September 3rd, 2006 was the final day of a very memorable six-week solo bicycle trip to Scandinavia that saw me sweating and drinking my way through six countries on the cheap. As I made my way through Finland I noticed posters all over the place advertising a concert in Helsinki scheduled to take place on the night before I flew home (from Helsinki).
I looked online for tickets and discovered that these posters were part of a summer-long promotion by the Molson Canadian of Finland, Koff Beer. It was a super-exclusive party at a bar/venue called Tavastia and you had to win to get in.
Or did you?
At the time I was training to be a self-taught out-of-work music journalism hack (an endeavour I’ve wildly succeeded at) so every time I got close to the internet I would send email requests to band managers, beer reps, bar managers – anyone I could think of – until I finally got a response from one of them. I was in.
So after a morning spent crating up my bike and all my gear in preparation for the next day’s departure I did a little tourism, visiting the city’s UNESCO World Heritage site (the Fortress on Suomenlinna Island). Then I went back to my hotel where I set my alarm for 3:30am and set out for the bar.
Tavastia was lit up with Hollywood-style spotlights when I arrived and a racecar wrapped in Koff decals was parked outside. Staff members were checking names off of lists and handing out lanyards and free beer tickets. Despite being Finland’s premier rock club the room was fairly small, with a capacity of maybe 600 people, tops.
The main floor was split into two sections, one side with the stage and the other centred around a large bar. The stage side had a small balcony and two smaller side-bars, but the majority of the drinks being served this night were by girls manning tubs of Koff, a beer that tasted to me like watered down Molson Export. The stage itself was of a respectable size, with total pro lighting and really good sound.
I had a couple of beers and before you know it up came the first act of the night, The Flaming Sideburns. An energetic five piece playing straight ahead rock & roll, it wasn’t long before the singer had doffed his top showing off his heavy tattoo work. The band was a power chord bonanza with a touch of The Stones, while the singer sounded like a tip of the hat to Steven Tyler but without the range. Everything was sung in English (as it would be with all three bands) and the crowd was digging it; it was the kind of stuff you could be singing along with on a first time listen. Standard rock through-and-through but they drew from enough sources that it wasn’t at all repetitive. At least it didn’t during their short 45 minute set.
The Soundtrack Of Our Lives was up next. Like the other bands at this show this would be my first time hearing the band, though I had certainly heard of them. While they landed decidedly on the bottom rung of the energy ladder on this evening they made up for it with lots of clever lyrics (“Why do you think you are”), which was a refreshing change from the first act. Regardless, it took until near the end of their hour-long set for TSOOL to grow on me and even then they were nothing to write home about (despite my current exercise).
During the setbreak I encountered a fun marketing gimmick on my way back from the bathroom: a remote-controlled refrigerator. I was walking along and a fridge crossed the floor right in front of me. I stopped and stared and the fridge turned around, approached me and stopped. I opened him up (I don’t know why I instantly thought of him as a ‘he’) and he was full of Koff and nothing else so I grabbed one. Bursting the dreamy bubble was the handler/remote operator who sidled up and extracted my last beer ticket. But mark my words: if I ever get rich I will buy such a refrigerator and have him (or her) follow me everywhere I go.
Like, everywhere. And it won’t be full of Koff either, I can tell you that. Anyway…
The headlining Hellacopters came on next and kicked off their set with some raging ultra-high energy guitar screaming balls to the walls hairspray rock. I bought myself a Staropramen (wasn’t gonna drink any more of that Koff stuff if it wasn’t free) and gave the band about twenty-five minutes before I left. They were really good at what they were doing but I just wasn’t into what they were doing at that particular time, which I feel bad about as it was their management that had scored me into the show in the first place. But I was tired, I had to get up at 3:30am to make my flight, and they were a bit too screamy for my current state of mind. The guitar players were excellent, no doubt about that, but after a second paid Staropramen I booked it out of there.
I got back to the hotel at 1:30am and fell asleep while I was deciding whether or not to just stay up. I managed to crawl out of bed in time to meet my pre-arranged 4am taxi and was in the air before 7am. Pretty good capper to a crazy-awesome vacation.