Monday, September 06, 2004

Yo-Talo, Tampere

"A man of some intelligence cannot fail, in any environment where fate thrusts him, to become interested in its workings however much he may dislike or disapprove of them. Thus reluctant, scholarly conscripts study regimental histories, and professional men who've fallen by the wayside write excellent studies about jails."

- Colin MacInnes

When you're 18, a person of 25 seems awfully old. So, I can't even imagine my case in the eyes of these youngsters. In any case, the Yo-Talo club of Tampere, Finland, has been my regular haunting place for over twelve years now.

A bit about the background of Yo-Talo, which is short for "Ylioppilastalo" (Student Union House), an old Jugendstil house from the early 20th century. Yo-Talo's bar is called "Pankki" ("Bank"); the name coming from the building's original purpose as an office of Yhdyspankki, which was built in 1901, designed by the architect Gustav Nyström, who had studied in Vienna, which influenced also the Austrian-style of Jugend (known also as Art Deco) of this building. The street level was used as a bank hall for the customers, the bank vault was located in the basement, and the luxurious upstairs apartments were spared for the high executives of the bank.

In 1912 there was revealed an embezzlement by the bank director Nils Idman, who had among all given loose credit to his personal friends. The losses in current money were about 23.5 million euros. Mr. Idman was sentenced to prison for fifteen years. Also bankrupted alongside Nils Idman was his brother Fredrik "Fedi" Idman, who had guaranteed loans for the said bank. Fedi, who was in charge of Hatanpää's Mansion, had to sell his enormous property to the City of Tampere.

The building still housed the bank until the Second World War, after which it was used as municipal offices and warehouses. The building was donated to the Tampere University's Student Union in 1967, which was the start of the now-legendary Yo-Talo club, hosting gigs for many famous rock bands and disco nights. Nowadays Yo-Talo works as a corporated restaurant, successfully run by one Mr. Timo Isomäki, the stocky Renaissance Prince-like character with curly long hair.

It's quite easy for me to find my way to Yo-Talo, since I only live two blocks from there, I've got a VIP card entitling me to jump the long Saturday night queue of punters behind the door and get in free (yes, before I got the card I've spent many chilling winter night hours quieing up) and they sell me cheap bewerages! But in my defense I've got to say that I've worked to receive my VIP status, unlike some people who've just been lucky to know the right people... Bastards. Namely, I've DJed many a night at Yo-Talo; with Club Telex and some other events.

What kind of people usually frequent Yo-Talo, then? Students, of course, but increasingly teenyboppers and local B-boys. I'm old enough to remember the old school of the Yo-Talo goers of post-punk generation and the heyday of old Suomirock; the current uniform of which were the black second-hand jackets and jeans. Today it's mostly watered-down MTV/R&B style, nothing too flashy or sexy though, or the recycled "ironic" 70s/80s gear of indie pop fans, often bought second-hand from the UFF shops (Scandinavian counterpart to UK's Oxfam).

In the mid-to-late 1990s the Britpop style and bands were popular at Yo-Talo, but since the Tampere Britpoppers got too old (or moved to Helsinki), the emphasis has moved to hip hop/R&B styles or whatever the indie kids are into these days: the NME-celebrated bands of the new wave of garage rock or punk-funk or (God forbid) a sort of electroclash style. But anything by The Smiths or Depeche Mode is bound to fill the Yo-Talo dancefloor even these days.

As for me, I'm quite content with my outsider position among these elfish teenyboppers and little white B-boys of Yo-Talo. Sipping my beer or cider alone somewhere in the youthful crowd of the whiz bang pow kids, watching their silly drunken antics. Sometimes I might meet a friend to talk to but these days more often than not I'm there just on my own, as "Just Another Fucking Observer". I guess the kids are thinking that this funny-looking old geezer in tinted aviator spectacles, black combat fatigues and electro T-shirts is always there, like as part of the furniture, but I don't mind.

The good thing about Yo-Talo is that it's always relatively peaceful there; you don't get any old drunks vomiting all over you or wasting your time with some incomprehensible babble, or any latent psychopaths on amphetamine trying to beat you up, since those people frequent just the other bars in Tampere.

The Yo-Talo's programme is usually just the same: during the week days band nights or various clubs dedicated to DJ music; every Saturday a disco night, which follow each other weekly approximately in this order: Alternative Night by DJs Henkka & Mikko, Pauli Kallio's Rhythm and Groove (old soul, funk and new R&B), Bigpop with DJs Sami and Riku (a.k.a. Tampere's drum'n'bass king Infekto) and the latest newcomer, OK Pop with DJs Antti Lähde and Antti Koivumäki, who replaced the Britpop-run Pop-Disko with DJs Tero and Jani (towards the end Tero and Jani got increasingly arrogant; giggling drunk to themselves and competing on how cheesy one could go, with the trashiest hit songs of the yesteryear: Don Johnson's 'Heartbeat', 'Together We Are Strong' by Julio Iglesias and Pia Zadora, and so on).

Other DJs don't usually make much of a fuss of themselves; only Sami and Riku are willing to provide some sort of a "show": towards the end of the night they take their shirts off and do a wild dance standing over the DJ booth, shouting to the people to raise their hands; often the sleeves of 12-inch records as their headgear (alcohol probably has something to contribute to this extraordinary performance). It's silly, to say the least, but the people -- who are by this time piss-drunk -- seem to go nuts every time; especially when these DJs play crap yesteryear's hits like Europe's 'Final Countdown'.

The thing with Yo-Talo's disco nights is that when you have frequented them for a while, you'll find out that the DJs always play pretty much the same songs, without daring to divert from the "formula" or "playlist" and taking the risk of draining the dancefloor, so sometimes it feels they might as well replace the DJs with a jukebox filled to the brim with all the crowd-pleasing "hits", such as Beyoncé's 'Crazy In Love' or Outkast's 'Hey Ya'. And The Smiths. This playing it for safe used to really irritate me, but I'm beyond caring now. (See: Discophrenia.)

I don't know: maybe I'm too old for this club shit, but on the other hand I don't have much else in my life to spend my weekend evenings with. For me it's obligatory socializing since I very much tend to be of a loner type: anything to avoid cabin fever and becoming too strange on your own. So, Yo-Talo is my easy option there. I used to bother about it -- shouldn't I get a life finally, and leave this whole scene behind -- but I guess now I'm beyond all care.

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