The VIP Room filled up quickly Thursday night as several hundred locals and a healthy smattering of Scandinavian expats gathered for an all too rare night of Finnish electro.
It was clear no one knew quite what to expect. Obviously Absolut Vodka’s local marketing manager — the event’s sponsor — didn’t. She spent half Ovali Virta’s show asking Shanghaiist whether it was a “successful” performance.
Cleaning Women (pictured) were first up. Three guys on homemade instruments dressed as angry girls, complete with Doc Marten boots, short shrill pigtails and black stockings. An electrified clothes drying rack, a guitar made out of an coffee tin, drums built from stainless steel colanders, pots and rubbish bins. On paper it sounds awful, but they get an amazing sound out of the homemade guitars, and when vocals somewhere between Tim Buckley, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and goth singer Souxsie Souix glide over a seductive metal samba it adds up to something great.
It was strange to watch this uncompromising group in such an upmarket venue. A winding maze of paneled rooms and alcoves leads to increasingly exclusive rooms each level, up to the coveted fifth floor. The drinks are frightfully expensive, even for Shanghai, and the advertising around the room seems more important than the music.
Ovali Virta took the stage in matching black jeans, white shirts and black cravats to the theme song from Dallas. Crowded in around a laptop, it was obvious they are not as comfortable onstage as Cleaning Women, but their music was far more accessible: club-friendly electro, guitar riffs and infectious vocals. One of them did crazy dance steps, but it all seemed like a band who have been told: “You can make great music, but you’ve gotta put on a good performance.”
If people were there to see a particular performer, it was Finland’s best-known DJ and one of its longest running electronic musicians, Jori Hulkkonen. But it’s easy to imagine that few punters noticed him as he slid onto the decks in a cloud of smoke at the end of Ovali Virta’s set. They quickly latched onto the music though. Hulkkonen played a lush mix of deep Detroit garage that dipped into classic tracks by Depeche Mode, Cajmere and industrial electro, while never letting the groove slip. The sashaying dancers responded in kind, flooding the dancefloor for one of the best DJs to have played the club.
Music downloads and real-time video camera moblogging at the Sounds Like Suomi tour blog.
Also on Shanghaiist:
Finns throw electro bash at VIP