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Ilosaarirock is a two day festival about a five hour drive from Helsinki, Finland, in a small town called Joensuu. The festival site is set by a river so there is even a chance to go swimming. Finns say that Ilosaarirock has such a friendly atmosphere and that's why many of them claim it as their favourite festival. Around 20,000 people go to the festival each year and it has been going since 1991 at its current location. Bands are a mixture from different music scenes, mainly Finnish, but they do also have a few foreign bands playing. This year bands included PLACEBO (UK), BASTILLE (UK), BEARDYMAN (UK), CHARLI XCX (UK), SOLSTAFIR (Iceland), BIG K.R.I.T (USA), and GHOST (Sweden).
On the Friday they have clubs starting off the festival. MICHAEL MONROE played Friday in club Sulo that was part of the festival. His gig was great as always, you can tell Michael and his band are true professionals who always deliver. Throwing in a few Hanoi Rocks classics, such as 'Up Around the Bend' and 'Malibu Beach', always get the audience going.
There were also some other known Finnish bands playing, like APOCALYPTICA and AMORPHIS, delivering something for the metal fans, and SANTA CRUZ, who are making a name for themselves in the States with their Skid Row/Guns 'N' Roses influenced music. The Santa Cruz boys deliver an energetic show and they are great musicians, but unfortunately they need a few more catchy tunes. Some of the songs just don’t work, but the ones that do are great. In general they need to improve on their songwriting, but it's still a great show and their love for what they are doing really shows.
Another Finnish band that has been noted abroad is called VON HERTZEN BROTHERS. They play classic progressive rock. Again they're great musicians, but I have to say their gig left the audience a bit cold. The other band members look at home on the stage but the frontman Mikko Von Hertzen doesn’t have the presence of a frontman and is lacking feeling when trying to connect with the audience. They are like the opposite of Santa Cruz, who are wild, young and energetic. Von Hertzen Brothers are for those who like to sit and have a picnic while listening to some entertainment.
As a whole, the festival did have great friendly atmosphere, but that was due to the audience. In general, a good experience but too overpriced in terms of camping and drinks.

Words by Susanna Alves.
Photos by Kati Brugnoli - Ilosaarirock sign above, Santa Cruz below.

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