Stealing / Matti Johannes Koivu / Shake
16 August 2008, Alppipuisto, Helsinki
So here are some snaps of pintandwefall playing live for you. The event was a free summer concert in Alppipuisto park in Helsinki on the weekend of 16-17 August. Knowing I was going to be in the city for a few days I looked around for gigs by any of my favourite bands, and to be honest there wasn't a lot on, except this. And having enjoyed pintandwefall's album, I fancied seeing how they came across in performance. I think the emphasis was on unsigned bands - I'm never quite sure what that means, because most if not all of these bands are on some kind of label, and have an album or two to show for it. It was organised by Nosturi, one of Helsinki's main venues.
Right: Dumb Pint
I managed to persuade a friend to go who was highly dubious, though her attitude soon changed somewhat as I'll explain. That Saturday morning the skies were really grey and rain was a certainty, so I was as protected as I could be, still regretting I didn't have a hood or umbrella or anything. When we got off the tram it was obvious that the venue must be right next to Linnanmäki theme park, though it turned out to be a sort of bowl surrounded by trees. Would have been really nice, in fact, in sunny weather. I guess the organisers might have expected a decent crowd to spill over from the theme park. But when we started down the slope, in the light but continuous drizzle, the first band walked out. In front of the the stage was a reasonably large area of sheeting on the ground. With approximately six people standing on it.
Thankless task, being first band on, but they seemed cool about it. This was Stealing, who seem to do a sort of variety of grunge or what they call 'rosk'. My friend immediately perked up, because the lead singer was a typical Norse god type, tall, blond and mean and moody. It's the kind of band who find it impossible to resist a bit of indulgence on the guitar at some point, but it was mostly well disciplined. In fact, I really warmed to the musicianship when they slung in some unexpectedly bluesy stuff in one of their later numbers. There was a lady taking a lot of pictures. He didn't acknowledge her but I'm convinced it was his mum.
The timekeeping was unbelievably precise. There was a big board up giving times for all the bands, and they were all punctual beyond any experience I've ever had of acts in England. They came on when they were supposed to, and did their half an hour, or 45 minutes, almost to the minute.
Another really pleasurable feature of Alppipuisto was the variety of bands on offer. Next up wasn't a band in fact, but a singer songwriter, Matti Johannes Koivu, with acoustic guitar. It was very pleasant stuff, and I would probably have bought his new album when I saw it later on in Stockmann (Helsinki's Number One store) if it hadn't been so new it was full price. And I don't believe it included the one song I really enjoyed. A song which was naggingly familiar and which I should have recognised straight off, but for it being sung in Finnish. It was Route 66. I'm fairly sure the famous place names were all changed; but what really threw me was that in standard Finnish, sixty-six is kuusikymmentäkuusi, which obviously doesn't fit so well. In spoken Finnish, which is a mystery to me, it can reduce to 'kuus-kyt-kuus'. I think. Neat! Anyway, I love that song and have heard several interesting versions, and it was great to add another.
Right: Matti Johannes Koivu
Another intermission. Half an hour I think the gaps were. I should have mentioned that we weren't left stranded on the black sheeting. It was all very organised. There were a few mobile toilets, which remained impressively just this side of bearable inside. There were some outlets selling coffee and food. Popcorn. And a couple of tents which at first didn't seem very big but with benches and tables were very adequate, and on this wet afternoon were never full. Also, a mobile library - had it wandered in by mistake?
The next act was Shake (left). They were a weird sort of surprise, for me, for being so middle of the road. It was a sort of undemanding light pop rock, sung in English, which sounded twenty years out of time; and they have been around for a few years. Not that they were bad, at all. They were pleasant, their singer had a strong voice and they were decent competent musicians. What they do, they do well, which might not get a lot of attention in the wider world, but live, is worth a lot.
Now it was the late afternoon, and here was another gap before the band which had drawn me here, pintandwefall. The rain pressed down harder. The crowd was growing a bit and there were a lot of people under the tents. And here was a street theatre group to entertain us. I wish I could tell you something useful about them; I bet I would be struggling to tell you what it was all about even if it had been in English. They paraded in some sort of vague bird costume; they sang a bit; they chanted and danced around. There seemed to be a script, and they seemed to be well practised in projecting to an audience. This one listened apparently politely. I have to be guarded about this, because I still wouldn't claim to know what a Finn is really thinking sometimes, they don't give away much. But everyone applauded at the end. Me too, I thought they did well to keep up a bit of enthusiasm in the drizzling wetness.
So pintandwefall came out to the biggest crowd so far. All of two hundred, we reckoned. At last, there were people right in front of the stage. This band is indeed a little bit different, as even the pics will tell you. Wearing masks is just the daftest idea, 'on the face of it' ho ho, but it sort of works. It's certainly nothing to do with anonymity, like with Kiss and Slipknot. To name a couple of bands who are absolutely nothing like pintandwefall in any shape or form. No, it's not for the sake of disguise, since you can see what they look like on MySpace (unless you really do struggle to put two and two together), and anyway at the end of the gig some of the girls came out fully exposed, so to speak, and sorted out their stuff on stage, chatted with fans etc. I think it's just a nice example of cheerful irrelevance and their liking for playing around.
They did a 45 minute set, which covered most of the songs (and all of my favourites) from wow! what was that, baby?, and also featured four new songs. (Ha! And now I know what one of them was - it was Jail, which I've just heard on their MySpace page) Which I'd be very pleased to see on any new album which might be around the corner - it is, isn't it? The thing with new songs heard live which you're not familiar with, is that it's an acid test for them, and I was impressed that they sounded good on first hearing. pintandwefall do have a knack for a good hook, but better than that, a personality and a sense of humour which come over straightaway.
My second gig in Finland and I'm realising you can get a lot more chat from the stage than one is used to in England. Cute, Dumb and Tough all took turns in telling us... I don't know, actually! And there was me, having just attended a highly enjoyable Finnish language course. Still not fluent unfortunately. Belying her name, Crazy doesn't seem quite so chatty but I daresay she wasn't in the mood. Spoken Finnish is a whole different kettle of fish. I'm getting more of it than I used to; but all I can remember now is Tough rambling on about her (new?) shoes. She treated us to a very sweet little song at the end, Saara(?). Cute and Dumb share lead vocals, and Dumb on guitar in particular is highly active with lots of good postures.
(Tough singing Saara, right - and have you ever seen a drummer dressed like this before?)
The show was a lot of fun. Worth all the rain and morose hunching over the tables under the tents :) What did I think of pintandwefall? Entertaining and distinctive music, performed very well, allowing for some random chords and meandering notes on guitar in one of the early songs - I could even imagine that was deliberate, to keep up the band's casual and 'amateur' image. You know, the whole, 'accidentally finding themselves on stage' thing. But they certainly have some good tunes to offer, with more to come on this evidence; and a playful feel-good persona to go along with it. Sort of punk without the venom. Delightfully daft songs about seahorses and sharks, along with stuff about being a girl playing rock music. And they do rock. If you doubt me, get that album, it'll remind you that music doesn't amount to much if it can't stir your blood and make you smile.
Well, I can't report on the evening and the following day, but there was a very full lineup of bands due on for Kansanjuhla 2008. With any luck the rain might have eased off though I was in the city that evening and I suspect it didn't. When we left Alppipuisto (right) there was still a reasonable crowd - for Finland! - and further evidence of the event's variety, an outfit called The Capital Beat, playing some sort of ska, of all things. If it weren't for other things to do I could have happily returned on the Sunday. But seeing the pints had been great and they are absolutely definitely going to get even better. They do kinda cheer you up. I want more.
Stealing only appear to have a MySpace page. And an album, I think; Into The Woods -? But there isn't much info here. The lads seem a bit coy, except for their grand mission statement about rosk. Pity, because a certain friend of mine would like to know a lot more.
Here is Shake's website. There's some information on early history, and band details of course. They also have a MySpace page. To be honest, a casual passer by might easily think they were a deceased band, because there's little sign of current life on either site, or much updating in the last two years. But here they were, clearly alive and intact and in contact with each other :)
Just in case you can cope with the Finnish: this is the Kansanjuhla 2008 page, ie. all about the Alppipuisto event, at the Nosturi web site, with a listing of most of the bands due to take part, though not in the order they actually played.