The uniquely atmospheric KarmaRock

Text: Kreetta Haaslahti Photos: Mape Morottaja, Marek Sabogal

Why did the band, Maij’ Karman Kauniit Kuvat, want its own festival back in the day? What made people buy tickets to an event that does not reveal its line-up? Does a certain memory rise above others in the festival director's mind? If yes, why?

For 25 years already, KarmaRock has arrived in Harjavalta, by the Kokemäenjoki River, on the last Saturday of July. The past couple of years, performers have not been revealed at all. Why are you doing this, festival director Häiriö Piirinen?
– The world has changed a lot over the quarter of a century that KarmaRock has been in existence. Back in the day, who performed and where made a huge difference. Now, they are playing it safe. Everyone books the same performers and they compete over who publishes their line-up first.

The festival director promises original marketing ideas in the future as well.
– Probably most of the positive feedback KarmaRock receives is because of its atmosphere and uniqueness. The performers create a part of the atmosphere and I suppose people have learned to trust us to make the right choices. For the future, we have much crazier ideas than this whole pig in a poke approach.

Festivaalijohtaja Häiriö Piirinen @ Marek Sabogal

In 2016, KarmaRock was marketed also on the online auction service. The starting price was a million euros. One offer was received by the deadline but it turned out to be a hoax.
– Originally, the plan was to make the sales ad international. There might well have been some silly billionaire somewhere in the world, who would have wanted to buy a small festival, but this very important issue was overshadowed by urgent matters, such as following the discussion about an EU directive initiative that attempted to ban too efficient vacuum cleaners.

”It always rains there”

The story of KarmaRock began in 1992, when it was established by the band called Maij’ Karman Kauniit Kuvat.
– The band had trouble getting gigs so we thought we'd organise something by ourselves, says Häiriö, the guitar player and a founding member.

Over the years, the entire festival framework and quality have improved.
– I hope that the ideology and the atmosphere are still there from festival visitors' viewpoint as well, even though we could only provide the festival free of charge for the first two years.

The end of July was chosen because of the festival schedule of the time.
– At that time, we didn't think about whether other people might have something else to do, we merely thought about whether we were going to be hanging out at some festival ourselves. At that time, important events in July were Ruisrock, DBTL and of course Pori Jazz.

Häiriö praises the surroundings of KarmaRock and says it's nearly perfect.
– It has just happened that the weather has been great during our chosen weekend, even though there was a persistent rumour at some point, which insisted it always rains at KarmaRock. I only remember two times when it rained a lot.

KarmaRock @ Mape Morottaja

A good atmosphere is a deal-breaker

When selecting performers, two criteria rule – good songs and good atmosphere.
– We have attempted to do a wide cross-section in the field of music but, of course, one day is not enough to bring out everyone we want to bring out.

KarmaRock is organised 100% by volunteers. Piirinen praises the volunteers, saying they're an excellent bunch and the results also prove his opinion. The festival has been sold out a few times and in other years, the maximum number of 2,500 visitors was only a couple of hundred short.
– We could fit in more people but then it wouldn't be fun anymore.

As a festival director, Piirinen is motivated by his own positive concert experiences.
– Good gigs have affected my own view of the world and personality to a great extent. And if there's a great party around a good gig, things couldn't be better. At KarmaRock, we have been able to offer both elements in as market-free form as is legally possible.

Waiting for M. A. Numminen

Piirinen has a lot of KarmaRock-related memories but one rises above the rest.
– I'll never forget Xysma's performance at KarmaRock. Of course I'll remember many other things but this one came to mind first as it's one of my memories that carry the most weight. We tried to get them for years and they always had slow tires or there was road work in the town of Nousiainen, or something else. So, Xysma was one of my own huge favourites. After we failed for years, winning felt great!
– I also remember that M.A. Numminen still hasn't performed at KarmaRock, Piirinen adds.

Will this deficiency be fixed this year? Of course, we will not know unless we arrive in Harjavalta on the last Saturday of July. Most likely, it will not rain. At least a lot.