Saturday was a big one for Helsinki’s Flow Festival, not only featuring an exceptionally strong line-up of both locals and internationals, but also putting the infrastructure to the test as a brief but powerful storm swept across the city in the evening and caused a bit of chaos.
Finnish locals MC Taakibörsta held it down at the Lapin Kulta Red Arena early on in the day, while instrumental trio VIRTA took to the Bright Balloon 360 Stage and The Holy rocked the Zalando Black Tent. Out of these three Finnish acts it was The Holy that proved most impressive, building their incredibly loud, busy and atmospheric dance-rock for the band’s lead vocalist to cut through with a breezy, Springstreen-like voice. Having two drummers on two enormous kits can often clutter up an ambitious rock band, but for The Holy everything seemed to work in perfect harmony; controlled chaos that was exciting, expressive and made for one of the best performances so far in this three-day festival.
The main stage opened with an ambitious performance from awarded Finnish producer Pykäri, whose performance drew much of its strength from the Ahjo Ensemble, a choir of well over 20 singers dressed in all-white, full of different voices that would help build the little details that ended up making these hard-hitting, often rave-like pop productions really take off. An ever-rotating roster of guest vocalists joined the producer and choir on stage one-by-one, usually staying for one song and then making way for another. It was a fascinating structure, Pykäri highlighting works of his upcoming debut album.
The next act to take the main stage was punchy Detroit rapper Danny Brown, although the eccentric emcee hadn’t even got through his intro – Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” – before Saturday’s predicted storm rolled through and picked up rapidly, causing everyone not undercover to scatter immediately, running against ferocious winds to whatever safe haven they could. Brown’s set faded against the brief storm, which left even the tented stages temporarily disabled.
The most affected was the Bright Balloon stage, where all subsequent performances for the day were cancelled. Though perhaps the most painful was the loss of Sampha, scheduled to take to the Lapin Kulta Red Arena about half an hour after the storm had died down, sadly not enough time to clear the tent for safety.
Luckily for Goldfrapp fans, the main stage was opened back up just in time for the English duo, who put on one of the weekend’s best international performances with a non-stop barrage of hard-rocking synth stunners from the well known “Strict Machine” and classic “Train” to newbies like “Ocean”. Alison stood dressed in all red, flanked by two backup singers, each wielding a keytar which they’d use to enhance Will’s stadium-worthy productions. If Flow Festival was going to come back swinging after recovering from the nasty storm, this was the way to do it.
Finnish pop star Alma picked the Lapin Kulta Red Arena back up with her anticipated live show. It’s clear locals are very proud of what is Finland’s current #1 commercial music export, cheering as the young singer-songwriter would dominate the stage in front of a colourful illuminated backdrop. Big tracks like Felix Jaehn’s “Bonfire” and this year’s infectious “Chasing Highs” were obvious anthems for the festival, setting the stage for the equally animated textures Aussie hero Flume would bring to the same stage come midnight.
After headliners The xx brought their impressive production to the main stage, Saturday’s party-minded atmosphere really kicked in at the stroke of midnight. The difficult decision between Flume and Death Grips was made a bit easier given that the two tents were right next to each other, though most seemed to choose Australia’s boy-wonder over the heady industrial chaos of Sacramento’s most elusive and mythologised band. Whatever the choice was, both acts were explosive in very different ways, capping Flow’s second day off in the best way possible.
Flow Festival’s third and final day starts now, with headliner Frank Ocean set to take the main stage while others include Angel Olsen, Astrid Swan, Ryan Adams, Vince Staples, FAKA, Vesta, and The Afghan Wings. Follow us on Instagram at @theaureview for all the action.
Feature Image: Flow Festival / Konstantin Kondrukhov