Paganfest V – May 8th 2014 – Rickshaw Theatre, Vancouver, BC

I love all kinds of music, but my favourite one of all is folk metal. My infatuation with it has grown every year, so I always look forward to Paganfest – it’s my rite of spring! Paganfest with both Korpiklaani and Turisas on the same bill? Brilliant!

It was an early start, but there was a decent crowd when Winterhymn came out. I’m always impressed when the opener comes out with a load of energy, and they bashed right into “In the Troll Forest,” the first song off their Songs for the Slain album. Umbriel’s violin worked really well with the music. Sometimes the folk instruments can get a bit lost, but they did a great job.

Draug introduced one song with “It’s a lovely, lovely country full of lovely, lovely people. Even though we’ve never been here before we feel comfortable among all you lovely people. Because we can tell you’re all dorks like us!” This led into the Skyrim-themed “The Dragonborn Comes,” which the crowd loved.

Before the last song, they directed everyone to the merch table. “Anything you contribute gets us home a little more safely and a little less sober.

Varg was up next. Freki has a very commanding stage presence, leaning forward aggressively over the crowd as he growls the lyrics. The crowd definitely responded in kind; they were completely focused. “We are here to ask you what a true Canadian metalhead is made of!” When he called for a circle pit to beat the Americans, he got it.

I really liked their corpse paint, it looked less stylized and more corpse-y. The colour was a burnt-tandoori red, like they just came out of a huge oven.

Freki introduced Naglfar as “This song is about a dead mans ship.” I love this song – it has more of a heavy groove to it and much headbanging ensued. During the mournful parts he fell to his knees in front of the fan, his hair falling around him like a cloak.

Party one more time with the wolves of Germany! This is the last Canadian show of the fucking tour, show me everything you’ve got!” They ended with “Keep folk metal in your heart, we love you.”

Chthonic came on in billowing fog to the call of a horn. There’s a lot of focus on the Northern European and Russian groups in folk metal, so it was great to see such an excellent band from Taiwan. It was even cooler seeing them in the Rickshaw, which used to be one of the old Shaw Brothers theatres.

One of the things that I enjoy about them is their use of themes that have more of a modern impact. Vikings are always awesome, but a band that has songs about the massacres of indigenous peoples and who are active in political and social causes? Brilliant.

With “Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace,” we get to hear Doris Yeh’s vocals. All in all it was an excellent set – I’d say they were the hardest band of the night. “No matter the differences between us tonight we all belong to one republic of fucking metal!”

It was great to see Turisas on a bigger stage. While I love how close the audience and bands are at the Biltmore, as vocalist Mathias Nygård said, “You guys can actually see what we do on stage!” They really showed off in the extra space and there was a lot more movement. It brought the energy level way up.

They wanted to do some songs that didn’t get played on last year’s tour, so they launched into “Rex Regi Rebellis.” Olli’s solo was fantastic – the violin is so sweet at the end it could make you cry. People were actually holding up lighters!

Sound troubles caused a few stops. In one, Mathias said “It seems like I am deaf at the moment, so while I get my hearing back Olli will play you a jolly good song.” Olli then started in with the Benny Hill theme song. While Jussi adjusted Mathias’ pack, he said “You choose the most metal interlude songs. Fucking technology. The most rock and roll moment you’ll see tonight… Jussi is tuning my behind.”

They closed with favourite “Rasputin,” and the crowd went wild. Mathias was going hard enough onstage that he had almost no paint left on his face. He ended the song by leaping into the air and landing prone on the stage. They finished, as always, with a group bow at the front of the stage.

Korpiklaani has become one of my favourite bands, and they closed out the night. I love the Kalevala-styled lyrics, the use of fiddle and accordion, and the emphasis on themes of nature and Finnish history. This was the first time I had seen new accordionist Sami Perttula, and he was exceptional. He and Tuomas are mixing in well with the rest of the band – always a concern when replacing long-standing members.

This set was plagued with sound problems but they were back on form by the time they got to “Keep on Galloping”. Jonne was bouncing up and down around the stage, dreadlocks flying and giving a great show. I’m sure most of the crowd didn’t even notice the problems – they were having an excellent time.

One of my favourite parts was the accordion and fiddle battle of “Pixies Dance.” Sami doesn’t seem to have the onstage confidence of the others yet, but that will come with time. Jarkko, Cane and Matson were spot-on as always. It’s a real pleasure to watch people who enjoy playing so much.

The encore opened with “Pellonpekko.” All the technical difficulties in the world couldn’t spoil that song for me. They closed with the crowd singing along to “Happy Little Boozer,” and Jonne leaning into the crowd to hold out his mic.

I had a great time at this show! New bands and old performed really well despite technical problems from monitors to mics cutting out and a backdrop falling over. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Paganfest!

(Previously published at Bucketlist Music Reviews)

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