Petri Wessman's weblog

Secret meeting in the basement of my brain

I’m put together beautifully
Big wet bottle in my fist, big wet rose in my teeth
I’m perfect piece of ass
Like every Californian
So tall I take over the street, with highbeams shining on my back
A wingspan unbelievable
I’m a festival, I’m a parade

And all the wine is all for me
And all the wine is all for me
And all the wine is all for me

– The National, “All the Wine”

So, there we were at Ankkarock, dead on our feet but with the sun shining and tons of people milling around. I wasn’t sure how I was feeling, but it was generally pretty good. Janka was having more than a bit of trouble keeping awake, but soldiered on. Me, I was starting to get more and more on top of things. You know that feeling you get, when you push past the first 10 or so times that your body tells you “you really need to sleep now”? There’s a weird sort of plateau, where you know that you’re dead tired and running on fumes… but you actually feel pretty good, and sort of just float along in a daze. I was getting there.

Anyway, the music. Eppu Normaali was…. Eppu Normaali. Absolutely no surprises there, but I wasn’t expecting any. Nostalgic Finnish poprock, with lyrics everyone knows by heart. High on the nostalgia factor, but otherwise… well, what can I say. It’s Eput. They are a Finnish pop/rock institution.

Next up was PMMP, and I was (very) positively surprised. In fact, they proved to be easily the second-best of the four bands I saw there. Now, it’s a band that a lot of people I know have been telling me is good for years, but I never got around to listening to their stuff much. I’ve heard some of their songs, and they are in the “pretty much ok” department. Also saw them for a short while at Provinssirock some years back, but didn’t stay to watch too long. Well, this time I did, and I have to say that they have (perhaps surprisingly) blossomed into a real, “serious” poprock band. Their stage presence was excellent, they had energy and humor, and the songs worked great in an outdoor festival environment like that. Still not sure how well they work on CD, but that live show did very much change my opinion about them. Perhaps because of their “bubblegum-pop girl band” beginnings, I have been a bit dismissive of them in the past. They’ve evolved, apparently. Good for them. They rocked.

At that point, Janka decided to head for home; she was just totally dead from lack of sleep (and still probably suffering from the food poisoning in addition), so staying to watch some more bands didn’t make much sense. I stayed on, since the band I actually came to see (National) was playing later in the evening.

I went an grabbed a long drink; dared to drink one even though I was dead tired and still needed to drive home, experience has shown me that I can handle one (specifically, one) in that state and that it’s actuall a good idea. It was, once again, it took the worst edge off the tired feeling and left me in a nice, mellow mood. The sunshine helped, too.

The next show was Volbeat. Some people had gushed a lot about their stage show, and I can understand why; these guys were pretty good and they have a huge number of Finnish fans (many of whom were there to cheer them on). Musically, it was heavy rock with some “Elvis” elements; I liked the fact that they had added some 60s/rockabilly/country elements to the mix, which is apparently one of their trademarks (they actually did one Johnny Cash cover). It works quite well – but on the other hand, the music is mostly fairly bog-standard heavy rock and gets a bit same-ish and slightly boring after a while. It’s not a band that I would probably specifically pay to see again, but I wouldn’t at all mind seeing them again at a festival or such sometime. It lacked a strong “hook” to really get me interested, but it was fun and energetic heavy rock’n’roll with some nice nonstandard elements thrown in. Definitely better than most of the “heavy” bands around nowadays, which at time seem cloned from one another.

Lastly (for me) was the band I had actually come to see, The National. They have risen to become one of my favorite bands nowadays. Some of the things in their music are things that typically attract me in music: complex, multilayered obscure lyrics, strange tempo changes, strong melodies, and a strong sense of dark, wry sarcastic humor. Some other bits go in the “if I could describe it, it wouldn’t be art” department. For some reason, their music resonates in ways that few bands manage to pull of (for me). Don’t get me wrong; I have a pretty wide taste in music and The National are far from being “the thing that I listen to, period”. But they are one of the bands frequently found on my playlist nowadays, together with Arcade Fire, The New Pornographers and other bands in that sort of “headspace”.

So anyway, I’ve never seen these guys live (sadly missed their previous first visit to Finland a year ago) and had pretty huge expectations from this gig. Now, generally that’s a bad thing, especially for “just a festival gig”; it’s setting yourself up for disappointment. But I couldn’t help it, I was looking forward to this a lot, and the sun was shining and I had a pleasant sleep deprivation plus one long drink buzz going on.

They were awesome, actually better than I had expected. The guys in the band seemed happily bemused by the happy and loud audience reception, and people were singing along to most of the songs, and in general the feeling was just fantastic. Things started off with Matt Berninger shuffling on stage, wearing a scruffy suit with a bottle of white wine stashed in the pocket, and then launching into the first song, “Start a War”. When people around you sing along (loudly) to obscure lyrics like “and so and now I’m sorry I missed you, I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain”, you know you’re in good company. Great setlist… they only missed one of my personal favorites (“Friend of Mine”) and had nice variations on many of the songs. There was an “extra” guy on stage playing keyboards and violin… and any band that features a violin or fiddle on stage gets an extra point from me. They closed down with “Mr. November”, which had Matt climbing down to hug some fans while singing the “I used to be carried in the arms of cheerleaders” end refrain. It was great, everyone was grinning and having fun.

Awesome high note to end a heavy-duty con weekend on. Someone has already uploaded the first song from the gig on YouTube, so here you go:

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No sleep 'til Monday

Well, another Ropecon is now over (except for the after-party). While once again it was an exercise in seeing how far you can push yourself in the sleep deprivation department, it also went very well and was a lot of fun.

I had already done some “con stuff” on Wednesday and Thursday, with some pub time with LSJ (Guest of Honor), Juki, Janne and the others, but things really started off for me on Friday with the big VTES tournament. I was at work until 4pm or so, and after that drove over to Dipoli and set up the registration desk. Things proceeded smoothly even though there were a lot of players (we got a grand total of 85 this year), and I managed to get the tournament running by 18:15 – not bad. LSJ was also playing in this one, something he doesn’t get to do all that much. He did threaten to ask nasty rules questions from the judge (which would be me), but in reality he behaved. Perhaps it was the threats of violence…

Anyway, the tournament was a success. Nobody skipped out suddenly and everyone who signed up was actually there more or less on time – the few latecomers kept me well informed via the phone. There were some rules questions as always, but only one which I wasn’t 100% sure about right off… and this time, I could actually go find LSJ and ask him for confirmation. Awesome. Even though the playing space was cramped for this number of players and the lack of fresh air and ridiculous air humidity became real factors, everyone dealt with it and seemed to have a good time. So a huge thanks to the players for this one: once again, you made this possible and a fun thing to run.

The preliminary rounds finished a bit before 1am, after which I dealt out the EC qualifier t-shirts to the 21 players who got a qualification. After that, the finalists took a short break and then gathered up to play the final round (which got going around 1:25am). The final round had 2 Swedish players and 3 Finns. Pauli (one of the Finns) was ousted quite soon by Michael (a Swede), which left four Dominate-heavy decks on the table. After a long tense stretch of a game, the win finally went to Adam Esbjörnsson (from Sweden) with about 5 minutes left on the game clock. Congrats! Adam was playing a very nasty-looking deck based around Gabrielle di Righetti, the new Tremere Justicar. I’ll write up a full tournament report over the next couple of weeks, hopefully with full finalist deck lists and some pictures.

So, at around 3.20am, things were wrapped up, and I could… go downstairs to do an Info desk shift until 7am! Whee! To be fair, I had requested night shifts, so I can only blame myself. The night shift went fine, though it was a bit boring. Come on Troubleshooters, your job is to keep Info (and yourselves) awake, keeping peace and order is secondary to that! There was cakes and whipped cream, though, so can’t complain too much.

When 7am rolled around I hopped in the car and drove home. In own bed and asleep before 8am… so got to sleep curled up next to wife for a hour or so until she had to get up and do her own Info desk shift. The cats were quite confused about human timetables at this point. I slept until noon(ish), then headed back to the con. Hung around, saw some lectures, did the normal con routine until something like 9pm, when Janka & I decided to do the smart thing and go home and sleep for at least some hours before the next night shift (which we both shared). Unfortunately she had gotten a slight case of food poisoning (probably from a packet of bacon she had as breakfast), and we actually only got a few hours of real sleep, if that. At 2:30am or so, we headed back to the con after a quick wake-you-up shower. Janka wasn’t feeling too good, but decided to see how it would go.

Once we got there, night shift was fun and not at all boring, since we decided to do something about it: Janka hooked up one of the laptops to the projector (usually used for projecting con schedules) and some kind person lent us their portable speaker set – we forgot ours at home. After this, it was Info Deck Night Radio&Video, courtesy of YouTube. We played everything we could think off, as long as it was reasonably short, funny, and if possible slightly insane. Janka wrote about the playlist in her blog.

… so, we managed to keep ourselves (and any victims nearby) awake and semi-coherent. Morning rolled in, and we didn’t have much else to do yet so we stayed for a few more hours at the Info desk to help out. After that I headed off to make sure that the “VTES Brunch” with LSJ and some of the tournament finalists and high scorers was ok (it was, Katri & others had organized an awesome breakfast buffet at a roof-terrace sauna). Grabbed some breakfast there while talking VTES with the guys, then headed off to organize a few small things and find Janka.

The rest of the con for us consisted of sitting in Keltsu (the pub) and talking with Guy, Kristel and others, winding down. At around 3pm, instead of doing what our bodies were claiming to be the sane thing (go home asap and fall into a coma), we headed off to Korso for Ankkarock, to see Eppu Normaali, PMMP, Volbeat and The National. Sanity is overrated, anyway.

More about the rock festival visit in another post (it merits one).

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Summer scheduling

Looks like I need to start scheduling my summer right about now, a lot of things need decisions round this time. For example, I just heard that The National are coming to Ankkarock… and of course Ropecon is on the same weekend. Gah. I really want to see The National, they were one of the best “new finds” of last year for me. Good news is that they are performing on Sunday. I’ll probably be able to combo the con Sunday with a rock festival. Somehow. It might involve beer.

In addition, a friend’s paintball weekend thingy lands on top of Provinssirock. Probably choosing the paintball there… sure, it would be nice to see Placebo (again) and Nick Cave, but now that (another) friend no longer lives nearby that would be a pretty expensive trip – I think I’ll opt for the cheaper “run in the woods and get shot” option. Oh, and of course there’s a KMFDM club gig on that same weekend. Already have tickets for that, but not yet sure how I’ll combo everything.

Oh, and we’re planning of maybe visiting Iceland in August, and continuing from there to Burning Man (once again!). Still in the planning stages, but that one will eat up both our vacation time and a chunk of cash. Why Iceland? Because we can. And because it should be less horribly expensive now, due to their financial crash. Sucks for them, good for us.

Having fun takes work, I tell you.

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