The twelfth edition of Flow Festival took place all over the weekend August 14th-16th in the heart of Helsinki. This urban festival draws music, art and sustainable life style together in a hipster former factory area close to the city centre.
Attracting 23,000 people on Friday and Saturday mainly due to the great line-up featuring acts such as The War on Drugs, Major Lazer, and Pet Shop Boys. Even though there were big expectations for the first two days, it was Sunday which broke records with tickets selling out. Festivval goers clearly wanted to enjoy the big acts such as Tove Lo, Beck, Alt-J, and Florence + The Machine. In total, over 70,000 attendants were delighted by their favourite acts during the three days. So many, the festival wasn't prepared at all for that amount of spectators, they had to let a lot of them out of the tents because of overcrowding.
However, the music wasn’t the only one draw, this event also offered the chance to get eco-friendly. The audience were encouraged to use the bike to travel, and throughout the site really nice and sustainable food, and obvious recycling points were some of the main ideas that gave an alternative personality to this music event.
Before the music started I'd decided that having lunch at home was not such a good plan, a much better one was to try some of the nice options of offer. It was a worthwhile plan due to the healthy offerings not just on the body but also on the wallet. Two tasty combinations for vegans and non-veggie followers were served under the theme 'Pariisi' at Richard McCormick's truck. A delicious and generous portion of hot smoked rainbow trout with new potatoes and parsnip crisps on the side was one of the best options in the whole arena. The optional vegan meal surprisingly used chickpeas flour with spices called Veef that would definitely mislead some palates.
Full stomach and happily plugged ears to conserve my hearing, I was ready to enjoy the music at Black Tent on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Starting with the Finnish duo LCMDF who soon had livened up the spectators not only playing their hits but playing also with the decoration of the stage. At the same time French Films were putting on a great show at the Blue Tent, and the Fenno-ugro (Sami) folk band Akkajee were performing their new wave of fresh traditional music which sees a viola, a nyckelharpa and vocals merge at the Art Laboratory stage. There was an eye catching object in the dark room with Cheeks, one of the sculptures in the art exhibition by Emma Jääskeläinen. Consisting of an elegant composition of a pink bum that visualized the music effect: the cheeks were moving with the applause with the indirect message 'shake your body' - tasteful!
The young American Shamir was getting the whole crowd dancing with his music hooks especially with 'Call It Off', one of the tracks from his debut album Ratchet. Keeping the high level of engergy up was the French band Forever Pavot who played the Bright Balloon 360º stage. This circular and small arena had a big balloon on the stage, it felt like a very intimate concert where their music suited perfectly. They were like a puzzle: delivering different pieces of music that all matched together. They produce likeable mystic and energetic melodies, and had their listeners moving rhythmically to their flow.
The singer and actress Roisin Murphy gave a tremendous display with all her props and costumes: censured glasses, masks, Chinese hat, etc. Even if you didn't like her music, it's not all about the melodies, she delivers a complete show as well.
The Other Sound Stage, also known as Voimala, was the alternative stage for the electro music lovers. A dark room with video support on the back screen and holograms flying between head and ceiling, the stage offered a different experience offering a varied selection from the melancholic sound produced by Mika Vainio or the danceable beats by Filastine & Nova, just some of the distinct acts of the day it showcased.
Closing the evening at the Bright Balloon 360º was the electro chaabi band Islam Chipsy, who had the audience's feet stamping as they leapt up and down trying to follow the crazy rhythms of the musicians.
Hangover in the morning? The best option before the first concerts was to eat the 'Hangover meal' by New York Ninja: big beef burger with noodles, and my favourite dessert: coconut milk ice cream with berries and mint chocolate cake on the top at Follow that Truck.
As I said earlier, it seemed that the big draw of some of the bands programmed for Sunday was a big logistical problem for the festival organisers. Kakkmaddafakka were just one of the groups which overcrowd the Bright Balloon 360º tiny arena. Whilst it was a cute little venue big enough for some non-well-known bands it was not big enough for the Norwegian act. Crushes aside they astonished everybody singing 'Bailando' in a good Spanish intonation.
During the Emma Salokoski gig on the Main Stage, there was an experimental art performance by ReAct! – Actions who kept the crowd on the move with their festival Action named 'Crowd Control' a simple idea. Five people wearing fluorescence safety T-shirts with cones and cords were organising and collecting people to make them move and improvise. It was really funny to see how some of them, while chatting or drinking, reacted when the performers were encircling them with the ropes. Suddenly they were part of an unexpected show.
At the same time Flying Lotus met the audiences high expectations whilst wearing his orange sunglasses with his videos on the screen in the darkness. Tove Lo blew the roof off the Black Tent. But again there were too many spectators for 'The saddest girl in Sweden'. Queues of more than ten metres with one in one out for a chance to sneak in and be able to see this acclaimed artist.
The last and, of course, not the least performer was Florence + The Machine on the Main Stage. She was just herself on the scene: barefoot, wild and natural, she interacted with the crowd, standing up close to their hands and touching them or at one time just centimetres from the audience's mouths. Full of pure energy, she made a lot of girls stand on their friends or lovers' shoulders during her song 'Raise It Up'. The hit of the weekend, she was spontaneous, dancing like a flying bird, and she was intense. She went with the flow and she was the flow. During their set this band won over the crowd completely, perhaps they should have been renamed as"Flow-rence and the Machine" - what a night!
Even though I had to miss some concerts because of the over-crowding problems, it was one of the most laid back and enjoyable festivals I have ever been to. An incredible hipster environment full of good vibes that involved you in a friendly atmosphere since that first step into it's home in the factory area. In Suvilahti one weekend every year it seems that the utopia of a sustainable world is possible.
I'm already looking forward to the next year.
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plus Flume, London Grammar, Vince Staples, Angel Olsen, and Jenny Hval