Clash arrives in Helsinki during the perpetual dusk of a humid summer evening and ill advisedly heads out to get stuck into the local liquor, ‘Fisu’: vodka flavoured with Fisherman’s Friends. It tastes about as good as it sounds, but we feel fiercely committed to enjoying the bounty of this beautiful country. We are foolish.
Awakened to a brutal dawn of raging thirst and missed city tours, we manage to muster attendance to a garden party hosted by the charming guys from Full Steam, local label heroes and promoters. Inspiring industry chat complete, we travel the short distance to the site. Revealed is an industrial village, something akin to the studio areas in London’s Hackney Wick. Large, disused gas towers impose the site and create an instantly dramatic aesthetic for the festival.
First up on the Red Bull Stage is local dubstep DJ Desto. He’s clearly got skills but his dizzyingly dark beats are perhaps a tad heavy for so early in the evening. Everyone’s in such a summery mood that it’s only when Glaswegian Jackmaster brings his big, hearty house to the birch log clearing and the first breeze of the day blows in that the crowd begin to loosen and dance.
Whistles whetted, it’s off the main stage to catch Kendrick Lamar, West Coast rap sensation. The crowd here seems to know his latest album, 'Good Kid, M.A.A.D City', practically word for word, and he warmly acknowledges several times that Helsinki is one of his most fervent fan bases. It’s an upbeat set, a sea of hands and a whole lotta love in the air.
The truly eclectic nature of Flow is represented by walking just moments away to the experimental area ‘The Other Sound’ to witness French avante-garde sound artist Ghedalia Tazartes, modulating his voice to sound like a Tibetan throat singer over an uncompromising backdrop of intermittent screams and samples. It ain't easy but it’s rewarding, even though we only catch a few songs.
Cat Power prowls across the stage of the Nokia Blue Tent like a distressed, feral thing. She’s undoubtedly in good voice and her band is great - but her pain is too palpable. Invisible demons seem to stalk the air around her.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening is U.S. Girls. Meghan Remy’s minimalist one-woman approach and distinctive vocals are beguiling. She segues effortlessly from bangra-type beats into a Shirelles-style girl group melody. It’s delightful light relief before Huoratron, a mythical figure on the Finnish scene, who plays bowel-shudderingly raw electro; something between Eastern European techno and an impending alien invasion.
But it’s pretty much the perfect appetizer before sloping off to end the evening in the embrace of the mighty Moderat. Their big, ballsy Berlin beats are decadently moreish and leave everyone at Flow happily satiated. It’s been a hell of a day and tomorrow's line-up promises yet more bright stars and previously hidden gems. We can hardly wait.
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Words: Anna Wilson
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