A bit longer post this time, so get yourself a cup of coffee and have a seat. It was already in fall 2016, as we were looking for the first gig after a long break, when we found an ad of Emergenza festival, where bands of all genres are competing to get to play at bigger and bigger events. Well, technically speaking Khiral represents a bit more “marginal” music style than your everyday radio pop/rock bands, but then again, we live in Finland where there are more metal bands per capita than anywhere else. So we were like why the hell not! We needed practice with our new lineup, having Tuomo and Jouni recently joined the band. At that time we were actually missing a permanent drummer, since our original drummer Pete had decided to concentrate on other things. But there was still time to sort things out.
Luckily we managed to get our first gig already in December at Bar Rock Bear, Vantaa. Pete agreed to be our live drummer until we would find a new member. We didn’t actually believe this kind of music could really succeed at a mainstream festival (as we saw it) such as Emergenza, but we were still happy we wouldn’t have to go there without any live practice. The first gig led to another at the same venue, warming up for our friends’ record release party, and that one actually led to a third one as well, still coming up, but let’s not jump ahead. 😉
After the first two gigs things started to happen more easily. We organized an event by ourselves at Ravintola Torvi in Lahti with a couple of bands of our friends, and we were also asked to play at Bar Bäkkäri in Helsinki. Things were now looking really good, after having live practice, and even an international multi-genre band competition didn’t feel that intimidating any more. But now it was really a good time to get that new drummer. There had been all the time something bubbling under, but we had decided we couldn’t continue much longer with a temporary drummer, not to even talk about going to a studio. So we started to search for a drummer full steam, and finally in February after several other auditions we found Markus, whose tight stick work and feet-firmly-on-the-ground attitude convinced us that this was our guy!
However, we were already in a hurry. There was only one month to the first Emergenza gig, and for us, who are not full-time musicians, and having a new member in the band, that’s a pretty damn short time to get a convincing setlist together. But we decided to go for it. More important than success in a competition, which is kind of a strange approach for a metal band in the first place, we wanted to break Markus in for all the other gigs to come and for studio as well. Although we knew we were getting a drummer with a good work ethic, we managed to get the first 4-song setlist ready even surprisingly smoothly (Markus may disagree). But when it looks like things are going too smoothly, there are always some surprises coming. Markus had booked a holiday trip already before the audition, and by all odds, the date of our first Emergenza gig obviously landed right in the middle of his holiday. The rest of us already started to create a plan B, but for everybody’s surprise Markus showed some real dedication to his new band, and flew back to Helsinki in the middle of his ski holiday, just to play a 20-minute show at Bar Loose.
Honestly, we were not prepared to get to continue in the competition. This was supposed to be a one-time thing only. And after that, back to rehearse the rest of the songs. After contacting so many people, and many of them don’t even listen to metal, we managed to sell maybe 30 out of the 50 tickets given by the organizer, whereas some other bands appeared to have sold all their tickets a long time ago. Well maybe we did something right since we got almost twice as many votes compared to our sales. Getting to play at Finland’s semifinal taking place at the legendary Nosturi would be the best (and only?) prize we were going to get in this competition.
And it sure was! Having over 70 invited guests plus fans of the other bands watching the show, this was our largest audience so far, and knowing that there wouldn’t be that many chances like this one, we enjoyed every minute on stage! Technical arrangements were near perfection, and the atmosphere with such an enthusiastic crowd was something incredible. This was our prize! Or so we thought. From 40 bands playing at the semifinal Khiral was one of those 16 bands who got voted to the Finnish final. Now this was really something we hadn’t prepared for. We actually had another gig coming up only two days before the final. Earlier in spring we had also participated in the preliminary internet vote of Tuska-Torstai band competition, where the goal was to get to play at Tuska Open Air metal festival in Helsinki. For those who survived the initial voting, the deal was almost the same as with Emergenza: sell tickets to your gig in order to get votes. Cannibalization between all these gigs in the same town within a short time period was expected, and we didn’t get past the first round of Tuska-Torstai that also took place at Bar Loose. The victory of the Finnish Emergenza final went to a (even) better band. Congrats Local Masonic, you really deserved it! But all this was really worth the effort, and as mentioned before, for a small metal band there are not that many chances to play at big venues like Nosturi with such a professional staff and with a PA system that is not half broken. Thanks to all who were organizing Emergenza, all the bands we got to play with, and of course the incredible audience who are one of the biggest reasons to keep doing what we do!
Oh, almost forgot, about our second gig at Bar Rock Bear, which kind of led to another gig still coming up. There was this guy Santtu watching our show, probably never heard of us before. He wasn’t even drunk (or that’s what he said), so perhaps he liked our music or maybe he just went nuts. But after our show he happened to see a poll someone posted in a Facebook group of Finnish metal fans, asking “Which bands would you book to your own festival?”. The others mentioned big names like Metallica, Slayer etc… but Santtu’s answer contained four small bands and he actually decided to organize that “festival”. The event will take place at the very same Bar Rock Bear where he found us. Welcome! Let’s see if you’re going to experience the same magic as Santtu did.