Live From Helsinki: Day Three At Flow Festival 2013

Godspeed, our Finnish friends...

Sunday is Clash’s last day in the small town of Flow. It really does feel like that: a small industrial town filled with twinkling lights and a myriad of musical surprises.

There’s a beautiful intimacy and idiosyncratic handmade vibe yet everything is impeccably well organised. Bands run on time, there are manageable queues; only 20,000 people attend per day, so there’s room to move easily from stage to stage. It’s a small revelation.

There’s more than just music on offer, of course. The ‘Film Garage’ screens shorts and documentaries for those requiring a cinematic break, and there’s plenty of other visual stimulus too: wall art by Otto Masa, Swedish graffiti legend Ikaroz’s show at the ‘Make Your Mark Gallery’, and the tolerance-promoting The Hate Destroyer. Even the food stalls are sophisticated, selling high-end fare, ranging from lobster to meat lollypops.

It’s surely a suitable start for any Sunday to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor, purveyors of pulsing, monumental post-rock. Ideally, after three days on our feet, Clash would rather watch them sitting down. It’s testament to their hypnotising allure that the concrete ache is for a time forgotten and the dark waves of their epic ‘song’ cycles take hold. Each great dark dirge builds and wraps the crowd in a cacophony of relentless, harmonious noise.

Literally everyone descends to the main stage to see Krafwerk, and it’s an incongruous but amusing sight, thousands of people milling around in the twilight wearing 3D glasses. They begin with ‘The Robots’ and play all the hoped-for hits. But in all honesty, watching four men stand behind synths, even in front of great retro graphics, feels a little too detached to be truly engaging in this festival setting. They’re undeniably flawless but emotionally underwhelming, and we’re left feeling a little sedate.  

So it’s a good job Goat have enough energy for everyone with a witchdoctor’s bagful to spare. Witnessing this Gothenburg-based band’s Scandi-voodoo psych is a seriously heady experience. Dressed in face hoods, masks, robes and ribbons, they perform like people possessed. Ancient folk ritual and Wickerman-type darkness is liberally conjured through synchronised female chanting over throbbing, funky afro-krautrock. They are absolutely intoxicating and end our Flow on a feverish high.

Every person Clash meets is pleased to have us there, invigorated that people from overseas are attending a festival in which only around 10% of the crowd aren’t from Finland. This is a local festival for local people showcasing great Helsinki bands and international acts side by side. In other words, it’s a diamond. Helsinki, it’s been beautiful.

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Find words on day one here.

Find words on day two here.

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Words: Anna Wilson

Photo: Paul Sethi

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