Originally built in 1909 and then shut down in 1976, the now empty and internally gutted Suvilahti power plant is the wonderfully idiosyncratic home to Helsinki’s Flow Festival.
While giant gas towers stand prominently in the background, the festival uses purpose built tents and stages – as well as utilising and absorbing the
grounds and its industrious buildings themselves as venues for the acts.
Bon Iver [middle bottom] opens (!) FLOW the Wednesday evening of the festival, the stage beautifully draped in swinging fabric and church-like,
faux-gothic lighting as his FLOW voice glides from growling country man to soaring choirboy.
His range is quite spectacular. FLOW Backed by a band almost pushing double figures, his early, isolated songs are given a vamping up that adds depth and texture rather than over compensating for their primitive nature.
As starts go, it’s… well… lovely, but essentically false.
The festival then takes a day off before starting properly on Friday.
MONEY. PUSSY. WEED. FLOW read the big screens as A$AP Rocky bumps and bounces wildly across the stage.
The gusto and flair is there but the laptop acting as bass and drums struggles to carry the FLOW charge of it through the expansive space and while occasionally thrilling, Rocky is no champ just yet.
But at least he turned up. Frank Ocean pulls out hours before he’s due onstage and leaves a pretty big gap in the bill as a FLOW result.
Meanwhile, FLOW Oneohtrix Point Never takes a perfect midnight billing but he – and the entire crowd – decides to opt for a sit down show.
A swirling, sticky gloop of glitchy electronics and purposely-antiquated
visuals merge to occasionally bizarre but often rewarding results,
while the serene atmosphere acts as a still antidote to the pulsing techno
thrash of Actress that ensues shortly after.
Saturday, and Baba Zula’s sun-drenched Turkish-psych set is nothing short of (third) eye opening.
His electric sitar is a perfect bleeding of drone sludge and eastern delight as beautiful,
hypnotic beats flurry and pound to create an, at times, astonishing set, like a Turkish Spacemen 3 complete with belly dancing and even longer songs.
Swans then unleash hell, as they do best. Many of the crowd find the utterly relentless carnage and brutal repetition too much and leave in their hoards, but for us remaining few, it’s not even close to being enough.
With new material being road tested, Michael Gira doesn’t so much lead his group as conduct them, often with seething and wild gesticulations, complete with cantankerous clout.
It is at times frightening yet endlessly engrossing.
There are no bands doing what Swans currently are.
You should go and see them. Here, that’s clearly how people feel about The Black Keys,
although the five minutes I see of them is more than enough to reaffirm my beliefs that they are utter dullards.
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