A review of Flow Festival. Or rather 10 things we learnt about Flow 2012.
1. Essentially all music festivals, wherever they are in the world are the same; but they’re also different.
Every music festival is formed by the same basic ingredients. Some music, usually played on stages, with some amenities which will usually include toilets, food and drink. These things are a given. But it’s everything else about a festival that makes it unique. Flow (which takes place in Helsinki, Finland) is pretty much unrivaled in its site location. Set in the grounds of an abandoned and derelict power station, its surrounding of harsh concrete and industrial metal form the setting to what appears like the coolest rave in a post-apocalyptic funfair. We hope the pictures give you a flavour of Flow, but there are also some great pictures on the festivals website which you can access using the link above.
2. Finnish people are clean and smell nice – even at festivals.
They really are. But maybe this is because this is a non-camping festival and everybody goes home afterwards and has a good shower or bath. However this noticeable trait of good personal hygiene also applied to the festival site which was quite simply the most litter free festival we have ever been to. There’s a lot to be said for the 1 Euro deposit on each drink purchased with plenty of refund points and bins all around the site. Even Brooklyn hipster buzz band Friends commented on the lack of dirtiness during their early evening set in the Black Tent.
3. Good festivals don’t rely solely on headliners or big names.
If they did then Flow would have been in trouble. With both Bobby Womack and Frank Ocean pulling out and Lykke Li performing her bittersweet songs with a tired, weary, wrist-slashing heaviness that didn’t suit a Friday night headline slot it was left to the somewhat smaller acts such as Ane Brun, Koralleven, Chromatics and Burning Hearts to provide some of the unexpected highlights of the weekend, although in contradiction the absolute highlight was from a headliner. Bjork’s closing set, which included incredible versions of Crystalline (streaming below) and Declare Independence (video from audience at Flow below) with a crazy female choir, pyrotechnics, lightning machine and powerful computerised beats left us feeling elated and almost overwhelmed with its equal measures of beauty and power. Bjork’s mixture of machines and nature also perfectly fitted with the environs of the space age party site which seemed to come alive at night, lit with a tasteful lighting scheme that relied on simplicity over special effects.
4. Finnish people look after their ears.
We’ve never seen so many people in a concert crowd wearing safety ear plugs.
5. There are parts of the world where dubstep still doesn’t exist.
We didn’t hear it once all weekend at Flow. Although we did hear some Turkish easy listening tunes. It was probably more enjoyable.
6. Festivals are not all about freedom.
Certain areas of the site were designated no alcohol areas, including the front section of the crowd at the main stage. This lead to the site having a regimented barrier system in place, making punters seem like sheep being herded from one pen to another. It did however have the advantage of stopping people pushing through the crowds with drinks whilst their friends reserved them a spot in front of the stage – a common occurrence at UK festivals. However it was a case of think before you drink because you couldn’t necessarily just wander wherever you wanted once you had a can of beer / cider in your hand.
7. The chances of needing wellies at Flow Festival were zero.
Although the weather stayed dry and mainly pleasantly sunny all weekend the tarmac and concrete ground covering meant that mud wasn’t an issue even it it did rain, although organisers were trying their hardest for the authentic mud feel and had imported turfs to particular areas of the site to soften it visually a little.
8. Flow doesn’t concern itself too much with staircase safety.
It’s not often you’ll read a review of a music festival that talks about the rise and goings of staircases or markings for the visually impaired on steps but we noticed that compared with our health and safety conscious UK laws these things were often missing at Flow. We spotted staircases where some risers were different heights to others on temporary structures (and watched a number of people trip because of it), goings that were uneven and inside various tents single or two steps down between levels that didn’t have their nosings marked in contrasting colours. In the darkness and with a little bit of festival drunkedness it was therefore very easy not to spot these steps and end up with a fall. Breaking More Waves blog – getting to the core of staircase safety at festivals.
9. Miike Snow is pronounced Mika not Mike.
It’s probably just us but having heard hundreds of Finnish people pronounce it as such we have realised the error of our ways. If you were doing the same, now is the time to stop.
10. Sarah Cracknell is still a beautiful person in pop.
Dressed in a shiny silver dress with fake fur and feather boa Sarah Cracknell, lead singer of St Etienne is still a fantastic pop star. The bands blend of dancey, sometimes trashy, sometimes classy electropop may have bemused some of the harder edged Finnish music fans who were waiting for The Black Keys afterwards, but there were noticeable outbreaks of deliriously stupid dancing to the likes of Sylvie, Nothing Can Stop Us Now (where Sarah forgot the words) and Only Love Can Break Your Heart.
Overall Flow Festival comes highly recommended for those who want a festival in a dramatic and unique location, with an eclectic and very cool line up, that find the idea of sleeping under canvas and the possibility of rain (and therefore mud) their worst nightmare. Just be careful on the staircases.
Bjork - Crystalline
Bjork - Declare Independence live @ Flow Festival 2012 Helsinki