The weekend of October 12-14 was full of color - the trees of Helsinki were showing off their most beautiful autumn shades, the BlowUp Vol.4 festival wristband was gleaming in purple on my wrist and a weekend full of different, vivid and vibrant musical journeys was awaiting at Korjaamo – time for one of my favorite festivals in Finland!
Walking in to the tunes of Dark Buddha Rising, I immediately felt the warm embrace of the music and the extraordinary vibe of the festival. Pulsating sounds, lights and shadow spread over the crowd, hair was glistening in the light…the door to exploring the musical dimensions this weekend had opened wide.
It got more crowded in time for Acid King who were still playing on the Vanusali main stage in the big hall that is flanked by old Helsinki trams – Korjaamo also serves as the city’s tram museum. This year for the first time, there were two stages at BlowUp Festival: the smaller Kulmasali one located inside the other Korjaamo building with more space for more merch, more seating space and the bar serving up drinks and food. On one hand, it was a nice addition to see more and also more special bands that fit better in a smaller room, on the other hand, one was bound to miss at least parts of some bands because of the inevitable overlaps.
Dark Buddha Rising (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Acid King was grooving very heavily on stage, bathed in red light, an organic glow that seemed to come from behind the stage, an organism connected with the band who was then in turn connected with the cheering audience – everyone feeding of each other and diving deep into the vibes. It was difficult finding the way out of the sound labyrinth but it was time for King Dude on the small stage, time to plunge oneself into a quite different atmosphere.
Acid King (Photo by Marco Manzi)
The Kulmasali was packed, as was to be expected. Kind Dude was on stage alone, with the projections behind him at times making him look demonic, at others bestowing wings on him. With his signature mix of music, banter with the audience, dark, romantic, erotic and humorous vibes he entertained the audience and was rewarded with huge applauses, laughs and beaming faces.
King Dude (Photo by Marco Manzi)
In the Vaunusali the air was thick with anticipation as people were ready to worship Crowbar. Having seen them earlier in the year at Roadburn already, I was just drinking in the buzz of energy in the air, letting myself being taken back to my teenage days when listening to Crowbar for the first time, enjoying the happiness and cheers of the audience. A sea of moshing, nodding heads accompanied the whole gig and it was impossible to not be drawn in.
Crowbar (Photo by Marco Manzi)
After this, things quieted down a bit when I tried to catch the second half of Kauan in a crowded Kulmasali. A very atmospheric mood was cast over the room, black and white projections of winter landscapes accompanying the softer flowing tunes, a moment of tranquility, a breath of fresh air, figuratively and literally after the loud, boasting, droning, full and stuffy Vaunusali. Already so overflowing with impressions and moods from the evening, I did not fully connect with the show, did not get into the mood completely, but the audience was mesmerized and happily swaying along. Last on the main stage were Bongripper who tore the evening wide up again, squeezing out every little last bit of energy with their intensely droning performance.
Kauan (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Bongripper (Photo by Marco Manzi)
I thought every last drop of sweat was spilt, every corner of mind, soul and heart filled to the brim already, that I was completely spent but there still were the dervishes of Okkultokrati playing who electrified the now more sparse crowd for one last time that night with their raw and rough performance full of attitude, charging the tired feed with a spasm of energy to make sure they would take their owners home safely through the autumn night.
Okkultokrati (Photo by Marco Manzi)
On Saturday, Hällas provided a very smooth start into the second day. Vaunusali was not that full upon arrival, but the crowd kept growing throughout the set. It was so nice to see the band for a second time. And this time I was able to fully enjoy the show and was not distracted by feeling like being stuck in an oven with too little air and copious amounts of sweat flowing like earlier this year in Het Patronaat at Roadburn when Tilburg enjoyed (or suffered) a sudden wave of summer the time of the festival. The projections were flowing over the band, creating dissolving patterns and textures and rainbow prism lights while the music slowly but surely wove around you and pulled you towards the universe of the second evening.
Hällas (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Next up were Conan who were playing at BlowUp Festival already for the second time, and it go quite full just in time. You could feel the floor vibrating and you knew this was going to be a physical, musical experience with no escape. It was heavy, the sound propelling forward to the audience, the audience propelling itself forward towards the sound, letting themselves get smashed up in the best way possible while the voice of Jon Davis was grinding away at you, forcing you to surrender and fully be consumed, submerged.
Conan (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Unfortunately, I had to steal myself away from Conan in order to go see the performance of Lingua Ignota that I had been looking forward to quite a bit. I should have headed there earlier as it was already packed and the fact that Lingua Ignota did not play on the stage of Kulmasali but had set up a circle of lights around the keyboard on the floor lead to quite a bit of head turning, trying to figure out the best angle to catch a glimpse. Then, Lingua Ignota aka Kristin Hayter walked towards the stage in a white, almost floor-length gown, taking her shoes off before she set the lights, creating her space. Then, the performance began. Her, kneeling on the ground, singing, wailing, the feeling of witnessing something very intimate, something that maybe was not meant for an audience. Beautiful vocal and keyboard parts broken up by industrial darkness, screeching. A complete change of vibe, Hayter staggering around in the semicircle, smashing up the lights, casting everything into darkness, step by step, lamp by lamp. A performance both vulnerable and strong, of beauty and rawness, contained, composed and unleashed, unhinged. Something to process long after….
Lingua Ignota (Photo by Marco Manzi)
It would have been great though if Lingua Ignota would have started 30 minutes later as her set was only about half an hour of the allocated one-hour slot, then I could have watched the whole of Conan and also caught Lingua Ignota. But no use crying over spilled milk or in this case, missed shows, and onwards it was to see Godflesh in Vaunusali where the air was slowly but surely getting stuffy. The band was greeted by huge cheers, it seemed everyone had really been waiting for them so the whole audience got very into it immediately. The in-your-face voice and body encompassing sound was just the right thing after Lingua Ignota to return to the larger festival universe again. Unfortunately, Justin Broadrick seemed to have some power issues after the first couple of songs but despite the several minute break to fix things people stayed and didn’t miss a beat once the band was back. The festival just kept vibing.
Godflesh (Photo by Marco Manzi)
The industrial theme continued with Author & Punisher in a once again packed Kulmasali, so it was a smooth transition. Dark, stomping tunes emerged from the vocal apparatus, man and machine as one, a very interesting performance to watch and great new music to discover.
Author & Punisher (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Another band that I had also been waiting for all festival long was Amenra. Their compelling gig alternated between delicate and intense bursts of sound that were reflected on stage, the band standing still before completely exploding along with the music, the rupture palpable, almost unbearable. All you could do was to open yourself up completely, drink up the experience as a vulnerable heap of a human being, ripped open, feeling every outburst, every tender, atmospheric vibe, the latter almost more painful than the first. The hypnotic vibe, those vocals, the overall uncompromising intensity of the whole band whose pain and despair seemed to take up everything, sucking even all color from Vaunusali as they seemed to appear in black and white, and everything surrounding them seemed to turn bleak but so alive with emotions and music at the same time.
Amenra (Photo by Marco Manzi)
After this, I felt too raw for anything else but decided to check out the last few minutes of Whores. who were the last band of the festival. Kulmasali was packed with sweaty, excited people on and off stage, band and audience headbanging. The vibe was great but after Amenra I felt like a visitor from another dimension that could notice and appreciate the scene playing out before her but there was no way to connect, to
participate. Time to head home.
Whores. (Photo by Marco Manzi)
But BlowUp Vol.4 was not over just yet – for the first time there was an Afterparty on Sunday with Demonic Death Judge and Dopethrone that I unfortunately could not attend but I have it on good authority that Korjaamo was full again and both bands were totally worth trying to revive the tired post-festival corpses to head out on a Sunday.
Dopethrone (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Demonic Death Judge (Photo by Marco Manzi)
Check out the full photo gallery by Marco Manzi.