Affectionately referred to as the “Daughter of the Baltic”, Helsinki is located on a low peninsula having been founded by Swedish invaders in 1550. Since its independence in 1917, Helsinki has quickly become a top tourist destination heralded for its cutting-edge design and sustainability. . The country’s rugged landscape, climate and historical struggles have helped forge a distinct Finnish culture, illuminating ideals of a progressive, intelligent and resourceful individual who can find a way through difficult circumstances. This concept is known as sisu, which refers to courage, endurance and perseverance. It is a philosophy reflected in stream festival – whose desire to reinvent itself knows no bounds, positioning it as one of Europe’s flagship festivals.
The capital’s enduring spirit and progressive residents have made it the perfect setting for a festival for several years. The event takes place in a former power station in Suvilahti and its industrial environment in the immediate vicinity of downtown Helsinki, hosting national and international artists. The sold-out festival brought together a record 90,000 spectators to enjoy the unique atmosphere during the three-day festival which hosted artists such as Gorillaz, Jamie xx and Bikini Kill.
Music aside, the festival has made it its mission this year to deliver a truly eco-conscious festival – aiming to be one of the first carbon-neutral festivals in the world. The festival offers a sustainable endorsement, giving artists the opportunity to play their part with sustainable ground transportation and single-use plastic bottles.
Amid an effervescent crowd, impeccable arrangements and political anthems, Afro-fusionist Burna Boy sets the festival on fire with “Rock Your Body,” from his groundbreaking 2018 album, “Outside.” The show is just outrageous, we all live in its world and are totally okay with that.
Meanwhile, Princess Nokia graces the main stage with one of the festival’s most dazzling performances. His first show in Finland cemented his reputation as one of the most outspoken, unique and important voices in hip-hop. The Clash Cover star’s luggage was lost at the airport, so she dons a makeshift outfit, while wearing it in true icon style.
Festival-goers gravitated en masse to see Gorillaz headlining the opening night of the festival, marking their first show in Finland. They delivered a daring set that showcased their burgeoning discography that propels you into their mind-bending universe.
Party-goers are treated to an exothermic concoction of funky numbers, pop futurism and art rock that showcase Sean Ryder’s long-term collaborations at Schoolboy Q. Robert Smith, then moments later hear him sing. lead vocals with slowthai on “Momentary Bliss.”
The set ends with De La Soul’s Kelvin Mercer teasing us on “Feel Good Inc.” Wielding chaos in the palm of his hand, he preaches words of self-gratitude to an adoring crowd, now totally transfixed – “repeat the following – I feel strong, I feel confident, I feel good!” The latest piece written to stir the hearts of vandals and poets does just that as the crowd is sent into a frenzied dervish. Gorillaz is a band in the sonic elixir of music’s past, present and future. It’s what makes them such a ubiquitous band in British music culture and beyond.
JARV IS… delivered an overly forgiving set, which begs for a Pulp reunion. His indistinguishable bocal bocal voice with smashing riffs leaves even the most diehard fans bored. The first half of his set is received like a sonic stink bomb, forcing half the crowd to evacuate. However, he persists quite comfortably with a wild smile and a knowing nod to the irony of it all.
In the back of a viral boiler room, it feels weird not seeing Fred again… play on the main stage, but as the Red Arena fills up, it quickly becomes apparent that this is the perfect setting for one last dance. Fred, who describes his music as “Actual Life”, delivers a set that speaks to nostalgia, loneliness and what comes next. Before playing Marea (we lost the dance), he tells the crowd that it was written during the worst times of the pandemic, where during a phone call with the Blessed Virgin, she reassured him that this what will follow will be truly magnificent. He then looks up at the crowd and says “that’s what comes next”. What follows is transcendental rave bliss that showcases his other tracks – From Kyle (I Found You) to Baxter (They’re My Friends), he’s gone through different phases of his life, absorbing those experiences and reworking them into his music. in dealing with it.
A twenty-minute walk from the Flow Festival, we go to the state-of-the-art Erkko Hall, the hall’s 700-seat ascending auditorium which hosts the piece Tree of Codes – a collaboration between choreographer Wayne McGregor, artist Olafur Eliasson , and Jamie xx.
The performance was an hour of chiming perfection, which documented the pain, love and fragility of the human condition laid bare. Jamie’s emotionally charged soundscape is one of disaster, merging perfectly with the dancer’s movements. It’s a soundtrack imbued with emotion, it’s euphoric but mournful, cascading thundering crescendos before reaching nimble moments of near-silence where you could hear a pin drop.
The highlight of the festival came courtesy of Erika De Locker who performed on the Balloon 360° stage of the Flow Festival. The seating area surrounding the striking round stage allows the audience to immerse themselves in the music in a unique way, which couldn’t suit Casier’s style better.
De Casier’s breathy voice is imbued with a heavy, retro reverb. The crowd gradually lights up bit by bit with the audience waving their lighters, de Casier’s stage presence increasing with each bit. de Casier finally drops the crowd pleaser “Little Bit” to an adoring crowd, all now rocking in unison. breathless vocals are drenched in a reverb-heavy retro affair that sends listeners to heavenly heights.
The festival ends with a walk in a public sauna – in every sense of the word – it was built by a group of volunteers during the pandemic. You might initially hesitate upon entering – there are no staff, showers, service, or storage. But, show trust and you’ll be rewarded with a sense of community and a truly unique experience.
Festivals so often tempt us to run away from reality, Flow Festival does just the opposite; it challenges us to embrace our surroundings, meet new people and tell everyone about it from home. I have never felt so welcome at a festival.
Words: Josh Crow
The Flow Festival is back in 2023, August 11-13. Learn more about https://www.flowfestival.com/en/