We arrived at the venue- a squat called Satama, groggy per use and anxious to see Helsinki, which we had been told was quite beautiful. Satama was a colorful graffiti-covered building smack dab in the middle of an industrial, chain-link fence, dirt parking lot nowhere. After a very strange interaction with the promoter, who, after hearing that our new full length is not coming out on vinyl any time soon stuck his tongue out at me for an uncomfortably long amount of time, Dave and I got directions to the subway and made our way to downtown Helsinki.
I grew up in Maine. All of Northern Sweden and Finland had reminded me of the forests of New England and left me with pangs of homesickness. But in Helsinki, I ached for my hometown. Helsinki is very much like any older ocean-side New England City- Providence, Boston, Portland. Cobble stone streets, seagulls cawing overhead, a cool breeze blowing in off the water. We stopped at a corner store to grab a cup of coffee, and how precisely we got it perfectly illustrates the difference between America, and Europe.
Back at the venue, I fell asleep on the merch bags as around 150 people filtered past me and bought t shirts from my bed of duffles. The opening band was vegan straight edge and covered Bulldoze (perfect combo), then a very rad local band called Eye for All played played. Someone told me they were Finland's greatest hardcore band, but I had also been told that about The Lighthouse Project the previous night, and just didn't know what to believe. Who IS the greatest?
The show was a mix of hardcore kids, punks, and crusties, as Europe tends to be (especially squat shows). I always think this diversity is really cool, except for tonight. In fact, this night I've never felt such a huge chasm between "them" and "us". Fuck what I thought in Lulea. Fuck punks. Fuck drunks. I was ready for a real-life version of Edge Of Quarrel.
Tension grew as kids wanted to mosh for Eye For All but were foiled again and again by drunk/high push moshing punks. The punks swarmed around anyone trying to dance, eyes rolled back, hurling their bodies forward, arms above their heads, fists shaking in the universal punk "yeahhhhh", legs swaying and stepping in a drunken square dance. They fell, they got up, they fell again. They smashed themselves into guitarists, bassists, singers. By the time we played, frustration with the punks had given way to apathy. What could be done? This wasn't America, they weren't just going to toss them out for being annoying. Scene unity comes with sacrifice. But, this was their scene, not ours, and at the end of the day I'm just another ignorant American.
When the punks were knocking into the dudes while we we trying to play, knocking me over in their furious square dance, and then touching me for no clear reason (one punk dude slipped his arm around my neck in a more-than-friendly way), I could take no more. Between songs, I told them all to up the punks all they wanted, just not in my god damn face. I mentioned that, in America, and I believe the world over, people enjoy a thing called "personal space" and that in general, women- especially me- do not like to be touched by men they don't know, and to promptly leave me the fuck alone. Of course I was ignored by all the touchy-punk who had been publicly shamed for being a creep and slunk back into the crowd. The punks continued- with only a short break when one passed out on the dance floor- and it got to point where the dudes had to stop playing to throw the thrashing punks off of them, but by the end of the set I had gone so far past mad that I had settled into a sort of annoyed amusement.
The second I unplugged my mic I was approached by an older hardcore kid that told me he and his friends were surprise to see me wearing a Shattered Realm shirt. "Are they not very violent?" I was unsure of what to say, since I dig that band, think they're nice dudes, and know lots of violent people (who doesn't?) I was saved by a dude running up and interrupting our conversation to tell me that we had to plug back in RIGHT NOW and play our Bulldoze cover, and that we weren't leaving Finland without doing it. Ryan never learned that song (as we generally only do covers once), so I told him to welcome me as a new resident of Finland. Anti-violence guy walked away after the Bulldoze convo continued for far too long, and Bulldoze-fan, after saying over and over "Play Bulldoze" at me finally walked away, too.
Before we split, I chatted with a dude involved in the squat. I had been struck on how clean and well organized it was, even the kitchen. The squat, he told me, had only been legal for a few months, but they had worked very hard on it and hoped to keep up having shows. I asked if the cops gave them problems. He laughed. "They don't come here. We have a biker gang and gypsies protecting us. And fire arms."
Did I hear right?
"Fire arms.... you know, Guns. Lots and lots of guns. They wouldn't dare come here."
After a quick shower upstairs we headed out for an overnight drive to Russia. As well pulled out of Satama's dirt parking lot, someone pointed out an orange bus parked nearby. "A family lives in that, and the grandfather died a little while ago... and... see that cross? That's his grave. They buried him RIGHT THERE." I saw a little grave a few paces from the bus's front door, and fell asleep thinking about ghosts.