Festivals, they are here again after three years! The pandemic has been choking the music and event industry for two summers, and finally, we have a festival season going on in many corners of the globe. In Finland, the ‘Kesärauha’ Festival, organized for the third time, opened the summer season with three days. The Turku Castle worked as the festival venue and made the whole experience extraordinary. ‘Elektrolinna’ (electro castle) enabled a unique musical experience inside the walls of Turku Castle. Numerous artists made the audience dance from the early evening, and at times there were even queues at the door of Elektrolinna, since the capacity was limited. The new stage brought a different experience that captivated the audience, especially during the dark hours of the night.
The sunny weekend of ‘Kesärauha’ culminated in a record with 19,000 visitors celebrating around Turku Castle.
Indiefferential was supposed to be at the festival for three days, but because of some sudden changes, only the whole Friday and the Sunday evening were covered. We could still get some feelings from ‘Miika Luoma’, who was visiting the festival the entire weekend. ‘Miika Luoma’ has been commenting earlier to Indiefferential on a couple of other articles and is playing drums in multiple Finnish bands like ‘Mantaray’, ‘Callisto’ and ‘Raidat’.
This was the first time me visiting ‘Kesärauha’. After leaving the car, I got the festival pass easily and approached the venue. Before reaching Turku Castle and the park around it, you need to walk through some industrial harbor, but quickly it turned into a beautiful green park with happy-looking people. Everything went smoothly. Before entering the festival area, a few police officers with a dog were standing there in civilian clothes. Later I saw the same officers with the dog inside the festival area. It is always so much fun to see the civilian “undercover” police officers in the music festivals with their dogs when you are actually not allowed to take animals to the festival venues.
Photo by Jussi Virkumaa
Quickly the tunes of rock music floated from the main stage. It was ‘Ursus Factory’, a Finnish rock duo with a singer/guitarist ‘Jussi’ and backup singer/drummer ‘Allu’ which was playing on the main stage. They have a reputation as a wild live band, but maybe because it was still pretty early, the show was no wilder than most rock shows. People still seemed to enjoy the show, including some jokes, intentionally wrong-played notes, and more jokes.
The first show I was excited about was ‘Louie Blue’, but just as last-minute, they needed to cancel and instead I went to see ‘Atomirotta’. The trio combines hip hop, blues, rock, and even Finnish iskelmä (Finnish adult pop music?). Behind ‘Atomirotta’ there is a massive experience of music and performing over multiple years, and you can really see that. I did not expect much, but the band warmed up the crowd for the whole festival. The sound was super tight, and they made the people dance in the backyard of the Turku Castle.
A local Turku electro duo, ‘nghtrdio’ opened the new stage ‘Elektrolinna’. The duo is pretty new and has only released a couple of singles, but they were able to make the crowd dance for the whole slot of 45 minutes. The guys were looking surprised at how many people showed up. Seeing the ‘Elektrolinna’ stage in the inner yard of Turku Castle was brilliant. It felt an exceptional and unique experience. ‘nghtrdio’ played well, and the live vocals sounded just perfect. Big appreciation for a DJ who sings so well while doing his other tricks! I hope to catch them again at some dark club where the volume could be a bit louder than in ‘Elektrolinna’.
Photo by Jussi Virkumaa
After these two acts, there was time to just go through the festival area. Everything seemed to work nicely; there were no long queues anywhere, people seemed happy, it was easy to navigate, and the festival art looked colorful and beautiful. While going around the venue, I shortly watched ‘Rosita Luu’, who had a great vintage sound and look on stage, ‘Katerina’, who continued the dance party at the ‘Elektrolinna’ with a cool and fashionable electro sound, and ‘Ege Zulu’ which was the first hip hop act to play at the festival.
Soon the British ‘Wolf Alice’ started their set on the main stage. Their latest album, ‘Blue Weekend’, released in 2021 was pretty hyped, and I was interested to hear how they sounded live. I did not have so many expectations, and maybe, for this reason, I enjoyed their varied sound. The set started with powerful rock, even punk, sound. Later, the set sounded more like stadium rock and had some slower tunes. The vocalist, ‘Ellie Rowsell’ sounded terrific, and I admired her way of using her voice. Especially the high tones sounded just brilliant. The whole band seemed to really give it all to the biggest crowd of the day since the festival opened its gates.
Photo by Ville Saarni
The path of rock continued with the Norwegian ‘Honningbarna’, which started immediately after ‘Wolf Alice’ finished their set. A bunch of people was already waiting for the band to begin when their latest album ‘Animorphs’ opening and title track started playing. The stage was empty, except for four mic stands and the drum set, all next to each other, close to the edge of the stage. Suddenly I noticed the guys from the band standing here and there in the middle of the crowd, slowly approaching the stage and finally climbing to the stage just before the first tunes of the guitar, drums, and vocals hit. Immediately part of the crowd went crazy. The pit was on, and the band seemed energetic and sparkling. The setlist included mainly songs from the latest album and a couple of older hits. Slowly more people joined the pit, and quickly it was easy to say that this would be the most energetic show of the whole weekend. From time to time, the guys from the band were in the middle of the crowd, stage diving, body surfing, and jumping with the fans. The whole set ended with all the guys, except the drummer, playing in the middle of the crowd. I rarely make this kind of analysis of the live shows, but for me, how the band started from the audience, to ending it in the audience and having the drummer in the same line as other members of the band, instead of in the background, it might be that the band could have wanted to say that how all of are equal even though they are playing on a big, high stage. It might be something like this or not, but still, I liked the idea.
‘Honningbarna’ finished their exhausting set just on time before the main act of the day, ‘Jungle’ started playing on the main stage. I saw the band in 2018, and I had big expectations for their show. The set began with a couple of new songs, everything sounded nice and soft, but maybe because of the intense and loud set of ‘Honningbarna’, it felt slightly low on volume and just a little bit too cute even though I could call myself a fan of the band. The seven members all did a great job, and I slowly started warming up to their silky neo-soul and hip hop sound. After a few of the first songs, they played ‘Beat 54 (All Good Now)’ from their previous album ‘For Ever’. For some reason, this was the song that lit the spark to the fire. Slowly after this point, the sun started to get lower, and the stage also started looking better with less daylight. One thing I hate at festivals is that people travel between stages and might come to see something they don’t know at all and just start doing stupid stuff or chatting super loudly. I know this is just a music nerd whining, but this also happened during ‘Jungle’s set with some drunk people starting a disturbing dance ring. Quickly I decided to get some distance, and I was happy that I did because the rest of the show was great with tracks like ‘Smile’, ‘Truth’, ‘Busy Earnin’’ and two new great tracks ‘GOOD TIMES’ and PROBLEMZ’. One track that was surprising that the band played was ‘Romeo (feat. Bas)’. The band had the featuring MC ‘Bas’ visiting through the screen, but I think this kind of trick rarely works, and this did not work now either. One of the highlights was definitely the backing vocals, flute, and keyboards by ‘Lydia Kitto’. Her voice was just out of this world! Another funny detail was the ending of ‘Casio’ with the loop from ‘Stayin’ Alive’.
Photo by Camilla Hanhirova
The first day ended with a Finnish rock band, ‘Kissa’. They looked amazing on the stage with their flashy clothes, and the guitar solos were as fabulous and flashy. Their sound was much better and bigger live than on the record. They have a specific lo-fi sound in their music on the album, but on the live set the lo-fi sound was more distant, and they had more power on their sound. Especially the bass guitar sounded so rad! There are no other rock bands like ‘Kissa’ in Finland a the moment, which would play this kind of action/garage rock, and they definitely have their place in the Finnish music scene!
(by Miika Luoma)
The day was beautiful and hot, and the sun was shining from the clear sky. The first band to watch was the folk/pop band ‘Scandinavian Music Group’. The last time I saw them was maybe eight years ago, and the band has changed from those days. This was still an excellent way to start the sunny Saturday!
Next, I went to see ‘Pykäri’, a producer who makes a lot of collaborations with other musicians. ‘Pykäri’s voice was really quiet and felt even shy, but ‘Karin Mäkiranta’ (from Karina), who was on the stage as well, did a great job.
Another solo artist ‘Yeboyah’ had a good attitude and people seemed to enjoy her hip hop show. My spouse had good daytime drunkenness during this gig at 16:30, and said that the show felt especially good because of that dizziness.
The only jazz gig in the whole festival was by ‘Linda Fredrikkson Juniper’, which was great. The band was top quality with drums by ‘Olavi Louhivuori’, Rhodes by ‘Tuomo Prättälä’, and bass by ‘Mikael Saastamoinen’. The entire gig held the listeners in its grip, and the band also seemed to be following each other nicely. The whole set had a good atmosphere. It surprised me, but this went to the top 5 gigs of the whole weekend!
Photo by Jussi Virkumaa
‘Vesta’ played on the main stage. What a gorgeous Finnish artist, charming character, and tight songs like ‘Periodi’, ‘Sun katu’, and ‘Ota varovasti’. The field was packed with people.
‘Sweatmaster’ is an old rock band from Turku. They have had a break and now performed for the home crowd. They seemed pretty surprised at how many people were watching the show. Direct and straightforward songs, good beat throughout the gig. At one point, the drummer stood on the drum stool to hype the crowd and dropped to the ground, stomach first, but survived and could play the rest of the gig without any problems.
The main act of the Saturday was ‘First Aid Kit’, which played their first gig in 3 years. The band behind the sister changed during this time. The band seemed to be a bit nervous, did not make much contact with the audience, and played just like a background band. ‘First Aid Kit’ played some brand-new songs that hadn’t been released! This was definitely a big highlight. The new songs had more pop direction than country/folk, although still clearly sounding like ‘First Aid Kit’.
Next, we ran to see ‘Malla’. The background dancers and the relatively long slot (1h 15min) were well suited for dance/techno music. On stage, besides ‘Malla’ there were also ‘Kalifornia Keke’ and a drummer. The front of the stage was full of people dancing.
The last act on the main stage was the Finnish hip hop group ‘Gasellit’. They had an excellent and positive mood. A good act to have at the festival, drawing the audience’s attention and making people dance and sing along with multiple different hit songs. The absolute plus of the ‘Gasellit’ is the feeling that they are just ordinary people and friends together. They were making good jokes and seemed just like ordinary people. At the end of the gig, the camera was in the hands of the members of the ‘Gasellit’, and they were capturing the audience and the atmosphere from the stage, which was projected for everyone to see.
All in all, a good day! Not any "must-see" gigs, but all the time something that you are really happy to go to listen to. For the overall coverage of the festival, the day was pretty "Finnish" and pop-driven, which was probably why the day was sold out!
Sunday started pretty late, and I could get to the venue only to see ‘José González’, ‘Viagra Boys’ and ‘DJ Shadow’. Before entering the festival area, I noticed a drunk older guy sitting on the street saying to EVERYONE who walked past him, “I just need to relax a little bit”. When entering the festival area, many people seemed to share the same feeling. The sun was shining, and good music was playing, but people seemed like they were partying in the ‘Elektrolinna’ for the whole weekend.
I had some time to admire the art created around the festival area before ‘José González’ started his set. Soon ‘José González’ walked to the empty stage, sat down, warmed up with some guitar licks, and started. Immediately I got chills from the familiar tunes of ‘Crosses’ and his soft voice. While driving to the festival, I had some problems with the car, but his set made me forget everything, and I just enjoyed the music and the atmosphere. He played some of the songs from his newest album ‘Local Valley,’ and the tracks in Spanish and Swedish sounded extra refreshing and beautiful. The set included a cover of Nick Drake, ‘Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night by ‘The Beatles’ and of course ‘Teardrop’ by ‘Massive Attack’ and ‘Heartbeats’ by ‘The Knife’. This kind of acoustic show rarely works on a big festival stage, but this time it felt that people focused on his music, were silent, and just enjoyed the soft acoustic songs.
After ‘José González’, it was time to put a big gear on with ‘Viagra Boys’. Their latest album, ‘Welfare Jazz’ was hyped and acclaimed by critics, but I never found it repeating on my lists. I still wanted to see the show because I heard and read that their shows were super fun and entertaining. And this was the truth! One hour set kept me and many others more than interested. Their sound was so tight and loud. The whole band was having a good time, and there were many entertaining moments on the stage. Three words which would describe their set would be coarse, sweaty, and impulsive. Imagine a band you have not listened to so much, and still, after one hour, you would just continue watching and listening to their greasy post-punk disco. Honestly, I was just wordless after their show and would go and see them again any time.
Photo by Jussi Virkumaa
The main act of the last day of the festival was none other than the legend himself, ‘DJ Shadow’. The main stage was as simple as previously with ‘José González’. Just a simple raiser, decks, laptop, and one stand for drum pads. ‘Shadow’ walked to the stage while the front of the stage was still relatively empty. There was no intro track, nothing; he just humbly walked behind the table, took the mic, and introduced himself. He made clear that he did not think everyone knew him, even though he has been making music for more than 30 years. He released his latest album ‘Pathetic Age,’ in 2019 and pretty much needed to cancel most of the shows. The tour even changed its name to ‘The Pathetic Change’ tour. But finally, he was in Finland. The show felt much different from many other shows all in all. ‘Shadow’ explained a lot about his musical history and career, and the screen behind him showed all the song titles and release years. The visuals were beautiful and interesting, adding another nice layer to his show. The 1-hour 15 minutes set included everything from his discography, some ambient, soundtrack-like tracks, hip hop, drum and bass, and a few remixes. Throughout the set, he used his well-known sounds here and there in an interesting and even teasing way. Highlights of set were ‘The Mountain Will Fall’, dnb medley of three or four different tracks including ‘Nobody Speak, and the last track of the set, ‘Organ Donor’ from his debut album ‘Endtroducing’. What a way to finish the first summer festival after the pandemic. Sunny sky, ‘DJ Shadow’ and his seagulls flying in the blue sky turning to the night sky.
The next ‘Kesärauha’ will be celebrated in the same venue in June 2023.