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Finnish metal bands beat Trump travel ban, but may have to cancel gigs

A guitarist of one of the groups said New York's nearly-empty JFK airport reminded him of a zombie movie.

Insomniumin jäsenet seisovat rivissä tummissa vaatteissaan mustavalkoisessa kuvassa taivas takanaan.
Promotional photo of Finnish death metal band Insomnium, who embarked on a N. American tour this week. Image: Insomnium

Finnish death metal bands Insomnium and Omnium Gatherum landed at New York’s JFK airport just about the same time that US President Donald Trump announced new restrictions on people arriving from Europe on Wednesday.

Insomnium guitarist Markus Vanhala said the US airport was eerily empty. The travel ban only goes into effect on Saturday, but many travellers' reservations had clearly been cancelled due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

“There was really no one at the airport. Usually JFK has a lot of people. It reminded me of zombie movies. Well, we got through the [passport] checks quickly, so that was a good thing,” Vanhala said.

However, as the two bands arrived for their 35-date tour across North America, there was more than a little uncertainty in the air, due to the knock-on effects of what the WHO has classified as a pandemic.

The two bands plan to travel to their shows on a tour bus. Vanhala said he and his companions will try to protect themselves from catching the virus by following well-known instructions to wash their hands.

“I brought my own hand sanitiser from Finland that we’ve used. We’re not considering using face masks,” Vanhala explained.

“Yesterday in New York we went to the big supermarket Walmart. Bottled water and hand disinfectant were sold out,” he said, adding that the Finnish rockers did manage to find one bottle of water.

Uncertainty looms amid pandemic

Following the North American tour, the two groups plan to return to Finland after about a month and a half and, as it’s currently planned, the month-long travel ban does seem like it would interfere with their plans.

However, questions remain about whether or not all of the tour's concerts will be able to go ahead. The bands are scheduled to play 500-1,000 seat venues, some of which are already sold out.

“We’re supposed to go play in Canada, too. The first gig we have there is next Sunday [in Montreal]. We don’t know how that will go,” the guitarist said.

Some event organisers in the US began calling off larger events this week due to the outbreak, which has, according to data from the American disease control agency CDC, so far infected more than 1,200 people across 43 US states.

At this point, Vanhala said the bands still don’t know whether they’ll be able to play their shows, adding that cancellations are possible.

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