FOLLOW THE DUCK Review
Getting there was easy… All you had to do was to follow thousands of young boys and girls, men, women and children from the piers of Helsinki´s train station to Korso, the place where Ankkarock (ankka = duck) Festival takes place every year.
After twenty minutes of travelling, a sudden rush of bodies, slight pushing and loud chuckling from every corner, we were there. With signs to point out the way, we reached the main entrance and tried to find the accreditation area. I never thought I could play "hide and seek" in my age again but here I was climbing up and down, crossing streets, going from one circle after another, till 30 minutes later, slowly panting and already a bit exhausted, I found it. The friendly and helpful crew made me relax again. I reached along with our photographer Pascalle, the main backstage area and I was pleased to see a large space with many tables and a large variety of snacks, food and drinks. A perfect place to relax!
A quick drink and down to Korsolava, the main stage where the first image to welcome us was this year´s inspired Ankkarock logo by Lenigrad Cowboys Ltd / Dynomate Oy, a cute duck clothed and stylished as Ville Valo, singer of the Finnish band HIM, holding a cigarette.
Soon, the first band was on stage, Kwan, jovial and funny, made the audience dance and jump to their melodies for an hour, especially during their big hit "Chillin at the grotto" leaving the stage with the people screaming reapetedly their name…"Kwan, Kwan, Kwan…" .
An hour break for some food and drinks and Don Huonot came on stage amongst great applause and an enthusiastic crowd who rocked the place, soon followed by The Hellacopters. It seemed like an endless party, with people crowd-surfing and being squeezed at the front row.
During the short break, thousands and thousands of people kept jostling and scrambling for the big highlight of the evening, the Finnish Love Metal rockers HIM, Finland´s best export according to many! Needless to say that most of the people at the front row had arrived from 10.00 in the morning in order to secure that priceless place to watch their favourite band. At 18.00, the stage lights begun to shiver, smoke flooded the place and then a HUGE erruption of roars and applauses came from the audience, with the girls screaming passionately the singer´s name "Ville, Ville, Ville".
The gig begun with the dynamic "Buried Alive By Love" and ended equally strong with "Soul On Fire". Ville (vocals), Mige (bass), Linde (guitar), Gas (drums) and Burton (keyboards) gave their best covering a mingling of songs from their latest album Love Metal, including "Endless dark" performed for the first time but also covering tracks from their previous albums like the exquisite "It´s All tears" to the classic cover of Chris Isaac´s "Wicked Game" and of course the unsurpassed "Join Me", with heavy guitar and drum solos, closely followed by the bass riffs and melodic waves from Burton´s keyboards, whose solo intro at "The Sacrament", the latest of HIM´s singles, trully sent shivers down my spine. For 75 minutes HIM trully rocked, infatuating their fans once more, who couldn't get enough of them! The only odd thing during the whole show was Ville not smoking, a trully rare sight for all the HIM fans who follow the band closely! :) But all good things don't last long and soon the gig was over.
An hour break again, during which the stage was prepared for the Sleepy Sleepers. Boy, it was hilarious! The band was hilarious, the stage was hilarious… everything was hilarious. It had everything, overgrown TeleTubbies, funny Brittish looking punks from the 80´s, the singer dressed with woman´s bathing suit, wicked nurses spanking themselves and the band on top of broken motorbikes, good old rock from the "Sleepy Sleepers"…need anything else to have a good time?
With the excitement of the day still flooding in our bodies, the first day of Ankkarock Festival came to an end. We all made our way slowly back to the entrance and the train station, which was so packed that extra help from the police was required to restrain the eager crowd.
A few hours sleep, some breakfast, a procession of packed bodies at the train station once more and here I am again along with Pascalle back to Korsolava, the main stage, and The Rasmus, Finnish ex-teen band, rocking the crowd with "F-f-f-falling", "In The Shadows" and "In My Life", their latest single. Lauri (vocals) was very interactive, not only with the rest of the band but also with the crowd, jumping and moving constantly from one side of the stage to the other as usually, making the photographers´ life a little bit more difficult. :) My only objection was the early hours they were programmed to play… 15.00 in the afternoon with the sun burning mercilessly, it was a good thing the security thought of spraying the people with water to cool them down!
Once more I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of food, snacks, fruits and drinks that were available at the main backstage area for the press and crew people.
Soon, it was time for the pop-rock princess Maija Vilkkumaa to come on stage. With a slight loud bass that some times overwhelmed her voice, she gave a powerful performance while thousands of her fans across Korsolava were singing breathlessly her most known hit "Ei", amongst them myself...
I climbed down the hill, to reach Puistolava, a smaller stage which was located in front of a small lake.
I watched Amorphis (whose latest album has already reached number #20 at the Greek charts ) with Pasi Koskinen in great shape, holding the crowd firmly at his grasp, as one song followed the other.
Back to Korsolava, the main stage, and the legendary German band from the 80´s Scorpions. I have been dreaming since I was a teenager to watch one of their shows ever since I had listened for the first time "Winds of change". My anticipation soon came to an end as the band slowly made their appearance on stage, although a series of funny events overshaded these first moments. First of all there was no microphone on stage for the singer!!! I wonder what did the crew who prepared the set was thinking of? As soon as the first jams were heard and Klaus Meine came on stage, I watched him looking frantically for a microphone in front of him and not finding one, he just grabbed the first one he found on the guitarist´s side and started singing...unfortunately the microphone was not on! A minute later, the set crew realised their mistake and rushed on stage with a microphone, this time working properly. It seemed that all would move on without surprises, when suddenly in one spectacular move, Klaus Meine dropped accidentally his microphone in front of the photographers. The expression on the stage crew set said it all. :) After all these, the show continued with the Scorpions covering old and new songs, songs that have not been performed lately as stated and of course the legendary "Winds of change". The only negative thing I have to point out was that no band stuff was available for the fans, while all the rest of the bands that participated in this festival had their own offered. Why?
I rushed again to Puistolava, running down the hill, covering myself in dust, in order to be on time for The 69 Eyes. The Finnish goth rockers appeared on stage, dressed in black and with a sensual smile from Jussi 69 (drummer) and Jyrki 69 (vocals) the show begun. I was pleasantly surprised by the setlist and I admit I had a very good time, singing loudly "Betty Blue", "Gothic Girl" and "Brandon Lee", dancing along with the rest of the fans, most of them dressed in gaudy gothic clothes. The 69 Eyes ended their gig thanking their audience and advising them not to miss the last closing band for the evening, the ONE and ONLY Hanoi Rocks.
I hurried back to the main stage, tripping over thousands of people who have gathered, while the security people advised me not to stand too close to the stage. The fans, many of them dressed with the appropriate garments - tight trousers, extravagant shirts, cowboy hats, feathers and glasses - were screaming so loud that you could actually feel the vibration in your body. When Hanoi Rocks appeared on stage, nothing could describe what followed, you just had to be an eye-witness. While Michael Monroe (vocals) was climbing up and down the stage, hanging himseft from the stage bars and singing with all his might, grabbing the harmonica and the saxophone in turns, Andy MacCoy´s quitar solos were completing this fantasmagoria. Huge flames emitted in front of the stage making the crowd wilder (if that was possible!) while fireworks cracked on top of it. Many of the fans couldn't endure the building pressure and were carefully carried away by the security guards. Fervent, igniting, invigorating, wild, fatal the Hanoi Rocks were emitting raw, sexual power! They proved once more what was obvious, never underestimate a youthful heart. :)
With the bittersweet smell of alcohol in the air, sore feet and dusty clothes but immensely happy, I let myself being carried away towards the entrance once again. One more Ankkarock Festival was over. I must offer my congratulations to the people who worked to make this festival a success and especially the crew working at the main backstage area, who were extremely helpful and polite.
For all those who will happen to be in Helsinki this time of the year, a fair warning! There is only one thing to do... just follow the duck!!!