Finnish Metal Tour 2011 - Parts 1-8

TOUR DIARY FROM THE FINNISH METAL TOUR 2011

by Kasper Mårtenson

Part 1 - 01.02.2011
Part 2 - 02.02.2011
Part 3 - 04.02.2011
Part 4 - 05.02.2011
Part 5 - 07.02.2011
Part 6 - 08.02.2011
Part 7 - 10.02.2011
Part 8 - 13.02.2011



PART 1

01.02.2011

And so we have arrived in the New World.

Our venture started on Sunday morning. Meeting fellow countrymen, Rotten Sound, at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, we embarked on our flight. In the plane I was sat next to an elderly lady, who as it transpired was suffering from a severe allergy of wheat, known as the celiac disease.

During the flight I was incessantly provided with information on her allergy to the very minutest detail, including diarrhoeatic symptoms and whatnot.  I found out more than would’ve been necessary. On the other hand, I am now rather well educated on the subject of wheat allergy…

Despite assurances from Mikko that the flight would have no limitations as regarding the serving of free alcohol, this proved not to be the case. Having been served free beer with the on-flight lunch, Mikko was dismayed to have his further requests of free-of-charge booze turned down. Now the steward demanded payment! But Mikko was not taken aback by this. Ever the resourceful chap that he is, he quickly produced a bottle of tax-free Finlandia of his own, which he had stashed away.

By this time the seemingly endless lecture on the celiac disease was taking its toll on me. What the situation clearly demanded was a drink of vodka and coke.  I handed a paper cup over to Mikko and requested for a helping of Finlandia. Mikko generously filled over half of the cup. Though I appreciated the gesture as such, it quickly proved to be hazardous for the paper cup, which obviously was not designed to withhold liquids of this type. As the cup was literally falling apart in front of my very eyes, and as the vodka was visibly trickling down from the bottom of the cup, there was no choice but to down the drink in one gulp. So, what was originally intended to be a relaxing, savoury drinking moment, turned out to be a quick and heady shot instead. But it did make the ongoing wheat allergy-lecture a notch or two less unbearable.

At JFK, another type of vodka-and-coke-dilemma presented itself to the lads of Rotten Sound. Before checking in for our connecting flight to Orlando, they realized they had virtually a whole bottle of Finlandia to dispose of. Unallowed to bring the bottle on board (Bring-Your-Own-Bottle not being a policy recognized by the Airline Regulations Commission), it had to either be consumed on the spot, or thrown away. Time was running. Decisions had to be made. The choice was clear: not a single drop of Finlandia was to be wasted. Mixing the vodka with modest amounts of Coke Zero, Rotten Sound provided our traveling party welcoming/farewell drinks to JFK. Given that the amount of Coke was significantly smaller than that of the booze itself, the drink was almost transparent, with only the tiniest hint of brown. This gave a whole new meaning to ’Coke Zero’, as in proportion to the vodka, the amount of Coke was indeed quite close to zero.

It was pleasant to arrive in Florida, where the weather was most welcoming. Having been accustomed to Finland’s freezing temperatures and snow for months, the 23 degrees Celsius was really quite heart-warming, as well as obviously skin-warming.

We had not enjoyed the weather for long, when we happened to catch a TV News report talking about an ’arctic blast’ hitting the States soon. This was juxtaposed with a picture of a map of some states into which the blast was soon to be heading. Curiously, the states in question were exactly those, where our tour was to be heading.  As it turned out, however, ’Arctic blast’ was not a reference to the Finnish Metal Tour 2, but a serious warning for extremely cold and wintry weathers in the near-future, exactly on our route. A classic case, then, of ’out of the frying pan, into the fire’. Or perhaps more like ’out of the freeze box, into the arctic.’

We are travelling by bus. Two buses, in fact. One is occupied by Finntroll and us, whilst the other accommodates Ensiferum and Rotten Sound. Both vehicles are pleasant and comfortable enough. Well, they might as well be, since they are to provide us accommodation for the next 5 weeks. The buses are fitted with bunks, a kitchen, and a bathroom.

In both buses there is a sign above the toilet bowl which prohibits three P’s: No paper, no puke, no poop.  But already on the very first night, this rule was ignored. I will not go into detail, nor will I point fingers. Suffice to say, there was an incident where one of the P’s was involved, and the bus manager was not a happy man…

The first gig took place at Club Firestone, Orlando. The day was long, as bands and crew were still getting to know the equipment specifically rented for this tour. No time for a soundcheck for us, just a quick line check. After a local support act, it was time for the Special Guests, that’s us, to hit the stage. Despite the hurried and somewhat chaotic nature of the proceedings, the sound was quite good on stage, and the crowd seemed supportive enough. Floridans young and old gave us a warm reception, and made us feel welcome, so our debut U.S gig can be said to have been a success!

Now we have left the warm and sunny Florida behind, and are moving into a cold, rainy and foggy Georgia…

 

PART 2

02.02.2011

Yesterday the weather in Atlanta, Georgia was not very welcoming.  The whole day was damp and cold, and towards the end of the evening the amount of rainfall reached ludicrous proportions. Our clothes are still drying out. However, we can at least be sure that today there won’t be any rain or wetness. I am quite confident on this, since now the temperature has gone from cold to freezing, and what was coming down as water in Georgia, is now coming down as snow in Kentucky. It has started to dawn upon us, that perhaps the sandals, Bermuda-shorts, Hawaii-t-shirts, and sun lotions (SPF 25) should have been left at home…

Yesterday’s venue, The Masquerade, was a vast complex, sporting two separate halls, with separate performers. Whilst we played in the smaller hall downstairs, NOFX was on the bill upstairs. At first it seemed that the people of Atlanta’s musical choice for this rainy Tuesday evening was going to be punk rock on the second floor. But by the time we were starting, a decent and curious crowd had assembled at the front of the stage. Compared to the first gig, the second one was a more relaxed and confident affair. As we even managed to do a sound check this time, the whole thing seemed to be better under control.

After the performance Sami had a discussion with a member of the audience:

MotA: Are you still playing with Kreator?

S: Yes, I am.

MotA: Cool. When are you going to tour with him?

This member of the audience didn’t seem to be aware that Kreator is not actually a ‘he’, but a  4-man band. Then again maybe he wasn’t referring to Kreator in the first place. Maybe he thought that Sami is touring with Ville Valo and was actually referring to HIM. And what do I know? Maybe Sami really is going to tour with HIM! I, too, will have to ask him about this...

Tonight’s show will be at Headliner’s Music Hall in Louisville, Kentucky. There is no backstage, and no showers. The tour manager has given us strict orders that no guests are to be given backstage passes. This is hardly an issue, considering the lack of a backstage in the first place…

On a sadder note, because of harsh weather conditions, Thursday’s gig in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been cancelled. We have been informed that the city and the surrounding area is submerged in snow, and roads have been closed.  Getting in and getting out is deemed to be to too risky a venture for us to take. While I feel that I have seen quite enough snow already this winter, and whilst I have no need to compare Oklahoma snow to Finland snow, it is still a shame that it had to come to this. I had been looking forward to doing a bit of  ‘livin’ on Tulsa time’. Alas, this will now have to wait.

Anyway, I have a sneaky suspicion that we will end up making snow comparisons sooner or later.

 

PART 3

04.02.2011

The other day back in Louisville, Kentucky, the culinaristic choice of the day was a Chinese restaurant. We were served by a friendly Chinese woman, and the atmosphere was nice. There were, however, problems with communication, since her Chinese accent, combined with a heavy Southern dialect made her speech virtually incomprehensible to us. As a result of this, although me and Marko ordered exactly the same dish, we got two distinctly different portions. But the food was good. The waiter was also in a humorous mode, and was constantly joking. We didn’t understand the jokes, but she was laughing, so I’m sure they were funny.

In Kentucky, the musical reference of the day was obviously Bill Monroe’s classic ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’. But we didn’t see a blue moon, nor a moon of any other colour. With the absence of gloves, the only thing blue towards the end of the day were our fingers.

With the cancellation of the Tulsa gig, our route was changed so that we would be spending the day off in Jackson, Mississippi. Although the cancellation was unfortunate, this new bit of routing did provide me with the chance of being able to sing, ‘I’m goin’ to Jackson…’, and that really felt quite cool.

The day in Ridgewood, Jackson was uneventful. What was notable was the lack of pedestrian paths. It seems that the transport method of choice around here is to drive a car. Many of these places are clearly not designed with the walking citizen in mind. And so our pedestrian group of Finnish rockers was regularly accompanied by honking horns, as we staggered on the busy streets, trying desperately to avoid the menacing Ford pick-up trucks hurdling by.

In Georgia it was raining, in Kentucky we had snowfall, and now the trilogy is complete, for in Mississippi yesterday we had a shower of hail. Biting and vicious drops of hail were pouring down, as plans of re-christening this tour to ‘Hail, Hail, Rock’n roll’ emerged.

It seems that the bad weather conditions are not done with us, or indeed USA, yet. It was bad enough to cancel Tulsa, but now things have turned worse. The bus call was at 3 am, and the plan was to reach the next destination, Austin, Texas, by 4 pm. Waking up at around 8 am, I sensed that the bus was not moving. Suspicions were soon confirmed. We were, and still are, only 8 miles from where we started. The roads everywhere are covered in ice and traffic has come to a halt. It is so unheard of to have icy roads in Mississippi, that no preparations for this situation had been made. And now it has resulted in this. There is no way to reach Austin today, so regrettably that one, also, has now been cancelled, and we are still stuck in Jackson. It’s quite cool to sing ‘I’m goin’ to Jackson’; it’s not quite as cool to sing ‘I’m stuck in Jackson’.

This is a major setback, not least because for the whole trip so far, Mikko has been enthusing about a certain restaurant in Austin, namely Stubb’s BBQ. We have heard mouth-watering tales of savoury grill dishes, and had been looking forward to dining at Stubb’s tonight. Then again, I am not always convinced that Mikko is the man to ask for gastronomic recommendations, given that yesterday his main course for the day was a can of SPAM, eaten raw with a plastic fork, straight out of the tin…

 

PART 4

5.2.2011

Yesterday’s prolonged stay at the Jackson truck stop was a baffling affair. Nobody had any idea of what condition the roads were in, and when we would be able to start again. We didn’t even know where the drivers, the tour manager and the other bus had gone. To make matters worse, the toilet door in our bus  got jammed. Luckily, nobody was caught inside. However, as there was a growing desire to use the toilet, people were getting restless.

Problems with toilets seem to be a recurring theme on this trip. As already mentioned, there was an incident in the other bus on the first night. A couple of days later, we heard rumours of a very similar incident having yet again taken place, this time coupled with the actual smashing of the toilet door. Details have been sketchy about these events, but somebody has clearly been acting out of order. As a result of this, also their toilet ended up being out of order.

There have been actual complaints from the bus company. Accusations have been hurled at both buses for unruly behaviour, but I hope that by now our coach is in the clear, for the conduct in our bus has been exemplary. The situation is quite funny, considering that it is precisely some travelers in the other  bus who have specific rules of no drinking and no loud music. In other words, a ‘silent bus’.  Silence, it seems, is a relative concept.

But back to the problem with our toilet door.  Various measures were taken by various members with various tools, but the lock remained jammed. When our driver returned, he was confident he could take care of it. Alas, he soon also had to admit defeat. It was then that Janne rose to the occasion. Nobody quite saw what he did, or with what, but his magic touch worked, and the door was eventually happily unlocked. And it was about time it did. Otherwise we might have ended up employing some door-wrecking services from the other bus…

We were eventually able to get back on the road, and kept on driving until nightfall, when the roads were beginning to freeze again.  We had by then reached Canton, Texas, which was 99 miles from our destination for the next day, Fort Worth. As we soon found out, Canton is what is known as a ‘dry county’, in that the selling of alcohol is strictly forbidden. For some of us this was just too unbelievable to be true.  A travelling party set forth with the mission of finding beer, but by the time they were turned down at the fifth consecutive shop, they had to face reality: this county really is quite dry.  Consequently, yesterday’s only beer was a glass of root beer at Canton’s Dairy Paradise, enjoyed with a portion of Freedom Fries.

This morning there seemed to be a hurry getting back on the road. At first, this seemed to be slightly questionable. If the distance was only 99 miles, surely there could be no need for an early start. But soon it became obvious. Upon looking out of the window, one could’ve been mistaken for being back in Finland again (apart from the ‘dry county’ thing, of course), for everything was covered in a 4-inch blanket of snow, and everything was frozen. Quite picturesque, in fact. Only Santa Claus was missing. The only thing being out of place was the place itself, namely Texas, where this kind of weather is simply unheard of.

After getting back on the road, we were only able to do 15 mph, and this, too, seemed risky at times. On the interstate highway we were met with weird scenes of slowly moving vehicles, big and small. We frequently also saw vehicles which had not been moving slowly and as a result of this had spinned off-road.

We passed a small, blue car, which was stuck in the snow, and couldn’t get forward, because the wheels were spinning on empty on the ice and snow. Their emergency plan of action was to place biscuits and biscuit wrappers under the wheels, in order for the wheels to get a better grip. This scene was met with much hilarity on our behalf. Biscuits! Wrappers!  What are these guys thinking? That will never work.You could learn a lesson or two from us Finns! However, we hadn’t been driving for long after this, when our bus driver said: ‘Better look to the left, guys!’ And there, on the left lane was that very same small, blue car, easily surpassing us on the interstate highway. Perhaps it is us Finns who have the learning to do…

 

PART 5

7.2.2011

In Texas, the musical reference of the day was the Jimmie Rodgers song, T For Texas (probably better known as the version by Lynyrd Skynyrd). And as it was freezing cold, I decided to have just that, a T. Preferably Twining’s Earl Grey or English Breakfast. But it was just then that the clock hit noon, and despite the snow, the weather started getting really warm. By the time we reached Ft. Worth, the temperature was reasonably high, and our winter coats could be abandoned, at least for the time being.

It really is a magnificent PR stunt Mother Nature has supported this tour with. Surely it cannot be a coincidence that the route of the Finnish Metal Tour 2 matches quite closely that of the recent meteorological phenomenon referred to here as the ‘Arctic Blast’. But as with any publicity stunt, there are limits, and what with the cancelled gigs, I think old Mother Earth might have been pushing it a tad too far.

But Ft. Worth was great. The gig was the best of the tour so far, as this time certain members of the audience were there specifically to see us, some of them even having driven for hours to get there. This showed in the overall vibe of the gig, and ‘twas but a pleasure.

Earlier in the day, Oppu decided he needed to hang his bed sheets on a clothesline. As there actually weren’t any clotheslines available, a Dodge pick-up truck parked nearby had to do. Neatly spreading the sheets over the truck’s hood, they were bound to get the airing they demanded. But this was not quite to happen. Upon returning to the site later on, the pick-up truck was still there, but the sheets weren’t. Baffled and bemused, he went inside the tour bus, only to find a lady wearing a coat which looked suspiciously the same as Oppu’s blanket. Allegations were made that this lady had taken Oppu’s sheets to meet her own sartorial tastes. But after a while it came clear, that this was not so. The jacket indeed was her own, and would remain so in the future, too. The mystery of the missing bed sheets was finally resolved, when they were eventually found in a garbage bin close by, having presumably been taken there by the owner of the truck. During the course of the day, the bed sheets did get the amount of fresh air they demanded, but due to this later development of things, they also got something else. Nevertheless, Oppu was happy to find his beloved sheets again, and after a more-intensive-than-average dusting session he was able to have a good night’s sleep in them once more.

I met a group of Americans a few years ago whose drink of choice was Heineken beer. Nothing special about that, of course. But what I do remember was that they referred to this particular beer as Heiny, as in ‘bring us a round of Heinies, will you please, madame.’ Thinking that this is the correct colloquial expression for Heineken around here, I went to the bar girl and asked for a ‘Heiny’. She laughed and said:’ Oh, I’ll show you a hiny all right.’ After this she made a pointing gesture, but what was indicated was not a bottle of Heineken, or a bottle of anything else, for that matter …

The highlight of the day was a special gift package we received from the State of Texas. And what a gift package it was! Each band on this tour received the same thing: a goodie bag filled with various things related to Texas. T-shirts, baseball caps, stickers, key rings – the lot. But the true gem of the package was an actual flag of Texas, accompanied by a certificate which stated that ‘the Texas Flag herewith presented to Barren Earth by State Senator Wendy R. Davis, was flown above the State Capital of the Sovereign State of Texas on January 15, 2011.’ We were, and still are, genuinely moved by this. Thanks a lot, Wendy!

Although there were varying amounts of different goodies in the bag, we were able to split them between us amicably. For instance, the vegetarians in the band had no particular desire to get hold of the      Trophy Hunters Association: The Voice of Texas Hunting-stickers. As for myself, I got a sticker which bewares me ‘not to mess with Texas.’ Rest assured, Mrs. Senator, I will not.

 

PART 6

8.2.2011

After the Ft. Worth gig, it was yet again time for a day off. This time it was deliberate and not because of cancellations due to weather conditions. The free day was spent in El Paso, Texas. On our way into El Paso, Mikko said he’d really want a shower. I agreed. After inhaling the odour emanating from him, I could only concur with his sentiment. I, too, wanted Mikko to have a shower.

Finnish names are often difficult for foreign people. So far, there have been no serious errors, but one misspelling seems to pop up repeatedly, and that is Janne Perttilä being spelt as Janne Pertilla. He likes this. We all like it. Not least because it has a certain tex-mex vibe to it. Pertilla, after all, is not that far away from tortilla. Considering this, it really is no surprise that on this sojourn it is Janne Pertilla who has excelled in spotting Mexican restaurants. In El Paso, he led us to Julio’s. This place was nothing short of excellent. Well, it had to be, because upon perusing the menu, it was discovered that Julio’s is endorsed by Jack Nicholson. And that is the only endorsement a restaurant really needs.

As it was Superbowl Sunday, Julio’s had a special offer on giant Margheritas for 3$. No disrespect towards American Football, but we weren’t really bothered with the televised Superbowl, as we were occupied with ‘superbowls’ of our own.

The weather has gradually been getting warmer, and upon arriving in Tempe, Arizona yesterday, it was a pleasure to find that the day was truly hot. This was what we had been waiting for. It was the first time on this trip one actually had to worry about getting a sun sting or burnt skin. So it was really nice to be in Arizona, or should I say Ari-sauna.

On this trip I am very grateful for being able to use Emmi Silvennoinen’s Korg M3 as my second instrument, Emmi of course being the keyboard-wizardress of Ensiferum. In preparation for this tour, we sat down and programmed Barren Earth’s piano, string, and choir sounds onto her synthesizer. It has worked splendidly, and has saved me trouble as now I have only one keyboard of my own to carry around. The crew, notably Hans and Eki, has also been very helpful in setting up the gear, and providing assistance with DI-boxes and US-electricity converters. Much obliged, I am.

Yesterday, however, things didn’t go quite smoothly for Emmi. A few hours before our show, Emmi had an alarmed expression on her face, as she said: ‘Something terrible has happened with the keyboards’. It turned out that she had accidentally wiped out the memory of her keyboard, meaning that all the sounds were gone. All was not lost, since she had done some backing up, but not recently, the latest backup having been made at least six months ago. My BE sounds were gone, obviously. But this seemed a rather petty matter compared to her loss, for she had lost complete program lists for several ‘ferum tracks. This meant she would have to start incessant work on recreating the sounds before the evening’s show. Could this be done? First we redid my sounds, and got them about right quite quickly. Then Emmi continued work on her ‘rum sounds. Up until the point of our gig, she was still furiously working with the keyboard which I would be needing.

K: Excuse me, hate to bother you, but I’m kinda needing the synth...

E : Oh, I’ll be finished in a couple of minutes.

K: Erm, yes, but you see, I should be on stage in a couple of minutes…

Though reluctant to interrupt her work, she saw my dilemma, and kindly once again let me use the machine. After our show, her furious sound-hunting work continued. I don’t know if she got everything in order before Ensiferum’s show, but watching their gig, I thought it sounded, keys included, very good. And the crowd of 300 Ari-saunians seemed to agree.

 

PART 7

10.2.2011

After Arizona, it was time for Los Angeles, California. Beautiful desert scenes complete with cacti and tumbleweed were on display during the drive, followed by the very impressive San Bernardino Mountains.

In Hollywood, we were provided refreshments at a house just off Sunset Boulevard. What made this house special was that it had been inhabited at various times by people like Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. Currently occupied by a hospitable friend of Mikko’s, welcoming drinks were served at the poolside. For some, this trip had so far been rather wet, and it was to become even more so, as our host kindly informed us that thejacuzzi and swimming pool were at our disposal. So there was use for the Bermudas and sun lotions after all. And there seemed to be echoes of the old Rat Pack in more ways than one, as the swimming rockers floating in the pool looked pretty much like wet rats themselves.

The sky was blue, the water was blue, and to cap it off, we were hanging by the pool of Ol’ Blue Eyes, so ‘twas but all right. And it was made even more sweeter by the incoming news that in Finland the temperature was -10 C, and Helsinki was suffering from what felt like the winters’ 342nd heavy snow fall. I have heard stories of snow in LA too, but I believe it is a substance of a very different nature…

The night in LA was truly exceptional in that no less than six Finnish bands were performing in the city. In addition to the four bands of our tour, fellow countrymen Turisas and Daniel Lioneye were also in town. This must be a record. It used to be rare to even have a single Finnish band in the USA, and now there was a cornucopia of Finnish groups available in just one city, and I might add, a rather prestigious one. So, it would seem that the Finnish music exportation is doing rather well. And it’s not just the music. It seems that the language, too, is crossing borders. This was evidenced by post-show commentary by enthused audients: ‘Great show, thanks for coming over, guys. Wittu kyllah!’ Yes, the export of Finnish culture is doing just fine…

In Santa Ana, during the first song, a woman walked unannounced to the stage, carrying with her an inflatable doll of the Barbara-variety. This was totally unexpected. What was going on? However, the Santa Anans seemed to know exactly what was going on. In a firm and experienced manner, the woman proceeded to kick the doll into the audience. The audience acted accordingly, and a game not too different from volley ball, started. Call it dolley ball, if you like. The doll could be seen flying above the audience, as the ‘players’ kept the doll in motion around the Galaxy Theatre auditorium, and all this happened in perfect sync with the music. This provided an additional visual dimension to our show. Pink Floyd may have inflatable pigs, but Barren Earth has just raised the stakes in this game. Eat your heart out, Roger Waters & Co!

A certain member of a certain group on the other bus was on a particularly festive mood in LA. After a final round of drinks in our bus, he decided to call it a day, and go to sleep. In his customary manner he crept to the first bunk on the low left. It was the right bunk. However, it was the wrong bus. It was discreetly suggested to him that he might want to prefer the bunk in his own bus. He realized his situation, and was then seen blithely staggering towards his own mobile residence. But his fixation with our bus seems to continue. Last night, upon leaving Santa Ana, he decided to ride with us for a brief while, thinking that he could return to his own bus on the first truck-stop visit. But to his dismay, there were to be no truck-stop visits. We were to drive straight up to San Francisco. As a result, he ended up spending the whole night in our bus. And though feeling sleepy, he was reluctant to actually fall asleep, given that people dozing off on the couch in this bus are known to wake up finding their faces having received mysterious adornments done by black marker pens. He soldiered on, defying sleep, and actually managed to stay awake for quite long. But eventually he nodded off. Upon waking he rushed to the mirror. He was relieved to find that he was free of any marker stains. But he was also surprised to find that his beard had changed colour, and was now bright pink…

 

PART 8

13.2.2011

On this tour, every now and then a Barren Earth CD is handed to me, accompanied with a pen and a request for an autograph. On a recent gig I got handed a different album, which turned out to be Tales from the Thousand Lakes. ‘Oh, I remember that one’, I thought, and signed accordingly. In Santa Ana yet again a different album was given to me to be signed. But this one did not look familiar. ‘I don’t remember this one’, I thought, as an eager grind-core fan was waiting for me to sign his copy of Rotten Sound’s Exit album…

It is customary for the headliners of this tour to hold ‘meet and greet’ sessions for the fans. These are usually easygoing happenings, where fans get to meet and chat with their idols. On one occasion, though, it seemed that the fans were slightly intimidated by the presence of their heroes. ‘Troll and ‘Ferum were gathered around a table, and the fans remained on the other side of the room, apparently too shy to establish contact with the players. So, Finntroll and Ensiferum ended up meeting and greeting each other. And they seemed pleased enough. After all, they hadn’t seen each other for a few hours.

Driving from Santa Ana to San Francisco, the musical reference of the day was obviously San Francisco (Flowers in your Hair) by Scott McKenzie, and I certainly would have liked to have worn some flowers in my hair. But since I didn’t have any flowers (or hair, for that matter) I quickly abandoned the thought.

In San Francisco we had plenty of time to walk about. A delightful stroll around town culminated in a visit to Coit Tower, where a panoramic view of the city presented itself: Golden Gate, Alcatraz, etc. Nice one, that.

San Francisco was probably the last warm day for a long time. Arriving in Portland, Oregon, the air was nippy, and the venue was very cold. But we were assured that later on the place would be steaming. And that was exactly what happened. By the time Ensiferum was on stage, the place was like a sauna, and people with glasses regularly had to wipe the steam off.

John, the revered merchandise salesman for the headliners, told a story from the same venue, where Ensiferum’s intensive mosh-pit had been a tad too energetic, and had resulted in a broken merch table and a scattering of the goods. Therefore, it was not with a small amount of trepidation I started my working shift at the Barren Earth/Rotten Sound merchandise table, as Ensiferum were getting started. Being on my own, I dreaded the moment when ‘Ferum bassist Sami made a circular gesture to the audience with his right index finger. Sure enough, the audience complied, and the mosh-pit was in full flow. Oh my God, this is it. They are coming! Well, that was it, and they did come. But luckily this time the merch desk was sturdy enough to survive. Nevertheless, I kept a fearful eye on Sami’s right index finger for the remainder of the set.

The Portland show was followed by a karaoke session in the adjoining bar. Finnish people love karaoke, and it was with great excitement that we started looking for songs in the catalogue, and filling out the necessary forms in order to get to perform. I am pleased to say, that during the course of the evening I did my American debut as a singer. And, since you ask, here’s the setlist: Come Together, Revolution, Louie Louie. No encore.

It was a fun-packed night, and Portlandians were given such rare treats as Ensiferum-Pete’s energetic rendition of Beat It and Rotten Sound-Keijo’s subtle interpretation of Imagine. But the true gem of the evening was a duet between Keijo and Finntroll-Mathias. Their emotionally charged version of Wind Of Change by the Scorpions brought the house down. To have vocalists primarily known for non-pitched vocal work deliver such a melodic and heartfelt performance was a surefire hit and a showstopperof the highest calibre. A wind of change indeed.

 

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