There was a moment quite early in the program of this year’s FLOW FESTIVAL in Helsinki which was kind of symbolic for the diversified character of the event itself. We found ourselves roaming around the impressive area as we stumbled upon a rather strange performance at Voimala, an old factory hall. There’s a guy named Sami Karttunen in there, performing in front of a giant video screen. He goes by the artist name GRATEFUL DÄD and makes music via samples and children’s toys. Partly disturbing old World War footage is playing on the screens while he creates the soundtrack live via his machines. There are only 20 to 30 people in the audience and the number is quickly decreasing during this experimental performance; including us.
A challenging experience, definitely but it shows how exciting the Finnish open air event is. The diversity is the main credo of FLOW FESTIVAL. There’s room for everything right here in terms of musical genres; you just have to find it in the winding alley of the area with its numerous and partly quite tiny stages. Where else do you have rap artist PUSHA T and freshly reformed American post-rock heavyweights SLINT one after another on one stage? Or where else can you enjoy a screening of ‘techno cult movie’ Berlin Calling in the early afternoon and enjoy the main protagonist PAUL KALKBRENNER five hours later at an energetic rave performance? There’s room for everything, from a luxurious champagne bar to delicious food offerings. But mostly it’s of course about the music and the performances. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION tried to witness as much of it as possible. And here are the seven most memorable ones from last weekend.
Sin Cos Tan
Aggressive marketing sometimes might be the easiest solution. Just take Jori Hulkkonen for example. As his band SIN COS TAN started their performance on Sunday afternoon he entered the stage not just wearing an undeniably fancy white suite but also throwing the band‘s just released new album Blown Away into the audience. You might know by now that we from NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION really love that little masterpiece of tropical retro pop which got us even more excited on the duo’s performance. And they clearly did not disappoint, performing in front of colourful visuals and with a maximum of dedication; especially from singer Juho Paalosmaa. Let’s hope some of these CDs survived Hulkkonen’s throw and brought them a few new fans. They deserve it.
It’s been a rough year for Dev Hynes, you can’t deny that. In late 2013 he basically lost all of his belongings (including his beloved dog) during a fire in his apartment in New York, recently him and his girlfriend Samantha Urbani were assaulted by securities at the Lollapalooza festival… it’s actually no surprise that Hynes needed crutches to walk on stage for his FLOW FESTIVAL performance. Still you have to show respect to the will and positive spirit this man got! And without any doubt the BLOOD ORANGE performance from Sunday was a highlight of the event, a funkadelic soul explosion with a band that seemed to have a lot of fun playing the Blue tent stage. Hynes impersonated the long forgotten love child between Lionel Richie and CHIC’s Nile Rodgers and everybody of his gang seemed to be highly electrified as well. It’s always fun watching a band that enjoys itself in every second they’re playing; especially with an audience joining them in that feeling.
Hate it or love it. There might be not much space in-between these two extremes when you talk about Sonny Moore and his alter ego. You have to actually see it to maybe understand it and the effect it has, especially on people below – let’s say – the age of 25. SKRILLEX’ live show is a wild ride, a DJ-performance for the ‘ADHD generation.’ Moore presented an 80-minute-long ride through all sorts of genres (glitch, ‘bro-step’, EDM, Trap, pop, Drum’n’Bass, techno), played no track longer than two minutes, mixed it with lasers and surreal visuals that basically included all sorts of references and sick ideas you can think of, including memes, cats and the famous intro of The Lion King. SKRILLEX is Simba, the Blue Tent was his kingdom and all the hungry party animals came to praise their saviour. It’s pure entertainment and in the most possible form of exaggeration. And we really saw sceptical looks at the start that – by the end of the show – desperately waited for the next bass drop. Even Grumpy Cat would have approved that.
Life is not always about happiness, excess and joyful ‘hipsternes’. It’s a miserable struggle from time to time. Here to remind us was the personated fun killer himself, Mr. BILL CALLAHAN. The charismatic cynic performed – according to his statement during the show – for the first time ever in Finland. It was a hot afternoon in the even hotter blue tent but since it’s CALLAHAN you clearly couldn’t expect happy laidback summer tunes. The former SMOG singer unfolded melancholic desperation at its best. He did not only sing the blues, he was the blues! Just take the 9-minute-long epic One Fine Morning as an example. What a ride into the heart of darkness and a friendly reminder of life’s disgust right in the middle of an event that was supposed to work as the exact opposite. That’s punk rock!
The 360° Balloon Stage at FLOW FESTIVAL clearly was an impressive highlight of all the great stages on the area. Selected artists performed surrounded by the audience to create a very special flair. NENEH CHERRY was already quite impressive on the Saturday evening but the real queen of the stage was Channy Leaneagh and her band POLIÇA who started their performance at midnight right after THE NATIONAL finished theirs over at the mainstage. The group’s distinctive groove, combined with Leaneaghs eclectic voice worked perfectly in the venue that was constantly drenched in colourful lights. Especially the pumping songs of last year’s second LP Shulamith really came to life in such an environment. A beautiful excuse to skip the all-hyped JAMIE XX-set in the black tent and finish the second day of the event.
Drenched in a wall of fog and light NICOLAS JAAR and his buddy Dave Harrington were the best possible choice to sing a bunch of lullabies at the end of the first night. The music of DARKSIDE marks the perfect combination for that occasion. JAAR’s soulful singing and piano play alone are already a strong argument. But then came Harrington, playing his guitar like a rock legend. It feels a bit like Mark Knopfler or Chris Rea decided to suddenly record a techno album. The two gentlemen harmonize in the most peculiar way, unfolding a dark and soulful alternative to a lot of other dance acts these days. Terrific teamplay.
Attending a show by South African trash rap duo DIE ANTWOORD always feels like the constant questioning of yourself, the things you are seeing and the state of society in general. What the f*’** is this? What am I doing here? Is this even music? Why are people enjoying this? And why the hell am I enjoying it? When Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er plus their DJ Hi-Tek are entering the stage logic has to leave the place and your primary instincts take over. Beats are pumping just as hard and fast as in the 90s as the two rappers provide lightspeed-like raps. Well, and their special appearance clearly helps to shape this image a bit more. A DIE ANTWOORD show always feels like a kick in the stomach. But sometimes that’s what it needs. These crazy guys were the perfect choice as a closing act for a highly enjoyable and diversified event. Kiitos, FLOW FESTIVAL!