SYNTY TAPPORAUTA! Just saying it makes me want to dance and mumble along. I've been a fan of Korpiklaani for a few years now, frequently turning to their uplifting folk rhythms for impromptu and uneducated flopping about (dancing). It'd been about two years since I saw them last, and it had been suitably folk-y.
Normally I skip the local bands but I made the rare decision to head down early and check out Seattle locals Deathmocracy. I bring attention to them because their stage show was less like that of your
typical local opener and more like a touring act. A whole setup involving a couple of priestly characters, some incense, and a podium culminated into a very dark-clergy theme that went very well with the sound, which was strong enough to get some energy out of the crowd. A pleasant far cry from the offensive-to-the-senses openers I'm used to. Glad to see justification in holding that Seattle isn't wholly dearth of good metal.
Up next was Forged in Flame, out of Cleveland, Ohio. I was mostly unfamiliar with them before the show went on and afterwards I was rather tempted to check them out more. The performance itself seemed pretty standard to me, nothing flashy or special though by no means bad, but the attitude of the band caught my eye. Forged in Flames, and the front man in particular, gave off that vibe that lets you know they're having a lot of fun playing for everyone. I don't have much else to say about them but I do want to emphasize the good feel they gave off. Says a lot about a band when the stage performance alone makes you want to listen to them later.
Up next? Polkadot Cadaver. I'm not even sure what to follow that with, their name is nearly enough. An experimental/avant garde group out of Maryland, they use a lot of entertaining non-metal-standard rhythms that feel really bouncy. I hadn't heard any of them beforehand and was a little surprised when they started. I certainly liked it, but the style was not what I expected for a Korpiklaani show. In what proved to be the night's most unexpected twist, Polkadot Cadaver covered Billy Jean. The Billy Jean. Michael Billy Jackson Jean. Not a bad cover, either. There was a little kid near the corner of the stage that the front man was cool enough to pull up for the song and dance around with him. Really heartwarming stuff.
As for Arkona, they the first Russian band I've ever seen and having them be a folk metal band seems fairly fitting to me. I have to admit that after listening to their material before the show I wasn't particularly looking forward to seeing them come on. The sound seemed like bland folk metal with some bag pipes in for good measure and an industry-standard harsh-vocal front woman. Despite that I had a lot of fun with their set. It all sounded much livelier than on their recordings. Masha (their front
woman) gets really into it, bringing forth a certain live quality not found on their album. I really want the wolf pelt that she had draped over her shoulders. Looked pretty awesome and I'm pretty sure it was real. Regardless of the overall quality, it was good to have some warm up folk metal before the stars of the evening.
The Clan of the Woods, Korpiklaani. Woo. I was expecting some good things from them again. As it turns out I got great things instead! That's at least 2.5 steps above good! Every song and intermission was filled with a far greater energy than they had expressed last time. Unfortunately they didn't have their fiddler with them, which seems almost impossible. Korpiklaani? No FIDDLING? Damn near blasphemous. Their accordion player picked up the slack quite impressively. Full props to everyone in the band even though it doesn't quite feel the same. The set comprised of mostly fan favorites and tracks off of last February's Ukon Wacka. Jonne and Kalle pranced around the stage with nearly every song, running about with high spirits. Everyone in the band seemed a lot enthusiastic this time around, interacting with the audience and amongst themselves for a pretty dynamic vibe.
The audience was clearly feeling just as happy. I was in the pit for the majority of Korpiklaani's set and it was a good mix of thrashing about and dancing (I use that term loosely) to the folk melodies. Pretty friendly pit, too, and that's always nice.
The most magical part of the evening happened about three-quarters through the set and involved the same toddler from earlier. Jonne was performing a solo track that involved mostly Finnish chanting that I'm not entirely certain wasn't in some archaic Uralic tongue. The little kid was still in his spot over by the stage corner when Jonne took his hand and brought him up; he then proceeded to place his arm around the kid's shoulder and encourages him to sing along. Jonne would do a phrase and hold the mic up for the kid to mimic the melody. The boy clearly felt pretty awkward and quite possibly bewildered but Jonne was very encouraging and got him to do a few words. The crowd remained absolutely silent while the boy stared into the microphone, mustering up the courage, and broke out into an uproarious cheer each time he succeeded. I feel warm and giddy just thinking about it; there's a sense of community in that experience that few things emulate. I gained enormous respect for the band and felt particularly connected the people around me.
The encore was a little unorthodox. It felt more like a jam session, and I mean that in a good way. Lots of good energy coming out of the band and some silly instrumental tracks were peppered in over the regular songs and what I believe to have been some guitar covers. Motorhead's Iron Fist was thrown in, much to everyone's delight. It probably lasted around 15 minutes, a perfect testament to the crowd's entertainment. Encore's usually feel like little more than an exercise in affectation but when they're as unscripted as this one was it is without a doubt a product of everyone involved having a good time.
I wish I could have nights like that all the time.