Friday, August 17, 2007

Monsters of Pop 2007 Memories

The second Monsters of Pop festival of Tampere, 10-12 August 2007, offered many cultish goodies for discerning connoisseurs, providing some sorely needed alternative to the otherwise mostly boring Finnish festival summer, with all those jaded Suomirock and metal bands circulating at every other domestic event dedicated to stinking portaloos, combat drinking and intoxicated brawls.

Here are some personal favourites as witnessed at Yo-Talo, one of the gigs venues alongside Artturi and Laterna: alas, the latter two I had no more energy to visit myself, and perhaps better so, because spending three nights only at Yo-Talo made me feel afterwards some physical strain and bodily decay... Anyway, kudos to all at Monsters of Pop organisation for setting this thing up, and also getting Mr. pHinn in, which added some welcomed sparks of light to this summer I could personally well have lived without otherwise. Already looking forward to MoP 2008!

Kukka's long-awaited comeback gig featured a very excited crowd.
I used to describe their music as "Velvet Underground meets Kraftwerk", and though this description must be grossly misleading, I hope it at least offers some pointers to their melancholic indie pop laced with some electronics. Kukka disappeared from the scene in 2001 but had already managed to gather a considerable cult reputation through their gigs and demos spreading from hand to hand, and obviously that memory has not faded, which could be witnessed with the encore song 'Chabom' with a strangely serene, even church-like atmosphere in the audience. Obviously the Helmilevyt label is going to release Kukka's old demos soon, so you might be able to hear yourself what the fuss was all about. You can listen to such old favourites heard during the gig as 'Hey Mr. DJ', 'Hot Light' and (my own fave track) 'Machine' on Kukka's MySpace site.

K-X-P: spacey excursions meeting electronic funk, which briefly visited being on the verge of prog-rock but fortunately no 20-minute drum solos were heard in the end. The line-up consisted of Timo Kaukolampi and Tuomo Puranen, both familiar from Op:l Bastards, accompanied by the live drumming of Tomi Leppänen, the real Stakhanovian hero of labour who also appeared at the festival with Aavikko (not to talk about his work with Circle, whose offshoot Rättö and Lehtisalo I unfortunately missed this year). I really enjoyed this gig with its psychedelic overtones too, making me think of some DC Recordings acts like The Emperor Machine or Giallos Flame.

Studio: I had no earlier experience with this band from the West Coast of Sweden, but what I heard was for me pounding funkish indie pop very much reminiscent of early 90s Manchester bands like Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. I mentioned this to one of the band after the gig, which he was not at all displeased to hear. Nice throbbing lights for the stage show too, though I was glad for not being an epilectic.

Pluxus, also from Sweden, visited Tampere for the third time, and had adopted a more laptop-oriented sound since I last heard them. Whereas their music used to sound for me like home-grown electro, with their current line-up of three it was now more sleek, with touches of pounding techno-house and very danceable.

Martin Rev, the keyboardist for New York's legendary Suicide must have been for many one of the most expected acts of Monsters of Pop. His one-man show consisted of very lengthy tracks made out of loops, including also some Afro-Cuban sounds, something that sounded like an old Roy Orbison backing track, one backing track from Suicide's American Supreme but added with new vocals which Rev sang with his husky voice. Wearing a sleeveless Batman comics T-shirt, red leather pants and huge reflecting ski glasses, Martin Rev's keyboard technique was a sight to see too, featuring karate chops, playing clusters with his fists and doing some quick sweeps through the keys as if they had been potter's clay to be moulded. I heard Rev's performance had quite divided people's opinions, but what I enjoyed here was that totally uncompromising attitude of his. After the gig I got to visit Mr. Rev at his own private backroom at the upstairs of Yo-Talo to change a few quick words (and to slip him some of our own music, the shameless wannabe that I am, including our live version of 'Ghost Rider' with Sonic Temple Assassins) with the living legend, who seemed to be even Zen-like calm and relaxed, with those ever-present sunglasses never leaving his face.

Aavikko's extensive touring along the years in Finland and Europe seems to bear fruit now since the floor was totally crowded with dancing people almost going berserk, and as encore was heard their perhaps biggest hit, 'Viitostie', paying homage to Kraftwerk's 'Autobahn'. Wearing grey terylene slacks and black shirts, Aavikko ("Desert") looked and sounded like a parody of Finnish dancehall "humppa" crowd, but their ecstatic organ instrumentals have stealthily added a more electronic sound, making them distinctly different from the drunken iconoclasts like Eläkeläiset.

And some brief clips from the last year's Monsters of Pop:

Rättö ja Lehtisalo: 'Saamari kantaa olympiasoihdun stadionille' (11 Aug '06 @ Yo-Talo)

Rättö ja Lehtisalo: 'Ihanan syyllinen pallokala' (11 Aug '06 @ Yo-Talo)

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