Viper Arms (Turku Band Festival 2015) @ Klubi Åbo, 14/01/2015
On this Wednesday evening, one likes to do anything but venturing the step out of home since Finland's road surfaces have once again turned into slippery ice rinks which are barely taken care of. Everywhere and every year the same. Those who are lucky just fall on their butts; those who aren't might end up with serious injuries like bone fractures in the (crowded) hospital. But on this Wednesday evening, also the brand new "Turku Band Festival" is taking place for the very first time, hence "staying at home" is not an option. More precisely, tonight is the kick-off of the 4-day festival which revolves around local bands from Finland's oldest city and former capital Åbo [in Finnish: Turku]. "Even if the big record companies and event organisers are notably absent, the city has plenty to offer in terms of bands and live music," is the message of the event organised by Turku Rock Academy, Klubi Åbo and Telmu ry which welcomes every musical style from folk music to punk to heavy rock, includes two panel discussions next to the performances in various venues of the city and is already wrapped up for its 2016 edition before the 2015 edition has even started. Hats off! The organisers of the Turku Band Festival seem to aim high. Due to our tight schedule, we make it only to the first day of the 4-day festival, and even on that first day, we make it only to one of the gigs. We choose the gig of the all-female rock band Viper Arms since they are basically on our agenda ever since we missed them as the support act for Barbe-Q-Barbies in February 2013, so since almost two years...
While everything sounds quite ambitious on the own websites and social media platforms, the promotion for the Turku Band Festival outside the world wide web seems to be rather poor: In the city centre of Åbo, absolutely nothing adverts to the festival. Accordingly, the big "Live" hall of "Klubi Åbo" with a capacity of 450 appears quite empty with its 40 to 50 attendees. My temporary assumption that the emptiness could be based on the ice rinks outside is proven wrong since even the most dangerous weather conditions are accepted in Finland as long as an event is interesting enough.
When Niina (Vocals & Guitar), Päivi (Lead Guitar) and Soffe (Bass) start their set, it's empty in front of the stage, and it will remain empty until end of the set. Only one or two photographers occasionally dare to go closer to the stage; everyone else stands either at the bar or elsewhere further away from the stage. But one could classify the overall atmosphere also as "relaxed"; after all, you don't need to be afraid that your drink could fall prey to a wild mosh pit - and the second single release "Addiction" definitely has what it takes to cause such a mosh pit.
For "Addiction" as well as for the first single release "Closer", music videos were shot. Quite impressive given the increasing number of so-called "lyric videos" and that even many well-known bands make use of those nowadays. Furthermore, Viper Arms are involved in the Turku Rock Academy, and one cannot deny that they stick out as an all-female rock band, yet you would wrong them if you would reduced them to that criterion. With the singles "Closer" and "Addiction" as well as with compositions such as "Crossing The Border" and "You Will Not Possess Me", the quartet delivers the "pure and passionate Rock'n'Roll with hard rock influences" which is promised in their press releases. Quartet? Indeed, Viper Arms are actually a quartet, but drummer Laura is prevented for any reason, and it remains unclear tonight whether the absence is temporarily or permanently. Already at the previous gig four days ago, a male drummer filled in for her. That gig also took place in Åbo, and later this month Viper Arms are going to play a third show in Åbo, but the girls have also performed numerous times outside their hometown which might explain why there is no trace of nervousness.
Eye candy Soffe even makes one smile as the bass player with the long blonde dreadlocks reminds inevitably of Barbe-Q-Barbies' bass player Minttu, even if the latter has meanwhile said goodbye to her long blonde dreadlocks. As announced in advance, the set is very short (It started at 9:15 p.m. and the third of the four performing bands tonight is supposed to enter the stage already at 10 p.m.), and it's obvious that the ladies would have liked to play a longer set. We would have liked to listen to more songs of them, too.
Conclusion: While Viper Arms convince with their performance, the overall impression of the Turku Band Festival 2015 falls short of expectations. The low number of festival visitors reminds rather of a usual event at Turku Rock Academy where friends and family members stop by than an event which could demonstrate the rest of the country the importance of Åbo as a city for bands and live music. Although the purpose itself is very commendable and appreciated, it's a fact that Åbo doesn't even have an adequate nightlife for rock fans to offer and hence lacks in a vibrant rock scene. Finland is a country in which many things are geographically concentrated on its capital Helsinki, and especially the music and media sector is affected by this centralisation. Whatever your general opinion about this centralization and the capital itself is: Who seriously wants to achieve something in the music and media sector and who seriously wants to establish, build and cultivate important contacts in the music and media sector will sooner or later end up in Helsinki...
Website of Viper Arms: http://www.viperarms.com/
Website of "Turku Band Festival": http://www.turkubandfestival.fi/
Author: Stefanie Singh / Photos: Adrian Nysand