I Walk the Line / Manifesto Jukebox - live in Vaasa (Cover Artwork)

I Walk the Line / Manifesto Jukebox

live in Vaasa (2006)

live show

As much as I have enjoyed my 2 visits to Finland, it was the fact that I was going to there for this show that excited me most about my trip. Only 2 bands were playing, but that was fine by me as I have been a big fan of both for a couple of years now. Anyone who has been to any of the Nordic countries knows how expensive they are. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the door price was only 6 euros.

Vaasa is a mid-size town, by Finnish standards, on the west coast of Finland. I don't know the size of the punk rock scene there, but I expected a bigger crowd for a band, I Walk the Line, whose most recent record charted in Finland (#26). Nonetheless, the small turnout wasn't going to spoil things for me.

Manifesto Jukebox was up first. As they unassumingly took the stage, I had no idea what I was in for. Perhaps I haven't been to enough shows in recent times because of my travels, but it seemed as if they were the LOUDEST BAND I HAD EVER HEARD! By that, I don't mean loud in a "made my ears ring" kinda way but, rather, loud in a "bore holes through solid fucking matter" kinda way. While I scrambled to pack my ears with every bar napkin I could find, Manifesto Jukebox raged through song after song with little respite. For those not familiar with the band, they don't play the Discharge-style of punk rock historically associated with Finland. MJ's sound is in the vein of Hüsker Dü, Rites of Spring, and, most noticeably, Leatherface. If these references are a bit too archaic, let's just say that those distraught by the demise of Hot Water Music will find a new favorite band in Manifesto Jukebox.

I've delayed writing this review for a few weeks in hopes that the passage of time would help me find the words to describe the sound of I Walk the Line. Unfortunately, I'm still at a loss for a description that would do this fantastic band justice. The best I can offer is this: dark punk rock ‘n' roll, black-clad and tattooed, part Murder City Devils, part Rocket from the Crypt, part Social Distortion, with far more intelligence than the greasemonkey / gearhead mentality that my sketch might otherwise suggest. I Walk the Line would be huge in the USA if they had the right label behind them.

The band kicked off their set with my favorite IWTL song, "Dead Seeds" which, by the way, you can download from their website. Although the band features a full-time organ, it serves to complement their sound rather than overwhelm it. Ville, the singer, also plays bass so his stage presence is a little stiff; the energy of guitarist Jani, however, more than makes up for it. The band modestly rolled through a hefty set of tight, catchy, mid-tempo tunes before calling it quits. Fortunately, an "encore" brought them back for a few more songs. I put the word in quotes because it wasn't a cheesy arena rock style encore, but the action of an unpretentious group of people who wanted to honor their friends' requests for more.

The show ended at 1 A.M. and, as much as I wanted to stay and hang out, I had a plane to catch 5 hours later. In retrospect, it was for the best as there's no way in hell I could have drank with a group of Finns. I would've been under the table just as they were getting warmed up. Regretfully, I didn't get to tell the band members what a great experience it was.

Since I first heard Manifesto Jukebox and I Walk the Line, I was impressed by the exceptionally intelligent lyrics of both bands. I have recently, however, developed a newfound appreciation of their writing. I had taken for granted the fact that both bands write songs in their second language. While I feel the lyrics are head and shoulders above those of most native-English speaking bands, they are truly a brilliant accomplishment in a non-mother tongue.

Thanks for reading.