Monday, 13 March 2017

Celebrating our birthdays with Michael Monroe on "Viking Grace"...

The title says it all: This year, we celebrated our birthdays with the Michael Monroe Band on Viking Line's cruiseferry "Viking Grace" somewhere on the Baltic Sea between Turku / Finland and Stockholm / Sweden. Here are some snapshots from our way to the port of Turku and the concert itself... 






















And last but not least, here is an audiovisual impression of the band's performance on "Viking Grace"... Enjoy! 


Monday, 13 February 2017

"There is nothing permanent except change."


"There is nothing permanent except change." 
- Heraclitus of Ephesus - 


As it could be read in Tromsø's daily newspaper "iTromsø" and Northern Norway's largest newspaper "Nordlys" on Friday (10th February 2017), Northern Norway's biggest student magazine "Utropia" does no longer exist. After 41 years of activity, the production of the print magazine has been discontinued. There are plans to establish a brand new student print magazine in Northern Norway called "Midnattssolposten", so the discontinuation of "Utropia" has nothing to do with the ongoing crisis of print magazines in general. However, I won't be part of the new student magazine since my journalistic focus has always been on music and other cultural topics and never on student life (which will be the main focus of "Midnattssolposten"). 

So long... 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

From music to movies... to books!

I had a blog post with the headline "From music to movies... to books!" in mind for a few weeks now, in honour of my very first book review and what has come with it, but I usually have to wait with my blog posts until the corresponding review has been published, and that naturally takes some time in the world of print media. And while I have to wait with the publication of a blog post of mine, the world keeps turning. And, sometimes, the original focus of a blog post may change, due to what is happening in the world in the meantime. This is the case right now with this very blog post.


Originally, I wanted to write about my very first book review, the content of the reviewed book and how that book also played a role in my private life. Not to mention the pleasant news that I have extended my field of activity during the past few months, from mere music journalism to broader cultural topics such as movies and books. A change that is not only pleasant but was also long overdue.

Now, I'm going to postpone everything regarding the book (and reading overall), in order to broach the issue of the pleasant news which became even more pleasant as of today. 

What happened? Well, today, I stumbled on an article about the singer of an American band who allegedly insulted an American online magazine with very vulgar words. The cause for the conflict was the release of an album by the band almost twenty years ago; the album was rated rather low by the online magazine back then. Now, almost twenty years later, there is a re-release of the album. For this reason, the album was reviewed again by the aforementioned online magazine - but this time, the rating is very favourable. 

I want to emphasise that the singer allegedly (!) insulted the online magazine with very vulgar words and that the singer allegedly (!) accused the online magazine of hypocrisy (After the first review was published, the album turned out to be a huge commercial success) since I could not find any source that backs up the content of the article I stumbled on today. So, either the whole story is made up or the singer has removed the corresponding source from the world wide web in the meantime - which seems to be common practice nowadays, especially for those who type first and think later. In any case: Stuff like this happens. All the time. It has happened to me, too. And what I always do in such cases: I just move on. 

As a music journalist, you have a gigantic selection of music, bands and events that you could write about. If you or your work is dissed because a musician or the organiser of an event cannot deal with criticism or - even worse - believes that everything he / she does is always worth at least 10/10 and never "just" 9/10, you as a music journalist realise in this very moment that you just dedicated your time, your work and also the space on the website or in the print magazine to the wrong band / wrong event. All of this should have been dedicated to another band / another event. A waste has taken place. A waste of time, work and space. Personally, I consider it as the best solution to just move on in such cases. The waste has taken place already and, unfortunately, it cannot be reversed - but from that moment onwards, one can make sure to not waste another second on this band / this event in the future. This is how I deal with such cases, and this practice is only applied in cases of insults and not in cases where someone may be dissatisfied with something. The latter are usually mature and professional enough to ask questions. 

But back to the American singer. If the defamation really took place, it tells a lot about the singer himself - in a not so positive way. And the older you are, the more embarrassing is such an immature - not to say childish - behaviour (In this specific case, we talk about a man in his fifties). However, it's not the part with the alleged defamation that makes me write this blog post; it's the part with the two reviews which were published by the online magazine. 

The same album, reviewed by the same online magazine. Once with a low rating and once with a high rating. In between: Almost 20 years. Obvious die-hard fans of the band post their "discovery" of these two contrary reviews by the same online magazine on Instagram and the like, either accusing the online magazine of hypocrisy or claiming that time had turned the album into a classic, while putting in their two cents here and there without thinking. The most logical context here does not seem to cross their minds: It's the question of the person who wrote the review. And guess what: It's not the same person behind these two reviews. There are two reviews on the same album published by the same online magazine, written by two different persons. Judging from a facebook post on this topic, only 3 out of 122 commentators seem to understand this fact. 

As if that wasn't sad enough: Even if both reviews had been written at the same time, there could have been differences in the evaluation, because a review reflects the opinion of the respective reviewer and not the opinion of an entire editorial office. One would think that such contexts would be a question of common sense, but apparently it's not the case. And let's assume that both reviews would have been written by the same person: There are nearly two decades between these two reviews. Who does not develop in the course of such a long time?

Maybe this is the usual social media madness where people push the buttons of their smartphones faster than they think. If they think at all. And maybe the fan base of this band is not as dumb as it seems at first sight. The smarter part of the fan base may have better things to do than to hang around on facebook, Instagram and the like, sending inconsiderate nonsense into the world wide web (and is therefore invisible). Apart from that: If the second review had turned out as negative as the first one, wouldn't the clamour have been just as loud as it is now? Nagging for the sake of nagging? At least the singer should be aware of the respective contexts, should the alleged defamation be true. However, there is also the possibility that this whole thing might have been hyped: Attention for the band, their brand new album and all the re-releases which are to come in the course of this year, plus attention for the magazine. Maybe, maybe. 

The reason why all this turns the extension of my field of activity into an even more pleasant news should be obvious: I no longer have to deal with such a kindergarten. Not even while working. 

To be continued... 


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

As usual, I'm a few days late, but: Happy New Year 2017, everyone! ♥ ♥ ♥

As mentioned before, we dropped the idea of having another New Year's Eve cruise on Viking Line's "Viking Grace" after the confirmation of a New Year show here in Finland. Things went a little back and forth since the venue didn't seem to be able to reply to emails. While assuming that we would go back to the original plan of a New Year's Eve cruise, another New Year show here in Finland was confirmed, and this time, things ran smoothly, so we ended up spending New Year's Eve 2016 / 2017 in Finland's capital Helsinki. 


With this turn of the year, Finland started its celebrations for 100 years of independence, amongst others with a huge firework and laser display in the city centre of Helsinki. We got to see the first few minutes of it since we arrived in Helsinki around midnight. While we were on our way to "Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki", the firework and laser display started, musically accompanied by Darude's "Sandstorm" which is great not only due to the fact that it's a composition "Made in Finland" but also something different than the usual "Final Countdown" by Europe. Hats off to that, Finland! 

After coincidentally catching the first few minutes of the firework and laser display, we arrived at "Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki", in order to see the New Year show of Rebellix. So, we kicked off the year 2017 with two premieres. First of all, it was our very first visit to the "Hard Rock Cafe" in Helsinki which was opened a few weeks after our move from Helsinki respectively Espoo to Turku (either on 15th October 2012, according to their official web page, or on 15th November 2012, according to their official facebook page). 


The very first time that I took a seat in a "Hard Rock Cafe" was one and a half years ago in Sweden's capital Stockholm. Back then, I stated that visiting a "Hard Rock Cafe" was pretty much as I had always imagined it: Overpriced drinks and food served to the tunes of rock songs which couldn't be more mainstream (KISS, Metallica, Nirvana and so on and so forth). This time, in Helsinki, the only music we were listening to came from the bands on stage, and, overall, time was flying while we were at "Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki". I can still vividly remember how damn boring it was at the "Hard Rock Cafe Stockholm" although we were there during a bigger event (The official after-show party of Alice Cooper). While I wouldn't be keen on visiting "Hard Rock Cafe Stockholm" a second time, I definitely wouldn't mind to visit "Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki" again. 


Our second premiere was to see Rebellix live on stage. Last time I saw frontman Joel Nybondas aka J Dee Nighte live on stage was with his former band Sinner's Gin, almost five years ago.

We saw the gig together with some dear friends of ours and... What can I say? Especially in times like these where the music industry is going downwards constantly, it's comforting to see that not everything regarding Rock'n'Roll is lost (yet). 


After all the Rock'n'Roll at "Hard Rock Cafe Helsinki", we strolled around the city centre and didn't leave Helsinki before the afternoon... 


Good times. May the year 2017 be filled with more of such good times. 

Rock'n'Roll!
Stefanie 


Thursday, 29 December 2016

The last post before the turn of the year... Vi ses 2017!

I may not write on this blog very regularly (yet), but "The last post before the turn of the year" seems to be a tradition already... ;o) 

 I hope you all had a peaceful and relaxed Christmas time. We surely did. 

Unlike 2014 and 2015, I didn't meet Michael Monroe at a signing session during the pre-Christmas period. Well, it's not a big surprise given how quietly the past few weeks and months have been spent. Amongst others, I spent more time reading books than going out to gigs this autumn. 

One of my readings in autumn 2016: Marie Kondo's "Magisk Opprydding" 
[English title: "The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering And Organizing"]


In fact, we haven't been to a single gig since we saw Iggy Pop performing at the Bukta Tromsø Open Air Festival 2016 in Northern Norway. That was in July 2016. As already mentioned, it's a subject that may be worth a separate blog post. 

For New Year's Eve 2016 / 2017, another New Year's Eve cruise on Viking Line's "Viking Grace" was planned, especially since our first cruise of that kind on New Year's Eve 2014 / 2015 turned out to be nothing but a great experience, and since going ashore in Stockholm on New Year's Eve 2015 / 2016 turned out to be a pretty dull and overall rather disappointing venture. However, things went a little back and forth after the confirmation of a New Year show here in Finland. 

The event itself sounded more than promising, but, unfortunately, the venue doesn't seem to be able to reply to emails. I sent my request twice. They never replied. Then, I contacted the organiser of the event. No reply either. When I contacted the organiser of the event a second time, I was told that I should "hold on" and that my message would be forwarded to the venue (!). To date, I haven't heard ANYTHING. 

Especially in times like these where bars and other businesses have to close down one after another, due to the ongoing tough economy we are facing, I am truly amazed by such unprofessional behaviour. Although I wasn't fond of such unprofessional behaviour before either, I decided just recently to actively boycott such unprofessional behaviour whenever possible in the future. Life is too short for such a waste of time. 

While assuming that we would go back to the original plan of a New Year's Eve cruise, another New Year show here in Finland was confirmed. I gave it a shot and sent an email to those who are involved in this New Year show. This time, my email was not only answered, but it was answered quickly. 

So, on New Year's Eve 2016 / 2017, we won't board a ship but stay ashore in Finland. And as for me, I will not only actively boycott unprofessional behaviour whenever possible in the future, but also support those who actually show commitment. This is more or less one of my New Year's resolutions for the year 2017: More mindfulness. 

On that note: Vi ses 2017! :o) 
Stefanie 


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

From music to movies...

It's been a while since I posted something on this blog, hence it's been a while since I wrote something about my work. Well, in my blog post in May 2016, I already mentioned that I had written five reviews for the May 2016 print issue of Northern Norway's biggest student magazine "Utropia" and that one of those reviews was some kind of debut for me. Well, I wrote four CD reviews - and my very first DVD review (about the German TV series "Deutschland 83"). It feels good to break new ground.

In the meantime, a few more print issues were published, including one LIVE review, two CD reviews and one DVD review written by me. 

The LIVE review was a little surprising to me. Indeed, we visited the three biggest open air festivals in Tromsø and surroundings in summer 2016, but overall, we have become a lot less active when it comes to visiting concerts and festivals. It's a subject that may be worth a separate blog post in the future. The LIVE review is about one of those three biggest open air festivals in Tromsø and surroundings, namely the Bukta Tromsø Open Air Festival 2016 with the one and only Iggy Pop as a headliner.

After this one LIVE review, I continued with my current main focus (CD reviews) and came across two album releases which both scored full points: New Model Army's "Winter" and The Veils' "Total Depravity". Once again: There is still good music out there; you just have to search for it.

Although I take much pleasure in writing CD reviews, I'm aiming to write more DVD reviews in addition, and I already did so with my DVD review in the current print issue (about "By The Sea", starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt aka "Brangelina"). The upcoming print issue is going to include another DVD review written by me, about Walt Disney's "Alice Through The Looking Glass". Like I said, it feels good to break new ground. 

 
The May 2016 print issue with my four CD reviews about Cult Of Luna's "Mariner", 
New Order's "Music Complete", The Black Marbles' "Best Believe It EP" 
and Irma Agiashvili's "Behind Space"


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.