(Sorry it's taken so long for the update- we haven't had internet in days! Russia and the Ukraine are not very connected.)
We awoke at Linus's Mom's house early (though it looked very similar to late since the sun had barely set) and I immediately fell asleep in the van. The only memories I recall from this entire drive up the rest of Sweden and down into Finland are:
1. Stopping at a gas station in a very remote town in Sweden to pee, and 2 strange paths crossing- first, in line for the "WC" (what they call bathrooms all over Europe), ours with the singer of Refused, and second, mine with a game that has two paddles printed with brightly colored images of strange kittens in clothes and cows driving cars with the word "GOOD!" in English over their heads, and a ball you hit with them. (I later found out this game is more fun to find in a gas station in Sweden than to actually play.)
And 2. As we drove through the incredibly cold and pristine countryside of Finland, we saw a moose. I woke up just in time to catch a glimpse of it standing conspicuously gigantic in the middle of a field, long face turning in interest as the van drove past.
I awoke upside down in my seat with my legs on the windows and my feet near the ceiling. Very confusing.
The venue was a huge and "very Finnish" building from the 1930's. Akin to a log cabin, it sat nestled quaintly in the forest, with a big white porch and a bronze historical building plaque near the entrance. I, too groggy to interact with anyone yet, sat alone in a cool patch of sun as a wide variety of punk and hardcore kids milled around the parking lot. It was obvious that while there was a definite scene being represented in the crowd, there were also a lot of local kids who had nothing better to do than come to "Muurame hardcore fest", despite having no real interest in the music. There was girl wearing a rotary phone as an accessory- and I don't mean to pass judgement based on appearance, but she didn't appear to be there for us.
The promoter was like most European promoters- accommodating us to a level that's almost embarrassing, fretting over our comfort, overstuffing and overhydrating us- but like most Europeans, adding an expected twist to his kindness. "You sleep here tonight. There are no showers (all promoters are supposed to provide a place to shower for us), but there is a river over there," (it was about 50 degrees outside at the warmest point in the day, maybe) "so you can just.... swim." (We took sink baths instead.)
After the band meal of pasta and sauce and a Finnish favorite- banana chips with raisins (this is amazing!), Dave and I went down to investigate the river. There we found a beautiful and more than likely enchanted path that wound through forest, where if we walked down long enough we would undoubtedly encounter all genus and species of mythical creatures. The air was clean like I've never breathed, the water reflective and magnificent like a framed photo of "inspiring nature" in an office building, the grass and trees looked as if they had been colored with crayons they were so intense. It was ridiculous. We wandered down the forest footpath until we came to this:
And, though we were convinced there were gingerbread houses with candy cane pillars and gum drop trees just ahead, we headed back to Muurame Hardcore Fest to watch the shredding. The first band was fucking sweet. Their name was complicated to my American-speaking mind and I lost the stickers they gave me, but they brought me back to a time when I first discovered Slap A Ham Records and power violence. It's really easy to fuck up PV, or to think you're playing it when, for example, you're actually just some idiotic hype kid that heard Ceremony and "Power Violence" in the same sentence and decided they defined the genre (it's my opinion that Ceremony is just a hardcore band- which is anything but a bad thing, in fact, it's my favorite thing, but it's certainly not power violence.) Point being, this band did it right.
After the brush with magic in the enchanted Finnish forest, I was back in the "band room" (another common Euro thing, no matter how DIY the show) sipping at some coffee and in walks a dude in a suit. This wasn't that strange, considering the rotary phone girl and the assortment of mildly rapmetal people at the show. But then in comes another dude, suit guy's friend I guessed, who pulled out a large paper Mc Donald's bag, then covered business dude's head with it. He then added a collar and leash to biz-punk's get-up, and all eyes in the band room were frozen on the strange pair. Forks hung midway from bowls to mouths. Uneasy and/or mocking glances were exchanged around the room. But the duo never noticed, and as soon as the outfit was complete they walked out of the room- well, the friend walked, biz-dude was led blindly by his collar. I sipped my coffee. Then I wondered.... where were they going?
Curiosity led me to the stage, where the friend was screaming into a mic and the dog-man was roaming the stage like a zombie. The beat was brutal. The guitarist shirtless, drunk, with dreads thrashing in every direction like an octopus trying to fly. Every member of this band was everywhere on the stage, kicking out one fast song after another, dropping in slow parts like a wet fart of distorted bass and drums, and oh my god did I love it. Then 2 songs in I was left feeling like the biggest moron ever when I saw what collar-boy actually was- he was "The Man", a suit and tie, a corporate zombie. Duh! It was brilliantly simple, the imagery exactly as it was supposed to be. Nothing was refined with this band. The crowd was taken into little consideration. They thrashed for their own reasons, and all we could do was bear witness to it. This was punk at its purest- smashing the state the same now as it did decades ago, still barely knowing how to play its instruments, never giving a fuck. This thrash and stomp, this absurdity, this was power violence. At the end of their set, I noticed that my cheeks hurt from smiling. It's not much sometimes, that kind of music. But it manages to convey it all- a worldview, reasons for being, love and hate- like this band so succinctly did, in 15 relentless minutes, and you gotta give it credit for that.
After that, a band called Deathbed played a very sweet set (I couldn't afford their 12 euro a CD tune-age but I do recommend checking it out) and after them, "Finland's greatest hardcore band" as I was told by locals, a band called The Lighthouse Project. Their set was explosive, like Finland's own Have Heart or something... and we had to play after them. Oof.
After the show the promoter and his friends made a million mattresses appear out of nowhere and we had a big slumber party in the venue, below the stage. I was reminded of words spoken to me by Thomas, the singer of Strike Anywhere, 9 years ago. "(in Europe) Sometimes you sleep, sometimes you mosh. Sometimes you sleep where you mosh." For years that baffled me, but finally I understood.
Before bed, word circulated that there were Nazis outside and that we should stay in to be safe. Obviously we went running out to escort these Nazis away from the venue. What we found outside was the last dwindlers from the show. A Finnish kid whispered to me as a group of trashy-looking faux-thug type kids walked away, "Those are the nazis." Those tools? Really? I was skeptical. I asked the kid if they were racist. "Oh no, they're not racist. They just like to cause trouble and get in fights." I defined a nazi for him, mentioning that racism is inherent. "No no, then I guess they're not nazis. They live around here, they come to shows to start fights when they're bored." I asked if they had a word in his language for "townies". He laughed, and nodded, and the "nazis" walked into the sun-lit night and we, exhausted, went to sleep.