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Whilst the famous TUSKA attracts all the Metallers and holidaying tourists, the darker inhabitants of the underground relocate to Tampere for this weekend. LUMOUS is the most northern Gothic festival in Europe and the only one in Finland (so far). Many foreign followers of the subculture mistakenly expect very active Gothic scene in Finland, given how many bands this country produced over the years. Yet it is a fact that Finnish Gothic scene is extremely small and all there is to it is mainly surviving in Tampere, forget Helsinki. And even then, coming from Germany or other countries with more developed and rich Gothic culture, seeing this event in Tampere called LUMOUS has absolutely nothing in common with any other Gothic festival there is.
Unlike most other Finnish music summer events, LUMOUS is not an open air and moreover, takes place only after dark and finishes shortly before sunrise – truly vampiric existence.
This festival is a series of concerts at different dark bars and clubs in the most gothic Finnish city. The size of those venues varies from small to very small, so leave your great expectations at home and I don´t only mean the locations, but the entire event. Coming from Germany, I was honestly surprised to realize how ´narrow´ this festival is, both in the music selection and the visitors. What stroke my eyes the most, were very many Post-Punkers and Cyber-Goths, with almost unidentifiable gender of the person, yet endless creativity and openmindedness! Numerous men in long skirts (gorgeous!) and girls with shaved heads (confusing!) add up to a very diverse audience. Unfortunately to my taste there were very few antique Goths and absolutely no Metallers (clearly because of TUSKA), so the festival obviously has its set audience.
One highlight of the event is what´s called “die dunkle Seereise” – a boat cruise over the Tampere river on a boat stuffed with 120 Goths and other representatives of the subculture. The trip lasts a few hours from 19.00pm at a warm Finnish dusk and arrives punctually on time for the first concerts at 23.00pm. Note that those tickets sellout almost at once – there is only one boat. During the cruise there is a live band aboard and other smaller entertainments. If you are thinking about attending LUMOUS early enough, make sure to book tickets (15euro per person) on time!
Other than the cruise, there are several other events going on during LUMOUS days before the evening´s concerts, such as “dark literature with good music” – at local book stores with Gothic DJs etc.
Bar/Club Vastavirta was the host of the opening day. I´d never find this place alone (underground it is!), but this time could´ve easily followed the trail of Goths heading to a beautiful location right near the lake and almost no other buildings in sight, very solitaire. The bar´s interior is just as weird and eye-catching as every single one of the visitors, so all in all, the place perfectly matched the audience.
Definitely the hope of Finnish dark underground: From the first riff of their guitar, from the first look the singer took at the audience to every single move of his body, everything, every single detail of this band´s image and sound just screamed their confidence and attitude – excellent work! Those young Cure followers took me off-guard, as the opening band are rarely as expressive and striking, weird and beautiful at the same time, like four Brian Molko wax figures came alive, so fragile, surreal and wickedly charismatic. The singer´s dancing and expressions were on the boundaries of extreme emo and absolute schizophrenia, yet he made it through the set just as passionately as it started. Unlike the flexible mobile singer, the rest of the band was like mechanical puppets, moving so lifeless and emotionless. The bar was full; the floor was dancing, big success for the performing mannequins…
Quality British Darkwave with clear beat and strict abeyance of this style´s traditions, no more no less, meaning that after first few songs it starts getting repetitive and tiresome. Well, obviously not for the dancing enthusiasts in front of the stage. Libitina is most likely better off at club parties than at a live show, so you aren´t distracted by the look of the band and can concentrate on the music alone. Unfortunately, it isn´t common in Finnish culture to dance at concerts, but surprisingly at least half of the floor did their moves, as well as the band on stage really enjoyed playing.
Now the scene is slowly awakening and gathering, significantly more attendants at the second night and so, change of location to more central city club Tulikamarin, styled as an old-fashioned theatre with a beautiful terrace. Different location – more diversity among the audience, a few more Gothic Lolitas in sight and more extreme cyber creatures. In between bands LUMOUS DJs entertain us with the classics, ranging from the Mission to more unexpected “Voyage, voyage” – good Goth finds a way to dance to anything!
Imagine your neighbors´ little five-year-old girl´s dolly-house came alive at midnight and decided to form a band... So there it is, pretty-lovely singer in French-maid apron and petticoat with long pink hair, flowers and cute-almost-fine-china-face, doing a dance and singing along, more to herself than the audience, which makes the whole performance even cuter. The music is very pleasant and at one moment you find yourself dancing, even though you´ve never heard those melodies before and most likely won´t recognize them in the future either. Opener of the evening has definitely set the right vibe, before the clock stroke midnight, broke the magic and turned them back into dollies…
ZOMBINA & THE SKELETONS (UK)
Puppet show in the style of ´Horror-Punk´ (as the English call it), but also so surreal – human-size spooky cartoon creatures, something Tim Burton can sip inspiration from! I´d never imagine zombie playing in such perky-jolly band and if this would´ve been on the radio, I´d never guess it somehow belongs to Gothic culture! The sound is very American 50s – “Grease” was my first association, Boogie-Woogie in “Pulp Fiction” and uber-hyper punk – explosive mixture! Yet the audience caught their vibe just as well and after the set ended, actively called for an encore, which was gladly played by so living Zombina and even more cheerful Skeletones. Grotesque!
In those 3 days of Post-Punk and synthetic sound this one band was the darkest, heaviest and most Gothic, at least for my understanding of the term (or I´ve been infected by Metal too much in this country). Something along the lines of the 69 Eyes in year 2000… Russia´s music scene has been overlooked and that can be understood, dark scene there has a long way to go and it is being born as we speak, yet already a few bands have taken a descent form. Doppelganger on CD and live are quite different, but considering their recent singer change and LUMOUS being their first foreign appearance, they definitely deserve credit for having good dark Goth-Rock feeling, not bad at all and I am sure there will be a soon comeback.
The black flower was ripping and has finally blossomed! Much more attendants, a lot more attractions on site (merchandise stalls, clothes+accessories+jewellery sales, etc) and so noticeably more creativity in the air! DJs only have a strange humor, playing hardcore old-school Gothic tunes along with random 80s retro (“Rasputin”, “Sweet Dreams”, even Elvis!!! etc) And the later the night grows, the braver and more wicked the behavior of the audience is: female pinup-Goths are portraying Marilyn Monroe, Betty Page and other such idols; feminine young men with purple butterfly wings; tall punk haircuts resemble the chainsaw silhouette and soldiers from 40s Germany with swastikas and clean haircuts, all so realistic and well done – frightening! Although when seeing a tipsy Marilyn doing twist along with even tipsier German soldier on the dance floor all fears evaporate and a weird feeling of belonging soon develops… “Openmindedness” is the keyword of the last LUMOUS night.
RAISON D´ETRE (SWE)
Swedish industrial/noise project, one-man show opens the night. Very unusual performance… a table equipped with all sorts of strange, random fine metal objects, laptop and a huge screen at the background make a set. An artist touches the metal objects to initiate a vibration, which then mixes at the laptop to produce very unique sounds, no melody as such, but this is where the title “noise” comes from. To paint a better picture, video sequence is projected onto the white screen at the back: something unidentifiable, but rusty and white is going in slow motion, capturing your sight and slowly hypnotizing… This work is very skillful, once you watch the fast crafty handwork of the artist and his undivided attention on the sound – like an illusionist playing a trick, only not visually, but with the sound, so you´re hearing something, which is in fact something else… Twisted. Audience is motionless, silent and totally driven by the happening – fascinating, yet a spooky sight. And sound too – I won´t ever know what use it is at home, but as a stage show it makes a very impressive act.
If judging by the merchandise worn by the audience during the past three days, this was clearly hit of the whole festival: to illustrate the proportion, imagine how many TUSKA-goers have Iron Maiden shirts on... So naturally I had high expectations of the majority´s favorite. Only by Suruaika´s bat-logo I´d expect a darker sound, but no, this is one Energizer bunny with broken off-switch and Rob Smith look – showering in its own sweat, the singer ran and jumped with full force during the entire set and encore!!! Respect to him and pity for my eyes – in flashing light this hyperactive dance was impossible to watch without getting dizzy.
The closing act came on stage with so much confidence and attitude, as if they tour in Finland the whole time and it is a natural thing for them to be so long-awaited and anticipated. This was the only band, when I didn´t want to be at the front – back rows were seriously pushing and once the dancing took off, became almost impossible to move anywhere towards the exit or the bar. Industrial beat and clean electronic arrangements are great-impossible-to-resist dance-tracks; very well thought-through and prepared stage images are inspiring; musicians so comfortable on stage give the whole performance a very relaxed atmosphere; female drummer (looks like a fit aerobic-cyber-instructor from a sci-fi movie) driving the crowd wild not only by cheerful shouts to “all the beautiful people out there”, but also by energetically taking her clothes off down to a futuristic sparkling silver bikini!
CONCLUSION: After long three days at LUMOUS, I have realized what different perception Finnish have of Gothic subculture than England or Germany, as I have personally experienced. LUMOUS has rather limited music program, but on the other hand, most bands you probably have never heard of, since it is very underground. What was pleasant to see, is general behavior and attitude: unlike most common Finnish ´Metal´ chaos, LUMOUS managed to preserve some elegant Gothic aesthetics, so there are very few hopelessly drunk and lost individuals, thrown around. By the friendly welcome of all attendants we´ve figured out that LUMOUS audience travels to Tampere religiously every summer to hear new bands, meet old friends, have few drinks and on the whole, enjoy being among the similar-minded people. Where are all those people in the daytime I´ll never know, but at LUMOUS all showed up and with a different outfit for each day!... This festival is definitely not for everyone even well familiar with Finnish Goth, but to see LUMOUS is absolutely worth it – I believe it has a lot of Finnish feel to it and this is also something to experience in such unusual settings; only then go to 3rd day, when it´s at its most vivid, alive (unfitting adjective to a Gothic festival, but the most descriptive of the atmosphere) and most diverse unlike more narrow-oriented beginning.