This year, the Down by the Laituri Festival takes place in Turku for the 27th time. Since 1988, the festival situated by the Aura river in the Turku city center has attracted both the young and elderly. This time, the spectacle presents itself under a new image: unlike in the previous year, the tent is not a circus tent but a huge festival tent, which provides more space but most of all, better ventilation. A second stage allows more artists to perform. In addition, the festival already starts on Tuesday with a Stand-Up Finlandia Show, which is well attended. Comedians such as Sami Hedberg, Jape Grönroos and many more make the audience laugh – some a little more, some a little less. Weather-wise, the weekend looks promising as the forecast predicts sunshine and temperatures from 27 to 33 degrees Celsius – on an area that gives only little shade but fortunately sends a gentle breeze from the river.
Wednesday, July 23
We arrive on the site not until Wednesday and decide to take it slow due to the heat and a heavy flu that we both have caught right at the beginning of the festival. The gates open at 3 pm and while bands such as WRUM and Apulanta open the festival on the Telta stage, on the Ranta stage it´s Gangster of Love, who had already played at the festival in the previous year. In the audience, you can see some drunkards, a few of them being so obtrusive that the security staff has to remove them from the site and will probably not allow them to come back here for the following days. The band keeps focusing on their performance and dedicates one of their songs to Johnny Winter who has recently passed away.
Next, a Finnish phenomenon takes the stage: Egotrippi . You either love them or hate them but if you see them in concert, you can tell that they love what they do. Along with their hits such as “Älä koskaan ikinä” or “Matkustaja”, they belong to one of the most famous bands in Finland. The audience celebrates the band around their somewhat idiosyncratic singer enthusiastically and sings along loudly. Overall, this has been a successful festival opening for us, that’s why we decide to skip pop singer Kaija Koo and will come back tomorrow for another long day at Down by the Laituri.
Thursday, July 24
Right on time at 3 pm after a short rain shower that brings a light cool-off, the gates open again. Today, Jonne Aaron, who is not on tour with his rock band Negative but on his solo tour, opens the festival. He heats up the rather small crowd with his pop songs, among which you can find several cover versions of famous Finnish classics. Although it is quite early and they surely could have shifted the performance to a later time, the band gives its best and leaves the stage satisfied after a beautiful performance. (Sandy)
Thursday’s program on the riverside stage started for me out with a heavier tone, as Viikate opened the day. I don’t really consider myself a fan, but their festival setlist was familiar enough in any case, with songs both from their older albums and their 2014 Motörhead cover album, Panosvyö. We heard, for example, the Viikate version of Killed by Death, called ”Kuollut kuin hengetön” in Finnish. The melancholy lyrics and dark sounds contrasted the hot and sunny weather in a strange way - I almost felt like their music should be listened in November when it rains or in the middle of the darkest winter evening. Or perhaps I should’ve just thought of it as a cooling breath of air from a shadowy cemetery, even if drops of sweat were trickling down my spine…(Johanna)
After Jonne Aaron, another Finnish artist is taking the Teltta stage: Suvi Teräsniska. The 25 year old is the living proof that persistence pays off. She started her career as a fan of Yö. After several years of following the band and begging them to sing one song with the singer, she got her chance and became a star herself. With her tender voice, she is mainly singing slow songs. In this heat, the songs do not appear fully suitable in order to keep the audience in high spirits but it is a nice alternative to the party atmosphere. (Sandy)
On the Ranta stage, 90’s music is on the agenda for the rest of the evening. 90’s parties are in and in the Northern countries in particular where stars like David Hasselhoff make regular appearances. At Down by the Laituri, you can meet two black artists who have shaped the Eurodance scene of the 90’s like no one else: Haddaway and Dr Alban. First, the Dutch native Dr Alban is taking the stage and announces that he will have to check the monitor first. After a great deal of discussion and chitchat with the audience, the first song finally starts – during which he finds a fault again. While his guest back vocal singer remains professional and is trying to make the best of the situation, he totally flips out and even interrupts his big hit “What is love?”. The audience is stunned by this joke. The conclusion from this evening: An annoyed singer, an amused audience and an ageing 90’s star who is leaving the stage by throwing his microphone on the floor.
His colleague from Sweden, Dr Alban, displayed the same kind of star-like behavior. However, he appeared to be more relaxed about the technical and musical aspects but he was not too fond of the audience. According to him, a female fan who kept shouting shall be ‘eliminated’ and removed from the site, as she would interfere with his performance. Any more requests? The one who has to carry the can is the very same guest back vocalist who already had to suffer from Haddaway’s mood swings. She stays professional nonetheless and gives a good performance. Hats off to the young Swedish woman that she managed to overcome the star-like behavior of the two gentlemen without grumbling. (Sandy)
After Viikate it was time to head to the sweaty DBTL tent again. Neljä Ruusua, a cornerstone of Finnish rock scene, played a set full of old hits from the 90’s (Hunningolla, Juppihippipunkkari, Poplaulajan vapaapäivä…) and 00’s (Popmuseo, Katkera kuu…). Ilkka Alanko was bouncing around quite energetically and the crowd was singing along with the most familiar songs. I did, too. Most of the 90’s stuff is a part of the soundtrack of my high school years, so they were definitely a bit of a nostalgic trek down the memory lane. Perfect for a summer festival gig! (Johanna)
The last stretch of the Thursday evening by the Aura riverside was reserved for great divas. Divet Show and the gig of Paula Koivuniemi entertained the crowd well enough. Divet Show is the drag show of one of Finland’s top drag queens, Marko Vainio. It was only about a 30 minute show, but we saw many of Finland’s top entertainers during it: Paula Koivuniemi, Jenni Vartiainen, Katri Helena and also Turku’s own prince of pop, Robin. There were also visits from such international stars as Tina Turner, Celine Dion and of course, the one and only bearded lady who has won the Eurovision Song Contest, Conchita Wurst. The crowd of DBTL was clearly entertained.(Johanna)
After the diva(s) of the Divet Show had left the stage, it was time for one of Finland’s foremost entertainers to step forward. Paula Koivuniemi’s festival gigs are somewhat of a phenomenon already. Her career spreads over several decades of Finnish popular music, and even though she started out as more of a schlager singer, the rock festival audiences seem to love her these days. I’m not that much into her music, but I totally appreciate her steel hard professionalism and my goodness, she’s got a stellar band performing with her! Her guitarist, for example, is Tuomas Wäinölä! The DBTL tent was packed quite full and I really enjoyed the big band sound of Paula’s band. Love her or hate her, she’s the real deal, a real Finnish Diva. (Johanna)
Friday, July 25
I arrived in the festival area in time to see Poets of the Fall on the tent stage. Given the rather early hour of their performance (15.45 in the afternoon), they didn’t have quite as big of an audience that might’ve been present, had they been playing later in the evening. However, the gig was a solid PotF gig. Perhaps not the most energetic one I’ve seen by them, but hey, with the temperatures in the tent probably nearing 40C, I’m not blaming anyone for taking it a bit easier. We did hear material from all of their albums, from their very first song Late Goodbye to songs like Kamikaze Love from their latest album. I enjoyed myself and am currently looking forward to their new album Jealous Gods which is to come out later in 2014.(Johanna)
After Poets of the Fall, open your eyes and ears in the tent at 7.10 pm for the Finnish Tina Turner aka Pete Parkkonen. You will see no more than a huge curly head of the young man who nowadays only sings in Finnish. After ending up third on Finnish Idols in 2008, two English-language albums followed. Now four years later, he has changed his image: his hair has grown long, a Finnish-language album has been released. The little boy Pete has become a man. Unfortunately, he doesn’t perform any of his English-language songs anymore. I know, Finnish fans can be ruthless – you either sing in English or Finnish, you can’t do both. It is actually a pity since the English-language songs were pretty good. However, Pete and his boys deliver a good show; it is fun to watch them perform. (Sandy)
With a twenty-minute delay, the audience in front of the Ranta stage gets to listen to heavy rock tones. Ahola are entering the stage. The band founded around singer J. Ahola, who has become one of the most wanted metal artists in Finland in recent years, deliver a show of Vintage Rock (as they call it) with the use of full physical strength. Without much interaction with the audience, they are playing songs from their new album “Tug of War” as well as from “Stoneface”. For each guitar fan, Antti Karhumaa is throwing out a few tricky guitar solos. A great performance that ends all too soon!
Next are gonna be four gentlemen who have become indispensable in the Rock scene. They spread joy and happiness and get you into the party mood. I am talking about Reckless Love . The band around singer Olli Herman knows exactly how to captivate its audience. To me, this band is a phenomenon over and over again. You simply enjoy watching and listening to these guys. Not a bad performance; they appear highly professional. I think if they keep going this way, they will stay in business for a long time.
I have been waiting for this act for years: Lauri Tähkä! He also belongs to one of these artists you either love or hate. I belong to the first category. I could just go into raptures as this gig at Down by the Laituri has been one of best gigs I have ever seen in my life - and trust me, I have seen plenty. The power and joy generated by the entire band is being transferred to the audience. You see many couples dancing to Tähkä’s songs even though there is a hustle and bustle in front of the small stage. Lauri delivers a good vocal performance and jumps on his piano so that he can be seen by everyone. In addition, he does a few spectacular stunts during the gig. He always keeps close to the audience, which I would not have expected from him since he belongs to one of the more successful artists in this business. Nonetheless, he does not consider himself above the audience, so he climbs over the barriers and seeks close contact with his fans. Very likeable, a perfect performance and definitely worth seeing another time. Simply great!
The finale of the evening is made by the most famous hair flips of the world: the Leningrad Cowboys. The crew of thirteen set the right mood, largely owing to the two pretty dancers and singer Ville Tuomi. He ensures a great atmosphere and dances over the stage with great confidence. To hide the drum kit behind a tractor gives the stage set the perfect look. A great show that everybody must see once in his or her life. A perfect ending of this evening! (Sandy)
Numerous events are taking place in the clubs around the city center. While Elonkerjuu – who used to play with Lauri Tähkä – are playing at night club Vegas, Rock & Roll Sensation are taking the stage at Apollo two nights in a row.
Saturday, July 26
Today we decide for a short day, so I arrive on the site only before Lovex are taking the stage. Unfortunately, the Pop / Rock band from Tampere do not manage to win over their audience; just the right mood does not come with them, partly because singer Theo goes out of sync and focuses too much on his stage acting. What a pity, since these guys actually have strong potential. However, they should work more on their stage performance.
For me, today ends with Uniklubi who have made some changes in their line-up: a new drummer and a new bass player – and I don’t think I have seen the keyboard player before. Anyway, the chemistry within the band does not seem to be right anymore. The guitar players seem to be listless and singer Jussi appeared to be more cheerful back in the day. Contrary to yesterday’s performances, today has been a slight disappointment. Johanna is going to see some more bands later tonight, so let’s hope she’ll be more lucky. (Sandy)
On Saturday one of the biggest names on the tent stage was certainly The Rasmus. The band hasn’t been very active lately, so there were quite a few enthusiastic fans in the front row waiting to hear the old favourites that got the band its international fame. Lauri Ylönen may not wear feathers in his hair anymore (not on this gig, anyway), but the sound is definitely familiar and well, with hits like F-F-F-Falling, No Fear, In The Shadows and Liquid in the setlist, they couldn’t go wrong. No risks were taken, crowd was pleased. A very enjoyable gig. (Johanna)
Conclusion: Down by the Laituri is a small, family-friendly festival, which is well organized. The organizers take criticisms to heart and try to fix problems as quickly as possible. The team really organizes something great here and it would be a pity if it ended after all these years. Thus, let’s hope that there will be another “Rakkauden Festivaali” at Down by the Laituri next year.