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Carnival

A week ago I read a blog post by Clementine, the drummer of Zepparella. Clementine describes her personal experience of how it feels to be on the stage, behind the drums, playing a gig. And it seems to be rather physical and emotional experience. All the time the drumming skills gained by years of disciplined training are there, but the real magic of music is slipping into a sate of mind where a deeper flow of emotion and energy takes over. There are moments when she needs to shift more control back to her rational mind, to keep her timing aligned with the rest of the band, but as the gig goes on, she seems to immerse deeper and deeper into her emotional memories, enjoying a sense of connection with her band mates, leaving her feeling wrapped up in love. And this, I think, is one of the aspects which makes great music so great. I'd guess that in so many ways the emotional state of musicians flows into the music and helps the audience to dive into their own flow of emotional physical presence - to experience both personal and shared feelings which transcend the daily rational reality.

I think I've always kind of a known that music and dancing could have that kind of power to carry us to a state of bliss. But, alas, the mere theoretical belief has not been enough to get there. I've felt that there is that bright and semi-magical world of joy and dance, but that inside me there are obstacles blocking the way. Or, a big door barring the way. A door, which for the most part of my life was been locked and closed, and only sometimes open, allowing be to get freely immersed into the flow of emotional and bodily presence. For me, the long process of recovering from depression has been a lot about trying to find ways to open that door, and to keep it unlocked. Or, to put it in other words - during those years when I regularly went to therapy, I always felt that mere talking is not enough, that some aspects of depression are quite literally physical, and need to be physically shaken away. It was only that my body felt rather heavy with all the burden, and there was so much pain to be shaken away. Sometimes when I tried to dance, just the first beat and a first spontaneous movement of hips and legs triggered a wave of panic and pain which totally paralyzed my body and made my mind burn with pain - instead of dancing I ended up staring into emptiness waiting for my mind to calm down to its usual state of grey numb depression. But I was always dreaming of doing things like wearing a suit like Blues Brothers, or Vincent Vega of Pulp Fiction, and then going out to dance away the night.

It was three years ago, when we went to a party together with my friend. I remember that being the first night I could go on dancing without being hit by a panic attack, and momentarily enjoying the immersive feeling of shared bodily presence and spontaneous joy. Ever since that party has been kind of an annual pilgrimage for me. Actually, it is a birthday party of the guy who organizes the whole thing, and once again this spring he personally invited me for the party. There have been rumours that this summer's event will be the last party of this kind he organizes. So, this years party came with a funeral theme - probably to symbolize it being the grande finale - and everybody was invited to wear a dark funeral suit. It was a three-day party, in the deep Finnish countryside.

So, on Thursday I wore a white shirt and a sharp dark suit in Vincent Vega style, and drove down the winding roads to get to the party. The fist band was Jukka Nousiainen, although he played without a band. Just a lone man wearing a green stetson, sitting on a chair tuning his guitar and talking partly to himself and partly to the audience. It felt as if he was more just drifting into his own inner world - but that worked the magic like Clementine describes in her blog; his music invited the audience to listen to how it feels inside, how it feels to be there, what kind of memories and feelings the music arouses. Soon I was leaping and bouncing, dancing together with the birthday guy. Jukka stood on the chair, casting out an energetic solo. Soon he hopped down from the stage, and joined our dancing while keeping on playing the guitar. Apparently, there was no script to this show, there was an atmosphere of freedom and shared improvisation. Jukka climbed back onto the stage, diving deeper into blazing sounds, until finally a wild guitar solo left him lying down on the stage, cuddled up next to his pedal board, slamming the pedals with his hands, creating hypnotic waves of ambient sound wall.

After Jukka's gig it was Agents, one of the long-running iconic Finnish bands. Agents started at 1979, and have been touring ever since. Of course during the years they have had many changes in their line-up, but the characteristic Agents sound and style is always there. Their weather-beaten stage experience really showed in the way how piece after piece they got more and more people dancing and rocking it out in the warm summer night. Hehe, after unintentionally over-drinking at my own birthday party I've learned that for me dancing is more fun when sober. So, when Agents finished around midnight, I walked to my car and drove back home.

For Friday it would've been four bands, but none of them struck me as must-see, and I felt somewhat tired. So I stayed at home, resting and doing some small and enjoyable household chores. On Saturday I felt ready to rock again, so I changed into the sharp suit and drove to the party.

The first performer was a guy called Kaiho Hetkenlaulaja; he plays guitar and improvises lyrics for his songs. I admire his talent, how he keeps the music flowing and the piece stays together, while he invents the lyrics on the fly, based on what he sees and hears at the moment. But somehow, I found it bit difficult to tune into his frequency, or I failed to pick up some aspects of his sense of humour. But that was probably just me, as I was still more in observer mode instead of fully participating. But then I was invited to participate for an interlude program; together with a small group of men in black suits we went behind the scenes, the birthday guy went lying in a make-shift coffin, and we arranged ourselves to carry the coffin. Funeral music started to play, and we slowly carried the coffin onto the stage. We held a silent moment standing next to the coffin and left the stage, and all of the audience watched the performance silently, although for a short moment nothing happened. Then he stood up and gave a welcome speech - and right after that Bohemian Rhapsody started, played by a talented street-music group Porkka Playboys. When the band started to rock, I felt all of my body warm and loose, my knees and hips free, and I found myself dancing rather madly. I mean, I don't care at all how my moves look like, I just dance like no-one is watching, listening how the music feels in my body and allowing it to flow out the way it does.

Wearing a suit and dancing for an hour in warm summer night made me feel physically exhausted, and I had to sit down to catch my breath. Luckily enough, there was a break as the previous band hauled their instruments away, and the next band started to put up their set, doing the sound-check. The next band was called Raggars, and when they started to play my mind thought that maybe I will skip this one and just watch them play, but my feet disagreed, so I was back to shake and twist. As I might have told, in Finland we have this old joke that whenever anybody is playing any music anywhere, there just has to be somebody calling 'play Paranoid!'. And during the Raggars gig we heard it several times, so they replied with a Finnish translation.

Waiting for the next band, I ate some food, drank a bottle of water, and sat down watching the sunset colours on the sky above a nearby lake. I had a discussion with some local people, and they said how this kind of carnival events are valuable - in a way dressing up in fancy costumes and doing silly things gives a sense of freedom. A freedom the be yourself. I was thinking to myself that this is another aspect of what Clementine wrote in her blog. Those moments when you can sail the unplanned and uncharted waters of your soul, they leave you feeling a better contact with your inner child, with your core being, your unique and personal presence.

The technic team got all set up, and Tiisu started to play. They are young guys, about twenty-something I'd guess, and the heck they unleashed all of their young wild energy. They got the audience rocking, and I immersed into the collective leaping and bouncing. Actually, many of their lyrics would be worth a post or two, and while spontaneously dancing I could listen to my rational mind observing and analyzing the lyrics, which kind of a poured more content into dancing. It was not just bouncing to the rhythm, it was also about finding a physical expression for the themes they were singing and rocking about.

During the next break a surprise performer appeared on the stage. It was a Finnish youtube-star, an unique DIY-artist Tykylevits playing his cigar-box guitar. Once again I tried just to stand watching, but got carried away by improvised dance moves. It was already past midnight, and the last band arranged themselves on the stage. They were called 'Pirulainen', and they played energetic folk/roots rock. Now as I'm writing this, I briefly searched for their live videos, but chose instead an official video. And I went on dancing, far beyond the point when my mind thought that I need to give up. The show lasted until 2am, and finished with a brief but touching and emotional thankyou-speech by the birthday guy.

To finish my pilgrimage of dance, I drove some ten kilometres to a parking place next to a small nature preservation area. There is a sandy beach and a shelter there. I had packed a camping mattress and a sleeping bag, so I set myself onto the wide bench inside the shelter. I had thought that after all the dancing I'd be so exhausted that I'd just fall asleep as soon as I get my head on the pillow, but it was quite the opposite. It was like warm echoes of emotions and thoughts, memories and wishes were washing the shores of my mind and body. Also, my sleeping bag was bit too thick for the warm summer night, and if I tried to sleep with my upper body exposed, I was kept awake by mosquitoes. So I covered my face with a towel to keep the mosquitoes away, and drifted back and worth between light slumber and half-awakeness, listening to the occasional nocturnal sounds. I got up early in the morning and started a fire in the fireplace. I went for a long refreshing morning swim and came back to pour myself a mug of strong black coffee. Feeling fully grateful for this carnival I drove up the winding countryside roads to get back home.

Tiisu rocks
Tiisu rocks
Catching my breath
Catching my breath
A morning view
A morning view
Drinking coffee after a morning swim
Drinking coffee after a morning swim
tags: 
depression
diary
music
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