Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The thriving music scene in Finland

I have always loved music and live concerts and feel lucky to have grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area with its thriving music scene. I grew up with endless opportunities to see live shows in clubs, arenas or large stadiums.  San Francisco provided a diverse scene and there was never a shortage of shows or venues.  It seemed that everyone in the music industry eventually came through the area.  I have seen my share of shows and have even bumped into some famous musicians along the way.  I thought moving to somewhat isolated Finland might have meant the end of my concert days.

Contrary to what one might think, it is not just tango and folk music here in Finland.  Little did I know that many Finns are crazy about music and they are especially known for their love for heavy metal.  Since Finns enjoy music and attending concerts, there are several places for artists to play here and many of the shows are well attended.  Finland, and notably Helsinki, has many differently sized venues depending on the artist.  Most famously known is perhaps the Olympic Stadium (home of the Helsinki 1952 Summer Olympics).  This stadium gets some of the most globally successful artists who come to Finland.  Some examples of bands that have played here include Muse, Bruce Springsteen and U2.  I was lucky enough to get a ticket to attend the U2 show during the Summer of 2010.  It was an amazing show despite a bit of pesky August rain.  The stadium shows are very seasonable, and the stadiums are not used during the frigid winters.  Next in the pecking order of venues is the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.  This Arena is also used for hockey and other events and seems to be the most popular venue for popular artists who do not necessarily want to play a stadium show.  Also, it works great in the worst of winter conditions when the stadium is off limits.  Examples of past shows that have been held here include Britney Spears, Madonna, Black Sabbath and Rush.  The last example and my favorite is the local club venues.  I am familiar with 4 of these clubs in Helsinki.  The largest one, which gets the greatest amount of international artists, is called Circus.  Steve Vai and Europe recently played here and the Smashing Pumpkins just sold out their show scheduled for this August.   In addition to Circus, other well known nightclubs are Tavastia,  Nosturi and to a lesser extent Virgin Oil (restaurant/club).  Tavastia Club gets a nice mix of local and international artists while Nosturi seems to have the metal market under its wings.  Tavastia recently had 2 shows by a Finnish favorite Von Hertzen Brothers and Nosturi recently had Scottish rocker Biffy Clyro and American guitar wiz Paul Gilbert.  Last, but not least on my well known club list is Virgin Oil.  Recent shows here included former Scorpion Michael Schenker and popular Finnish 80's rocker, Michael Monroe, formerly with the band Hanoi Rocks.

Also, Finland enjoys a nice summer festival music season.  There are numerous opportunities for music concerts during the summer.  Provinssirock in Seinäjoki, Ruisrock in Turku and the Tuska open air metal festival are a few of the larger rock events.  However, in addition to rock there are festivals for just about every music lover, including the Pori Jazz and Kaustinen Folk festivals.  Not to mention the "hipster" Flow festival.  If you are young and cool or old and established there is probably something that will appeal to your fancy.

My guess is that the Helsinki scene gets probably 80% of the international artists who pass through, however other major cities such as Oulu, Tampere and Turku get their fair share of gigs as well.  Last summer the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to Finland and decided to play the Ratina Stadium in Tampere instead of Helsinki.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by quantity and quality of the artists who come to Finland.  Before moving to Finland I have would have never imagined that so many artists would decide to come to this country because of its relative geographical isolation.  In order to come here from central Europe one cannot just jump on a train, one needs to take a ferry or fly.  I think Finland has established a good reputation among artists and concert promoters as a place that really appreciates music and quite frequently sells out top shows in minutes.  For example, twice I tried to get a ticket for the Black Sabbath reunion show at the Hartwall Arena.  Both times (once in 2011 and again in 2013), I was not able to get a ticket because the show sold out in approximately 5 minutes online.   I once read an article that Finland has the highest per capita interest in heavy metal in the world. Hard rock and heavy metal are definitely the favorite genres among Finnish people, although there are many popular artists in various different musical categories.  There are different theories on why this true, but I think the interest in dark and heavy music comes from the fact that Finland is geographically isolated with its long and dark winters.  This environment seems to have given birth to many Nordic metal heads.

I personally like many different genres of  music and can enjoy many different artists.  I do appreciate the fact that many different bands make the trip to Finland in spite of its location.  This was a pleasant surprise for myself and I will continue to support and enjoy the music scene whether living in the San Francisco Bay Area or Finland.


(Circus belongs of, Nosturi belongs to, Tavastia belongs to and Hartwall Arena belongs to

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