photos by Dominick Mastrangelo
The National / How to Dress Well / the scene
Earlier this month, we sent longtime BrooklynVegan contributor Dominick Mastrangelo to the 2014 Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland. Here's his report and photos from Day 2...
Flow Festival Day 2 ended up leaning heavily toward American bands. It wasn't planned, but with The Horrors canceling a couple days earlier and some scheduling conflicts, it's just how it played out. And not that it was necessarily a bad thing. There's definitely something cool and pleasantly disjointing about seeing bands you've seen stateside in a time zone seven hours away.
But the day did start out with two really solid Finnish bands back to back: The electro-pop of Shivan Dragn and prog-rock instrumentalists - and Spencer Krug collaborators - Siinai.
With a bit of time to kill I venture to the Main Stage to see Les Ambassadeurs led by Salif Keita. The catchy Afro-pop of the ensemble provided an enjoyable, uplifting respite before a run of bands in quick succession.
I caught a brief bit of How To Dress Well. My first time seeing Tom Krell since Pitchfork in 2011 and I was struck by how intense his live set had become. A much more assured and visceral performance than before -- eschewing the string quartet he had with him at Pitchfork in favor of a more straightforward live performance.
From there it was over to the Blue Tent for Bill Callahan, one of the artists I was truly jazzed about seeing in Helsinki. Callahan always seems to come across as the coolest guy in the room and as great as his set was, I was disappointed that much of the crowd chose to talk during his set. (Apparently, this is not a problem exclusive to concerts and festivals in the States.) But I maneuvered to a spot close up where the attention was more rapt and mesmerized by Callahan's smooth bass-baritone and stayed for the entire set; the first band whose set I stayed from start to finish.
I managed to catch a few songs of Danish pop-songstress, MØ at the Black Tent. It was a high-energy set and Karen Ørsted was dressed appropriately in boxing trunks and black tank top, bouncing from stage to speakers and whipping the crowd into a frenzy as us photographers in the pit worked hard to keep up with her.
After a bit of a break, I ventured over to the Balloon 360 stage to see Marissa Nadler. The stage-in-the-round setup, where the sound seemingly comes from everywhere, was perfect for Nadler's haunting, airy songs. It was simply beautiful.
The Main Stage was the next stop for The National. I'd mentioned earlier how wonderfully disjointing it was to see bands across the pond and maybe the The National were more so than any of the American-based bands I saw on the weekend. My first National show was seeing them open for John Vanderslice at a tiny rock club in Denton, TX nearly ten years ago. I've seen them at various points since on their upward trajectory so it was only fitting that I see them headline a festival in Europe. From Denton to Helsinki in a decade.
I finished off my night back at the Balloon Stage for Poliça. Drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu faced each other and singer Channy Leaneagh and bassist Chris Bierden took up opposing spots with producer Ryan Olson on the edge of the stage running production. It was hypnotic as the glow of the balloon and hazy LED lights provided dreamy ambiance for rhythmic drum beats and the effects-laden voice of Leaneagh. With Jamie xx performing in the Black Tent and French electronic mastermind Kavinsky in the Blue Tent at the same time as Poliça it was impossible to be everywhere, so I opted to stay outside under the cozy environs of the balloon.
The evening continued at a techno club where we drank cider and beer and danced to generally undanceable songs before spilling out into the brisk Helsinki night and heading to another summer-specific after party out at the water. There young locals were hanging out drinking and chatting in a mashup of languages: Finnish, German, French, English... Some opted for an early morning swim, stripping down and flinging themselves off the dock into the chill. Some drifting way, way out into the dark.
As I rolled up to my hotel in the early morning hours of Sunday, with the sky brightening in the east, I got that feeling you get when you're having an absolute blast somewhere that you don't call home.
I didn't want to leave.
Shiv and Dragn
How to Dress Well