“Listen to your mother, kids. Aim low. Aim so low no one will even care if you succeed.” Marge Simpson was just down on her pretzels, but I was more or less headed to Helsinki expecting nothing and open to the very real possibility of having an above-average weekend.
As good an excuse as any to visit a summery Lapland, Flow Festival boasts a smattering of the hottest international acts performing at a disused power station dipping toes in the Baltic Sea. CHIC featuring Nile Rodgers is a highlight. The denizens of disco have mastered the art of the organised hand clap; it’s good, clean fun for legitimately old-school hits ‘Everybody Dance’ & 'I want your love'. Nile intros Daft Punk track ‘Get Lucky’ with a few words about his own cancer, explaining how he threw himself into making more new music because “If I die, I wanna die living!” Cue bass. This reviewer finds herself ushered on stage with a clutch of other revellers to finish the set grooving to ‘Good Times’. It’s a gimmick the band is known for but hey, for fifteen seconds of fame I play along.
There’s a no-drinks policy at the front of the main stage & it’s a winning strategy to eliminate a heap of tension. Still, the dancing is thirsty work & the Bulleit cocktail bar has its work cut out come nightfall. We quickly decide this is the best drink option going but at €12 a pop, it’s a one-time treat. Happy Joe's is Helsinki’s cider of choice, in abundance at Flow. Add cans of Lapin Kulta beer & the very retro Hartwall Original Long Drink & you’ve got yourselves a proper Scandi party.
Flow puts on a mean spread – when stomachs rumble, it’s real corn soft tacos, bright beef phở & Pok Pok Farang, crispy palm sugar caramel pork on limey green mango salad. It’s so good we go back for seconds. There’s more veggie & vegan options than meats, too. Did I mention you’ll be broke after this weekend? Major Lazer shuts down the Friday main stage sampling Yeah Yeah Yeahs along with everything else. It’s flippant & exciting, though I’m put off when the ladies in the crowd are counselled to take their shirts off & throw them in the air. New single ‘Powerful’ is just that; everyone leaves on a high.
Saturday brings even bigger, brighter skies. Anyone doing this city festival thing right is busy picnicking, lazing at the beach or otherwise celebrating Helsinki’s historic sights & the fact it’s again cracked 20 degrees. Belle + Sebastian give new track ‘Perfect Couples’ a run, joking over a false start: "It's because we're near the magnetic pole." I’m convinced most of Flow is Finnish, young & attractive. "Is anybody old enough to remember that one?" Singer Stuart Murdoch has also noticed the teens.
O Samuli A is making the titular ‘other sound’ over on that stage & it's impossible to get within 70 foot of Reino Nordin lighting up the fantastical Bright Balloon. Marsen Jules sounds a little churchy, dark too. Like, literally. I'm not wholly sure there's even anyone on the decks.
I'll jinx it now, but everyone at Flow is out for a good time. People are calm, casual. Years & Years pack out the Blue Tent. I’m not expecting Olly Alexander’s dungaree & Harley Davidson tee combo, or his cover of Blu Cantrell’s ‘Breathe’, but the whole vibe is perfectly chill & the set is one of Flow’s best. Catchy ‘King’ comes last, Alexander dancing as he sings with a rainbow flag borrowed from the crowd.
I’m star struck by Baltimore’s Future Islands, or really lead singer Samuel T. Herring. His vocals are reminisce of Pantera at moments but interpret that as feeling & any apprehension melts away. There’s a glittery drum kit & all the guys are in patterned shirts. Herring booty-shakes like Beyoncé, beats his chest like Tarzan & sweats like, well, like a man. In front of a slower song Herring explains, "We're not s'posed to do this at a festival but we don't give a fuck." You can imagine the cheers. When finally ‘Seasons’ plays to hard applause, his roar is returned. He skips across the stage, invisible bowling ball in hand. "Thank you so much Flow, you guys are fuckin' beautiful.” We must be.
We’re in denial about Sunday. Unlike camping festivals where you're itching for a shower, actual sleep & a decent pour of coffee to head the day, it's hard to tire of sleeping late, brunching out & a spot of vintage shopping or water sports before rolling along to spot some of the world's best musical talent. We've hit peak Helsinki when Todd Terje & The Olsens grace the Black Tent with their easy 70s spy-theme dulcets. There are shirts off everywhere for their efforts, people dancing hard in the evening heat. Delorean Dynamite is unmissable, then it's like their just jamming along with a wailing sax & big samba sounds.
The most impressive kind of mass-clap is one that starts itself, uninitiated by the band; a pure & unadulterated response of sound to sound. These guys get it, a second time when the crowd tries for an encore after Inspector Norse & a final bow. Beck draws one of Flow’s biggest crowds. "Somebody threw a banana peel on stage!" Indeed. I’m not a fan but it’s hard to fault the classics and ‘Where It's At’ is one of the 90s’ better earworms. Florence + the Machine’s namesake is a fan, a vision in white peasant blouse & heavy cream flares. She’s barefoot too, throwing loose locks here and there while beating her drum (tambourine) in Ship to Wreck. She twirls everywhere & I'm sure she's going to fall, but her balance is the greater force & somehow she avoids disaster.
I haven't seen Florence since 2010 after she missed Benicàssim with vocal strain. She gives it absolutely everything at all times. For ‘Raise It Up’ she shouts, "Put your girlfriend on your shoulders, put your boyfriend on your shoulders. We want everybody to get as high as they can!" ‘Shake It Out’ gives me goosebumps & I have them again when Alt-J close the weekend. Marmite of the music world, I never got the appeal before seeing these guys live. There’s huge love for the boys from Leeds, even if nobody understands what they’re singing.
Blissing out to the country/rock/folk/blues/jazz/grime/electro weirdness of it all, it’s clear people are enjoying in very different ways. There's a real range of reactions but everyone joins to applaud what is undeniably interesting music made with heart. The Finns aren't too cool to care about their hearing either. We saw earplugs on sale from day one & should really have sprung for a couple.
Flow is undoubtedly the blondest, tallest, tastiest festival yet in a seriously fun setting. Start saving now for the next one.
Additions to Flow Festival's lineup include US-based hip hop acts Tyler, The Creator and iLoveMakonnen, UK-based electro debutant Years & Years and US-based Future Brown. Flow will also feature fresh Swedish pop act Elliphant, established American DJ Diplo as well as Finnish artists Paperi T, Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS?, French Films, J. Karjalainen's Lännen-Jukka act, Manna and Regina.
Flow Festival adds several new acts to its lineup. Making its debut in Suvilahti in August 2015 is The Odd Future rapper and producer Tyler, the Creator, who is known for his provocative performances. iLoveMakonnen's Tuesday was one of last years biggest anthems, and expectations skyrocketed, when the promising young artist signed to Drake's label. Touted as one of his generation's primary hip hop acts, London-based trio Years & Years recently won the BBC Sound 2015 vote, which focuses on predicting the coming year's breakthrough acts. Each single so far has proven the band is capable of writing timeless pop hits infused with the day's quirky sounds, combining electro-pop to dance to, r'n'b and house. Super group Future Brown formed by Fatima Al Qadiri, J-Cush and Nguzunguzu has also recently made an impact with an exciting combination of hip hop and grime.
Singer and MC Elliphant is one of Sweden's most promising stars with her unique sound that is influenced by dancehall and bass music. Her breakthrough has been supported by top producers such as Dr. Luke and Diplo. The American DJ Diplo will also perform at 2015's Flow both as a member of Major Lazer and djing on his own.
Local acts have also been added to the lineup, such as Paperi T, who has gone solo from rap trio Ruger Hauer and become one of the countries most talked about debutants. Others included are Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS? who play nostalgic pop-rock, indie rock group French Films who are working on new material, Jukka Karjalainen who plays the only show of the year performing solo as Lännen-Jukka, and Finnish-Algerian singer-songwriter Manna, who takes the Flow stage with a band including strings. Gracing Suvilahti will also be Regina, playing at Flow a few months before the tenth anniversary of its Katso maisemaa debut album and about three years since its previous live show.
Other confirmed acts for the 2015 Flow Festival include e.g. Alt-J (UK), Beck (US), Belle and Sebastian (UK), Florence + The Machine (UK), Flying Lotus (US), Foxygen (US), Future Islands (US), Major Lazer (US), Run The Jewels (US), Todd Terje live (NO) and The War on Drugs (US). For additional information about all the artists: www.flowfestival.com/artists
Known for an eclecticism that spans both the local and international and showcases upcoming talent alongside major established artists, the first line-up announcement includes Florence + The Machine, fronted by the enigmatic Florence Welsh, whose grandiose vocals are arguably the greatest of this generation. The band is currently recording much-anticipated new album which follows 2011’s critically acclaimed ‘Ceremonials’.
Also announced today is Major Lazer, the dancehall electro project from American producer Diplo, while indie-rockers Alt-J, who received theprestigious Mercury Prize in 2012 with An Awesome Wave, will bring their playful, electro-influenced sound to Finland for the first time.
These first additions to the 2015 line-up also include Todd Terje, the Norwegian DJ, producer and songwriter who will perform his acclaimedlive set. Another taking the stage will be one of today's most respected producers of electronic music, Flying Lotus, aka Steven Ellison, nephew of legendary jazz musicians Alice and John Coltrane, who combines hip hop, IDM and jazz to create his own distinctive sound.
U.S. rappers El-P and Killer Mike, better known as Run the Jewels also join the Flow 2015 line-up, as do cult synth rockers Future Islands,whilst Foxygen – who also debut in Finland at Flow – will add their 1970s-style psychedelic rock to the mix.
The Helsinki-based event will provide a platform for performances from both international and local acts, with new additions including Swedish-born singer, songwriter and rapper Neneh Cherry, who will perform with the British instrumental duo RocketNumberNine.
Neneh Cherry and RocketNumberNine recently released a collaborative album entitled ‘Blank Project’, produced by prominent British producer Kieran Hebden aka Four Tet.
Other new international additions to the festival, which will be held from 8-10th August 2014, are energetic Norwegian indie-rockers Kakkmaddafakka along with electronic pop from feisty Danish newcomer Karen Marie Ørsted aka Mø.
Local Finnish acts added to the line-up include the instrumental rock group Siinai, who are about to release a highly anticipated album, producer and rapper DJ Kridlokk, plus rap collective Nyt Kolisee – live! performing their only gig of the summer. ‘Nyt Kolisee’ is a chart-topping album released this spring, where some of Finland's most talented rappers reinterpret popular Finnish singer-songwriter J. Karjalainen's album ‘Et ole yksin'.
Also stepping onto the Flow stage to perform will be Paleface, Hosni, Tommy Lindgren, Kevin Tandu, Toinen Kadunpoika, Juno, Heikki Kuula + Tuplaaja, Pyhimys, Paperi T, Solonen, Kosola, Kube, Keke Kesken, Chyde, Lempi-Joe, Stepa, Are, Roope K, Timo Pieni Huijaus, Janne Haavisto and Mamba.
These new additions will join confirmed acts such as OutKast, The National, Janelle Monáe, Die Antwoord, Paul Kalkbrenner, Slowdive and Bill Callahan, with more artist confirmations expected shortly.
One of the most successful hip hop groups of all time, OutKast, returns to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and is one of the over 30 artists included as the first additions to Flow Festival 2014. The 3-day tickets are available through Lippupalvelu and Ticketmaster from March 6th at 10am.
Flow Festival is organised again in Suvilahti, Helsinki on August 8–10 with a broad selection of the moment’s most interesting music. Besides the comeback gig of OutKast, the festival features dark indie rock from The National, hip hop from South Africa's controversial Die Antwoord and R&B soul artist Janelle Monáe.
Others coming to Suvilahti will be Darkside – the joint project of Nicolas Jaar and multi instrumentalist Dave Harrington – U.S.based Blood Orange that rose to prominence with last year’s Cupid Deluxe, and Charlie XCX who is rolling out one hit after another. This year's festival crowd will also witness the return of the shoegazers Slowdive, promising guitar-driven indie rock from Mac DeMarco, as well as Nina Persson, the former The Cardigans singer, who released her solo debut early this year, and singer-songwriter Bill Callahan with his warm baritone recently featured on his fourth album Dream River, picked as Mojo Magazine’s album of the year 2013.
Electronic music will be prominently featured with hugely popular German Paul Kalkbrenner and French act Kavinsky, as well as a frontline of Brits including Bonobo, Mercury Award nominee Jon Hopkins, James Holden and Jamie xx – of The xx fame – all joining Flow. There’ll be soulful electro from British duo Jungle, and Little Dragon from Sweden who will release its fourth studio album in May. Meanwhile, Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson andPusha T bring a quality dose of U.S. hip hop to Flow. African rhythms will be served up by Malian Saharablues outfit Tinariwen, Senegalese Mark Ernestus presents JeriJeri and Les Ambassadeurs, a Malian super group including Salif Keita, Amadou & Mariam’s Amadou Bagayoko, andCheick Tidiane Seck.
Local acts at Flow include Iisa, Death Hawks, Risto, Noah Kin, Jaakko Eino Kalevi, Eurocrack and Sound & Fury. Tuomo will perform his only Helsinki gig of the summer at Flow, while Magenta Skycode plays its only gig in Finland all year.
Legendary rap group Public Enemy will perform at Flow Festival on the Sunday 11th of August. Cody ChesnuTT is added to Saturday's lineup. Azealia Banks cancels her gig due to illness.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest albums in the history of hiphop: It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back by Public Enemy. 10-year-old Flow Festival celebrates also this, and the group will take the stage at Suvilahti. Come witness the always polemic, the always unbeatable, the one and only Public Enemy.
With his songs full of delicate but raw soulfulness and tradition-laden r&b guitarmanship, Cody ChesnuTT has become a stand out artist among modern singer-songwriters. With the timeless quality of his music and lately sold out shows, he seems to finally be gathering the appreciation he was always destined for.
Azealia Banks, initially set to perform at Flow Festival in Helsinki on the Saturday 10th of August, cancels all her August performances due to serious throat infection.
The tenth Flow Festival will be held 7–11 August 2013 in Suvilahti, Helsinki.