Helsinki Ice Hall does not sound like a rock club. But the Black Box brings there a new rock club concept. Black Box offers large-scale live shows in an intimate space bursting with energy of maximum 3 000 people. Black acoustic curtains are used to surround the floor space and turn the Ice Hall into a rock club. The concept was greeted also by Finnish rock band Stam1na, who sold out their gig in one single day in 2018.
Helsinki Ice Hall (Helsingin Jäähalli) is a place where you normally watch fierce games of ice hockey. But it is also a concert venue for music-hungry fans. Since the 1960’s the place has hosted numerous rock concerts and the list of performers is stunning: The Who, Frank Sinatra, Black Sabbath, KISS, Dio, Dire Straits, W.A.S.P., David Bowie, Slayer…
Couple years ago the Ice Hall introduced a new concept. In addition to massive-size gigs the Black Box -theme can now change the place into a club, but it can still maintain the world class framework. Amongst international bands many first-rate Finnish artists, like Amorphis, Children of Bodom and Stam1na, have experienced the success of the new concept. The atmosphere of the gigs has been extremely good, tells Kimmo Oinonen, the event manager of Helsingin Jäähalli.
I think the idea came when Live Nation events promoter Scott Lavender brought it abroad. Then it was just adjusted to this place.
Adjustment means that the floor space inside the Ice Hall is encircled with black acoustic curtains. This leaves only one floor for the audience and the gigs are sold as ‘standing room only’. The audience enters the arena from one side and the stage is on the other side. Black Box differs from maze-like bars with the fact, that there are no obstacles for viewing the concert. Wheelchair access and platforms are also included. There is an area where you can buy and enjoy beverages while having a good visibility to the stage. Yet there is no age limit to the concerts.
The bar is on the same side where the people come in. if you want to go near to the stage you have to walk through the bar. Even if you are under 18, you can stay in the bar area. But if you want to buy or drink alcohol, you need to prove your age.
Oinonen believes that the superiority compared to other clubs comes from the facilities. Black Box is a club venue, combined with possibility of stadium-size concert PA system and lights.
It is so superior both visually and acoustically. If you really like live music, then Black Box is “an absolute must” in Helsinki. And nationwide too.
Stam1na sold out in one single day
Stam1na is one of Finnish first-rate bands that have played in Black Box’s sold-out concerts. When Antti Hyyrynen, the lead singer of Stam1na, was reviewing the concept for the very first time, he thought it was impressive.
As a member of rock band it looked right away so damn good. When I walked in, I immediately realized that this is the right way to carry out such a gig, Hyyrynen said.
While watching Anthrax playing in Black Box, Hyyrynen informed right away to the program office representative, that let’s make a deal. Although Stam1na has made many tours abroad and played in big venues, the band has never come across with similar concept before.
And the deal was made. Stam1na played in the Black Box on the 26th of May 2018. The gig was the 10th anniversary of the release of Raja album. The band, awarded with eight gold records and several other Finnish music award prizes, played the full album concert.
In the history of making our own music the greatest thing was that we played there the legendary song Get Stoned from the Stone together with the producer of Raja album, Janne Joutsenniemi, the Stone lead singer. And selling out a gig in one day looks good on the CV, Hyyrynen laughs.
Stam1na’s lead singer emphasizes the same things as Oinonen. The charm of Black Box is based on the simplicity: one big club floor filling up to 3,000 people, and there is no age limit.
The number of events is increasing
Kimmo Oinonen, who has worked as an event manager for four years, tells that the number of Ice Hall events is increasing. And the feedback has been very good. The shows attract also foreign crowd who travels to see their favorite bands. When Helloween’s gig was sold out, there were lots of inquiries abroad, that is there any chance to have another gig.
Last time we had Russian ska-punk band called Leningrad and it was sold out too. The concert was really atmospheric and the acoustics worked really well. Compared to the other gigs, in the crowd were only few Finns. The rest were either Russians who had traveled here or expatriate Russians living in Finland.
Oinonen, who has been working at the Helsinki Ice Hall for 25 years, is an eager concert fan. He goes for almost every Black Box gig, but likes to visit also smaller clubs and also one man and a guitar shows.
Yet the Helsinki Ice Hall has been the only right place for him, ever
I used to live close here in my childhood. Every time there was a band playing, I took my bike and rode here. I was 10-11 years and I came here behind the window to watch the soundcheck. And then I went to my mom and begged her to buy me a concert ticket, Oinonen recalls.
Information in Finnish: Helsingin Jäähalli website
Black Box in Finnish media: (Sorry, only in Finnish)
Photography: SHL-Sonja Lahtinen / Stam1na
Journalist / Storyteller