Helsinki Festival 2016

Anthony Shaw BY

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Love Proge
Helsinki Festival (Huvila Tent)
Helsinki, Finland
August 28, 2016

Richard Thompson couldn't have said it better than he wrote in Fairport Convention's first major single Meet on the Ledge: If you really mean it, it all comes round again. That was in 1968, two years after three central players in the Finnish music scene, including the jazz trumpeter and impresario Henrik Otto Donner, set up the label that was to be the flagship of Finnish experimental progressive rock and jazz, Love.

Many of the movers from that time, from Edward Vesala to Pekka Pohjola and Pekka Streng have long since passed away, but their music still lives vividly in the consciousness of.a whole generation of aging arts activists, as well as an important group of current young Finnish composers, musicians and of course listeners. Although these have not had the honor of recording on Love, they are thoroughly familiar with the bands who did, who were in their time the cream of students from the Finnish musical fraternity. This evening dedicated to this sparsely known Nordic label included surviving members from the era, as well as a raft of young talent from the vastly expanded pool of current young talent, playing what Finns call 'proge' (rhyming with fog-eh).

In fact one has to consider this pool to be rather an extended metaphor, since in addition to organist Jukka Gustavson, a founder member of Pohjola's own initial flagship Wigwam, other participants in this evening of cut back, analogue based, revival rock are themselves no longer the latest generation musicians. Singer Emma Salokoski has been on the local rock, jazz and even pop scene for nearly 20 years, joining the band early evening to perform songs by 1970s pioneers Tasavallinen Presidentti and troubadour Streng, excelling in her version of the latter's "Puutarha" (Garden). Also drummer Sami Kuoppamäki has a history starting with 1990s renowned acid rockers Kingston Wall, and continuing through the years with a host of stellar Finnish acts, including metal rockers Apocalyptica and Stratovarius and experimental accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen.

The most adamant carrier of the prog banner in Finland however is current Stratovarius bassist Lauri Porra, whose flowing locks and flapping bell bottoms could easily have placed him alongside any 60s star, and whose musical skills immediately prompt comparisons with Jaco Pastorius. In Finland he is currently something of a celebrity himself, since in addition to touring with his main band he is both an active composer for the burgeoning Finnish film industry. More topically, Porra was the main mover behind this summer's Helsinki Festival's opening concert, Omniwerk, an adventurous celebration of medieval instrumentation, involving a full symphony orchestra and a rapper! Indeed, while youthful musicians like Porra are able to put their energies into projects such as these this, formerly iconoclastic music like 'proge' has a future on more than just that ledge.

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