Monthly Archives: July 2007

Summer 2007 pt. 2: Finland, Finland, Finland

The place where I quite want to be. If it wasn’t for the mosquitoes.

With just a short stop at home to repack my gear in the early hours of Saturday morning, I sped off to spend a week in Finland with my father and aunt visiting my uncle Taff who moved up there last year to start an organic farm far out in the Finnish lakeland.

The quiet woods of Finland was probably the sharpest contrast to the loud, drunken festival muddiness I could find. We stayed in Taff’s summer cottage off the Saima lake, 20 kilometres from the nearest town, without running water or electricity. But with plenty of firewood and a lake-side sauna. If it hadn’t been for the extremely active and ferocious mosquitoes, it would have been great (but, I am told mosquito season only lasts 6 weeks in July and August, so it seems that there are plenty of reasons to go back).

It is a wonder how small you feel among these huge trees and lakes in a place where the sun really doesn’t seem to set. Standing by the lake and taking in the quiet is a very fulfilling experience. Most of all because it is not actually quiet. There is an ambient background of distant birdsong, insects buzzing across the water, fish touching the surface from beneath to cause ripples. It is peaceful.

My father took a boatload of pictures, of which I’ve picked a few to sum up the week. He didn’t like having too many landscape photos without people in them, but I like them as they remind me of that magic tranquility.

sun-spotted rock

More trees

lake seen through the trees

The sun not quite setting

View of the lake from the summer cottage

Taff in the lake

This is the summer cottage, as seen from the lake shore:

Summer cottage

And Taff and Nikki’s farm, as seen from the forest around it:

Juvola farm

Oh, and I should mention that Taff is quite keen on letting the cottage to people interested in experiencing the Finnish tranquility for a week or two. The cottage doesn’t have a website yet, but you can comment here, and I’ll get you in touch with him. The cottage is located 40 km from Savonlinna in eastern Finland – about 3-4 hours drive from both Helsinki and Tampere airports.

Summer 2007 pt. 1: Roskilde

Having been away from the Intertubes for a month, I have accumulated a huge backlog of bloggable material that I need to put up here. Indeed, this whole month, I’ve felt like I could be wearing one of those gimmicky web 2.0 T-shirts to signify my intention to pass my experiences on to the world, and whoever might care.

The first stop of my rollercoaster July was the Roskilde Festival, of which I have mentioned previous instances. This year, I had invited my friend Bryan over from London, and it was great fun with lots of great concerts. Unfortunately, the weather was absolutely grotesque, with rain, rain and even more rain. Bryan has caught the mood very well in his photos.

Another ‘unfortunately’ was that I had to leave the festival on Saturday morning to travel to Finland, so I missed out on two full days of music. But by then, I was so exhausted from walking in knee-deep mud, smelling like trench and accumulating hangover that I was almost happy to leave it behind.

But despite only getting half the music, I did manage to attend some good concerts, in order of preference:

1. CSS
Startingly energetic Brazilian electro rock outfit. Their name is really “Cansei de Ser Sexy” which translates as “tired of being sexy”, which, according to Wikipedia, is a direct quote from nougat-coloured starlet, Beyoncé. In any case, CSS was a joy to watch, dance and listen to. Their music sounds less energetic on tape, but live with a happy crowd it is such good fun.

2. New Young Pony Club
Another Electro-rock band of sorts. I hadn’t heard of these young brits before, but they put on quite a show, kickstarting the Friday night programme, the whole band working hard to get the crowd going despite the constant rain outside the tent. I probably couldn’t recognize a single song of theirs now, but it was just what I needed then.

3. Arcade Fire
I guess it would have been even better, had I been stoned out of my mind. But even without doping myself, this pompous Canadian symphonious post-rock did touch a nerve. And going to the concert with my Canadian friend James, the biggest Arcade Fire fan I know, certainly helped as well.

4. Konono No. 1
Described in the festival programme as “Congolese trance music” which had never been heard outside of Africa, I had to go. And they didn’t disappoint, though calling it trance music is something of a stretch. The first song they played went on for 20 minutes of people slowly grooving to the solid and enticing beats that the drummers and likembé (thumb piano) players summoned for us. The one ‘unfortunately’ in that regard was that they were playing too early in the evening and there were simply very few people at the concert. A shame, for if they had played at midnight or later, it would have been a mind-bending experience for many of the un-expecting festival-goers, as they would have had time to get into the right state of mood.

Apart from the weather, the only real disappointment, music-wise was Lee “Scratch” Perry. One of the innovators of reggae and founding father of dub music, he had been of the two names at the festival I really wanted to see (the other being Against Me! who ‘unfortunately’ played Sunday evening, long after I had left for Finland), but at the concert he did not play. He did not really do anything much, apart from spouting hash-induced ramblings into a microphone and paint semi-mystical Rastafarian symbols on a white sheet while his partner in crime, British electronica DJ Adrian Sherwood, played a set. The dub wasn’t even very good.