Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ performance was touching, to say the least at Flow Festival 2022 on August 14, 2022, in Helsinki. Photograph: TONY ÖHBERG/FINLAND TODAY / Click to view the gallery

HELSINKI—Flow Festival offered a wide selection of rhythmic music for a total of 90,000 people last weekend, which is the new record for attendance in the history of the festival that has been arranged in the old industrial area of Suvilahti since 2007.

While Finnish rapper Gettomasa hopped among furious flames that during his performance rose in front of the main stage—as if a symbol of “being on fire”—and as if by the grace of a higher being managed to keep his eyebrows intact, Gorillaz, the English virtual band combining various genres from rock to rap, made the massive crowd sway with songs like “Dirty Harry.”

Various DJs played across the area, including Helsinki- and London-based Marc Fred and Vesa Liede, who made sure that people sipping champagne had a good time while also enjoying some pussyfooting and hipshaking on the dancefloor to disco and boogaloo under the hot afternoon sun.

At times the dancefloor got so heated that the vinyl records began warping. But the show must, and did, go on. The DJs were, after all, professionals.

Delicious food was available all over the place. We tried Nepalese vegetarian dumplings, or momos, from a Helsinki-based restaurant called Momo House. Delicious! The prices were decent: €12.50. It was easy to find a beer to accompany the food: it cost €11.90 to drink half a liter.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (the SDP) among other ministers and MPs visited the festival officially for talks in a discussion panel about the future of the music industry.

Faces in the crowd got serious when Prime Minister Marin suggested that “tools” could still be needed to mitigate the pandemic, should a Covid-19 “variant mutate toward a more dangerous direction.” The tools? Only a half-baked dilettante would be capable of imagining a festival like Flow taking place when the government would, once again, resort to the hammer.

Later Prime Minister Marin smiled in a sparkling glitter dress on the web pages of the Finnish yellow press, in pictures taken on Friday evening that began to appear on Instagram by various people sharing their selfies with the premier.

But this year Flow was much more than glitter, momos and boogaloo; it featured some of the most impressive musical experiences of the summer.

One of them was a New York-based jazz group Brandee Younger Trio.

As if an angel had grabbed the harp, so beautifully Brandee Younger played, and this journalist was happy to wear dark sunglasses.

Songs like “Love and Struggle” and “Unrest” were mesmerizing. Dezron Douglas played the double bass smoothly; Allan Mednard’s drum notes were butter, solos stunning, the sound so perfect at the stage that opened 360 degrees toward the audience. This trio’s performance engraved itself on your heart.

“Nick! Nick! Nick!” a member of the audience shouted.

It was now Sunday night, 21:00, to be exact, and a few photojournalists and a crowd of thousands were eagerly waiting for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, the Australian headliner and one of the most original rock bands to embrace the Earth to take over the stage.

Cave and his group of six players and three background singers arrived promptly. Cave smiled while taking a glimpse at the audience in the front row who seemed to sparkle with joy.

And what a show it was to become!

Cave performed songs across a wide selection of the group’s body of work.

Two notable, atmospherical songs that sent shivers down the spine included “Jubilee Street” from the 2013 album Pushing the Sky Away and “Bright Horses” from Ghosteen, published six years later. Especially, the latter left an indelible effect on the listener with its inconceivable beauty.

On the other side of the spectrum, “Tupelo,” which paid homage to Elvis from the 1985 album The Firstborn Is Dead, motivated the audience to dance and nod their heads to a faster but somewhat funky rock beat, as did “City of Refuge” from another ‘80s album Tender Pray (1988).

“From Her to Eternity” from their 1984 self-titled debut inspired Warren Ellis with his long beard to spin while playing the violin. (Read our interview with Warren Ellis here.)

One of the absolute highlights, one with some of the darkest lyrics, was “White Elephant” from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ 2021 album Carnage. This live version was backed by a stone-cold groove that kept going and going.

During the show, Cave kept close contact with the audience from a narrow footbridge between the stage and the fence separating the crowd from the band.

Cave grabbed the hand of a burly tattooed man with long hair.

The fan and the singer looked each other in the eyes and formed a bond that now most likely would be everlasting in their hearts.