The sun goes down at about 09.30 pm but it’s twilight until 1:30am.
The temperature hits a balmy 22 degrees.
The sweet sound of thrash metal and raucous young men drifts upon the sea breeze.
It must be Õllesummer.
Õllesummer (see pronunciation hinted at in the title) is an annual five day beer and music festival in Tallinn, that celebrates midsummer, all things beer, and music most of all.
My first day at Õllesummer was spent drinking beer (obviously), eating shashliks and an array of potatoes done in various traditional and modern styles, and visiting the five different pavilions all around the Lauluväljak (Tallinn Song Festival Grounds). The pavilions specialize in Country & Western/Folk, Jazz, Rock, DJ’s, and the main stage for the really big Estonian and international artists.
I was hanging out with my younger second cousins (see below) who tried to show me that stopping at my usual two beers was completely against my Estonian genetics. So I succumbed to peer group pressure and had a fantastic evening. We rocked out for a while to Moby, who was being … well, let’s face …. Moby, and then headed to the A le Coq pavilion for Kala, who do their own stuff and a few covers of popular music in eesti keelt (Estonian language). Yes, there I was, slamming along to Haiseb Nagu Teismeliste Vaimus, the Estonian lyric version of Smell’s Like Teen Spirit. Bet some of you never saw that coming!
On the Friday evening, day three, I was fortunate enough to join a relative in the Corporate Box, specifically set up for sponsors and corporations of the event. And do they ever have a private view of the main stage!
So I got to hang out in the Corporate invitation area with tables of fine foods and Estonian treats – herrings in light sour cream, beet and bococcini salad, all things dill, on and in them. And of course, wine and beer by the free glass full. I opted for the never mix never worry philosophy of sticking to reds all night.
On the main stage there was a performance of major Estonian artists having a turn at the microphone ion tribute to Gunnar Graps; Tanel Padar (one half of the Estonian duo that won Eurovision 2001), Gerli Padar, Metsatöll, Sven Varkel, Smilers, Hardi Volmer, Jaagup Kreem. These are some of the finest current rock stars in Estonia, and can certainly hold their own were they seen in an international arena.
The highlight of this evening was Metsatöll. These bunch of headbangers combine heavy thrash metal with traditional folk music. Odd combination? Well, yes. Who would have thought that a traditional set of bagpipes or a wooden recorder would sit comfortably next to an electric guitar! But in a strange way, they really do. These guys are artists in the full sense of the word, and know what they are doing. Although I am not the biggest fan of thrash metal, the jets of fire, smoke and fireworks that accompanied their show were fantastic. These guys know how to put on a show. And the audience certainly responded in kind.
In these days of artificially created pop stars of generally mediocre talents (see Pop Idol, Australian Idol, American Idol, Azerbaijani Idol), the wide range of ages of these live artists is very heartening. You have the likes of Gerli Padar, a youth songstress primped and preened, to Kala, like your dad’s backyard band. And no one is out of place here. Everyone is respected for their talents and what they have to offer.
Rock On Eesti!