Finding Your Finnish Flow
by: Olly Farshi
It’s 2008, a warm mid-August evening at Helsinki’s Suvilahti Powerplant. A patch of land, packed with people, wedged between a gas tower and some old industrial buildings. The rusting iron, incessant rhythm and lubricated partygoers blend with the summer haze to form a delicious blur. This is Flow Festival.
And there I am, getting my dance on to some dirty techno. I close my eyes, dance and smile. I open my eyes. There’s a naked guy striding towards me, smiling, gesturing. I opt to play it cool, hiding a mess of confusion and surprise. Maybe it’s a cultural thing, I think to myself, this is Finland.
For non-Finn’s flying in, Flow Festival is the chance to experience a weekend of fine music set against the backdrop of contemporary Finnish culture. As a relative newcomer to Finland, I figure it’s my duty to highlight a couple of my favourite aspects of Finnish life.
The big surprise for me was discovering just how relevant jazz is to Finland’s contemporary musical heritage. A great example, Pekka Pohjola’s “The Madness Subsides” – penned way back in 1974 – provided the entire body of DJ Shadow’s classic “Midnight in a Perfect World”. Go listen, it’s amazing.
These days, a handful of bands and labels, such as Ricky-Tick Records, are representing for the Finnish jazz scene. And it’s a bustling scene, packed with players who don’t just have the raw technical talent but are also filled to the brim with passion too. You’ve got to check out some Finnish jazz while you’re here. Catch Timo Lassy on Saturday, then make sure not to miss Sunday’s performance from Jukka Eskola, a rare treat indeed as he’ll be backed by a lush string section too.
And then there’s the Finnish food. Ignore the pizza joints, you’ve got to eat local while you’re in Helsinki. Finnish food at its best is concise, uncomplicated and honest. Check out riisi piirakka, a traditional rice pice served with a dollop of eggy butter. Wash it down with a lonkero, an alcopop sweet grapefruit gin mix. And, if you’re feeling brave, search for silli: morsels of sharp and salty herring drowned in mustard.
This year, Helsinki restaurant Juuri will be feeding folk over at the Wine & Sapas stage. Juuri blend traditional Finnish with contemporary hors d’ouvres to make sapas (Suomi plus tapas, see?). Tasty bite-size delicacies that are rustic, traditional and modern all at the same time.
We’ve covered Finnish jazz and Finnish food, my final must-do is the Finnish sauna. This brings us right back round to our unexplained nonchalant naked guy, striding towards me. It turns out he just needed a light for his cigarette. You see, back in 2008, Flow Festival installed their own on-site mini-sauna. And there’s no-better activity post-sauna than cooling off outside with nothing but a cigarette and a smile.
While there might not be a sauna on-site this year, you’ve got to do yourself a favour and track one down. This shouldn’t be tough: almost every building, whether it’s an apartment, a house or hotel, has a sauna, usually several. On Sunday night, when your body and brain ache from a weekend of dancing, moving, eating and listening, make it the perfect weekend in Helsinki and finish up with a sauna.
Nokia’s Flow Festival documentary is now online in it’s full 16 minute form. The short film features the entire Flow team talking about the making of the festival and it’s history together with some cool footage from this year’s event. Press play and click CC for English subtitles. Enjoy!
All lost & found items from the festival area will be forwarded to the Helsinki city police station at Punanotkonkatu 2, tel. +358 71 877 3180 (MON–FRI 10 am – 2 pm).
Flow Festival says Thank You to all customers, all artists and all media for a successful festival weekend » Read more