Flow Festival 2014

8th - 10th August 2014

Without a doubt one of the most unique experiences in live music today.

As one of the most highly anticipated festivals in Europe this year, Finland’s Flow Festival has an extraordinary weight on its shoulders as it opens its gates on Friday. Described as an urban haven that delivers on its design and food as well as its music, the expectations are that it’s a refreshing and original festival; a true standout in the sea of options that Europe has to offer this year. Thankfully then, it’s immediately clear passing through the festival gates that this isn’t just any other festival - this is Flow, and it’s without a doubt one of the most unique experiences in live music today. Set in an old power plant in the centre of Helsinki, the site is raw, gritty and unlike anywhere you’ve ever seen live music before. The setting is immediately flooring, and when considering the plethora of amazing acts on offer over the weekend, it’s hard not to sport a massive grin when heading over to one of the many incredible food stalls or bars on offer.

While the setting is awe-inspiring, there isn’t a huge sense of scale at Flow. There is however a clear attention to detail: fairy lights can be found across every inch; local merchants are serving up a truly global menu and the music is expertly curated, even if there are a few iffy clashes along the way. Pusha T, Jessie Ware and Mos Def all provide entertaining moments throughout Friday’s shorter evening, but it's Darkside's midnight slot that really defines the day. Playing in a smoke-filled Lumia Blue Tent that’s low-lit and looming, the brooding duo of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington are mesmerising to watch despite there not being much to actually see due to the fog. As their moody, massive beats swell and burst, the entire tent is swept up in the pair’s hypnotic wizardry as everyone is elevated into a wondrous groove. It might be over thirty degrees in here, but that doesn’t stop the crowd from moving manically.

Saturday is absolutely sweltering, and it’s hard not to feel woozy inside the Black Tent’s tropical climate when How to Dress Well take to the stage after a morning of excellent Finnish acts (Siinai, Shivan Dragn and Mopo are ones to check out). Despite a few volume issues the set is soon in full swing, and Krell sways charismatically on stage, sending chills down otherwise boiling spines with ‘Face Again’ and the beautiful ‘Words I Don’t Remember’. The National go on to give a trademark show in their headline slot with a performance that’s far from disappointing, but is lacking in the usual energy and oomph that they’re known for. Jamie xx is on hand after to deliver late night electronic euphoria, and that he does - not burned out from the Black Tent’s intense heat or The National’s solemn set, the crowd are ecstatic as he rips through singles ‘Far Nearer’ and the aptly titled ‘All Under One Roof Raving’. What one man and his laptop can do is just incredible to watch unfold.

Flow Festival 2014

Sunday beckons clashaggedon. Real Estate are bewildered as they walk out on to the Balloon 360 stage, which is essentially an amphitheatre situated underneath a giant balloon. “We’re going to try and get around to you all,” jokes bassist Alex Bleeker, as the band plod along through a pleasant set of mostly slow-burners that are more than suitable for the sun that’s returned just moments before. Running on over to the Lumia Blue Tent for the end of Blood Orange, things are in full swing - Dev’s grooving on stage in front of a full band during Uncle ACE, which is exciting to see, but it’s closer ‘Time Will Tell’ that really triumphs. His band’s performance is so tight and his performance so serene that it delivers serious goosebumps, and those who opted to stay rather than running to Jungle’s exotic Black Tent performance (and yes, bomber jackets were remarkably still on) were truly rewarded.

Röyksopp and Robyn confirm that Flow fans are all about the beats this weekend, as the Blue Tent is absolutely rammed by the time they come on to the stage. The lasers and lights are as amazing as they say, and for many indulging in their two-hour marathon was without a doubt the highlight of the weekend. Not even Outkast pull a bigger crowd, and while the Main Stage still fills out for their headline set, the majority of people are enjoying it from afar. Donning a weird white wig, André 3000 is right at home up there next to Big Boi, and the pair deliver a crowd-pleasing set that’s littered with the odd cult favourite or two.

The great thing about Flow is that it doesn't feel like you’re at a festival. You’re at an event - an event that feels exclusive, expertly organised and above all else, exciting. The festival world needs more sites like Flow’s unique power plant setting, but it also needs Flow’s excellent line-up, facilities (wi-fi points are situated around the site and toilets are easily accessible, always), food and hospitality. If Flow continue to provide this level of excellence, then they’ll become a powerhouse in no time, and the rest of the festival world should look up to the Finns as a case in point of a bloody good time.

(Photos: Flow Festival / Samuli Pentti, Tomi Kukkonen)

Tags: Robyn, Flow, Festivals, Reviews, Live Reviews

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