Korpiklaani and Turisas rock Paganfest North America 2014 at the Hollywood House of Blues!
May 13 – House of Blues – West Hollywood, CA
Review & photos by Metalette
Every year, Paganfest brings out a fascinating crowd – a subdivision of the LA metal scene that you otherwise never get to see! The SoCal vikings and heathens come out to party in their chainmail and warpaint and tattered fur, and many fans sport plastic-horned helmets if nothing else. The festival also draws an admirably diverse group of fans; all age-ranges, races, and genders appreciate the uniquely good time that is offered at Paganfest. I kid you not, there was a white-haired old lady sitting in the VIP section, bopping her head along to all the bands’ sets.
The full line-up of bands for this year was Winterhymn, Varg, Chthonic, Turisas, and Korpiklaani. I made it to the show in time to catch a bit of Chthonic’s powerful set, and then to see the latter two; the famed Finnish headliners whose performances were equally raucous and equally fun.
Turisas, the battle metal heroes of Hämeenlinna, Finland, decorated the stage in their striking red-and-black banners. They themselves were of course adorned in imposing red-and-black warpaint, and post-apocalyptic-looking leather outfits with plenty of studs and some fur here and there. I’ve seen Turisas before, and while they update their look pretty frequently, they appeared noble and menacing as always. They played a full-length set, including an encore, which gave them a chance to play a wide range of songs, from their very first album to their newest from last year. I was happy to hear songs from that newest album, Turisas2013, live, and I was also tickled that they played a few lesser-known songs off of older albums, and classics as well. For some examples, they played “Greek Fire”, “We Ride Together”, and “For Your Own Good” from their newest, some classics like “Rasputin” and “Battle Metal”, “Stand Up and Fight”, and even threw in “Rex Rebi Rebellis” which was a real treat to hear live! Vocalist Mathias Nygård spent a lot of time interacting with the audience, which is always fun as he is a charismatic and captivating frontman. It’s also always great to see a band with such a solid line-up of instruments, with violinist Olli Vänskä’s solos a huge audience favorite. Turisas always concludes their set with the shaking of as many audience-members’ hands as they can manage, and a proper, full-band bow. On his way out, guitarist Jussi Wickström crafted a setlist into a magnificent little paper airplane, which sailed wonderfully far out into the crowd. Impressive!
Korpiklaani’s set seamlessly blended the feel of a heavy metal show with polka, beer-drinking, and lighthearted dancing, and undertones of Finnish shamanistic power running through it all. Their set was so rousing that, from where I was standing, I saw a few bar-skirmishes erupt – one of which involved a guy with crutches! But don’t worry, he was quickly back up and waving his crutches in the air in appreciation of Korpiklaani’s performance. The band themselves are as friendly and laid-back onstage as they could be, but also full of contagious enthusiasm. Vocalist Jonne Järvelä runs and dances all over the stage, while simultaneously keeping up album-quality vocals! The audience cheered especially hard when he sang a few times in the chanting, almost yodeling style that adds the mysterious, shamanistic quality to Korpiklaani’s music. At one point Jonne jumped into the photo-pit, and leaned over the barrier, surrounded by screaming and singing audience members who you could even hear slightly through his microphone – I distinctly spotted a man singing along with Jonne, brandishing the single, plastic horn of a Viking helmet as though it was a mighty weapon. Korpiklaani’s performance also featured a few instrumental songs, making great use of Tuomas Rounakari’s madman-skills on the violin, and Sami Perttula’s equally impressive playing of the accordion. Some of the songs they played throughout the night included “Metsämies”, “Uniaika”, “Happy Little Boozer”, the huge fan-favorite “Rauta”, and of course, the ultimate metal party song, “Vodka”! No one left the packed venue disappointed that night. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that everyone left with a huge smile, a little out of breath, and with plans to catch Paganfest next year.