When 54,000 thousand people gather together in Joensuu, North Karelia, during the second weekend of July, it can only mean one thing: Ilosaarirock. This year, the festival took place from 15–17 July and hosted about 100 artists and events, including film screenings, DJ performances and a roller derby game. This year’s line-up featured The 1975, Volbeat, Passenger, Wolf Alice and some of the biggest names in the Finnish music industry: Sanni, J. Karjalainen, Antti Tuisku, Cheek, and Paperi T.


Sanni, the Finnish pop artist, attracting a crowd of thousands at the Main Stage on Saturday afternoon, July 16 2016. Picture: Arttu Kokkonen

To ease myself into the festival and the greatest weekend of the year, I visited the roller derby game on Saturday to watch 6 teams presenting their skills to the cheering crowd. Not only did the game feature energetic girls and boys fight for the 1st place, it’s also stylish – exactly how you’d imagine an event hosted during a rock festival. Think gold and bronze leggings worn with distressed cut-offs, rainbow-coloured hair and T-shirts, tattoos decorating the skin. While following the tournament, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between the derby game and the festival: There’s a lot of falling, pushing around, cheering, energetic shouting, and the determination to keep on going, to go all in. And attitude. I try to take some of that attitude with me and feel ready to hit the festival.


Picture: Franka Kermer

The headliner of Friday, Ellie Goulding, was forced to pull out her show due to an illness. English singer and songwriter Michael Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, stepped in and charmed the audience with folk-inflected indie music. A sympathetic musician with an endearing, warm voice, an acoustic guitar and some melancholy is exactly what makes him an outstanding act. For me, not the most successful single “Let Her Go,” but the crowd-pleasing song “I Hate” is my favorite one. I sing along to the catchy phrases that disparage “pointless Facebook status updates” and encourage “eating chocolate until you throw up.” That’s attitude!

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Ilosaarirock was first organized in 1971 on the most famous island of lake Pielisjoki before moving to a bigger area at a lakeside close to the city center in 1991. About 1,500 volunteers help organize and put together the festival each year. The festival site has five separate stages with music performances from the best of the best of various music genres.


Sunday, the last day of the festival. I ignored my headache and focused on the acts, including Paradise Lost, Haken, Cheek and Volbeat. Between the energetic and top-notch performances, I decided to check out Kraak & Smaak, three DJs from the Netherlands, who performed by the beach. As I was dancing ecstatically to the electronic summer sounds, under the blue sky, the sun shining on my face, the summer felt complete.

Volbeat, the closing act of the festival is about to start. People around me soak up every moment to remember the weekend, and the experiences and emotions that come with it, until next year.

“Energy,” “freedom,” “festival of my life,” “love,” “fun,” “well-organised,” “musicgasm,” “1 weekend away from reality” – people clearly enjoyed Ilosaarirock.

And so did I.

Cover picture: Annika Sorjonen