Since its humble beginnings as a club event in 2004, Helsinki’s Flow Festival has emerged as one of Europe’s premier boutique festivals.
Set in the environs of an old power station and across 11 stages, the line-up is stellar and the anticipation strong. Sometimes it gets to the point where a lot of European festival line-ups start to resemble each other and seem a bit uninspired. But Flow stands out in its selection of trop-drawer international artists as well as in its staunch commitment to established and emerging Finnish acts, many of whom we’re looking forward to checking out.
Friday’s picks include the inimitable Patti Smith and Lauryn Hill, Sigrid and Bonobo. Remember Bomfunk MC’s? ‘Freestyler’ got rinsed. Paperi T, teen Ibe and grime duo Töölön Ketterä will set out to prove there’s so much more to Finnish rap.
Peggy Gou and Young Marco open up the Resident Advisor Front Yard, but for something a bit more measured, there’s wistful folk-pop trio Karina. The Other Sound stage serves up minimalist legend Terry Ryley with son Gyan, and Paavoharju seem intriguing.
Saturday is equally good, with Arctic Monkeys, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Noname and Shame scattered across various stages. There’s Norwegian singer Anna of the North, who’s collaborated with Tyler, The Creator, and Helena Hauff, whose set will probably go pretty hard.
Lau Nau, a prolific exponent of melancholy psych-folk, plays a special set on the Balloon 360° Stage (yeah, a balloon!) backed by an ensemble and choir, while D.R.E.A.M.G.I.R.L.S. showcase some of Finland’s finest female MCs in the Lapin Kulta Red Arena.
Sunday brims with talent: Kendrick Lamar, St. Vincent, swedes Fever Ray and Lykke Li, Brockhampton, Moodymann, Jorja Smith… It’s no lie that Tangerine Dream are getting on a bit but they wrap up the Seat Black Tent with a rare set, and Kamasi Washington plays two sets on the back of the excellent ‘Heaven And Earth’ alongside appearances from Moses Sumney and Kevin Morby.
Forget skeevy burgers or pizza slices, at Flow there are over 40 restaurants and 20 bars and vegan options aplenty, often organic and locally-sourced, which go hand in hand with a site-wide commitment to sustainability. It’s actually one of the first carbon neutral festivals.
Oh, and there’s a pop-up cinema projecting international and Finnish films and a diverse art program with installations, street and video art.
Central Helsinki is not far away at all either, and with things not kicking off until the afternoon, there’s ample time to explore a very cool city.
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Flow Festival runs between August 10th - 12th.
Words: Wilf Skinner
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