09 Feb 2017 – HEXVESSEL, DEATH HAWKS, KAIRON; IRSE! – Tavastia, Helsinki
Hello, Tavastia, my old friend.
I’ve come to see some bands again.
This time ‘cause a zine is softly asking,
Gave its promise of good times writing.
And the vision was planted in my brain:
you’ll have fun,
in the realms of reporting.
It was a cold evening with the brightest moon almost full. I was walking towards Tavastia alongside me the feelings of excitement, joy, and this being my first gig report ever: fear. Fear of not being able to enjoy the gig while trying to get somewhat decent photos AND actually remember something worth writing about afterwards.
I tried to ditch that unnecessary feeling as soon as the first band, Kairon; IRSE! started. (What a strange name! I did a quick search, and it seems to have something to do with India, astrology, and leaving in Spanish – or not. The band itself has admitted to the name being rather senseless, so, so be it.) I knew next to nothing of the band beforehand, but such a peculiar name, and the fact that they were interviewed for The Guardian in the end of January, made me very curious to see them live.
And boy, did they live! Airy guitar picking, ever-flowing counter-melodies, grooving bassline, occasional cosmic synth mats, ever-changing beats, and scarce enough vocal bits all mixed together in the same proverbial bowl. But instead of becoming a smooth dough, the musical elements stayed detached, circling both the bowl and each other, creating a hypnotizing swirl making me think of King Crimson, Captain Beefheart, and even The Beatles in the late 1960s. At times, this swirl of light but strange prog with hints of post-rock was disrupted by more metallic, distorted soundscapes. It was like the music had just been born, and it was trying to attain its form. A journey from chaos to catharsis.
The music of Kairon; IRSE! had twisted and moulded my mind, and baffled as I was by their set, I had to step outside to breathe in the fresh February night air (through a filter) before the band I wanted to see the most, Death Hawks. Having been enchanted by their latest album Sun Future Moon and having absolutely fallen in love with them live before, expectations were high.
After the ever so slightly out of sync beginning of “Hey Ya Sun Ra,” the ambiance started to take its shape, the mood became relaxed and organic, and the flow began to build up. I couldn’t keep up with what songs were being played, as there were no proper breaks between them: the band kept on jamming smoothly while the vocalist-guitarist changed and/or tuned guitars. Their hit song, “Behind Thyme,” was unmissable, though, with its sing-along-able melody, catchy riffs, and the fantastic, light but progressive jam in the end taking me beyond thyme and space.
Cosmic ear candy continued with saxophone solos, clangs of strange percussions, and smooth synth mats, all together creating a mystic and primitive soundscape of the jungle… in space. Along with the lighting and the band’s own VJ conjuring up psychedelic eye candy on the back canvas, the performance was a holistic spa for the soul. The flow was impeccable. The shamanistic vibe gathered, and the crowd started to really move to the beat and eagerly cheer for more between songs. Sadly, I knew, this meant the set was almost over. Before that, though, the band brewed some wild but mellow Black Acid jams leaving the crowd begging for more.
It took me a while to descend back from the dimension where Death Hawks had taken me. (Funnily enough, I took a detour via Jupiter, as it so happened that a friend of mine familiar with the band decided to introduce me to them knowing that I absolutely adore them. Spontaneous networking in space with a delightfully down-to-earth group!) It was undeniably clear already that Death Hawks was to be – to me at least – the main act of the night, having pumped me and the atmosphere full of life and uplifting energy.
That energy continued with Hexvessel, although transforming rock to folk, and making a U-turn from the stars back towards the ground, from wonders of life towards death in the gentle arms of Mother Earth. Psychedelia was still most apparent, with song titles like “Transparent Eyeball,” “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” and “Cosmic Truth,” but instead of just jamming it away, it felt like the band was performing, like actors in a play. From the wonderful air of nature mysticism in the lyrics, elevated with lighting that fit the songs perfectly, to the band itself looking almost like it could be a Grateful Dead type of hippie family band straight from the 60’s enhanced even with a whiskey-drinking female bassist, I should have loved them – but somehow it all seemed just too sleek and thought-out.
The performance had some magical moments, though, like the whole first song “Transparent Eyeball,” the duet in “Teeth of the Mountain,” the sing-along-able almost mantra-like chorus in “Cosmic Truth,” the nuances of stoner and surf rock and even funk along the way… The best bit, however, was definitely towards the end, when the band actually let loose; I may be partial, but I can’t deny loving me some proper groove and jamming! Hexvessel most definitely can deliver some of those as well, and they kept the more loose and raw feeling until the very end. As a whole, the show left me feeling as if all the elements were there, but the alchemy just didn’t work out.
Regardless, what an altogether wonderful gig combo! All the way from Kairon; IRSE!’s boundary-pushing, genre-bending post-prog via Death Hawks’ sublime space jungle of indulgent psychedelia to Hexvessel’s mystical narratives of the cosmic afterlife. The music took its listener for an ever-morphing journey from the ground to the stars and back, beyond space and time, ultimately transcending life and ending in the sweet embrace of death.
In the context of cosmic psychedelia, mind you, death cannot be seen as the end, but rather, a new beginning.