Sunday, 1st October 2016 – Erja Lyytinen, The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes
A Sunday night in October at The Stables in Wavendon, and there we were, yet again crammed into the Stage2 space waiting for something interesting! In this case, the act was Erja Lyytinen, a Finnish blues guitar player who, I confess, I had not heard of before sitting down to check through the upcoming events for our favourite venue. At £10.00 a ticket in advance this seemed worth taking a flyer on. I’m a great admire of blues-style guitar playing anyway, we have a long-standing and complicated relationship with the Finns which makes us quite keen on seeing what there is out there in the way of arts, and it was not exactly expensive. A meal in the cafe preceded the event and fortified with a bottle of wine we settled in.
There were a lot of guitars lined up along the back of the stage and I must admit it did seem a bit cramped up there, with a massed bank of keyboards jammed in at one side and a pretty large drum kit occupying a a big chunk of the other side. Before long there were three musicians ensconced around the edges of the stage, and our heroine took to the stage and started to play. It was electrifying if you are a blues fan. Erja has a rough-edged mezzo voice that powers its way through the songs, but it’s the guitar playing that really grabs you. Just as well actually as the sound was a bit muddy for the first half, various members of the band seemingly taking it in turns to gesture furiously at the unfortunate sound engineer Mikko Kiviniemi, stuck on an unfamiliar sound desk that seemed to be fighting him and winning.
They didn’t let it stop them and Erja kept right on playing regardless. It just would have been nice to have been able to understand the words she was singing. After the half way break things were much better and although the audience was doing its usual Milton Keynes thing of appearing to be dead (how they can sit stock still when music like this is being played is beyond me but they can and they prove it time and again).
It was a bit of a fight generally fitting into the very small stage area, and Antti Ikola on keyboards seemed to be struggling somewhat to switch between instruments without falling off the side, but he, Juha Verona (bass) and Kai Jokiaho (drums) provided solid backing, effectively pushing the music along while Erja played a variety of guitars, slide, steel, and “normal”, ending the set with quite the most gloriously filthy bluesy version of “Steamy Windows” imaginable, where she went walkabout in the auditorium with her slide guitar. It was a brilliant way to end a great gig, and no amount of sound problems could take away from just how much fun it was. Take a list to her new music video “Stolen Hearts” on YouTube, iTunes or Spotify and that will give you a good idea of whether this she’s your sort of musician or not. She’s definitely mine!