MixGrill had the pleasure to attend Flow Festival 2014, that took place from the 8th until the 10th of August. In this article we reported daily from Helsinki with our first photos from the festival. You can find more complete photo albums in our facebook page:
- First day, Friday, August 8
- Second day, Saturday, August 9
- Third day, Sunday, August 10
The summary of the first day of the festival
Friday, August 8
- Our complete photo album: First day, Friday, August 8
We have attended many festivals and concerts, especially the last years, but the feeling that we got from Flow even at this very first day is something different. It was a matter of debate for quite a long time, until we decided that the best way to sum up Flow Festival is "cool and cozy" as described by the Guardian. This phrase captures exactly the feeling that was in the air since the beginning. Indeed it is more than a simple music festival, a modern Technopolis, literally, where various arts find shelter and with a diverse audience, perhaps peculiar in some cases, but with apparent artistic taste. A melting pot of brainstorming, we could say, under the influence basically of music and less of substances.
The afternoon started with the Finnish folk pop Joose Keskitalo at the "Other Side". We listened to a couple of songs and then we moved to explore the area. Nina Persson kept us for more time at the main stage. The singer of Cardigans presented her first solo album ("Animal Heart") which was released earlier this year. We continued with Sweden at the Ballon 360° Stage, which was exactly what its name implies: a circular amphitheatric stage with a balloon on top of the scene that gets pretty lights after sunset. Jenny Wilson proved to be at best indifferently eccentric, propagandizing her last year's album "Demand the Impossible!".
Soon we searched for good positions at the main stage for Jessie Ware with an intense curiosity for the first major concert of the festival. The British singer started with "Running", but continued exclusively with material from her upcoming album. It was the second time that she presented it live and she had an apparent anxiety about the public response. The (many) fans would anyway show their love in this second appearance in the Finnish capital. Even the less skilled, however, entertained and danced with the sounds of the new songs. "Tough Love" (the song from the homonymous album expected in October) with the subdued melody was perhaps the weakest moment of the concert. Jessie told us that she is living her last few weeks of freedom, as she is getting married in less than two weeks. She showed us with pride even her ring! We listened nine of the eleven songs of "Tough Love". The show ended with the song which made her a star. A great show by a very sweet and cheerful singer.
When the last notes of "Wildest Moments" completed, exactly at 22:00, we started our race towards the Blue Tent for Bonobo. He had begun "Cirrus" when we approached the stage and the pulse was already soaring. Bonobo was in great shape, proving once again his talent, but his whole band was also flawless. The audience really enjoyed the show until the last minute with nonstop dancing and cheering. For us the concert was a great success, as we left once again with the usual trophy. So, for the setlist, we refer to the picture. Bravo, Bonobo, well done!
We watched from a distance Mos Def who started afterwards on the Main Stage. A lot of sweat and miles on the stage. Good rap, for god’s sake! Without gold chains and other knickknacks... Just before the end he put "What's Going On" of Marvin Gaye. In between Mos Def was rapping wondering about what happens in the world, with special reference to Israel and Ukraine. "War is not the answer", he replied to some of the concerns he raised.
The last concert of the evening was that of DARKSIDE and we found ourselves back in the Blue Tent. Loud bass to feel in the heart, a lot of smoke on stage with minimal lighting so that we barely could distinguish the figures of Jaar and Harrington. Frankly "Psychic" was not exactly our thing. Live it was somewhat better, for sure. Finns seemed to appreciate the concert in every case.
The summary of the second day of the festival
Saturday, August 9
- Our complete photo album: Second day, Saturday, August 9
The second day of the festival left us with bittersweet feelings. On the one hand the beautiful musical moments and the other the first doubts about what until then seemed to be organizational excellence. But let's start from the beginning. Our Saturday program began at half past five, when we approached the tents so that we can get a bit of both How To Dress Well and Bill Callahan. Unfortunately, their appearances overlapped, at the Black and the Blue Tent respectively. The heat inside the tents was really unbearable. The crowd seemed already considerably more than the previous day, but failed in both cases to connect with the musicians.
How To Dress Well was, or better, were loud and tried to touch the people that filled the Black Tent, making the already unbearable atmosphere even more suffocating. Tom Krell was passionate at the microphone, while the rest of the band performed flawlessly. Among the few songs that we heard was of course the much-loved "Repeat Pleasure", from this year's album "What Is This Heart?".
Afterwards we moved among the crowd to the Blue Tent for Bill Callahan. With an album that belonged to our last year’s favorites it was definite that we had to see him live, even for a while. Distant and cold on stage, he made futile attempts to sweeten a bit and gain the audience. However, the first four songs with the unbearable heat were enough to make us bored and we left without even hearing the beloved " ohhhhhhh Javelin". The truth is that we expected something like this and, therefore, we were not disappointed.
Both these acts raised questions. What is the point to arrange concerts so early -based on the actual weather conditions- and test the nerves and the tolerance of the audience? It seems absurd, especially since the festival ended at just one o’clock after midnight.
Our next stop was the Main Stage for our first Finnish concert, where Scandinavian Music Group presented this year's album entitled " Terminal 2". Light pop that despite the weak stage presence did touch many people. We were not impressed.
After half an hour we were again back in the Black Tent where, in an atmosphere much more humane than a couple of hours earlier, appeared Mø. The eccentric Danish singer rocked the crowd with her dynamic presence and adrenaline rush. We were wondering about her stamina! Here occured the first real connection of an artist with the audience. The popularity that seemed to enjoy Mø justified the programming at this stage, because till then it seemed unbalanced, at least to us. The performance began as electronic rap and evolved into rather electronic pop, certainly getting better as time passed. But we had to leave soon to catch some good places at the Main Stage for...
Manic Street Preachers. What a worship! It would certainly be one of the concerts to be remembered for a lifetime. And indeed it was. Despite the delayed start (probably due to Neneh Cherry playing in the adjacent Balloon 360°) and the technical problems that made James Dean Bradfield change his microphone and restart "Everything Must Go". Although it is apparent that Manics have grown older. Despite a stupid guy from the crowd that managed to throw an empty beer can (by the way, drinking was prohibited at the front part of the arena) which landed at Bradfield’s feet, who replied with a "You fuckin 'missed". Although they performed the beloved "If You Tolerate This" almost in slow motion.
It was clearly a show to gain the audience. And I suppose that they succeeded it. They performed their greatest hits, whether they are pop anthems such as "Your love alone" and "Show Me The Wonder", hymns of whole generations such as "Motorcycle Emptiness" and "Suicide Is Painless", or songs widely beloved among fans such as "A Design For Life" and "Revol". Before the last one Nicky Wire described Richard Edwards as the greatest writer he has ever known in his life.
From the setlist below (our usual trophy!) we did not listen "Ocean Spray".
The summary of the concert can be "Futurology" from this year's masterpiece self-titled album. They never went away. They are still here and seem able to offer for several more years academic music to those who still love guitars.
The National were undoubtedly the big name of the evening. Not only because of the time of the concert, but also due to the arena, full of patient fans. The organizers said 20,000 visitors attended the concerts and it was not strange considering the sequence Manic Street Preachers and The National. The experience of the two previous concerts of The National that we have attended was the clue to enjoy the concert relaxed, without the suspense and the anxiety that we had the previous times. The band, on the other hand, showed their good face, with magnificent guitar solos. Matt was surprisingly calm, drinking only a bit, throwing just once the microphone and making his standard (as the audience waited for it) but short walk through the crowd.
In 60 minutes they politely said goodbye and disappeared from the scene WITHOUT encore. Unbelievable! And we thought that only Germans were obsessed with the program. Eventually, Finns might be even worse. They left us in the turbulence of “Terrible Love” without allowing a remedy with “Pink Rabbits” or “Vandelyne”. We cheered and stared at the stage for quite a lot, but in vain. This time we left the trophy to others. We shouldn’t be greedy!
1. Do not Swallow The Cap
2. I Should Live In Salt
3. Bloodbuzz Ohio
4. Sea Of Love
5. Afraid Of Everyone
6. Squalor Victoria
7. I Need My Girl
8. This Is The Last Time
12. Fake Empire
13. Mr. November
14. Terrible Love
The summary of the third and last day of the festival
Sunday, August 10
- Our complete photo album: Third day, Sunday, August 10
On Sunday we arrived earlier than the previous days, not only because the concerts would be completed sooner, but also because we wanted to see what kind of children's activities Flow had organized for its younger visitors. DJs were taking care of the music program, while fairies were making soap bubbles of various sizes. We even thought to chase some of those that escaped from the kids who were chasing like crazy.
The first concert that we partially attended was that of Real Estate. The Balloon 360° Stage was overcrowded long before its start, which was not a surprise since this year’s album seems to be a success in Finland. At 17:30 four ducks came on stage with long forelocks and sunglasses, preventing thus us from seeing the facial features. Just one was differentiated. The audience warmly welcomed the mushy indie pop they generously offered, keeping pulse high until we moved to the Black Tent for Jungle.
Jungle was a love at first listen. The band came out with the first notes of the instrumental "Smoking Pixels" and the dance started. T (Tom) and J (Josh) on decks, the one with his Adidas T-shirt and the other with his leather jacket with shoulder pads (don’t ask who is who, because we don’t have an answer!), the singer who is accompanying them on vocals, a drummer and a bassist. When you're at the first row of a concert, you live in your own world. And this is good and bad. Bad because we cannot tell you about the response of the audience, besides the applause at the end of songs. Good, because nobody could affect, positively or negatively, the experience.
Jungle played almost entire their homonymous album (neglecting only "Crumbler" and "Lemonade Lake") in the perfect sequence for a concert. Three powerful songs in the beginning, the expected faintness in the middle (especially during "Drops", which fortunately became more intense with the lights and the shouts of J or D, the one with the jacket anyway, to the crowd) and a magnificent close with the dynamites of the album. Judging by the reactions of the other groupies around us, "Time" and "Busy Earnin'" competed for the highlight of the concert. In the end we tried to get another trophy, but in vain as there was no setlist. Consulting our notes, the setlist was the following:
1. Smoking Pixels
2. The Heat
3. Lucky I Got What I Want
5. Son of a Gun
9. Busy Earnin'
In the meantime, Janelle Monáe started back on the Main Stage. The truth is that not only we had not heard of Janelle, but did not even know what to expect. We saw people waiting patiently for the beginning of the concert. And they were shocked by the young vivid tornado. She was bouncing to the beat ceaselessly into her white costume, surrounded by seven more band members. Her music of contemporary dance R & B became the ultimate opening for Outkast that would follow later. With a cover of "I Feel Good" she clearly stated her influences. The clue is that she convinced us to listen to the recordings.
Shortly before the end of sweet Janelle, we headed for the Blue Tent for Röyksopp & Robyn, who were most probably the main act not only of the day but also of the festival. They played a total of two hours (!!) and were not stopping. The temperature inside the tent might even reached 40° and the atmosphere was so bad that sometimes it was difficult to breathe. The program was strict: 40' Röyksopp, 40' Robyn and 40' Do It Again 2014, and we could shoot photos only from the last part. The first part of the concert with Röyksopp was enjoyable, despite the difficult conditions. The fans were singing and dancing constantly. "Remind Me" was the highlight and it was followed by "What Else Is Out There?" that was the first appearance of Susanne Sundfør.
The two Röyksopp left, the other musicians remained on stage and Robyn took over. Beginning with "Be Mine!" and ecstasy. It might was due to the atmosphere, but we lost contact after that point. It could also be the (rather boring) presence of the Swedish singer. One, two, three, four songs more. Run out of patience we gave up and abandoned the tent. Therefore, we lost Do It Again, but at least we were able to recollect ourselves.
Back at the Main Stage, people were gathering for Outkast, a historic chapter of rap music. Impressive beginning with "Bombs over Baghdad" followed by "Gasoline Dreams" and "ATLiens". Big Boi in his… snow outfit and the necessary gold chain around the neck and André 3000 in a black uniform with the phrase "narcissistic americans" printed on the chest and the tag "sold out". With them on stage, the DJ, the bassist and two vocalists. They carried out a great program of about 20 songs, lasting nearly two hours, including the super hits "Rosa Parks", "Ms. Jackson" and "Hey Ya!".
During Outkast’s performance we had the opportunity to attend perhaps the finest moment of the festival in a half-empty Black Tent where Mac DeMarco was serving his Salad Days. We just listened to a song, the last one to be accurate. A song that found DeMarco on the hands of the audience. Crowd surfing in a Finnish festival!! Unbelievable for the safety conditions that the organizers were trying to implement. How truly passionate, though! Especially in central and northern Europe, concerts are getting sterilized: no smoking indoors (and soon neither outdoors, as in the arena of the Main Stage of Flow), drinking is prohibited (as ... in the arena of the Main Stage of Flow), climbing onto someone's shoulders is prohibited, lighting a lighter is prohibited, raising banners is prohibited (all banned ... in the arena of the Main Stage of Flow) and many others to come, always for safety reasons. We do not pretend that everything is holy and beautiful. The organization is good, safety for the musicians and the audience is even better, but there is also something called emotion. And this emotion filled us when we saw young DeMarco surrendering to his audience in the middle of the last track and remaining on their hands until the end, drifting left and right.
This was the end. Last meal in Flow, last beer with the sounds of the DJs We Love Helsinki with “Euphoria” and “Boom kah”, and farewell. It was a great musical weekend. It started impressively, continued with concerns and closed at the Champagne Lounge. Always accompanied by beautiful music, surrounded by a very decent audience that wanted to have a good time and knew how to succeed it without becoming troublesome.
We want to thank Martino, Pirjo and Ilia, for the company and for facilitating the best possible coverage of the festival by our part.
From Helsinki and Düsseldorf for Mixgrill, that’s all for the moment!