Nina Persson, Jessie Ware & Fans @ Flow Fest (8/8/14)
The first day of Flow Festival began with a cruise around the Helsinki archipelago. The folks at Visit Helsinki invited press on an hour-long cruise that circled Suomenlinna (where I visited the day before) and stopped on Lonna Island, once home to a 19th Century Russian mine storage that was re-opened to the public in May.
From there it was on to Suvilahti, a power plant which closed nearly 40 years ago, which Flow Festival calls home. 'Flow Talks' were in progress when we arrived. I took some time to explore the grounds and get a lay of the land. The thing you quickly learn about Flow is that it's manageable. There's plenty to see and do but getting from one place to another is not as overwhelming (or impossible) as say Lollapalooza.
My festival began outright with three Finnish bands. I made a quick stop by the Main Stage to catch a bit of alternative rock band Risto before hustling over to the Blue Tent for the penultimate performance by Magenta Skycode. The Turku-based band is calling it a day and this was their final performance in Helsinki. For me, their blend of atmospheric, guitar-driven rock, and soaring vocals was the highlight of the day. Talking with Finns afterward, I learned there was a lot of nostalgia and a sense that they would be missed.
At the Other Sounds indoor stage was Finnish singer-songwriter, Joose Keskitalo. Keskitalo's easy set was a mix of hushed folk and old-timey songs and was a nice and marked contrast to both of the previous bands.
The Main Stage featured two solo singers back-to-back with The Cardigan's Nina Persson and UK pop chanteuse Jessie Ware. Between the two, Ware's performance was the better as she assuredly moved across the stage, engaging the gathering crowd. She also sprinkled her set with new songs from her forthcoming sophomore record.
I left Persson's set early to catch Slint who are back together after another hiatus. Their droning post-rock set was perfect for the dark environs of the Black Tent.
My festival night ended at Flow's most intriguing and beautiful stage - the Balloon 360-degree Stage. The crowd swayed in unison under the colorful glow of the giant ball to the hypnotic, guitar-inflected songs of Tuareg outfit, Tinariwen.
The night didn't end there though. A bunch of us ventured off to an afterparty behind Suvilhati right out by the water where a DIY sauna was located. DJs played a range of dance music deep into the night. Beer was sold out of a van, three cans for 10 euros. Some people sprawled out on the asphalt while others jumped into the water for a late-night swim after hitting up the sauna. As I left, the sun was coming up and the party was still going. But at least a few hours of sleep were needed if I wanted to be at all functional for Day 2.
Day 1 final thoughts:
One thing I noticed in my walkabout at the Main Stage were the no alcohol signs as you approach. If you want to drink, that's fine, just don't expect to get close to your favorite main stage artist. Alcohol is not allowed inside a roughly 50-yard perimeter. So, inside the alcohol-prohibited area you have plenty of space, especially toward the back to enjoy the show and not worry about people perilously holding three beers and two gin and tonics trying to maneuver their way through a packed crowd to friends at the front. I can't even begin to express how nice that is.
The other thing you notice is the trash on the festival grounds. Or I should say lack thereof. Reading about Flow prior to leaving for Helsinki I came across this stat: "In 2013 out of all the waste created at the festival 95% was recycled." 95%. That's mind-boggling.
And the grounds reflected it. As I moved among the crowd, I was genuinely startled if I stepped on a plastic cup or accidentally kicked an empty beer can because it was the exception and not the rule. The level of social responsibility at Flow far surpasses that of any festival in the United States. Or at least any U.S. festival I've attended.
Pictures from Day 1 continue below...