Baltic Rock

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The cellphone is the cigarette lighter of the new millenium. I discovered this at an outdoor pop concert in Tallinn back in September. The event was staged by local phone company Tele2. They gathered an army of popular Estonian bands to play all night for thousands of teens who danced and screamed and waved their mobiles in the air.

I felt hoplessly out of touch with my ancient Nokia that spontaneously switches itself off. These kids sported latest models with glowing keypads, turning the crowd into a sea of twinkling neon. The show was compered by a guy with a giant mohawk and outrageous manner. I asked Kristi who he was – she shrugged and said sagely, “It is very easy to be famous in Estonia”.

Kristi translated proceedings for us. Mohawk Man was urging everyone to download a certain tune as part of an attempt at the world record for simultaneously playing a ringtone. I’m not sure if the Guinness Book people knew about this record, but Tele2 market executives must have cackled with glee when thousands of kiddies obediently tapped at their keypads. Right before the last act, Mohawk Man did a dramatic countdown. 3 – 2 – 1… doo doo doo doo!

The air filled with the tinny, hollow sound of digitised Estonian pop. It was all rather naff and disappointing for a world record, but the kiddies cheered anyway and thrust their phones to the sky.

Of all the things we saw in Estonia, that night most strongly illustrated how rapidly the country has changed. The show was held at the Sound Grounds, where in 1988 over 300,000 Estonians gathered to sing national songs in what is now known as the Singing Revolution. It was a huge outpouring of national identity and solidarity. Fifteen years on, Estonia has its independence and this hoarde of teens were as pimpled and lipsticked and mini-skirted as their Western kin. They would have been babies when everyone sang banned songs and flew national flags in defiance of the Soviets.

Having spent our Saturday morning picking wild mushrooms and wandering through country manors, it was surreal to end things with an evening of ROCK. Rhi and I were the only ones in the crowd unable to sing along with every word of Smilers, a “supercharismatic Finnish-Estonian rockband established in 1992”. We also got to see the band who almost got to represent Estonia at the last Eurovision Song Contest!

In glaring contrast to the chirpy pop was Led R, the Estonian Led Zeppelin covers band. They had the appropriate pomp but looked more like high school maths teachers. The cameraman parked himself right under the lead singers crotch, but the trousers weren’t quite tight enough and he looked more hungry for a cup of tea and a biscuit rather than a hot young babe to take backstage. When Robert Plant goes Oh yeah, ah huh in the middle of Black Dog, it’s so primal one feels like humping the furniture, but this version was like the distracted Oh yeah… ah huh.. you mumble to your mother during a phone call.

It was fun to hear those classic tracks with fireworks blasting in the background. But it saddened me how the kiddies didn’t respond. Except for a dedicated pocket of headbangers to the right of the stage, the crowd was eerily still. The mad mobile twinkle faded to an occasion bleep in the darkness.

A gaggle of girls in front of us sipped their beverages and stared at the stage with bewildered frowns. Some were furiously texting, probably the Estonian equivalent of either “Mum pls come pick me up now” or “What is this shit?” to their friend standing 50 centimetres away.

It’s one thing to worry about Estonian teenagers and their understanding of the history of Estonia, but perhaps it’s time we started worrying about the teenagers OF THE WORLD and if they’re ever going to understand the history OF ROCK? There’s a whole generation being raised on Busted and Brittney who will be terrified and confused if ever confronted by the sound of a guitar or a relentless rhythm section. Education is essential! Maybe we should lobby the United Nations.

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About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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18 thoughts on “Baltic Rock

  1. I like these ones that give us glimpses into the parts of the world that we don’t normally hear about. I guess perhaps I should only speak for myself in my American bubble, but yeah.

    Good one though.

    (not to discount the other ones, they’re also good)

  2. Good call Shauny!

    I think generally we Australians have a heightened love of rock when compared to the rest of the world. Maybe it is just that we can spot a wanker at a hundred paces and so many of the new breed fit that description???

  3. I, too, was concerned when my 16 year old sister was listening to crappy pop music. But then, suddenly, she downloaded WinMX and the stars all aligned themselves. She’s now listening to Cheap Trick and The Cure.

    Okay, so it’s not Ozzy, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, or Pink Floyd – but it’s a start! Maybe I will get her Sgt. Peppers for Christmas, eh?

    How fondly I remember the summer I was introduced to Led Zeppelin…

  4. *hitches up the black jeans, fluffs up the poodle-permed mullet and throws the horns skyward*


  5. Bring it on! Poor kiddies, I remember when The Teardrop Explodes and Joy Division were in the charts…(descends into thirty something nostalgic but ever so slightly incoherent rambling)


  6. Aussies do love rock – it’s bred into us. Rock On Jets!

    Ahhh, I fondly remember screaming & jumping my arse off to the good old Hoodoo Guru’s at age 15 (my v first concert – under aged of course!)

  7. “…in 1998 over 300,000 Estonians gathered to sing national songs in what is now known as the Singing Revolution. It was a huge outpouring of national identity and solidarity. Fifteen years on, Estonia has its independence…”

    Wow, that was a quick 15 years! 😉

  8. How fondly I remember the summer I was introduced to Led Zeppelin…

    How fondly I have forgotten the Summer I was introduced to Led Zeppelin . . . mainly due to short-term memory loss.

  9. PCoT:

    “I felt hoplessly out of touch with my ancient Nokia that spontaneously switch itself off. ”

    Switched, switches?

    I’m out country at the moment too. Munchins snapping a “rock” festival with their camera phones.
    And goddamn, what I’d give for good ol’ ozzie rockness.

    kuddos for the “fluffs up the poodle-permed mullet ” post. Delicious.

    And Graham – hear, hear.

  10. Mad props to “Black Dog,” relentless is a good word for LZ’s attack. One quibble–the lyrics you linked to are so wrong. No way does he sing “a big-legged woman ain’t got no soul”–it’s “people, that woman ain’t got no soul,” as any true believer knows.

    I’m cruising the archives, digging your rock n roll and other posts–thanks for the smiles.

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