Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Tromsø / Norway, Part 2...

As mentioned in my previous blogspot post, we started our second stay in Tromsø / Norway in the meantime. Well, actually, I should talk about living in Northern Norway since we are literally here and there and currently spend a great deal of time "on the road".

During the past few weeks, we visited three open air festivals and an extremely lovely wedding in the stunning archipelago of Lofoten. As soon as I have a bit more time on my hands, there will be pictures of all those events on this very blog. 

In August 2015, when we moved to Tromsø the first time, some people were looking forward to see glimpses of our life in Norway. Although we took thousands of pictures at that time, I did not feel like sharing any of those, mainly because of what life in Tromsø turned out to be like: Catastrophic conditions in the offices / at the public authorities (More details about it here, here and here), a local housing market which is absolutely horrible, continuous power failures, false fire alarms, the water supply being turned off repeatedly without any notification beforehand... And the working life here did not turn out to be brilliant at professionalism either. So, when my love received a very tempting job offer in Finland, resulting in us moving from Norway back to Finland in the middle of December 2015, I wasn't sad at all about the surprising turn of events. Quite the contrary. But we had to move to Norway for a second time in early summer 2016, so my love could finish his exchange year in Tromsø after his temporary employment in Finland was accomplished. I was not looking forward to it. Not at all.

Don't get me wrong: There were some brilliant highlights during our first stay in Tromsø, but most of the time was a deep shadow, dark as the polar night, due to one disappointment after another.

And then we moved to Tromsø for the second time - and life became as bright as the midnight sun! I definitely didn't see that coming... Wow! ♥ 

As mentioned before, we decided to move abroad at the end of the year 2014, so my love could seize the chance of having an exchange year during his studies while I would regain job and career opportunities which I simply don't have in Finland and increasingly craved for. I had regained those opportunities no sooner had we arrived in Tromsø the first time in August 2015 - but now, since June 2016, those opportunities seem to skyrocket. And with that, some other things fell into place, too. Not all things, but... Things are moving forward. And so I'm willing to share pictures from our second stay in Norway. ;o) 

Our first stay in Norway was what it was, mainly negative, and it won't be relativised by the fact that our current second stay in Norway is thoroughly positive. However, putting both stays together, our life in Norway has become better. Much better. And there is a reason why I don't use a term like "happy ending" in this context - because our current second stay in Tromsø may be followed by further stays in Tromsø in the future. The job and career opportunities here as well as the friendships we have built up in the meantime are just two reasons in favour of that thought. Well, we'll see what life will offer next... :o) 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Happy Midsummer! Glad Midsommar! Hauskaa Juhannusta!

Happy Midsummer! Glad Midsommar! Hauskaa Juhannusta! :o) This year not from Finland but from Northern Norway... Yes, right, we started our second stay in Tromsø / Norway in the meantime... 

To be continued... ;o) 

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Soon, it's summer break...

One month ago today, I wrote a bit about my latest CD reviews and how to discover new music / releases. While the brand new print issue of Northern Norway's biggest student magazine "Utropia" is on its way, here are - as promised - my CD reviews from the current print issue:

1. The legend whose latest album release enjoyed excessive media coverage: Iggy Pop -"Post Pop Depression". As written in the title of the CD review, "the fuss about it was well founded"

2. The new album release of a band whose music I really, really like - and I figured out about their latest release just while I was actively searching for new music: Dommin - "Rise".

3. The band whose name I had heard before but whose music was completely unknown to me: The Last Vegas - "Eat Me"

4. The musician who knows how to use social media channels properly in order to promote the release of his brand new album: Conny Bloom - "Fullt Upp"

For the upcoming print issue, I wrote five reviews, and one of it was some kind of debut for me... Stay tuned! ;o) 

Monday, 18 April 2016

There is no good music out there anymore?

Before the upcoming print issue of Northern Norway's biggest student magazine "Utropia" is going to be published, I would like to say / write a few words about the current print issue - whose working process has been the most fun so far. 

Cover of the current print issue of "Utropia" (No.2/2016)

When we signed our working contracts with "Utropia" in August 2015, we had just arrived in Tromsø / Norway, so keeping our main focus on LIVE reviews was also a good way for us to explore the city of Tromsø and to get to know more about its local music scene. Since there were some great CD releases at that time as well, such as Michael Monroe's "Blackout States" and Barbe-Q-Barbies' "Driven", I additionally started to write more CD reviews again. And when we surprisingly moved from Norway back to Finland in the middle of December 2015, the option of writing LIVE reviews about local events in Tromsø fell away completely - and CD reviews became my new main focus. At first, there seemed to be nothing special about it. I knew, for example, that Sivert Høyem was going to release a new album, "Lioness", so as a matter of course, I reviewed that very album for the previous print issue of "Utropia". 

For the current print issue of "Utropia", I wanted to write more than the one CD review about Trench Dogs' EP "Fashionably Late". My choice to review their EP didn't seem that surprising either since we just saw the band performing in Stockholm / Sweden on New Year's Eve. My choice for the second CD review was a surprise for myself though. 

It all started with the German TV series "Deutschland 83" which was broadcasted from 26th January 2016 to 15th March 2016 on Yle TV1. I really loved this TV series, it became one of my all-time favourites in no time, and through "Deutschland 83", I became aware of Northern Lights, the band of Jonas Nay who plays the main character Martin Rauch / Moritz Stamm in "Deutschland 83". So my second CD review for the current print issue of "Utropia" ended up to be about Northern Lights' EP "Pulsar"

It was surely something different I reviewed, but at the same time, it was very interesting and enjoyable. 

Compared to that, one might think that my third and last CD review for the current print issue was maybe not that different from the music I usually review - and not that surprising either since Jesse Malin is another musician we just saw performing in Stockholm at the beginning of March 2016. Considering the fact that I actually don't listen that much to singer / songwriter music, the review about the reissue of "The Fine Art Of Self Destruction" wasn't such a matter of course - and, again, I really enjoyed it.

For the upcoming print issue of "Utropia", I wrote four CD reviews. This time, inspired by the CD reviews about Northern Lights and Jesse Malin, I went through various lists and databases in order to figure out more about upcoming CD releases. Usually, four review spots are filled very quickly. A band or a musician you already know might release something new. Or there is a promising newcomer act with a release. Or you see someone in concert who has recently released something. Or someone might approach you with his / her / their material. As you see, it's not even necessary to go through any lists or databases in order to figure out about upcoming CD releases. At least not if you want to fill four review spots only. I did so anyway - and I was stunned by the amount of releases! 

I checked out quite some stuff, and apart from the already mentioned CD reviews I had written, I cannot understand how one could claim that "there is no good music out there anymore". There is! Admittedly, it's just hard to find it, in the flood of releases..

For instance, I figured out about the new album release of a band whose music I really, really like - just while I was actively searching for new music! That's sad, indeed, but the thing is that not only radio pop stations play the same songs all over again; rock channels aren't any better! The same all over and over and over again. The big names with their big hits one is already sick and tired of, no matter how great those songs actually are. And if they don't play the big names but some songs of smaller and / or local bands, it's usually the same two songs they would play of those bands - and no real newcomers or "insider tips" at all anymore. I don't know for how long that has been the case, but I remember that I stopped listening to my back then favourite radio channel in 2010 after realising that they had a big repertoire, yet it repeated itself after a while. Now, there seems to be only 25% left of the once big repertoire, if even that much, and its repetition becomes obvious after a few hours listening only. So, apparently, radio stations aren't any longer the source where one can discover new music or just get to know about new releases of not so (un)known bands. On the radio, I didn't even hear once a new song by the legend whose latest album release enjoyed excessive media coverage otherwise

Through the various lists and databases I went through, I came across a band whose name I had heard before but whose music was completely unknown to me. And the fourth spot was filled by a musician who knows how to use social media channels properly in order to promote the release of his brand new album. 

So, soon, I'm going to reveal who filled up the spots in the upcoming print issue of "Utropia". Until then, keep in mind that it's not all that dark and that there is still good music out there. You just have to search for it.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Another birthday in Stockholm, this time with Jesse Malin...

Yes, we have been to Sweden again. One of our colleagues in Tromsø / Norway actually asked: "Were you also visiting Finland?" A reasonable question although it wasn't such a matter of course that we would spend my birthday again in Sweden's capital Stockholm this year. It was only thanks to the show of a certain Mr. Jesse Malin that we did so - and to our dear friend from Stockholm who said right away that it was all a "great idea". And, indeed, it was a great idea. It wasn't at all as dull and disappointing as on New Year's Eve...

Kladdkaka [Swedish for: Chocolate mud cake] for breakfast

Jesse Malin performing at "Debaser Strand" / "Bar Brooklyn"

The view while sitting in the venue

Leaving the venue...

Trophy of the day: The reissue of "The Fine Art Of Self Destruction", 
signed with a dedication by Jesse Malin 

Last but not least, here is an audiovisual impression of Jesse Malin's performance at "Debaser Strand" / "Bar Brooklyn"...  Enjoy!


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

"I don't know where I'm going from here...": A day trip to Umeå

"I don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring."

Another quote which describes my current life situation quite well, this time by David Bowie.

At least I know where we ended up last Sunday, namely at the harbour of Umeå / Sweden. We drove more or less spontaneously to the harbour of Vaasa / Finland in the early morning and hopped on Wasaline's cruiseferry "Wasa Express" which operates between Wasaline's headquarters in Vaasa and Umeå.

It takes around four hours to get from one port to another, so compared to cruiseferries like the ones from Viking Line and Silja Line, the cruiseferry of Wasaline is a rather small vessel. A small vessel with hardly any action and programme on board and a vessel which is apparently used rather for transportation purposes than for partying, yet it's lovely to be on that boat and to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate while working at one's laptop.

Since we went on a regular cruise on a Sunday, we only had time for one and a half hours to stroll around the harbour of Umeå - which is, technically speaking, located in a small town called Holmsund, around 20 kilometres south of Umeå.

At the harbour, there was basically nothing to see than the harbour itself, three wind turbines and a great big nothing covered in snow - which was somehow very lovely. I surely wouldn't mind to travel again with Wasaline and to discover more of Holmsund and Umeå in the future... 

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

As last year, I'm a few days late, but: Happy New Year 2016, everyone! :o)

As you might remember, we spent New Year's Eve 2014 / 2015 on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace" somewhere on the Baltic Sea between Åbo (Turku) / Finland and Stockholm / Sweden. We decided to spend New Year's Eve 2014 / 2015 on a cruise since we couldn't find any interesting gig or other event taking place somewhere else that night, and in the end, it turned out to be the absolute perfect choice with lots of fun, food, stunning landscapes and live music.

As for New Year's Eve 2015 / 2016, we came across the New Year show of the Stockholm-based glam rock band Trench Dogs no sooner it turned out that we are going to leave Tromsø / Norway way earlier than expected... 

A Stockholm-based glam rock band performing in my beloved Stockholm at "Harry B. James": It sounded like the perfect New Year's Eve 2015 / 2016 - but it wasn't. But first things first... ;o)

First, there was the usual walk to the port of Åbo. Lovely as always...  

In Åbo, the official Christmas City of Finland, 
even every construction site has its own Christmas tree

The giant daisy flower sculpture 

On the boat, we enjoyed amongst others a part of our Christmas presents, namely chocolate from Sweden ("Marabou") and chocolate from Finland ("Fazer")... 

And no sooner had we arrived in Stockholm, there were hardly any pictures taken anymore. Well, first, we met up with our dear friend from Stockholm who picked us up with her car from the "Viking Line" terminal. We thought of going to a few other bars before finally heading to "Harry B. James" where the New Year show of Trench Dogs was going to take place around midnight.

Almost four years ago, I was once very briefly at "Harry B. James". The "6 years Crazy Nights" party was held there and the Crashdïet singer at that time, Simon Cruz (alias Zymon Xaint), was going to perform with his former band Føxey in honour of the occasion. But at exactly the same time, the huge official after-show party of Rammstein and Deathstars took place at "Slakthuset", amongst others with Dregen (The Hellacopters / Backyard Babies / Michael Monroe) and Deathstars' bass player Skinny Disco as two of the six star DJs. Both events were expected to be overcrowded very soon, so I left "Harry B. James" after only a few minutes in order to make sure that I will make it into "Slakthuset". A decision I have never regretted. There was also the thing that I was somehow anything but impressed by the venue overall. Back then, the venue "Bar Bäkkäri" with its vast nightclub "Green Room" in Finland's capital Helsinki used to be like my second living room, so compared to that, "Harry B. James" looked like an ordinary pub with lots of Rock'n'Roll memorabilia on its walls. But there were two other reasons why we thought of going to a few other bars before heading to "Harry B. James": On the one hand, we wanted to check out first and foremost the cocktail bar "Vampire Lounge" since we never managed to do so before, and on the other hand, it was my very first New Year's Eve in Stockholm, so I wanted to explore the spirit of New Year's Eve in the capital of Sweden and hence not sit on the same chair all night.

So, our first destination was the aforementioned cocktail bar "Vampire Lounge". We had checked its website and facebook profile beforehand and there was no information about its opening hours on New Year's Eve at all, so we assumed that the bar would be open as usual. Well, it wasn't. And moreover, there wasn't even a note about it on the door. Just nothing. Well, that was pretty strange and meagre in terms of customer-oriented communication. Then, our friend suggested to walk over to "Kelly's Bar". Different bar, same situation. Except for the fact that they had no information about their opening hours on New Year's Eve on their website and facebook profile either but at least a note on their door: "Stängt" [Swedish for: "Closed"]. 

By that time, we had already figured out that almost all clubs and bars in Stockholm are closed on New Year's Eve, also visible by the almost deserted streets in Sweden's capital. So much for "exploring the spirit of New Year's Eve in the capital of Sweden"... ;o) And so we headed to "Harry B. James". There, we immediately noticed the very nice staff, ordered some drinks and talked with each other - until the bar turned off most of the lights and pumped up the volume of the music increasingly. Pretty much all of a sudden. So then we just sat there and drank since it was absolutely impossible to have a conversation. And that's how we spent the two hours before Trench Dogs entered the stage to start their New Year show... 

If it wasn't for this show, we would have considered the New Year's Eve in Stockholm as a flop, but at least Trench Dogs met our expectations [The corresponding LIVE review will be published soon]. During the gig, I even bumped into a former fellow student of mine. Well, on the other hand, I expected to see more familiar faces that night...

After the show, things at "Harry B. James" continued as before the show: Too loud to have any conversations. I'm not sure if one can even call it "background music" anymore. However, "Harry B. James" was kind enough to not finish the party before 3 o'clock. And unlike in February 2012, I managed to take a picture of the Hanoi Rocks record in the ladies' room this time...

It's probably not a big surprise that the funniest conversations happened outside "Harry B. James", e.g. when we walked under this beautiful Christmas lights (which are usually switched on, but apparently not on New Year's Eve)...

Me: "Oh, those are pretty Christmas trees!"

Our friend from Stockholm: "I think those are pine cones, but, yeah, it would have been very artistic to have some upside-down Christmas trees hanging here, indeed."

And shortly after, it was time to say goodbye to our friend and to Stockholm... 

... and to enjoy breakfast at the "Aurora Buffet Restaurant" on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace"... 

This is the part where things started to become fun again. I got a New Year present from the "Victoria's Secret Shop"... 

… we got to see the new 20 SEK banknote with Astrid Lindgren (and Pippi Långstrump) on it... 

... and we got to see more Christmas decoration, both on the boat... 

... and on "Föri", the city ferry in Åbo... 

So, the overall evaluation: While in Åbo and on the boat, everything was either lovely or fun, while the entire time spent in Stockholm was pretty dull and overall rather disappointing (except for the company of our dear friend and Trench Dogs' performance, of course). In fact, this was the very first time in six years that I was disappointed by Stockholm (which is still a pretty good result for a city, isn't it?). Given that Stockholm is not only the capital of Sweden but also called the capital of Scandinavia, if not even the capital of the Nordic countries, it was really strange to see how dead the city is on New Year's Eve. Denmark's capital Copenhagen is way more lively on New Year's Eve and so is Finland's capital Helsinki. And the ear-deafening "background music" at "Harry B. James"? Well, we might prefer to party at other venues in Stockholm in the future. As simple as that. So, if this post sounds dramatic for some reason: Don't worry, we are all fine, and looking retrospectively at our New Year's Eve in Stockholm, we can meanwhile even laugh about it. Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend anyone to travel to Stockholm for New Year's Eve, unless the goal is to celebrate the turn of the year at the open-air museum "Skansen" (which is simply not our kind of event). As said, a New Year trip to Copenhagen or Helsinki might pay off much more if celebrating within the Nordic countries is the goal.

Now, I can check "New Year's Eve in Stockholm" off my list, and the biggest fun was provided by "Viking Line", both last year and this year. And maybe next year, too? ;o) 


Thursday, 31 December 2015

The last post before the turn of the year... Vi ses 2016!

I hope you all had a relaxed Christmas time. We did, with loads of sleep... ;o)

I just checked my last post from last year and I had to smile since it is quite similar to this last post in 2015, like enjoying life in Åbo (Turku) / Finland and meeting Michael Monroe at a signing session, this time even with his band and a special guest (Todd "Dammit" Kerns from Slash) and a live show afterwards. Last year, I really wasn't expecting to experience any of this right now since we already knew that we are going to move to Tromsø / Norway during the year 2015. Well, after all what happened (or not happened) in Tromsø, I surely don't mind this turn of events... 

No sooner had we arrived in Finland, I went to "Gigantti" and treated myself to a new mobile phone by Nokia which is very basic and yet very stylish... 

Calling and texting is all I expect from a mobile phone. And a battery life which I don't need to take care of on a daily basis (and which is apparently the case with smartphones). In thirteen and a half years, this is just the fourth mobile phone I purchased, and the previous one is not even broken yet (It was in use for over six years...). I just had the feeling that it was about time to get a mobile phone which has both English and Swedish language settings. My previous Nokia phone was ordered from Germany and those usually don't have any of the Nordic languages in their settings, so my new mobile phone is also the first one I bought here in Finland. However, the brand of my mobile phone has always been Nokia and therefore Finnish... ;o)

As last year, we are currently getting prepared to jump on the boat from Åbo to Stockholm / Sweden in a few hours since we are going to spend New Year's Eve in Stockholm this year...

On that note: Vi ses 2016! :o)

Monday, 28 December 2015

Back at Home Sweet Home Finland!

The title says it all: After living in Tromsø / Norway for four months, my love and I are back at Home Sweet Home Finland!  

The welcome couldn't have been more perfect as one of the first things we did in Åbo (Turku) / Finland was jumping on the boat to Stockholm / Sweden: The Michael Monroe Band was playing a show on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace" on 19th December 2015. In fact, this cruise was the very first thing I took care of after it turned out that we are going to be back in Finland way earlier than expected... ;o) And this show of the Michael Monroe Band was quite special not least thanks to the fact that no-one less than Todd "Dammit" Kerns (Slash / Sin City Sinners) substituted for Steve Conte (who couldn't serve the guitar as usual due to joys of fatherhood). Prior to the mentioned show on "Viking Grace", the band had a signing session at the record store "Levykauppa Äx" in Åbo. And prior to that, we took some snapshots while walking through our hometown Åbo... I hope you enjoy the results! :o)

The "Drummers From Pori" sculpture in the Garrison Park

On the way to the Turku Cathedral 

The cobblestone pavement in front of the Turku Cathedral

The Christmas tree in front of the Turku Cathedral

Sign in front of the record store "Levykauppa Äx"

Todd "Dammit" Kerns and Michael Monroe during the signing session 
at the record store "Levykauppa Äx"

Michael Monroe during the signing session 
at the record store "Levykauppa Äx"

Michael Monroe and Todd "Dammit" Kerns during the show 
on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace" 

Enjoying life on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace" 

Trophies of the day: Poster (signed by the band), autograph card (signed by Michael Monroe), 
setlist from the show and a guitar pick of Todd "Dammit" Kerns