edge of the tiny stage where the band's instruments were propped up and watched. This is the bar version of another sport the others had heard of, which I've discovered does exist in the UK and which we call floorball. It's basically ice hockey played on a normal floor and with a special ball instead of a puck. Two players a team, and very flexible rubber fencing. In between the 'semi-finals' and 'final' (I think the winning team were from Vantaa) there was a lot of casual playing by people in the crowd. Some girls, some guys in their underwear... well, what do you expect if you organise a sport in a bar? My main memory is of the compère, a guy who did not stop talking. Not very Finnish at all! Big crowd, isn't it?
The date is misleading. This show didn't in fact happen on the 31st at all, since it commenced some time after midnight, thanks to the baarisähly. But I'm told that a late start isn't unusual in Finland. The light of the Summer night this far North has something to do with it. At any rate, it took a while before the non-stop compère did stop, we could stand up and turn round, and 'one of Finland's top bands' was introduced.
The band emerged from a cloud of stage smoke. It worked quite well in that confined space, but standing at the front we were treated to that distinctive smell. A stage guy bustled in front and told us to leave a gap in front of the stage. Fair enough, though without a barrier they wouldn't have had a chance of making that work in most places. But it held out until Ikuinen virta - a really well known song - when some guys couldn't help themselves and charged in front. They were driven off again later. I suspect the band hadn't minded a bit of action in front.
You can see the set list up there on the left. This was a great set of songs, naturally including the one new single, Pahinta tänään. This is a faster number like most of the rest. Live sets are going to be biased towards the more lively and rockier numbers, it seems. I kind of regret the fact that I'm less likely to see them play some of the slower songs, which for me include some of the most powerful and best written songs they've recorded, but I can't argue with the logic, you want an exciting show. And their faster songs are so very good.
I watched them play. It's the big pleasure of going to gigs isn't it, and why I haven't stopped despite not being as young as I was. These girls are musicians, and there's a basic joy in watching artists do something well. Live, they re-created each of these songs anew; of course you don't get what's produced on record, what you do get is the living breathing piece of music. I should add that in the UK anyway we've had to get used to bands who wouldn't know what a musical instrument was, and other bands who do play but rely too much on tapes and programming. Yes, I was looking forward to the playing, though it didn't quite work out as antiseptically as that - here's a for-instance; I love Laura's drumwork, and intended to pay attention to that, but she was sadly out if sight from where I was, and as time went on the atmosphere took over and I forgot about being critical and objective any more :)
The sound was good. A surprise, because no venue is perfect, but in a place like that it must be a challenge to make it work. Things did go wrong. Or rather, one thing glaringly, during Saalistaja, when something fell out or got detached in the microphone lead area and Jonsu's voice vanished. It look a little while to sort out by which time the song had fallen apart. I like that song... And yet it's all part of the live thing isn't it? Wizzu told me things like that hardly ever happen with Indica, so in a weird sort of way I'm privileged(!) to have seen it. At another point a baarisähly ball sailed over our heads onto the stage which provoked a grin and a threatening fist from Jonsu.
And I've got to say that it's Jonsu herself who made the biggest impact. She turned out to be the best sort of theatrical performer, bringing much more out of each song than simply the music and words. She holds an audience very impressively and her voice is far stronger than I'd expected. Galling for me was how talkative she was; she had a lot to say, all with very good humour, and I understood virtually none of it. If ever there was an incentive to work harder on my Finnish lessons! Anyway, you can put seeing Jonsu perform high up the list of reasons to see Indica live.
Like with any band, some songs have a different power live. The last two were irresistible and joyous and left us on a high, first Ulkona and then the encore, Vuorien taa. I always find encores curious; different bands work them in different ways. They don't suit some bands' music at all. Others make an encore a true celebration. In this situation, having just the one song was fine, though I think it might have worked just as well if not better to run straight through without that artificial break. After all, no matter how they played it, we were always going to be left wanting more.
Right:- Hungry Indica fans Wizzu and Shindig, down at the lake side, think they've seen some breakfast swimming about in the shallows. Oh, we had booked breakfast. But when we got up the next morning, not particularly early at all, was there anybody about to make it? Nope. Not a one. The place was locked, and except for some quiet activity around the tour bus, you'd never have guessed there had been a concert there the night before. Thank goodness we had some bananas in the fridge.
I think I've had the experience several foreign fans have had (I use the word 'several' because there aren't an enormous number of us yet). I thought it might be enough to see Indica the once, but now I'm wondering when another pilgrimage might be possible. Well, I'll certainly be coming to Finland again; I wouldn't be surprised if one of my future trips happens to coincide with this outstanding band performing live somewhere. I've learned many lessons on this trip. First, never underestimate people's willingness to help you out. Second, watch out in places like train stations (I was very skilfully pick-pocketed - never noticed a thing). Then, Finland is indeed a beautiful country. Also, always keep a spare banana. But finally, and best of all, Indica are absolutely worth the effort of going to see.
Here's Sieravuori's website. They respond well to inquiries, and there's all the information you might need here. Though it did take a while for the full website to appear this year; it may be that like the place itself, it's very seasonal each year. Our cabin seemed good value, the location is lovely; just double check anything you 'book' like a Sunday morning breakfast!