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Live Reviews

Helsinki Festival
September 9, 2008

By Althea Legaspi

Launching 40 years ago as a classical music festival, Helsinki Festival has since become a celebration of myriad cultural and artistic disciplines.

Held annually during the last two weeks in August, it’s the largest festival in Finland. Helsinki Festival serves as an umbrella for a number of festivals that surround it. From dance and theater to food, music and art – the city is awash in aural, visual and flavorful events to serve diverse palettes. It’s an ideal time to visit, with mild temperatures and a bustling nightlife.

 

Three festivals sponsored by Helsinki Festival – FLOW, Art Goes Kapakka and the Huvila Festival Tent (which featured, among others, solid performances by Finnish country-tinged Ninni Poijärvi opening for UK guitar virtuoso Richard Thompson, and Finnish folk accordionist Ana Moura opening for Fado singer Maria Kalaniemi) – highlighted international acts as well as the country’s up-and-coming folk, indie, world, and electronica artists.

 

FLOW Festival (August 15 – 17)

Boasting indie rock from around the globe, FLOW is Helsinki Festival’s answer for the hipster crowd.  FLOW is booked by Five Corners Quintet’s Tuomas Kallio, and his diverse tastes and desire to give exposure to relatively unknown acts is reflected in the lineup. This year’s headliners included Múm, Cut Copy, Jamie Lidell, The Roots and CSS alongside relatively unknown acts.

 

Held in a former industrial park that’s now an arts center, the five-year old fest drew 22,000 fans and housed two outdoor and two indoor stages with performances rocking well passed 4 a.m.

 

Some of the best sets – not surprisingly – composed more renowned artists. On Friday Múm, whose drummer Samuli Kosminen hails from Finland, was a highlight. The Icelandic collective excelled in multi-instrumentation and delicate mining of indie pop, with breathtaking male-female vocal interplay. Kings of Convenience was a crowd favorite. Engaging harmonies buoyed the duo’s subtle guitar melodies. KOC’s lounge-pop was a stark contrast to Jamie Lidell, who played beforehand. Sporting what looked like swim trunks and a Hawaiian shirt, he may not have dressed very rock star – but his soulful croons, sassy delivery and funkified lively band of merrymakers made for one of the more entertaining FLOW sets. Beginning with his recently penned soul material, he strutted the stage like an indie rock Tom Jones, later melting into the electronica/DJ stylings from which he got his start.

 

Rain and dropping temperatures hardly dissuaded attendees or talent from having a good time on Saturday. Opening Finnish songstress Astrid Swan was one of the best acts at FLOW – it’s a shame she was the first to play on Saturday, when the crowd was still sparse. Exercising quirky vocal ac