Helsinki House of Culture

Sunn O)))

Kulttuuritalo (Helsinki House of Culture) is possibly the most iconic concert venue in Helsinki today. It was designed by the legendary Finnish architect Alvar Aalto. Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Duke Ellington played there. Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Cream, too. When a relatively new band called Queen played in 1974, the room was half-empty. The list of past performers is long and very impressive. The last two shows I saw were Iron & Wine and Sunn O))) – very different performers, but both sounded great (Sunn O))) played at around 124 dB, Iron & Wine at considerably lower volumes).

Kultsa hosts other events as well. The Helsinki Tonefest, a guitar exhibition, for example. Right-wing troll Jordan Peterson visited once, I am told. This is significant, because the venue was erected 1955–1958 by the Communist Party of Finland. Lefties rarely shy away from debate and are pretty tolerant of opposing viewpoints, probably due to their ideas about dialectical materialism. Capitalism has changed a lot since the 1950s, and Kulttuuritalo’s website currently advertizes Ty Dolla $ign’s show. I do not know who they are, but I am sure fans will be delighted.

The decor is impressive. Like at a few other classic venues in Helsinki, it looks old-fashioned and I confess I was a little taken aback when I first saw it. It has that worn-out elegance that interiors and antiques acquire from years of careful maintenance and care. This is coupled with functionality that one often dissociates from old decor. For some reason, my view on this has changed only recently and I have come to see that functional things can be beautiful; or more specifically, that beautiful things can be functional. Add to this acoustics and a sound system that can withstand Sunn O))) and you have a true classic.

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