Day 1: Finnish rapper Cheek proves great rap comes in all languages
Turku Finland’s renowned music festival broke its record with the most number of attendees the festival has ever housed with three days, 60 international acts and 93,000 people. On the first exceptionally sunny and hot weekend on the Scandinavian island of Ruissalo, a herd of thousands was seen travelling by bike, boat and foot to the giant festival grounds as sky-high stages stood in each corner of the wide-open space while the cool water rippled onto the beaches. Large ships carrying passengers to Sweden passed by, honking their deep foghorn as those on land and boat stopped to wave.
The music surged through the humidity as the festivalgoers’ feet brushed up the dust that created a brown fog. As fans laid blankets in the sand and cracked open a KOFF (a Scandinavian beer), the speakers began to boom with live international bands, while bungee jumping, sumo wrestling and beach-front activities drew long lines throughout the grounds to add to the already overwhelmingly active festival.
The ultimate freedom began.
Finnish hip-hop artist Cheek took to the main stage on day one to add the soundtrack to the near-perfect atmosphere. Labelled as the most popular artist in all of Finland, having been the only hip-hop artist in the country to sell out Olympic Stadium, Cheek’s set proved exactly what won him the accolades. As he performed tracks like “JippiKayJei” and “Timantit on ikuisia” and other hits from his eight studio albums, the crowd of thousands rapped with their champion rapper in Finnish, with the occasional English phrases like “Turn Up” popping up for English fans to understand. But catchy music and great rap is undeniable in every language.
Canada represented shortly after in the form of the electronic legend, Caribou, who, along with his band, created his acclaimed dance/folktronica music with live instrumentation, drums and synthesizers while the ever-growing intoxicated crowd danced throughout the fairgrounds. “Odessa” and “She’s The One” sounded like audio dreams pulsating through the summer air as music fans of every age enjoyed the magnitude of Caribou’s sounds.
Without inhibition, despite the crowded space, the crowd danced chaotically, climbing on each other’s shoulders to get a good view of one of the most renowned DJs in the world.
As the sun began to set, the air began to cool and many festivalgoers began to be escorted off of the grounds by security due to their inability to stand, overcome by the multiple beers they inhaled throughout the day. Fans lay face-first throughout the grounds in a drunken stupor. Finland knows how to turn up.
Those who could still function made their way to the main stage. The sea of waving hands and chanting voices surrounded the Nitty stage as large projectors filmed the anxious fans, ready for the first headlining act: David Guetta. A chant of his name echoed off of the water and trees in a thick Finnish accent before fire, lights and confetti welcomed his arrival. On the visually-astounding DJ stage, housed with electronic graphics, David Guetta emerged and didn’t waste any time playing hits like “Shot Me Down”, “She Wolf” and “Lovers On The Sun”.
Without inhibition, despite the crowded space, the crowd danced chaotically, climbing on each other’s shoulders to get a good view of one of the most renowned DJs in the world. David smiled and continued to play hit after hit, releasing more pyrotechnic and visual vibes into the surging stratosphere.
As beer cans and garbage covered the ground, fans dispersed to their homes to catch enough rest to survive the next few days. The sun never fully sets in Finland during the summer, rather it turns to a light blue in a constant state of colourful sunset-euphoria until it begins to rise back in the sky, allowing for romantic metaphor to remain. The Ruisrock party never ends.
Day 2: Lily Allen takes centre stage with giant baby bottles and dancers in kush clothes
The second day of Finland’s Ruisrock Festival began with free ferry rides to the Ruissalo Island, which was already bustling and booming with festival bliss by the early afternoon. The water glistened as herds of people exited the boat, ready to grab a drink and head from stage to stage in order to catch the full day of international talent and jump in the water between sets to cool off. Some fully clothed, some completely naked. By the afternoon, the island was at capacity, housing thousands upon thousands as the hot sun beamed on them.
While rock music has usually taken the shine at Ruisrock, it became clear that this was the year of the unexpected with the most unusual highlights and surprising guests. International electronic duo, the Studio Killers, who have swallowed their fans and welcomed them into the colourful, animated lives of Cherry, Goldie Foxx and Dyna Mink, introduced them to the virtual stars of the captivating music group. Housed by the Danish record label Copenhagen Records, as well as Warner Music in Sweden and Universal Music in Finland, the Killers made history with the group’s first ever live performance during the second day of Ruisrock on the Teltta stage, in what seemed like a giant barn, with wood chips covering the floor, their odours wafting over the thousands of fans that crammed into the building chanting “Studio Killers”.
With screams and neon lasers, Dyna Mink and Goldie Foxx emerged in costume and began to rattle the festival grounds with deep base and electronic synths as the fans screamed and danced spontaneously. There has never been an emergence of the real identities of the group, but the producers emerged in their minx and fox costumes, played through their hits like “Ode To The Bouncer”, “Jenny”, “All Men Are Pigs” and “Eros and Apollo”. The star of the show was Cherry, the animated songstress dripping in eye makeup and bra-less ambition that engaged the crowd with her virtual presence on the large screens that devoured the stage.
There is no doubt that with such a unique presence and captivating innovation the Studio Killers are bound to be a worldwide phenomenon.
Femme power headlined day two of the festival as the controversial and entertaining Lily Allen took centre stage with giant glow-in-the-dark baby bottles and dancers dressed in kush clothes. With songs like “Hard Out Here”, “Sheezus” and “Smile”, the feminist sing-a-long was injected with colour and positivity, despite Allen’s headlines from Glastonbury a week prior where she called out FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter for being corrupt. The light-hearted performance was exactly the Lily Allen fans seemed to prefer, screaming at the top of their lungs as Lily danced with the baby bottles to round out the second day.
Day 3: Wiz Khalifa delivers unforgettable performance of “We Dem Boyz”
With throbbing feet, filthy shoes, sun burnt skin, lost voices, but also with the most incredible memories to make up for it all, festivalgoers had no complaints. The final day of the record-breaking Ruisrock Festival, one of the oldest music festivals in all of Europe, wrapped up on a high note. A very high note, as Wiz Khalifa headlined.
The crowd made its final rounds from stage to stage to capture every final minute of the remaining day’s acts, attempting to re-hydrate themselves from the long weekend.
Fifteen-year-old Finnish pop superstar, Robin, taking the title of the Scandinavian Justin Bieber, began the day, attempting to sing over the flock of screaming teens who carolled along in Finnish to the heartthrob as he rocked with his band of young musicians to “Boom Kah”, “Fronstide Ollie” and “Puuttuva Palanen”. The crowd, with heart-shaped Robin signs, sporting T-shirts with his face on it, didn’t miss a beat.
Back on the beach, screams echoed off of the water from the bungee-jumpers who risked their lives jumping from an overhead crane, as music fans swam and danced in the sand to the opera-folk music of legendary Finnish singer Vesa-Matti Loiri. The music paired with the unforgettable view of ships sailing by and deep greenery on the other side of the river made for a monumental moment of European music culture.
Just in time for the dust to settle, a sea of sunglasses and flower headbands prepared themselves for Wiz Khalifa’s headlining set. The rapper was fresh off of the stage from performing at London’s Wireless Music Festival the night before.
The record number of fans screamed for the Taylor Gang king, who emerged slowly from the side stage, sauntering over to his mic stand where he performed his mainstream tracks like “Roll Up”, “Work Hard Play Hard”, “Young, Wild and Free” and “Black and Yellow”, sneaking in a few tracks from his latest 28 Grams mixtape like “James Bong”.
Females sitting on the shoulders of their friends ripped their shirts off exposing their bare chests, which the festival projected on the large screens as well as live on TV for the whole country watching at home to see while Chevy Woods accompanied his TG comrade onstage, jumping up and down to “Taylor Gang”.
The fans erupted in a mosh pit frenzy, knocking each other over and releasing the last bit of scratchy voice they had left, proving that no matter the city; “We Dem Boyz” has the same effect. Undeniable turn up.
As the hype set came to an end, everyone seemed to know what was coming next as the DJ dropped the Detail-produced beat that the crowd had been waiting for, the endlessly-disputed song of the summer, “We Dem Boyz”. The fans erupted in a mosh pit frenzy, knocking each other over and releasing the last bit of scratchy voice they had left, proving that no matter the city; the track has the same effect. Undeniable turn up.
Wiz has always been known for his unquestionable stage presence and was able to only further prove the point by capturing every ounce of the Ruisrock shine with the most incredible set of the entire weekend.
As the crowd dispersed, there wasn’t any doubt that the weekend had been that of ultimate bliss and incredible music.
There may be few greater things than the freedom of celebrating undeniably amazing music and the ability to experience new international sounds on a sun-soaked island. Ruisrock, from start to finish, was one of the most incredible and liberating experiences imaginable.
Words By. Samantha O’Connor + Photos By. Kennedy Owusu-Ansah