TOUR WEEK 2 — FINLAND

Leave it to the blogs to do the work of actually listening to the albums they review. Compared to the apparently hasty mainstream reviews who occasionally say my album is too diverse (it’s not my fault you’re overworked and don’t have time to give the albums you review a proper listen, so that anything not easily digestible is a hassle) here’s someone who actually gets it, and picks up on the philosophical, teleological, ontological, etc undertones of the lyrics. Read on: http://grimygoods.com/2012/10/12/hot-new-music-ken-stringfellow-danzig-in-the-moonlight-album-review/

 

HELSINKI, 10/11

I can’t tell you exactly where we stopped for lunch that day, but I can say they served a mean bison burger. A tiny little cottage, it’s part of the network to combat ABC!, the faceless chain of gas stations that dominates the highway network in Finland. Talk about dehumanizing–at one point we stopped at an ABC! for fuel that consisted only of fuel pumps–no human interaction possible.

We arrived to Helsinki and proceeded straight to Radio Helsinki, in their incredible offices in Helsinki’s booming new developments. Seeing all the construction going up, we should note that since the Euro crisis, there’s one country that you never hear about: Finland. Europe’s best kept secret enjoys steady growth and solvent banks. I had a nice interview with Nick Triani, and then we zipped off to Bar Loose for soundcheck and more press. Got myself set up and soundchecked, down in the basement confines of Bar Loose. I’d been in this place upstairs, after the Posies last Helsinki show, but never in the showroom. Nice place, indeed. Well. It was really crowded by the time Bon Juovi, my support act, went on. I was expecting a joke band with the joke name (hey, it’s better than “Danzig in the Moonlight” — ed.) but in fact it’s a great songwriting project, with a nice young gentleman who plays guitar, ukelele, harmonica and sings, backed by a switch-hitting crew that can staff the positions at the drums, bass, guitar, violin, and backing vocals. In fact, the violinist/backing vocalist is a star in her own right. Enjoyed it. Then I went on. The theme of this show was: weird. Great, but weird. An odd mix of midweek folks who can’t quite let their hair down, and people absolutely losing it. So total reverence mixed with a handful of drunks, all lovable in their own rights. So, there were two girls falling over each other in an attempt to stay upright, who were talking during a song intro, I told ’em to simmer down. And later these two girls requested “Reveal Love”. There was a big guy in a “Osaka” sport jersey, who, as I traced the history of Finnish language from possible Turkic origins, and thus to modern Japanese, was my example. He was the kind of guy who would loudly request a Jon Auer song (note to crowds: if, after 25 years, you haven’t figured out that ‘Golden Blunders’ isn’t one of my tunes, how about just staying  in the back and leaving the requests to the experts). Then there was the “I’m losing my shit” guy. I kind of preppy punk–tidy blue Lacoste sweater but ripped jeans. Short hair, looking like a fresh faced college student but totally spazzing out…at one point I took a pee break in the middle of my 2.5-hour set, and he accosted me on the way back in punctuation-less English “You’reKenStringfelllowYou’rethegreatestyouplayinallthebigbandsLagwagonREMandyou’rehereyou’rejustlikethis bigstarandhereyouareitsunbelievable” and so on. Really loud, too. I mean, sweet as heck but very, very conspicuous. Later he was totally losing it, about to be thrown out by the bouncer, so I had to stop my show and rescue him. The bouncer was patient but it was clear something was off, but I calmed the kid down and took him onstage, sat him in a chair, and I think this is when I played “Reveal Love” and he was like, air drumming, in the background. At the end of night he gave a similar kind of speech as above outside the club and left half running down the street “KEN STRINGFELLOOOOWWWWW KEN STRINGFELLLOWWWWWW” etc. The whole show was like that. Comic, touching, and, weird is the word that keeps coming up. Audience members on stage. Me not so much in the crowd due to the barrier on the front of the stage but I did my best. My singer tonite was Lotta, who sang with the Posies in Oulu last year. I gave a big speech about how her record is amazing, which it is, and that someone should put it out. Hopefully this will get listened too.

After the show, I got back to my nice hotel room, and started to relax then realized I left my suit jacket at the club, cuz it was so hot and stuffy onstage. Walked the ten min. each way or back. Passing a strip club where a bouncer was about to head butt a guy (“You are a shithead!” in English). For some reason there were tons of people on the street wearing oversize pants/overalls with lots of big buttons, patches, and even plastic bottles attached. Noone could tell me what it was all about.

Here’s a review of the Helsinki show that served as a preview for the Oulu show.

TURKU, 10/12

This was a wonderful show. We had a slow paced day, my last drive with Tomi, and it was enjoyable. We had lunch before leaving town, just by my hotel, all you can eat sushi. We stopped en route at a store that translates as “Greenhouse Effect”. What kind of store? Hard to say. There’s a greenhouse, attached to a warehouse. Inside you find…everything. A cafe. Garden furniture. Old pump organs. DVDs. Stationery. Knick knacks. On and on. Vines trailing everywhere inside. And, a giant bathtub filled with stuffed animals, not for sale. Umm.

Got to my hotel (surely it’s true that the earliest departure will have the nicest hotel attached) and found out I had a suite, in fact. Freshened up and then headed to 8-Raita, a great record store, now even bigger, where I not only had an instore but was the number one selling title last week, and likely again this week, especially after we cleaned the store out of vinyls with my instore. I’d not yet seen the vinyl, so this was great. Looks AWESOME. I played a few songs on the provided acoustic and then the owner, Fredrik, gave us a ride over to the venue in his fabulous 64 Renault van, which is the first time I’ve been in a car that crank starts. It’s so cool inside, a groovy little camper world. Smells like grampa’s boat, a hint of diesel and hunting blankets.
It matches the theme of Dynamo, the venue. A peeling old building actually owned by the local newspaper, it’s housed this club for a decade or so. Inside is a vintage, fabric on the walls, very 70s feeling two storey bar, the venue on the main floor and smaller bar and even smaller side room upstairs. Really, really, homey and cool. Even the chairs and everything inside is straight up vintage, very Elks lodge vibe. They had a digital piano hiding in a wooden frame to look kinda like a piano. A nice Fender amp. And my singer, Anni Kemppainen, was there, she was at the instore but didn’t peep up til after it was done. She was nervous and shy at soundcheck but in the show she cut loose and got kinda intense and freaky in a great way.

After soundcheck I went back to enjoy my suite and ordered room service, turns out the restaurant in the hotel is French cuisine but they surely did not understand when I ordered in French. Walked back over to the venue and found it was delightfully packed. So, onward…a manic, super fun, warm show. Audience members handing me shots and me riffing about how if Mitt Romney were to come out as a gay man I would vote for him (given his ability to adopt or drop any position to get elected, this is not as far fetched as it sounds). I even took over and went into character as Gay Mitt (“I was Mormon, but now I’m more like MoreMEN!!”) There was an improvised song about the venue that riffed on the fabric wall coverings inability to be properly cleaned should anyone have left their bodily fluid on there. Of course, I had to mention the Turku Toe Toucher (see last week’s post). Just a killer, fun, show. After I packed my stuff and dropped it at the hotel, I went to the owner of Dynamo’s other bar, Monk, where a New Yorker was DJing with his theme “Awesome Tapes from Africa” which is just that–cassettes that he found while traveling the continent. Normally he DJs with cassette decks, too, this was thwarted due to tech problems but he was going between a walkman and a laptop. Not satisfied to end it there, I was back at Dynamo for Argentine bubbly with friends, fans, my crew, and the owner. At one point a drunken fellow who hadn’t even seen the show (after my show the place is open til 3 and is a very popular club with alternative rock DJs downstairs and more funk and soul upstairs) came to the table and said “I think you guys need this” and left a bottle of Veuve Cliquot! That was a €70 gift.

 

Unreal live video of Ken Stringfellow live in Finland–“I would vote for Mitt if he came out tomoro!” http://ow.ly/esqzI #GayMitt #MoreMANism

video by Tomi Palsa

OULU, 10/13

Not to be outdone, I would call this show the arena rock show of the tour and a big finish for the Finnish. Tour. Ahem. Having bid Tomi farewell the night before as he went to his hometown after the show, and having thoroughly enjoyed his company, I was offered a ride to Helsinki airport by Raija, who is feature at many a Posies/DiSCiPLiNES/KS show. Not that I remember much of the ride, I went immediately to sleep, til we arrived at the terminal 2 hours later. Hopped my flight up to Oulu, and was met at the airport by Asko. I’m telling you, this is like a Scrabble player’s dream. Asko made the effort to organize this show, and was also our man picking up the Posies from Vaasa airport last summer when we played Q Stock Festival. Wonderful guy. We went to his nice little home in the burbs and I took a nap. Then headed over to the club, which was very much a Rock Club. Spiderweb ironwork in front of the stage. Collection of backstage passes in the DJ Booth with Manowar, etc proudly displayed. Saturday night in Oulu. Bring it on.

Before the show I managed to fit in two double espressos, a licorice shot of some kind, a stunning version of “Black Dog” in a karaoke bar that actually got the whole place to give me a standing ovation! and then stumbled onto the stage with a packed house ready for…a high energy show. I did play my sensitive numbers, but gave the crowd a mix. People requested songs from “Touched”, I did Posies songs, I was in the crowd…there was a guy named Heikki who had a harmonica that was in the right key for “You Drew”, there was a guy with a tambourine and Heikki even pulled out an egg shaker for “Superwise”. My duet partner, Emilia Aarnio, was marvelous and I think taller than me in her boots, and with a beautiful, slightly raspy, country twang. Wow! I played and had two encores, and was feeling confident enough to tell the people in the back to shut up, and it actually worked. There was a feeling of control–in my voice, in the performance, that was energizing. Energy, harnessed, and we rode it til the wee hours. Even after–in my tiny dressing room I gave an after show concert, dragging the amp backstage so we could hear it, and played a dozen songs for friends and Asko. By the time we were done, it was basically time for me to go to his place and shower up, and catch my 6am flight to Helsinki, where I’m spending the afternoon, til I head to Oslo in a few hours.

A marvelous, awesome Finland visit, never disappoints.
Love

KS
HEL T1