For the lovers of indie rock and electronic music – Sideways Festival 2022 Overview
On a sunny Thursday afternoon in the surroundings of the Helsinki Ice Hall, you could forget that there hasn't been a normal festival season in two years.
When the three-day Sideways, which opened Finland's capital's festival season, started, the conditions were perfect. The temperature peaked at more than twenty degrees, and the sun shone from a clear blue sky. At five o'clock in the afternoon, a queue formed by people was long but still moved quickly.
Due to the pandemic, in the spring of 2020, like other events, Sideways had to concentrate on 2021. And then to 2022. During the weekend, pretty much nothing in the festival specifically indicated that there had been two summers punished by the virus.
Organized since 2015, Sideways aims to attract people who listen to the most interesting and relevant indie, and alternative artists, both local and international, the hottest newcomers and cult classic bands instead of the mainstream and most played radio tracks. Maybe because of the break with a possibility to participate in the summer festivals, Sideways made a record with crowd numbers exceeding 26 000 party goers, just like 'Kesärauha' in Turku which we also covered.
I arrived at the festival venue in the afternoon and immediately saw many faces with joy and excitement. The queue was pretty long at the main gate but moved quickly. Sideways has decided to have the festival from Thursday to Saturday instead of the typical Friday to Sunday. This might be because it is easier to get big names from Central European festivals on Thursday when fewer festivals are organized on Thursdays. Early June is not the holiday season yet, but still, Thursday felt the most packed day of the festival already from the very beginning. I was used to the festival venue from participating once before and headed straight to the' Basement Stage' to see 'Louie Blue'. The stage lacked big crowds, but still, the young RnB artist, together with his band, gave an excellent performance making a bunch of people dance and enjoy the summer day in the dark indoor basement. Huge respect to the guitarist 'Jonatan Snapir' who stole the show, only in a good way, by giving his all both play-wise and performance-wise. I hope that 'Louie Blue' would grow so big that someday he could perform with huge string arrangements and a massive band. His music would suit well for that.
Following 'Louie Blue's show, I went to see 'Pekka Laine & The Enchanted', which was one of the less-known names for me personally. I knew him as a guitar master but did not know so much about his style of music. The smallest stage of the festival between the Ice Hall and a football field was packed with people. The six-piece band played instrumental, and the laidback guitar music suited the summer day well. 'Pekka Laine' seemed to enjoy the show giving smart speeches about the music, explaining how instrumental music can talk about challenging issues, which could be hard to sing about, for example… cannibalism. The distant shouts from the football practice behind the festival fence made the experience also funny.
Next, it was time to have the couple first international acts. 'Beak>' is led by 'Geoff Barrow' (of 'Portishead'), played in the Blackbox arena, inside the Ice Hall. The stage suited their music well, which was pretty dark and hypnotizing. The trio was sorry because they needed to play with such low volume (which later became interesting because, on the same stage, some other acts sounded much louder). The band was joking about how their family lives are louder with the kids than what they could do on the stage. Even though the band seemed a bit frustrated with the matter, they still seemed to have fun and focus on positive things like 'Barrow' said after some "F@#% politicians" discussions with the crowd. The band also offered some treats for the fans playing new and never-before-heard music.
After gigs with bands with multiple members, it was time to see the first solo act, 'Ela Minus', a Spanish artist. The show started a few minutes late with a fully packed crowd, even though the legendary 'Dinosaur Jr.' was simultaneously playing on the main stage. Probably these two acts were not competing from the same music lovers. Already from the first seconds, the minimalistic techno beats sounded fantastic, and I was hoping that she would play the whole slot and even exceed it. 'Ela Minus' was alone on the smoky and dark stage all by herself but still could build momentum quickly. Afterward, her performance has been praised on many media channels, and I agree with it all. I would go see it again any day, hoping to have a long set. Now the 45-minute slot felt too short. At times her music reminded me a bit of the Nordic acts like 'Robyn' or 'Röyksopp' having more techno sound and a darker atmosphere. The live vocals were also superb—definitely one of the best shows of the whole three-day festival.
Still amazed by 'Ela Minus', I went to see 'Yves Tumor'. If 'Ela Minus' show has been praised, many have been criticizing 'Yves Tumor's show, but I don't understand why. I think it sounded fabulous with the whole psychedelic soundscape. The show felt even pretty magical with a lot of smoke on the stage, and it had a certain old-school cocky rock attitude which you rarely see these days. The band's volume also felt pretty loud, which suited well with their music. The only minor weakness was that the vocals came a bit on low volume. Otherwise, I enjoyed it, and the show felt special and unique to see in Finland.
At this point, it felt like the day just went super quickly, and already it was time for the main act of the day, 'Róisín Murphy'. The queen of the dance music, also known from 'Moloko' started the show in a funny-looking and colorful costume. Slowly people began to get into a party mood while 'Murphy' was changing her outfits after every song on the side of the stage while being invisible but still singing. The whole one-hour and fifteen-minute set went quickly without any bigger brakes. 'Murphy' seemed super confident making funny dance moves. Many things on the stage gave a picture that she did not need to think about what people thought about her, being cool or trendy. At times her performance felt even like mocking the artists who take themselves too seriously, but not mocking the crowd in anyways, just making people enjoy and dance.
The last entire show for me was 'Haunted Plasma,' and I had huge expectations for it. 'Haunted Plasma' have only played one stream show previously. The band consists of members from 'Oranssi Pazuzu', 'Grave Pleasures', 'K-X-P', and 'Circle' with vocalists ‘Mat McNerney' (Hexvessel, Carpenter Brut, Beastmilk) and 'Ringa Manner' (Ruusut, The Hearing). This huge combo built such big expectations for me that, sadly, the result came a bit low. The playing was great, and everything sounded brilliant, but I thought to prove something unseen and totally new. Many different media described 'Haunted Plasma's music as innovative and a new genre, but for me, it did not seem so much new. Still interested to hear their album once it is out.
I spent the last 20 minutes of the day enjoying the house party by 'Malla', who made people dance and enjoy the festival season. The last beats of her show sounded so good, and the whole vibe was such positive that I regretted not watching their entire set.
If Thursday was a busy day with multiple brilliant and exciting acts, so was Friday. I arrived at the venue around 4 pm, and it looked much emptier than on Thursday same time. I headed to Aurora stage to catch a promising young act, 'Lxandra'. She opened the festival day with a positive attitude even though not many people were around. Slowly during her show, people showed up, and in the end, the crowd looked a bit more packed. I am not the biggest fan of big outdoor festival stages in the daytime, but 'Lxandra's music was perfect for such a place. Her voice was brilliant throughout the set, especially with the high notes.
Next couple of hours, I was going a bit here and there, catching glimpses of 'Isaac Sene', whose crowd was definitely some of the youngest of the whole festival, 'Litku Klementti', who was not happy having so early slot, and 'Astro Can Caravan' who's psychedelic music was a bit too much for the moment. 'Ryley Walker's set was interesting with two drummers with hundreds of different percussions. But his music felt a bit too progressive for a listener who is not familiar with his music. I ended up watching Finnish artist 'Astrid Swan' who sounded great with her americana sound reminding me a bit of bands like 'First Aid Kit' and 'The War On Drugs'.
After all these discoveries, I found myself in the only queue I found at Sideways. People seemed very eager to see 'K-X-P' in the basement. Later I heard that even not all could fit in to see the masters of the space krautrock. 'K-X-P' never seemed to bore me, and this time was no different. Their music got me hypnotized, and I wondered how the drummer 'Tomi Leppänen' can be same time so minimalistic but still interesting.
British composer, producer, and performer 'Clark' played his entire album 'Playground In A Lake' inside the Ice Hall. I caught most of his show, and it sounded brilliant. The combination of electronic elements, multiple strings, grand piano, and other instruments created a beautiful, at times haunting soundscape. It was a great break in the middle of all the noise and also felt like a very long intro for the next act, 'Mogwai', which I planned to catch. 'Mogwai' played on the main stage under the blue sky with zero clouds. At the same time, I was excited to see the legends of post-rock but had doubts about how well their set would work in the daylight just before many acts with dance and faster rock music. But the band surprised me with how well it worked. It felt like the band had decided to play mostly very hopeful tracks from their colossal discography. Most of the time, I found myself listening to ‘Mogwai's set with closed eyes thinking about how happy and thankful I am for many things in my life. The set was well built and kept the crowd silent and interested the whole time.
The rest of the day went by with great dance moments, first by 'Joy Orbison' who played a brilliant set inside the Ice Hall, and after that, the main act of the day, 'Caribou' made the huge crowd jump, dance, and enjoy the moment. 'Caribou's set felt like cleansing all the rest of the covid restrictions, only seeing smiling faces and happy people.
If Thursday and Friday served perfect festival weather with clear blue sky and warm temperature, Saturday took a slightly negative turn. The very beginning of the day was rainy, but luckily the rain stopped late afternoon. Most of the interesting acts of the day were also performed indoors, which was a nice bonus.
The first act of the day which I saw was 'Babel'. The duo is formed by a Finnish artist, producer, and composer 'Pykäri' and 'Karin Mäkiranta' from 'Karina'. Both are some of the most praised Finnish indie musicians of the decade. Their debut album 'Yoga Horror' was released earlier this year for which we did a track by track review. The show started with small hesitation and felt like it lacked something. At times I was not sure if the songs were remixed or if I just forgot how they sounded on the record, but anyhow I was a bit clueless for a while. After a few tracks, I started to get into the mood, and in the end, the last part of their show sounded great. The performance of both artists felt a bit cold and distant, but it suited the overall feeling pretty well. At times when there were more silent moments of some of the songs, you could hear people A LOT of people chatting super loudly, which felt super annoying. Maybe some people decided just to get some cover from the rain and did not care about 'Babel's music so much.
After 'Babel' I took my direction to see a super hyped Finnish artist, 'Pehmoaino'. She is a pretty new artist but is playing every big and small festival this year in Finland. Her electropop music with beautiful lyrics has clearly made its way to people's minds because the stage where she played was packed with music lovers. Her melancholic music suited well in the light rainy weather. Everything was very cute with 'Pehmoaino', how she sounded, all the covers she played, and even the speeches in between mentioning how her mother was in the front row supporting her. It is interesting to see how long the hype will stay with her music since the whole genre is so relevant just now but might lack timeless feeling.
The day continued with an artist that was very new to me but impressed me with his partly noisy dance beats. 'Pye Corner Audio' is a British electronic music project by 'Martin Jenkins' who has also worked with 'Mogwai'. At times his set felt a bit monotonic, but since I am not a specialist in his genre, I can guess it is an essential part of his style.
After 'Pye Corner Audio's hypnotizing set, it was time to breathe clean air after the rain. I got familiar with the food scene of the festival. Sideways was the first festival in Finland to serve only vegetarian or vegan dishes. I grabbed pimped fries, which were cheap and just fine, while same time enjoying Finnish rapper 'Yeboyah'. I have never been a huge fan of her music, but I have always liked her attitude. Seeing her live supported my picture of her. She is not the fastest or smoothest rapper what comes to the flow, but she is dealing with many important issues in her songs while at the same time not making them sound too serious. Same time she is an entertainer. Her beats became more distant while I approached the main stage to get a good view of the main act of the day, 'The Avalanches'. The Australian dance music duo came to my attention with their latest release, 'We Will Always Love You' released in late 2021. That record was one of the best of the year for me, and I was super stoked to see them live. The expectations were met more than they could. The whole set of one hour was just pure pleasure, no time to rest, just dance and enjoy. Ok, there were a few moments with a slightly slower laidback beats, but even they made people dance in one way or another. There was also one particular moment that spoke about the power of music and how it unites people. Two completely different-looking guys were stoked about each other, smiled, and danced, enjoying the show.
The night continued with another hour of dance music with 'Floating Points'. The visionary 'Sam Shepherd' has been releasing pretty varied and hyped albums, so I was interested to see and hear what kind of set he would play. Would it be something ambient, IDM, jazzy, or what? But straight away, it was clear that this was just a DJ set to make people enjoy and party. At the same time, I was pleased to dance to his choices of beats, but it would also be interesting to hear his own music.
Sideways was all about new beginning and bringing hope that life will be normal again.
Five best shows in Sideways (in alphabetical order)
Sideways 2022 lineup
Astro Can Caravan
Hercules & Love Affair
Mary Ann Hawkins
Maustetytöt X Agents
Pekka Laine & The Enchanted
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs
Pye Corner Audio
Richard Dawson & Circle