On my birthday, July 1st, I bought two-day tickets to Flow Festival 2015 as a gift for myself. I had never been to Flow before, even though I’d wanted to go for the past few years already: in 2012 mainly because of Bon Iver and in 2013 mainly because of Of Monsters And Men. Both years I ended up being lazy and didn’t get around to actually arranging it. And last year I was traveling at the time, plus the lineup didn’t look irresistible either.
This year, the main reason I really, really wanted to experience this festival was Florence + The Machine. But I’ll get to that in time. Let’s go back a bit: to the moment I arrived at the defunct power plant area of Suvilahti on Saturday. So here’s the coolest festival in Finland from the point of view of a first-timer:
Festival dawns when the sun sets.
Arriving at the site, my first feeling was that of being overwhelmed, as the place seemed to be positively vast. Since I hadn’t been to Suvilahti before, I really didn’t have any concept of what was where and where to go. Before I found my friends I ended up going into the first tent I saw: the Black Tent. There, the Finnish duo LCMDF was playing their set, and I stayed for a while since they seemed to have a good vibe going on. I’d never heard their music before, but I liked their energy and their upbeat, catchy choruses. However, after some time I had to leave, as I felt I needed to find my friends and eat something first.
Fast forward a bit: after locating my entourage, we went for a stroll in the festival area and checked out the food stalls. I ended up buying myself a bowl of beef pho from Lie Mi; I’d wanted to try pho for quite a time, so now was a good chance. The pho was quite disappointing, however, as it was impossibly hard to eat with the clumsy disposable cutlery they provided. In addition, it just wasn’t all that good. I haven’t yet given up hope on pho, though: I’m sure I’ll find the good stuff someday. But when it comes to the stellar culinary reputation of Flow, my first impression wasn’t that brilliant.
We also ended up buying health bomb smoothies from PUR Raakabaari; I got the berry one and it was delicious. And, well, I got myself a small package from the Ben&Jerry’s stall as well. Anyone who knows me knows I always have to have ice cream.
The first full gig I saw was Regina on the main stage. We actually ended up on the front row somehow, even though none of us are crazy fans or anything of the sort. I’d never even heard their music (I listen to a pitiful amount of Finnish artists). The show was really chill, though. I enjoyed their music, which had a certain combination of coolness and intensity about it. This was their only gig this year so it was pretty special and, I imagine, a pleasant experience for everyone present.
After Regina, we ventured out from the main stage area, only to come back when Belle and Sebastian started. The big-numbered British band played a quite cheerful set, and the most fun part was when they invited huge numbers of festival-goers from the crowd to join them on stage. It was quite the dance party, and I’m sure those people will remember it for a long time. All in all, I remember Belle and Sebastian as a band who made great contact with their audience, and seemed like fun people in general.
Electric enhancement of a puzzling psychedelic experience.
The last act I saw on Saturday was Róisín Murphy (I didn’t stay for Pet Shop Boys). Once again, we managed to be in the front. Murphy was definitely the most puzzling, psychedelic experience of the weekend. I enjoyed her crazy outfits and her no-compromise music. I loved her confidence; she described one of her outfits as looking like a vagina, and, without hesitation, exclaimed before one song: “This one’s already a fucking classic!” (except that when she said it with her delightful Irish accent, it sounded like “focking”).
Sunday dawned quite as sunny and warm as Saturday had been. I took my time leaving home for Suvilahti and, thus, missed my favorite Finnish artist, Mirel Wagner. Fortunately it wasn’t a huge blow as I’d already seen her live before.
I once again arrived at the site feeling hungry, so the first thing I did was buy myself some food; this time I was adamant to try Farang as it, too, was something I’d wanted to try for a long time. And Farang didn’t disappoint: it was simply put the best food I had at Flow. I chose Pok Pok Farang (crispy pork with palm sugar caramel & green mango salad) and it was super-delicious. All the flavors were on point.
After quickly devouring Pok Pok Farang, we hurried to the main stage area in order to secure good spots for Beck’s set. It wasn’t Beck we were so anxious to be in front for: we wanted to secure front row spots for Florence + The Machine. That included playing it safe and going to the area early for Beck and then sticking to our places. We weren’t displeased to have good spots for Beck either; he’s Beck, after all. So we managed to get second row for his gig, and the people in front of us were some friends who would leave after that to give us the front row places for Florence.
Beck was good. I hadn’t listened to his music for a long time, but I found myself really enjoying both his more up-tempo songs and the calmer ones. His show was simple, back to basics type: no crazy outfits or backup dancers or weird instruments or any types of stunts (the craziest thing he did was secure the stage with a crime scene tape at the end). And I think his simple style worked: it gave the crowd the joyful freedom of just jumping and singing along to the songs. Everyone had a blast.
As I mentioned, we’d already placed ourselves conveniently so that we would have front row spots for Florence + The Machine, and after Beck’s set we promptly claimed them. Unfortunately we initially had a bit of a schism with some girls who came out of nowhere, and insisted on pushing me from the side as hard as they could to either knock us out of our place or to get a more central spot. Either way, after almost exhausting myself in my silent battle against the “forces” (silent, because they at first refused to reply when I addressed them), we made a truce slightly before the gig was about to start. Thankfully were all able to enjoy the show without disruption.
Florence + The Machine
And then to Florence + The Machine: after being a huge fan ever since their first album came out, I finally saw them live. And it was euphoric. The set list was excellent (it could have been longer, of course, but I understand they were quite strict about the time slots at Flow). Florence + The Machine absolutely set off the whole crowd, which was the biggest of the weekend. I’d never been in the front row for a concert as big before, and when I look at pictures and videos taken from far away in the back of the crowd, I still find it hard to believe we were so lucky.
The grand voice of Florence Welch is unlike the voice of any other contemporary act, and it burst out as magnificently as ever. She danced around the stage barefoot, gracefully and clearly full of genuine joy that was wildly contagious. On more than one occasion, she hopped off stage to either high five the audience or to go and sing in the midst of the crowd. Everything she did on stage (or off) was done with distinct ease and glee. I found myself completely immersed in the happiness of it all, singing (or bellowing) along to every word, jumping, dancing, head banging. (I later joked that the crazy Latino fan inside me was definitely set off). (Please come to Brazil)
My music digging had been a bit on the background for a while, but experiencing Florence definitely reminded me of why we love music: because when we lose ourselves in it, it’s the best thing in the world.
So after facing the upsetting fact that she wouldn’t come back and play infinitely, we went for a late night snack at the Kimchi House stall: I chose Korean Fried Chicken with egg noodles, because doesn’t that sound like excellent comfort food? It was quite messy to eat, but the taste was like it should, and so, with my stomach full of Korean goodness and my mind full of Florence, I bade farewell to Flow Festival 2015.
This article is dedicated to the memory of my uncle Jukka Huttunen (1955-2015), who always sought to make the world a happier place.