It was Friday morning, I enjoyed the fresh air and the peace of my yard, thinking to myself: "Do I really want to go to the city today?". Well, but it was going to be Mariska's gig at Tampere, so I decided not to hesitate and just go there. At Tampere I first had some other things to do, after which I went to my friends who had promised that I can sleep on their sofa. She was about to work a night shift at a hospital, and her hubby was having a night out in the city. She handed me a spare key to their apartment, we chatted a little and she left for work. Actually, it was rather pleasant to rest alone at their apartment, enjoying a silent hour before heading to a rock club.
It was a bar I have never before been to, I felt myself a bit like mountain man visiting a city =) There was a small queue, and in front of me there was a group of four people. While standing in the queue I took a brief look around - the bar seemed to be divided into two areas, one to the right and another to the left of the entrance. I read they have a kitchen serving hamburgers, steaks and salads, so I thought to myself that maybe the other side is for dining and the other side is the music club. Well, after getting their tickets that group of four headed to the left, and I decided to follow them since I thought that everyone else knows the place and I'm the mountain man lost in the urban environment. The rock club side had a small corner, probably a stage for bands to perform, there were few tables and a counter. Leaning on the counter there was that group of four, ordering their drinks and talking to each other, wondering where the band is going to play. So, I realized that they didn't know the routines of this place. I ordered myself a pint of beer and asked the bartender where the artist is going to play. The bartender told that it will be on the other side. One of the group of four gave me 'thumb up' for they also heard the answer. Unhurriedly I enjoyed the beer and switched to the other side.
I chose a place next to the stage. Mariska's band-mate Hanna Maaria was there doing some final adjustments. On the stage there were two mics and keyboards for Mariska, and for Hanna Maaria there was a mic and synths, keyboards and stuff arranged on three sides. In my mind I was comparing this to the Linnanmäki gig, where the distance between the band and audience was bigger. Here it was just a piece of railing separating the stage from a dance-floor. Gradually, more and more of audience gathered into the bar, but it wasn't too crowded. Before the gig started, I got approached by the guy who had earlier showed the 'thumb up' for me. We talked a little (where we are from etc, it was actually quite nice, as I have finally learned at least a little bit to meet these random people without displaying them a protective mask, but being honestly present as a person I feel that I am), and he asked if he can offer me a beer. I politely declined, saying that I am hoping for the band to start soon and I don't feel drinking more when they play, and that the music is probably going to take me to the dance-floor. "Yeah, with us" said the guy. And, indeed, it was their group of four, now joined with more of their friends, who were already dancing a little to the rock that was playing on the loudspeakers. The heck, why wait for the band to begin, I thought, and joined them dancing. After a piece or two the rock faded into silence, and then Hanna Maaria started to play the intro of the first song of their gig.
The atmosphere was lively, nice and warm. Something like I could imagine a happy family gathering be like =) Mariska and Hanna Maaria were smiling a lot, it felt that they really enjoyed performing together. And again, I was impressed by Hanna Maaria's talent, how she provided backing vocals while playing all the synths and keyboards around her, conveying both the technical skill and artistic content. I was glad to see that happy shine on Mariska's eyes, and the free-flowing ease how she travelled all the emotions and themes of her songs, be it sad or glad, general or personal, hip hop or pop-jazz. A lot of audience already knew the songs, singing along. And we who were on the dance-floor, immersed ourselves into the flow and beat. I could feel the blood running in my veins, happy to be alive, happy to share this moment with other people. After every song the audience clapped and cheered and piece by piece the atmosphere got warmer and warmer. For the encore they played an unreleased piece, which was an energetic and angry rap about what's wrong with our mainstream society. I think many of Mariska's loyal long-term fans have been waiting for something like that, as it was a new take on the rap Mariska originally started her career with. For me, it was refreshing, and made the gig feel even more complete - including everything from personal feelings to critical political observations.
After the gig the 'thumb up -guy' came to talk with me again. He said 'You make me glad! If you ever feel depressed, remember that in this world there always is at least one person who is happy to see you!'. Okay, this could be empty polite phrases drunken Finns tend to tell each other, but instead of collapsing back to my old 'let's play social roles and hide our inner feelings'-stuff I decided to stay open and honest. So I replied with a short line about depression, and we concluded that in a way, every morning each of us has to face this question 'do I want to get out of the bed, is my life worth living', and that there is no rational answer to the question. But that the answer is there, on the dance-floor, where we don't need to know each others names, we don't need to chat, yet we are not strangers but we are there together, dancing to the rhythm which is Life in itself. We gave each other the 'thumb up' gesture and for one more piece hit the dance-floor to the rock they were playing again.
I wandered to order one more pint of beer. Mariska was there, selling CDs and giving autographs and posing in pictures with fans. I realized that inside me, something big has changed over the years when I've been a Mariska fan. In the beginning, having any kind of personal exchange with Mariska was like a life-changing experience, helping me to get up from the swamp of inner alienation and isolation. And this year, as I've been commenting on Mariska's blog, I've learned to relax inside, and finally it starts to feel normal - like, sure, why not express my thoughts, and instead of hating it others might give friendly positive feedback. Even the artist I admire, and after all, despite all the social roles we all have, deep down we all are human beings. (Although, yes, almost every time I comment on Mariska's blog, I still recognize and echo of that old fear 'maybe I'd better stay silent and hide my thoughts and feelings'. But instead of being a big nearly paralyzing fear, now it is just a faint echo. And that is also reflected in other areas of my social life, it is a lot thanks to Mariska that today I found it so much easier to honestly enjoy that random exchange with the unknown 'thumb up -guy'.)
Well, but Hanna Maaria was also there, chatting with some members of the audience. I waited for a moment, got her attention and told her how I enjoyed her playing. That, instead of seeing her as a mere background player, I do admire her personal talent, looking forward to her releasing more of her own music. The spark in her eyes told that she was genuinely happy to have personal positive feedback. We chatted a short while, exchanging impressions on the struggle of getting your voice heard. And how, generally speaking, in our Finnish culture people tend not to give positive feedback so easily - and how I see artists like she and Mariska contributing towards changing that. Hanna Maaria said that she will pass some of my feedback to Mariska also, and asked what is my name. That took me by surprise, I had somehow assumed that I'm just an anonymous part of the audience and my personality doesn't matter that much. Hehe, so she was kind of a returning the theme on me - saying 'hey, in my eyes you are not non-personal background, but your unique personal voice is heard and your personality matters'.
It was about 1 AM, I left the bar. Heading towards my friends' apartment, I took some smaller side streets. There weren't that many other pedestrians there, and I was surprised as an older man stopped, looking at me he did the military salute saying 'privjet!'. It took a second for my all-too-rusted language skills to kick in so that I figured out what he meant. Privjet is like 'Hello' in Russian. And, indeed, wearing my long mantel and a pointed winter hat (and the beard) he must've thought that I look like WWII Russian military officer. I didn't sense violent energy in his behaviour, so I joined the spontaneous street-comedy sketch, returning the military salute with 'privjet' in Russian accent. (I'm telling this silly little incident, just to further illustrate all those small unexpected things which makes one feel either anxious, alienated or foolishly happy, depending on ones own inner state of mind. I'm so glad to have more and more of my spontaneous playfulness restored, even when meeting random drunken people on the dark winter side alleys.)
Now I'm back at home, after chatting and having morning coffee with my friends. Thinking of it, the trip to the city was well worth of it, full of meaningful interchange with random strangers, with artists I admire and with my good friends. All in all, leaving me with a feeling that I'm not a mere anonymous part of the crowd, but that my personal existence counts and is seen by others, and that I can relate to those others in a meaningful way. It is this kind of basic things I've had to re-learn in my adult life, but it's never too late =)
EDIT: Right after posting this I listened to a short interview of Hanna Maaria. For those who can understand Finnish, it is here. She speaks about making music as a way to strengthen ones own feeling that 'it is okay to be me, just the way I am, and to express it to others'. That made me to remember yet another example on this theme - when I was severely depressed, my body felt heavy and clumsy and I couldn't enjoy dancing. It has been a long slow road of recovery to re-find the spontaneous physical joy of dancing. And for me, one key element has been dancing a lot alone at home, when I simply don't need to care about how my moves look like, and I can fully concentrate on how it feels like. To move according to the inner feeling. It has taken a little practice to remain in that 'dance as if no-one sees you' -mode even when there are other people around. When dancing to Mariska's gig, for a moment I thought that my moves probably look all so silly, and that half of the time I'm missing a beat and just goofing around simply because I'm too inept to recognize the ugliness of my own dancing. Well, I ignored that feeling and kept on dancing until the beat, the melody and Mariska's voice carried me back into the 'it is okay to be you'-mood. I forgot about it, but after the gig a couple of more strangers said to me 'nice moves, keep up the good going'. Hehe, as for me the main thing still is how the music and the movement feels in my own body, it is reassuring to hear that others also see the joy of movement instead of picking on the technical faults of my silly moves. Well, anyhow, people. Even when you don't know the strangers, even when you don't necessarily agree on everything, let's at least sometimes give each other some positive feedback, thus reinforcing this feeling that both on the dance-floor and on this globe, we are in this together. Thumbs up =)
EDIT2: I just noticed that they've released a live music video of Oikee Matador which is the title track of Mariska's new album.