#TBT: Flow 2011

posted by Marjana Jaidi on August 08, 2013

Photo: Flow 2011 by Marjana Jaidi

Helsinki, Finland -- The second weekend in August is great for festival lovers - there are so many amazing festivals, and all the ones I've been to during this weekend (Øya, Flow, and Outside Lands), have been in mercifully chilly environments, a welcome respite from NYC's unbearable humidity. 

Flow, Øya, and Way Out West (in Helsinki, Oslo, and Gothenburg, respectively) are what I call the Scandinavian Festival Trifecta, three festivals that occur over the same weekend in August. They share most of their headliners and international acts, but each festival differs in its showcase of local talent. 

All three festivals are great, but Flow, which i attended in 2011, is probably the one that most merits the 4000+ mile journey. To be fair, I haven't been to Way Out West, and while it loses points in my book for being all-vegetarian, I definitely hope to visit one day. Øya is great, and I would definitely go again, but I felt Flow did a better job of incorporating Finnish culture into the festival. 

So why Flow? I'll give you 3 reasons:

1. The Setting

Flow's most unique characteristic is most definitely its layout. The festival takes place in the historic Suvilahti, a former power plant. The compound has since been converted to art galleries, event spaces, and offices. What I loved about Flow is that while it had traditional festival elements - outdoor stages, tents - it used the buildings on the compound to create brick-and-mortar restaurants, stages, and lounges scattered across the grounds. 

2. The Culture

Dean Budnick once said, "the best festivals are national in scope but local in identity," and Flow definitely hit this concept on the nose. Finnish culture permeated everything from the music lineup, which featured over 20 local Finnish acts, to the décor, provided by Marimekko. At the festival, sponsored by the Finnish telecommunications company Nokia, I was able to sample Finnish tapas at Olo, a local restaurant that set up a pop-up location on site.

3. The Champagne

Another thing you should know about Finnish culture is that they love champagne. They also respect the institution, always making the proper distinction between champagne and sparkling wine (something I would have appreciated when I was paying $17 for a glass of Andre at an "upscale" NYC club... but I digress).

It's rare enough to find champagne at a festival, and even then, it's usually served in a can or called "American Champagne" (a ridiculous paradox/oxymoron, if you ask me). When you do find the real thing, it's usually priced astronomically (ahem... Electric Zoo's $36 glasses of Veuve).

Flow had its very own champagne bar, serving glasses of Moët for a beyond-reasonable 11€ per glass. The champagne bar had direct sight lines to the main stage, and its own schedule of DJs between sets.

Sipping a glass (real glass, by the way) of champagne while watching Kanye West close out the festival... It really doesn't get any better than that.

Follow @marjaidi on Twitter

See Also:

Cultivora's 5 Top Picks for Flow Festival
Music Monday Playlist: Outside Lands 2013
Local Favorites to Play Heineken's Open Source Stage at Flow Festival