Techno Scene - Underground raves of Helsinki
Updated: Sep 20, 2022
Welcome to our first in a series of articles by guest writers focusing on techno scenes from around the world. 'Underground (UG) raves of Helsinki' is brought to you by DJ Discolisko, Founder of Musta Kolhoosi Collective.
Anticipation, preparation, the journey to the location, we have all been there, either as a DJ, organizer, helping hand or invited guest. Or even somebody who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Even here, up north, we love to have a good time and party till the early hours.
The City of Helsinki, a smaller capital in northern Europe with a bit over 600 000 people, is a cozy place. Wide, but not tall. The metropolitan area including cities of Vantaa and Espoo puts the demography at 1.5 million people. Just like every metropolitan area, it is growing as more people are moving to the cities. Clubs and venues come and go, old familiar places change. That is the unstoppable force of growth.
Finland has a long history with illegal dance activity; back in the second world war dancing was prohibited by the law and the term "corner dances" popped up. Young people brought their own instruments and played music, danced and had fun and finally the worst, drank alcohol. The officials often used barbed wire to close the known venues, where illegal activity took place. But it never stopped the Finns from having a great time and dancing till the morning. Not much has changed in the mindset.
Acid house and techno appeared in Finland around the late 80's and the first wave of electronic music started soon after. Likeminded people organized quickly, and we are still enjoying similar activities provided to us by collectives and organizers; some are the same as today, some are new. Electronic music took its hold on Finns. As time flew by, new music styles came, and the field has been quite lively. It gave the chance for suomisaundi or as many of us call it "spugedelic trance" to form. For a country that has heritage in paganity, shamans and vast area of forests and lakes, it is not very surprising. It also gives us opportunities for awesome forest raves around the psytrance and suomisaundi scene, in a very fitting environment. At the moment in Helsinki, we have a few clubs that play techno, places like Postbar, Merikerho and "Kaiku" that turns 10 next year. And we have multiple venues that host raves around, bigger and smaller ones. Nevertheless, not too many in my opinion.
Even before the Covid outbreak, we'd had a rising number of UG open airs and collectives, but the amount surged when the clubs and bars shut down due to restrictions and the DJs and the organizers just couldn't do it anymore. This meant, like everywhere else, that people didn't stay put in their homes, but started to arrange parties. It wasn't uncommon to have multiple parties around Helsinki every weekend.
As Finland is one shithole of bureaucracy, illegal raves are often the answer for people wanting to enjoy the sound of fat bass till the early hours, with a lovely community and the superb vibe, while being a part of the wave of escapist partygoers, without being in monetized clubs. Legally, if you want to have an open air, you need to apply for lots of permissions. They can be denied, and your money is gone, since applying for one is not free. Fun. Abandoned buildings usually are secured quite well, so most of the times the UG parties either happen in rented locations, outdoors or wherever it is convenient to try. Sometimes a magical location pops up that can be used for raves, and multiple collectives might use the same place in a short time for parties. After it is taken over by multiple parties by different organizers, police quite often find their way to that location as a routine patrol during weekends.
Mostly there are no problems around these kinds of events, unless the wrong kind of people find their way in - Police, or in some case people that are not too familiar with the kind of parties they end up in. Last year Verkkosaari was kind of an unofficial party center of Helsinki for a while, until someone was brutally beaten with metal pipes and got his stuff stolen. After that the place was quiet for a long time. Our collective was supposed to arrange an event there the very next weekend, but we and many others didn't. Safety of the ravers is always top priority, or at least should be the top priority of the organizers.
The spastic clickbaiting media loves to write news about the events as "Drug parties" since there have been some people OD'ing on GHB or GBL. This is always a sad thing, and it puts a dark cloud upon the events. Most of the people who read the subpar news articles about the "Illegal EDM drug parties where people are up till morning" are often those who do not have a slightest clue about the subject. I find this harmful since it affects the whole community in many ways. For example, people randomly walking by calling the police about "illegal drug parties" or "suspicious activity". Fortunately, police here can be quite reasonable and negotiate with the organizers. If there have been no problems with the sound levels that would disturb the people living nearby, no drug abuse or violence, then there is a moderate chance that police only ask organizers to put the volume down a bit and the party can go on.
As a friend of mine, Reginald, the guy behind My Techno Weighs a Ton label, producer, DJ and a vivid underground event organizer said it better than I could: "As I have noticed, it is merely impossible to find venues like back in the day. As the city is growing amongst the money hungry companies that don’t give a rat's ass about culture, the UG scene is pushed to the outskirts of Helsinki and beyond. UG culture has always been the part of being the piece that adapts and there is nothing to be done here. But that is a part of the beauty of it, the risk and the uncertainty. "Illegality" in events attracts people, but it also attracts authorities that dislike this kind of disobedience. Disobedience attracts more people. It is like a perfect circle that goes on. It is kind of balanced."
For me organizing and visiting raves like this has been, among many other things, a form of activism, taking advantage of the space that no one uses to create something beautiful. A room for self-expression and a hub for connecting with likeminded people. I have had so many good memories throughout the years, that the least I can do is to give back to the community. Hopefully, one day someone gets inspired by our parties and continues the hideous act of organizing illegal raves while using what the capital has not yet eaten.
A huge thank you to DJ Discolisko for giving us this fascinating insight into the underground party scene of Helsinki.
Photo 1 - Outside and inside of an abandoned industrial building that was used as a temporary venue.
Photo 2 - Setup of KOLHOOSI V - End of season party 10-09-2022
Photo 3 - A very tempting but too well secured abandoned space.
Photo 4 - Preparing for a forest rave at an old limestone quarry.
Photo 5 - Police disliked our idea of having a party under a highway bridge and asked if we would kindly fuck off or they would confiscate our equipment as instruments of crime.
Photo 6 - Setting up a party with our collective.
Photo 7 - DJ Discolisko
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