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Outkast / Janelle Monae / Blood Orange
Earlier this month, we sent longtime BrooklynVegan contributor Dominick Mastrangelo to the three-day 2014 Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland. Here's his report and photos from Day 3...
The final day of Flow began with a lunchtime party for those of us in the press corps, hosted by Radio Helsinki at their offices a short walk away from the festival grounds. The party was co-hosted by Nordic Playlist and Music Finland. (Nordic Playlist offers weekly curated playlists by artists and tastemakers covering Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. Here are a couple of playlists including the Flow playlist by Flow Festival artistic director, Tuomas Kallio.) There was easy conversation over fish hot dogs and sparkling white wine, as people recounted afterparty adventures, shared highlights of the festival and tipped their selections for Day 3.
It was another pristine summer day in Helsinki and things kicked off a littler earlier with the catchy/swooning pop of Iisa, lead singer of Finnish band Regina, over at the Main Stage. Then it was on to Finnish electro-pop duo Sin Cos Tan, comprised of Jori Hulkkonen and Juho Paalosmaa (whose voice is a dead ringer for the Cure's Robert Smith), at the Black Tent.
After a little bit of downtime, I headed over to the Blue Tent for Blood Orange. Dev Hynes hobbled out on a crutch, his left knee secured in a black brace following the alleged assault on him and girlfriend, Samantha Urbani, at Lollapalooza the weekend before. Hynes apologized for not being as mobile as he usually is before the band started their set.
I stuck around for a few minutes before dashing over to catch a little bit of the UK's Jungle in the Black Tent. But my time there was short as well because I didn't want to miss any of Janelle Monáe on the Main Stage. I approached the photo pit just as a straight jacket-clad Monáe was being delivered via dolly front and center. This was the soul singer's second time at Flow - she graced the Blue Tent back in 2011 - but it was my first time seeing her and I was won over in the first couple minutes. Monáe is the consummate performer and her energy was so damn infectious. She tireless worked the stage, the crowd, danced with her band, who were all effortlessly cool. If she had been the headliner on the Main Stage instead of OutKast, I'm not sure anyone would have minded.
With Janelle Monáe looking on André 3000 and Big Boi came out to a bass so thumping loud for "B.O.B." my shirt was fluttering from my body. Except for a clever/not clever refrain of "What the Helllllllsinki," that grew tiresome between almost every song, their set was one big party. They rolled through hits like "Ms. Jackson," "Roses" and "The Way You Move." Girls were called for and duly took the stage to dance along to "Hey Ya!" which was always going to be the highlight of the set. Was anybody not singing or dancing? If so, I didn't see them.
I stuck around for a couple more songs and then made my way to the Black Tent for my final band of the festival - Slowdive. I just saw the English shoegazers at Pitchfork Festival a few weeks ago, but seeing them inside the tent at night (where there was more of a club show vibe) as opposed to the piercing late-afternoon Chicago sun, made it seem more epic. And indeed, as the band crescendoed through the five-minute outro of Golden Hair with lights flashing all over the stage and out into the crowd to cap a brilliant set, I couldn't think of a better way to end the festival.
In the end, there were a little over 57,000 people who attended the three days of Flow and it's easily the best outdoor music festival I've attended. There's really nothing like it in the States. From the setting, to the city, to the curation and social responsibility... And I didn't even talk about how chill pretty much most of the festival attendees were. No douchebaggery and drunkenness was at a minimum. And except for my frustration at people talking during Bill Callahan's set on Saturday, the crowds were entirely warm, enthusiastic and respectful. If we could get just one festival like Flow over here I'd be there in a heartbeat. As it is, I'll just have to wait another year to return to Helsinki.