Rockfest 2023 - Day 1
Hyvinkää Airfield, Finland
Hyvinkää Airfield was crowded with overall some 50 000 rock and metal music loving visitors celebrating Rockfest 2023. The Finnish festival season got kicked off with three-day event, serving an amazing line-up of rock and metal acts, some even legends, in mostly sunny weather. Total of 32 bands performing would put out shows to remember and many of the ones I saw left me in awe.
My festival started with Sick of it all performing on Red Stage by Soundi. These New York heavy hardcore veterans have been around since 1986 and though the music fitting the description is close to my heart, I’d never heard of them before. Their riffs were crushing and beats aggressive, arrangements progressive. Rawsounding vocals, filled with attitude. Their presence on stage was warm and there were no grunt faces, though laying down such heavy music – they were having fun and kept crowd entertained. Easy to appreciate and you could tell of the folks partying in the mosh pits they agreed. I left as a new fan.
Next up was Lordi, who’d be the first ones to set foot on the Main stage. For most of the show I was getting a Paul Stanley make up at the VIP section next to the stage, positioned so I could hear but not see. (Cheers to the makeup artists, they’re pros and friendly people) I heard some classics I remember from my childhood – my little brother got the first album for Christmas some twenty years back – and found myself feeling nostalgic. Overall, the set had lot of banger songs with plenty of different types of musical influences, though obviously Lordi’s main thing is hard rock. The production was thoughtful – melodies compelling, passages were epic and somehow every now and then the moods felt like Andrew Lloyd Webber could’ve taken part in composing them. Anyway, after getting the makeup done, I walked past the Main stage and saw massive castle/dungeon backdrop and the monster outfits rocking the stage. All fit to the music I had been listening from a far just right
Monster Magnet was the doze of blues-laden heavy rock on the Thursday’s line-up. The band rocked hard and sounded great, but I’ve still had a cool down going on from overly consuming stoner rock classics some years back and found it a little hard to focus during the gig. A cover of Hawkwind’s Born to Go was a nice surprise and Space Lord got people singing along for real. (Note: After all I basically listened to Monster Magnet whole time compiling this festival review. They got the seed planted alright.)
With Rancid the party never seemed to end. Their energy made me smile and people move – just the right band to play during the sunset. These legends have been a familiar name to me for many years, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened an album from cover to cover. This summer I probably will, I thought while having my hot dog dinner on the latter part of the show
VV was enchanting. Their setlist was a mix of titles from Ville Valo’s this year’s solo album Neon Noir and variety of HIM’s classics. I liked watching Ville singing; he has his voice so well in control one could see microscopic changes in facial expressions to finetune a single vowel’s pronouncing... or something. So much precision, it amazes me. He basically was on focus most of the time, so I’d like to give a shout to the rest of the band; these musicians kept the thing grooving and played flawlessly.
While writing this couple of days after the festival, my voice hasn’t recovered from the Pantera’s show –and mine probably isn’t the only one. Crowd went wild instantly as the band’s name carrying gauze fell off in front of the stage and revealed the band playing the opening title of Vulgar Display of Power, A New Level. Moshpits were like endless vacuums, people sang along to every song performed and cheered the band with all their hearts. Solidarity among the crowd was tight as everyone got shielded and helped upback on their feet when landing into the ground in the pits. Lots of crowdsurfing too, at times it felt I was there to do days work-out. Decorations and pyrotechnics on stage were cool. Musical performance was top tier; Zakk Wylde and Charlie Benante on guitar and drums filled their spots with style and the original members Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown put out their best as well. Altogether classy act, grace and appreciation were present. “For the fans. For the brothers. For legacy.” printed behind the tour shirts summed up the emotional state accurately.
With a setlist like A New Level / Mouth for War / Strength Beyond Strength / Becoming / I’m Broken /Suicide Note pt. II / 5 Minutes Alone / This Love / Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit / Fucking Hostile / Planet Caravan / Walk / Domination/Hollow / Cowboys from Hell it was a no brainer to wrap up the first day of Rockfest 2023. I left home fulfilled; this was one of the best gigs in many years.