“What I Did On My Trip To Elfia Arcen”
by Niilo Sirola / Greenrose Faire
It’s now one week until Elfia Haarzuilens and it’s time to start putting my gear together, figuring out what to fit in the restricted amount of baggage I can take on the plane, let alone what clothing to pack. Instead, I find myself browsing the photos from Elfia Arcen last September and going through my notes and memories, as I seem to have promised to write a travel journal from the artist’s point of view for CeltCast. So what better way to prepare for what will surely be one more weekend to remember…
I’ll leave the description of the wonderful atmosphere, the sights, sounds and costumes to others, and instead try to give a glimpse into an ordinary – yet extraordinary – day in musician’s life.
Woke up before 8 AM to someone singing in the shower, same as the last day. The breakfast is a bit quieter than yesterday but it seems everyone made it through the night alone. We take the benefit of walking the route back to the castle in daylight for the first time, for there is a lot to look at on the way.
There is also finally some time to walk around the castle grounds and appreciate the different horticultural wonders gathered there. Again, with lot of the people dressed very elaborately as characters from popular culture, I amuse myself thinking someone must be trying to figure who I’m supposed to be dressed as. Hanna reports having been asked to pose for a photograph, but I face no such requests.
Turns out our today’s sets will be back to back, so we decide not to play the exact same show twice but shuffle in some extra songs. Couple of them we have not played in some while, so we have a quick run-through in the dressing room with air instruments. I try to ask around for Helena who was my main contact when arranging these gigs over email, but have not yet met in person and I even have no idea what she looks like.
As I sit down in the stage crew’s tent (and get offered coffee), a bare-foot girl says I look just like someone from the Vikings series (forgot who already). So that answered what I was wondering earlier. Clearly I’ll have to watch that show some day. She introduces herself as what sounds like Elfia to me, and as I can’t catch the proper spelling she conveniently has her CD with her with the name written on it (it’s Elvya). Her main instrument is hammered dulcimer and we swap CD’s (I ended up liking hers quite a lot).
The first show of Sunday starts with the full intro tape this time, so we have plenty of time to walk onto the stage. I drop the decorations on Pete’s desk on my way and have just enough time to put them back before my part starts. I notice the microphone on the harmonium has been fixed on place with gaffer tape this time. Somehow my bouzouki sounds really weird on the monitors today although everything should be the same as yesterday. During Feed the Flames I sneak behind Salla so that I can lean over her shoulder just as she sings ”stand behind my shoulder”. She’s amused but doesn’t miss a beat.
There is a 15 minute break between the sets and I go get another sandwich (they really like their boterham‘s don’t they) and manage to eat almost half of it before the show must go on again. We play maybe half of the songs of the first set again, but still many of the people watch the second set as well. There is one guy standing at the back with his hands crossed who’s been there for all for of our gigs, stone-faced but nodding his head very slightly. He came by the booth to buy all the three CDs after the last gig though. For this last gig, the stage sound is finally fine, and now I have already pretty good idea of how far my cable allows me to run on that stage and overall it’s the most relaxed of these gigs.
The breakdown after the show is more hectic than usual, because we have only about half an hour before we need to start towards the airport again. As we’re packing the last of the cases into the cars, Steef brings Helena to me and we finally get to shake hands. She said she managed to see part of our show and liked it very much, and maybe we should come again next year. I’m very much in agreement.
The drive back to the airport takes a bit more direct route than our arrival in the night, but still it is a close shave what with the returning of the rental cars, distributing our possessions again into the suitcases, so that the potential threats to the safe operation of the flying machinery such as bottles of water and dangerous-looking metal belt buckets don’t go into cabin bags etc, and then running with the instrument cases about couple of kilometres to the furthest corner of the terminal for the special baggage desk. Tomi, Hanna and Pauli are picked again for extra inspection at the security check.
The stopover is in Frankfurt this time but it is a shorter one than on the outgoing trip. Pauli has again shot hours and hours of video and previews some of it on his laptop.
By the time we reach Helsinki airport, everyone is pretty exhausted (how tiring can sitting for miles and miles be), but at least we are back in Finland with the benefits of having steady cell phone reception so we may once again call and text anyone should we feel like it.
It is close to midnight but there is still the two-hour drive back to Tampere, with the mandatory coffee and donut break in the middle. I’m home after 3 AM, wake up for work at 7:30, and might have thought it was all just a dream if it wasn’t for all the photos and videos of the festival that start to appear on the internet over the following days.
What a magical journey! And to top everything off, two weeks later I get an email from Helena asking if we would like to return already in April for Elfia Haarzuilens. It’s in the middle of preparing to that journey one week from now that I’m typing this diary from my notes and reliving the weekend… And I’d like to add one more point to my initial list of why Elfia gig is so important to us: it’s the all-around good spirits and friendliness of everyone we met and worked with on the journey, be it the stage crew or just a random Dutchman on the street giving us directions. Expecting to have just as excellent weekend in Haarzuilens, hope to see you there!