Festivals / EventsLive

John Smith Festival 2017: Never say never

July 21-22, Laukaa, Peurunka (near Jyväskylä), Finland  – here our PHOTO GALLERY

I know what you are thinking – who is John Smith, and why does he have his own festival? Be sure I have been pondering this question too… later more about that. Unfortunately, after a several-hour-journey, I arrived in the middle of a heavy thunderstorm, even heard something about hail. Good that I had decided on a hotel instead of camping – yet I had to face the second biggest queue of the festival for the check-in. Obviously the Kylpylähotelli Peurunka would be taken over by the Metal community for the weekend. Thus I only heard Dynazty opening the festival. Facing the biggest queue of the weekend at the festival entrance, I had to hurry to make it to the (personally) most important gig – the intro was played when I finally arrived…

As heaven cried tears of joy (hence I didn’t need to) on having Tuomas, Lars, Juho and Atte back as Before The Dawn for an exclusive single reunion show to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the „Deadlight“ album. How I had missed Lars’ voice and entertaining announcements … Unfortunately they started with „Unbreakable“, thus no headbanging for me, taking pics instead. Due to the rain / rain protection I could hardly see anything, then those pyros, therefore I took as many photos as I could, which explains this video clip I created… HERE. Well, what to say about the show – despite weather hazzle and some bad luck (string broke during the first song) the band appeared relaxed and joyful, just like the crowd ignored the rain and cheered enthustically to Unbreakable, Faithless, Wrath, Dying Sun, Monsters, Winter Within, Disappear and The Black. No option for My Darkness as encore despite the loud demand, though, because of the tight festival schedule.

Lars donated his „gig hat“ to the fans, making sure that this was indeed the last BTD gig and that he would never be on a stage again, neither with a band or solo, ever. Then suddenly there was a certain Jonne in the pit, handing Stetsons to Tuomas and Lars – could this be the mysterious John Smith, Sheriff of Laukaa-Town? Unfortunately I was too far away to be able to identify a person… The final Deadsong was sung along loudly, just watch this Clip – a heartwarming moment, yet with a pinch of sadness, because this was definitely absolutely the last, very last, totally last time, for sure … well… maybe you should never say never?

S-Tool featuring Ville Laihiala, Sami Leppikangas, Kimmo Hiltunen and Aksu Hanttu sounded a bit like Sentenced, yet I had decided to explore the area during their show. Great location, right at a lake, using a natural arena. The festival area as such was nicely designed, a second stage and a third inside the VIP tent; there was a beer tent and several facilities for nutrition intake. Everything could be reached easily and quickly, hardly any queues anywhere – well, except for the merch stand. The third longest queue of the festival there… I had to postpone my purchase of special BTD merch, because

Timo Rautiainen & Trio Niskalaukaus entered the stage. The rain clouds stood no chance facing this Finnish testosterone power and the steely-eyed band protagonist – and vanished. Another reunion that drew a huge crowd (at Tuska as well) – no wonder with great headbanger stuff like „Nyt On Mies“ or the more recent „Suomi Sata Vuotta“ in the program. When the bars are almost completely deserted, you know that a band is really popular … And well, I was too late to get my special BTD merch, which had gone like hot cakes – so I had to walk back to the hotel to change into something dry and warm. Was not a real problem, as it took maybe 5min from the main stage to my room… where I could even overhear the show of the Graham Bonnet Band in the VIP tent.

When Mustasch was on, the bar areas seemed pretty deserted too – everybody enjoyed to rock with those Swedes. This band radiates positive energy and fun, they had their games with the audience and among each other – a lot of fun, and every song pure ear candy! Some suprises for us in the photo pit, too – a colleague was pulled on stage so that she could get some audience snap shots easily. A gentlemen band!

When Delain announced that they would love to play in Finland more often – was that like giving a broad hint? I bet the fans would not mind, because those Dutch girls and boys are really likeable, just like their music.

The headliner of the day, Amorphis, does not require much of a mention – cannot remember any bad show of those guys, although I have seen a couple … A great show with lotsa light effects – well, not so great for taking photos, and then this lawnmower engine Mr. Joutsen is using as a microphone (and to hide behind). Nevermind, songs like Silver Bride or House Of Sleep, the enchanted audience singing along, does make up for it and gives you some gooseflesh moments.

Amorphis Setlist John Smith Rock Festival 2017 2017, Under the Red Cloud

That was it for the festival area, yet there was one more gig at the Peurunka-Areena inside the hotel, featuring Wolfheart. They even got a moshpit going – I need to point out that they started playing at 2:00 h … The updated set list could have contained more from the Tyhjyys album besides World on Fire, the final song was once again the classic Routa pt. 2.

Saturday had been sold out some days before (2000 tickets), and this festival day began quite promising, bright skies, sun – and the best soundtrack to sunshine is a band like Reckless Love to get the party started. The attendance frequency was something still to wish for, though, but more and more people showed up with every song. Instead of watching Psychework I preferred to have some food – and wow, I was lucky to be inside when suddenly a rain storm was sweeping over the area. Therefore I preferred just to listen to CMX and those brilliant party-makers Peer Günt from the dry safety of my hotel room balcony …

When D-A-D was on, the rain had stopped, luckily, because it would have been too bad not to capture those crazy Danes. Some fans got to enjoy close contact with the band (literally) and the chance to sing some live-Karaoke. Well, all I missed was the sofa … (captured by reporter colleague Björn HERE at another festival)

This was indeed some fine bonus for the VIP customers – Anthony Parviainen Trio feat. Marco Hietala & Tuple Salmela and phantastic cover versions / acoustic re-arrangements of songs by e.g. Rainbow, Iron Maiden, Whitesnake and Soundgarden, plus Tarot’s great „I walk forever“. JEEEEE!

I have to admit that I happily joined Therapy? shouting „fuck Trump!“ – until I realized that – as a woman…. errrr …. maybe not… And well, what to say, those pretty mature musicians from Northern Ireland still have it, kicked the shit out of the audience – and their crazy energetic show demonstrated that it’s maybe represented in the band name what they would need… 🙂 And that their songs are timeless regarding style, urgency and message (e.g. Trigger Inside).

As once again I had to change damp clothes, the original plan was to capture a few snaps of Mokoma near the stage from the audience. Well, did not even get close. Literally. Look at the photo I took with my cell…

And well, what to say Children of Bodom? Once again a worthy (Co) headliner, and the set list left nothing to complain about either. Well, maybe in comparison with earlier festival shows (e.g. a bar on stage; texting while playing keyboard) this show was pretty „normal“. After a firework of hits on stage we received a REAL one – before the next band fired up.

Children of Bodom Setlist John Smith Rock Festival 2017 2017

Quite literally. 2 Times Terror, somewhat the sexy twin of Turmion Kätilöt, entertained the crowd with Industrial Metal and lotsa flames. And indeed, it was a lot of fun, finally something to dance to!

Sonata Arctica had adjusted the set they had played at Tuska a little bit, but none of my faves was missing. Once again a severe case of goose flesh when the song about Children rights came on. In such a time when a „leader“ simply annihilates basic human rights via social media, you have to get the message out there, shout it out as loudly as you can. Thank you, Sonata Arctica, for this song, just the idea is brilliant, not to mention the song as such… A great show to close the festival area!

Sonata Arctica Setlist John Smith Rock Festival 2017 2017, The Ninth Hour World Tour

Inside there was one more Gig to watch, by Gorillas in the Mist – err, I mean Swallow The Sun. Easy to notice how popular the band is – the room was full, and even around 3:15 h they were still shouting for more… The band was great as always, hardly visible, though, for photographers „Horror pt 666“. Nevertheless, it was quite exciting and touching to see Juha Raivio on a stage again. And naturally their setlist included some classics, e.g. Swallow and Don’t Fall Asleep – the latter is quite fitting for festivals …

Because sleep-wise festivals are always a challenge. Even in a hotel, when e.g. around 4am some couple decides to have a loud argument, incl. Re-arranging furniture….

Summing up: Exhausted, feet hurt, all clothes damp / dirty – but happy. Great festival in stunning location, you feel sad to leave, you wish you had planned to stay a bit longer …
Personal highlights – Delain and Reckless-Olli next to you at breakfast, meeting lotsa rock stars (e.g. Marco Hieatala) in the hotel or the area, getting serenaded in the aula by 2 Times Terror front man – it was fun, hope to be coming back next year.

And I almost forgot – so who is John Smith? A real person, or not?
Well, yes and no. My research uncovered that the local promoter (e.g. Satama Festivaali) named Jonne Lehtonen had been dreaming of a Rock festival „he himself would buy a ticket for“. John Smith is something like an artist name, a bit of a joke, which developed its own life – and nowadays it is not just one person, but a whole organisation team, and a brand name for a festival (near Jyväskylä) that could become a standing feature in the heart of Finland….  Photos: K. Weber

Klaudia Weber

reckless and merciless dictator, so KNEEL! In other words, editor-in-chief, translator, website and ad admin, "Jane of all trades" - - - addicted to books (everything between Lord Of The Rings & quantum physics) and music, mainly Metal made in Finland. Furthermore, there's painting, drawing, movies, theater... so you can expect some variety on this website too. MA Master of Arts, English and American studies & Media communication = completed two full studies parallel within 5 years; very proud of my achievement - a bit later in life thanks to a scholarship - as a working class girl in a highlyconservative-romancatholic nation...

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