Korpiklaani in Billings. Really?

Sean Lynch at Manny's in Billings, Montana deserves serious metal cred at this point. He's managed to pull in Sepultura and Skeleton Witch to Billings despite its relatvely small population base. Last night continued the trend with a monster lineup of Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow, Týr and Metsatöll. The tour stopped in Billings right between its dates in Denver and Salt Lake City, further accentuating how impressive it is that Sean managed to bring the bands into Billings on a Wednesday night.

Thanks to Sean's promotional efforts, the fans from Billings and Bozeman experienced a great and widely varied show. I had done my research into each of the bands in advance, including some focused time digging through YouTube videos. Generally speaking, I was well-prepared but Estonian band, Metsatöll, quickly proved themselves quite different from my YouTube impression. Their videos tend to focus on Markus "Rabapagan" Teeäär, who sings most of the lead vocals, and downplay the rest of the band. Seeing them live, I realized how much Lauri "Varulven" Õunapuu contributes to the band's sound and personality. With perhaps the deepest voice I've ever heard live, a rich booming delivery and somewhat foreboding personality, it's impossible to walk away from Metsatöll's performance without thinking of Lauri. He also won the the prize last night (and as far back as I can remember) for greatest variety of instruments played in a single set. You might think of him as a Geddy Lee of traditional instruments, many of them you've never heard of before.

The show started really early, and it was not even dark for Metsatöll's set. However, Týr had the cover of darkness and took full advantage, kicking the evening into high gear. Týr won the prize last night for most focused and cohesive set. Combining layered vocals with interwoven guitar lines, Týr's set was a guitar player's dream. Sporting what may be the world's only Ibanez 3-octave 7-string, the minute the band hit the stage it was obvious their songs revolve around intricate guitar work. Those of us in front of the stage were rewarded throughout the set with a bird's eye view of the finger work. Their mastery of the English language also helped Týr communicate effectively with the audience, and made it easier for yours truly to follow their progress through the set. Still, it was their musical attention to detail, and their straight ahead, get-it-done delivery that impressed me the most. I would love to see these guys headlining and would travel for the opportunity. I don't know if they ever play in their original homeland, the Faroe Islands, but if they do, I'd love to make that trek. Somehow, traveling out into the middle of the ocean to experience their Nordic and mythologically-influenced set would capture the whole picture. Who knows...?

The next band of the evening, Moonsorrow, took a very different approach to their performance, something that was immediately obvious as they went through sound check with hoodies only partially disguising their facial and torso corpse paint. Moonsorrow's set meandered stylistically quite a bit, including everything from black metal and blast beats to pulsing landscapes and audience sing-alongs. Punctuated by their death and futility theme and a sort of semi-contempt for and semi-comraderie with the audience, they instigated the moshing, which continued through into Korpiklaani's set. One of my Bozeman metalhead brethren screamed out, "this is the best mosh pit ever" and I have no reason to argue with him. It was a full-force mosh with no animosity, truly the best combination when people are pounding each other with that force and velocity.

After Moonsorrow wrapped up their set, I really wasn't sure what to expect. Could the crowd keep it going? Korpiklaani is very different from Moonsorrow and perhaps there'd be an energy let down. Nope, thanks to Jonne Järvelä, Korpiklaani's vocalist and frontman, things got even crazier during their set. Continuing the madcap turmoil that had begun onstage with Moonsorrow, Jonne and guitarist, Kalle "Cane" Savijärvi twirled, danced and grinned their way through the best party set I've ever seen. They showed no disappointment at the small size of the venue or the fact that it's split into "drinking" and "all ages" areas, with half the audience huddle far back from the stage in the dark, nursing their drinks. No, they just amped up the energy and convinced half the sitters to get up and come down to the dance floor. From now on, my motto is , "Who needs Top-40 cover bands? The world already has Korpiklaani!" and they get an audience going better than any cover band I've ever seen. With songs like "Tequila", "Beer Beer", "Happy Little Boozer" and "Vodka", perhaps it's not a complete surprise after all. In fact, "Vodka" provided one of the real highlights of the evening, when Jonne decided to work on the last remaining audience members in the far off drinking area. Hopping down off the stage, carrying his wireless microphone, he proceeded over to the bar, gathering crowd with him. Then he sang "Vodka" while standing on top of the bar and being served a shot in a plastic beer cup. Korpiklaani's stage antics and energy showed everyone the reason they are headlining this tour. The 10 or so folks that made the 4-hour round trip from Bozeman got their (ticket and gas) money's worth, no question.

There are still tons of great dates left on this tour, including tonight's show in Salt Lake City, then to the west coast of the US and Canada, back east in the US and then through Europe. Get off your rear, buy a ticket and go see the show nearest you. And be ready to let loose. This is a party!

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Reader Comments (2)

Great writeup man! Best show of the year for me just ahead of Agalloch (Bozeman) and Maiden (Denver). It's been a great year for Metal in MT largely in part to Sean's work and dedication. Should of had a better turnout though, shame on a lot of people in Billings I know of not supporting a once in MT's lifetime event.

September 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGreg


Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'm glad you enjoyed the show as much as I did. I was also at the Agalloch show in Bozeman and saw Maiden in Calgary. I agree that it's been a good summer for metal, especially for those of us willing to travel when necessary.

Look forward to crossing paths again soon.


September 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hearst

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