PAGANFEST NORTH AMERICA V
Korpiklaani, Turisas, Chthonic, Varg, Winterhymn
The Republik. Calgary, Alberta 2014
It was painful to go inside on the first sunny day in a week! As I waited in line enjoying the last few warm rays of sunset I watched the faithful. Many people were dressed up and faces painted. Countless folk/pagan/Viking shirts made me think this is one of the strongest sub genres right now. Doors open an hour behind schedule which for once didn’t bother me as it was fine to soak up a last few rays of sunset while in line.
This was the first time I had seen this sextet. They looked good dressed in full battle gear and they sounded good too. There was a decent crowd of about 100 as they hit the stage. They used some props and had keyboards for a full layered sound. They had good stage banter as well engine the crowd quickly. At one point vocalist, Ulfr said ‘There are no familiar faces in the crowd because this is our first time playing here. That’s OK, we feel at home playing on Paganfest because we know you are all big dorks like us!”, before ripping into a Skyrim cover, ‘The Dragonborn Comes’. I like the dual vocal attack, the violin and folk influences (of course) and I went and bought their indie, debut album, SONGS FOR THE SLAIN. I can see why they got drafted to help man the oars of the touring longship that is Paganfest. A highlight was when Ulfr offered to ‘shepherd us up the mountain of inebriation’, and then introduced the sing-along obligatory drinking song called ‘Alesong’. Good times!
A pre-recorded symphonic orchestral intro led into what was probably the heaviest, most straight forward band of the night. The German quartet Bathed in red light for most of/entire show which was an interesting choice but made for lousy pictures and a dark stage show. There was some good crowd interaction taught the fans a few German phrases with comedic flair. They tore through a fast set and then bid farewell making the crowd promise to keep ‘German wolf metal’ in our hearts and we will!
There was a long delay between VARG and chthonic set things back a bit. Chthonic from Taiwan were certainly the odd band on the bill. All the other band are celebrating Northern European Slavic culture. Last time saw Chthonic it was in a much bugger venue supporting Dimmu Borgir on a huge stage. It was nice to see them in an intimate setting. The band was the most blackened of Paganfest and , likely most musically intricate. The vocalist ‘Freddy’ played a two-stringed instrument called the Erhu which added a good visual and sonic element. Unlike the first two bands very little crowd interaction. It was a tragically short set at only 30 minutes. With a career seven albums deep barely scratched the surface. There were certainly a fan favourite, the line-up to meet the band after the show was at least 40 people deep. By this time the bar was hot, crowded and lots of booze was flowing as is common at these types of shows.
I have to admit, I didnt understand the cult of Turisas. I have to admit I don’t even own a Turisas album, which is frankly embarrassing because I have dozens, maybe even in the low hundreds of folk/ pagan/Viking type albums. They are so popular and revered and yet I was not hearing what others hear. My third time seeing them on the tenth anniversary of the release of BATTLE METAL. There was a quick change over, a pre-recorded, spoken word intro… followed by an epic, orchestral symphonic intro and then the band finally took the stage in full battle gear! The baritone of vocalist Warlord Nygard sounded great. Turisas had the biggest most sing-along/anthemic vocal sound of the night loaded with gang vocals every member miked up and singing along. They all had good energy and by the second song ‘Take The Day’ I got it, I finally clicked. They complimented their stage show with good stage personality and banter.
They had a nice mix of tempos, while violin and piano added atmosphere. Quite a few Turisas fans had the full war paint on as well. The crowd-friendly drinking song’ ‘One More’ went over well with lots of audience participation as did ‘We Ride Together’ . The last cut was a sloppy, fast version of ‘Rasputin’ which while it is not much of a song to begin with it was a good fun closer. Turisas were my unexpected surprise of the night and they converted me. Now I have a few Turisas albums to go buy….
This was my sixth time seeing Korpiklaani and they never disappoint. I’ve been on a bit of a Korpiklaani kick lately because I’ve been going back and reviewing some old albums for our Backlog Of Doom feature. The sextet were pretty cramped on the small stage.
I’ve seen vocalist Jarvela a lot more social and interactive in the past. The band ripped through six or seven fast songs before he even addressed the crowd. The band was all business ,song after song after song. That is not to say it was not fun, just a bit different than some of their other gigs I’ve seen.
We finally got the first crowd surfer of the night, oddly enough on one of the slower cuts. For a whirligig jig type gig, the band were not that animated could just be space restrictions due to the small stage . At the end of the first hour of the set (5 hours into the night!) the crowd had a bit of trouble sustaining the energy. They did perk up for some of the hits like, ‘Vodka’.
The band threw in a couple of instrumentals as well to break up the set. It was getting close to Midnight when the band tore into a spirited version of their most famous song, ‘Happy Little Boozer’. Overall of the most intense sets I have seen them do. I thin they realized they had to play some of their heaviest songs on what is quite a heavy Paganfest bill with Varg and Chthonic. Their set was streamlined and I was almost glad they didn’t load their setlist with all their happy, bouncy drinking songs.
Paganfest V did not disappoint. The last time Paganfest hit Calgary was back in 2009 on Paganfest II so the crowd was very satisfied to see these performers. A good time was had by all!