Ilosaarirock Festival: Europe’s best kept secret

Kelly Murray | Sunday, 15 June 2008

Ilosaarirock Festival: Europe’s best kept secret

There were some noticeable goings-on in 1971, with mad fashions, ridiculous hair, casseroles and football being as popular as ever. That all sounds quite normal given today’s nu-rave, Man United, Toni & Guy-infested culture. But just in case your parents had yet to meet and your birth was a near-impossibility, I’m going to recap on some fun bits we missed:

- Burt Reynolds had a massive moustache (speculation states it may have been up to 8 metres wide)
- T-rex got to No.1 with ‘Get it On’ (the public did – told you you’d be born)
- Somewhere in Finland the non-profit Joensuu Pop Musicians' Association founded Illosaarirock Festival

Ignoring the obvious irrelevant factors there, let’s swiftly move onto that last point. Finland seems like a totally foreign place to me. Really foreign - I don’t know one single Finish word. I’ve never overheard anyone in the hairdressers, at a bus stop or fumbling about at a self-service checkout saying: “I’m off to Finland this year...”

Apart from the fact that they enter the Eurovision, I’m ashamed to say I know very little about our Scandinavian neighbours. In 2005, Finland had over 4 million visitors. That doesn’t sound like loads when compared to the amount of tourists England has in a year but if you think of it in terms of, say, unintentionally ignorant English people, that is in fact, loads.

This year though, Finland is about to get super busy. After 37 years of holding one of Europe’s best loved but little known music festivals, I think it’s more than about time to experience this country, their culture and music scene that I never knew existed.

Finland is covered in lakes (over 200,000), greenery and mountains, so forget setting up your tent in England (where you can still hear the motorway traffic). It’s this small place in beautiful Finland that’s the ideal location to spend baking summer days. (No, it doesn’t snow all year round...) I hear this is one music festival that might just leave you speechless – well not me, I’m going to tell you all about it when I get back.

Now for the good bits, the very reason to head north on a somewhat random adventure: it is, of course, the music. A million miles away from the riots you’ve probably experienced, Ilosaarirock prides itself on being different and safe. There's a decent range of genres to choose from ranging from metal to rock, pop to reggae. This year you can see Nightwish, Mogwai, Converge and Oceansize to name a few, yet the beauty of a festival like this is the artists you’ll discover that you never would have heard of otherwise. Isn’t a train ride to uncertainty too temping not to board?

Tickets cost 65 Euros, which is around £50 for the two-day event...bargain basement prices. The website has the lowdown on all the information you need on transport to the festival from the UK, be it via bus, air or train. There are a few routes via train depending on where you are leaving from in the UK. One route involves a ferry from Newcastle to Oslo and a train through Norway, Sweden and then Finland. Good if you want to grasp inter railing or if you simply want to travel as eco as you can.

The 1,500 volunteers who run Ilosaarirock enforce these green principals:
- Choosing green energy;
- Making recycling more efficient;
- Encouraging the use of public transportation and ride-sharing; and
- Preferring sustainability, fair trade and local products in purchases.

So there you have it, a massively accepting music festival a multitude of genres, club stages and unsigned acts. Finally, a seriously environmentally friendly music event in a country that just happens to have a gorgeous landscape. Ilosaarirock, we salute you… just don’t blame us if we accidentally go skinny dipping in the lakes with all this crazy excitement.