Alice Cooper performing at the Qstock Festival in Oulu, Finland on July 29, 2017. Picture: Maciej Sobociński for Finland Today

Something’s in the air again in Oulu! Throughout the entire past week, the charming little city in Northern Ostrobothnia was bustling with life. Summer had finally made it also to the North, but it played just a minor role. The city almost bursting of people trying to fit finally climaxed on the weekend and revealed the true cause behind the buzz. For the 15th time in a row already, the largest music festival of Oulu, Qstock, opened its gates, and once again welcomed 32,000 visitors on Friday and Saturday.

People coming from all over Finland to join the fun is one thing, yet for Oulu inhabitants, Qstock-time has its very own special meaning. The excitement in the air grows so thick pre-festival that it can almost be touched. People stocking up on picnic-food, pre-party drinks, sun lotion and rain ponchos are everywhere but in their workplaces. When you meet a stranger on a bus, the number one question by the usually not so talkative regular Finn is: “Will you go to Qstock?” and also afterward, random conversations can suddenly easily be started with a quick comment about a gig from the recent festival. At the site, however, people stick to their friends, and besides the music and festival atmosphere, Qstock has always been a good reason to meet up again with long-forgotten drinking buddies.

The excitement in the air grows so thick pre-festival that it can almost be touched. People stocking up on picnic-food, pre-party drinks, sun lotion and rain ponchos are everywhere but in their workplaces.

Fun in the crowd. Picture: Maciej Sobociński for Finland Today

“Qstock was never really about the music,” said Teemu, one of the regular festival visitors. It’s his sixth time in total, and he already plans his visit next year. “The band selection varies between Finnish mainstream pop and rock and the “softer” metal bands – but it’s really more about spending time with your friends in an awesome atmosphere!”

Finnish mainstream pop and rock alright – but this year, also only the biggest, oldest and longest-rocking star in shock rock, Alice Cooper, joined the fun! The Saturday evening highlight and end of the festival was a bit more than an hour of purely professional showbiz. Alice Cooper is currently touring with his band through the Northern countries with their “Spend The Night With Alice Cooper” tour that they started last spring.

Alice Cooper, whose career spans half a century, charmed the audience with some new material as well. “Paranoiac Personality” from album ‘Paranormal’, which was released July 28, entwined masterfully into the ’70s classic “Ballad Of Dwight Fry.” Picture: Maciej Sobociński for Finland Today

And Oulu managed to get a piece of it! With “Paranoiac Personality,” the Qstock audience was even in the lucky position to listen to one of the new songs from Alice Cooper’s latest album Paranormal, released only a few weeks ago. Alice Cooper himself lived up to all expectations, with his heavy eye makeup and ostentatious outfits that he changed nearly after every song with the help of his magic box. A magic box, that also contained several other utensils, like a life-sized doll, a dancer that looked exactly like that doll but had to “die” unfortunately as part of the show – no, the Shock-Rock-Godfather did not disappoint.

Nita Strauss, Cooper’s guitarist, fingering a fierce solo. Picture: Maciej Sobociński

He actually stayed so much in character that the very first time he would interact at all with the audience was only at the end of the show, when he thanked everyone, acknowledged being in Finland, and then disappeared, only to come back for one encore together with Michael Monroe.

Alice Cooper’s setlist: 1. Brutal Planet 2. No More Mr. Nice Guy 3. Under My Wheels 4. He’s Back 5. Billion Dollar Babies 6. The World Needs Guts 7. Poison 8. Halo of Flies 9. Feed My Frankenstein 10. Cold Ethyl 11. Only Women Bleed 12. Paranoiac Personality 13. Ballad of Dwight Fry/I Love The Dead 14. I’m Eighteen 15. School’s Out/Another Brick in The Wall

The claim about Qstock’s music selection being rather random than according to an umbrella theme might be challenged this year. If one would want to be mean, we could easily capture the main performers of this year’s festival under the not-so-charming term “Oldie but Goldie” – both age-wise and referring to the period of time they have been doing their job in the music industry already.

Sure, we easily have a winner with Alice Cooper and his existence of more than fifty (!) years as an active and successful entertainer. But also, Marylin Manson started their project in the late 80s already, and with a long enough objective on your camera, you can see the years of turbulent lifestyle leaving marks on faces and bodies. This band was in no way less shocking than Alice Cooper, by the way, with their stage setting oddly reminding of the mask of an Aztec priest who is about to sacrifice a human to the Gods . . .

Marilyn Manson in Oulu: “If You Don’t Go Down On Me, I Won’t Go Down On You”

And then there was Michael Monroe, in his mid-fifties, successful since the 70s, radiating sympathy like no other from the stage to the last corner of the audience area, and convincing with playing numerous instruments and executing some acrobatic performances besides his “normal” stage show.

Michael Monroe giving the audience their money’s worth. Picture: Maciej Sobociński for Finland Today

He was connected with his audience, and the audience with him, and even Danko Jones from Canada, who played the same stage a little later, announced how proud and happy they were to have met a legend like Michael Monroe. No wonder also Alice Cooper wanted him to join during “School’s Out!” Well, and let’s not forget omnipresent Kaija Koo when counting the Oldies of the festival!

Elli Haloo of the Finnish pop rock group Haloo Helsinki! Picture: Maciej Sobociński for Finland Today

Which brings us back to “Finnish mainstream pop and rock,” a theme that was also backed up by one of the main acts on Friday evening, Haloo Helsinki. And, of course, in the usual manner during the day on Saturday – so that the younger audience can join easily – with characters like SANNI, Antti Tuisku, and Cheek and Elastinen, teamed up as Profeetat. For more specific music lovers it was a blessing that the mainstream audience stuffed themselves in front of the main stage only during those acts, and left some space for dancing during the hot stuff playing. At some point on Friday during Haloo Helsinki, it felt as if people were starting to pile up on each other already, and queues to the tens of food trucks and toilets easily took at least half an hour everywhere.

Success for the organizers – and the bottle neck was only temporarily. Whoever has a place close to the venue is lucky, queues can be circumvented: Jussi, who is a regular Qstocker since 14 years, and sees constant improvement in the organization from year to year, had a base camp in one of his friends’ apartment close to the area. With food, and drinks – and toilets. “It’s good to rest in between gigs,” he said.

You see, also the visitors don’t get any younger now, do they!

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