Live Report: Flow Festival

  • Words: Dobrina Manolova

We’ve heard a lot about the art direction at Flow, and it really is impressive – it has so many different corners and venues, it’s hard for anyone to feel out of place. The crowd is hugely diverse, and – walking in right in the middle of CHIC featuring Nile Rogers – our first image of the festival is people of all ages and appearances clapping their hands together to ‘Le Freak’- something we’re convinced could only happen during a Finnish summer. We’re handed a canned local ‘long drink’, something that tastes deceitfully innocent, and soon we’ve made friends with everyone in the immediate vicinity.

For the War on Drugs’ set building walls and trees are individually lit almost as a side-exercise, giving the impression that we’re in the middle of the world’s biggest Giallo set – deep slow pinks, reds and greens illuminate blocks of buildings around us. This is all one Stelvio Cipriani track away from turning into a mind-blowing leather-themed spectacle.

Regardless of the vast space, Flow feels very manageable and surprisingly intimate. Rosin Murphy steals the first night: her incredible energy holding everyone in a fix, she could allow herself all the eccentricity in the world without a hint of pretence – everything about her is perfectly thought out: the incredible costumes, the choreography, what she says to the crowd feels as though it’s directed right at you, in a cafe, two friends joking around after a big night out.

The only disappointment comes, surprisingly, from Major Lazer. It’s mostly playback, which would be fine was it not for the forced interaction with the audience, who are just asked to take their tops off straight away, and it sort of makes you feel like your weird date just ordered starters and asked to see your boobs all in the same sentence.

It doesn’t matter though, because right away the night comes to its absolute peak thanks to the unstoppable Run the Jewels. We’ve been obsessing with their insane lyrics for so long, the heady mix of filth and truth set EL-P’s uniquely raw production. They spur a wave of sincere applause sharing something along the lines of: “I’ve learned you only have to follow five simple rules in order to not only be a good American, but also a good citizen of the world: Lie, Cheat, Steal, Kill, Win. Everybody’s doing it.’

We spend the Pet Shop Boys gig squeezing through the crowd and watching a vast audience in front of the stage, back at the bar, up on steps and shoulders all over the place sing along to the incredible show that’s going on, everyone shouting.

The final band is Alt-J and you couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to this already incredible festival- everyone is in an hour long ecstasy at the mind-blowing lyrics and otherworldly melodies. We catch myself singing along to lyrics I do not know and they keep jingling in our head all the way back to town in the small hours of the Finnish night, the sea on one side of the road and our tipsy friends on the other.