16.6.2022 Sideways Festival – Day 1 @ Nordis, Helsinki

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After 2 years, Sideways Festival came back with their now familiar setup, split between Helsingin Jäähalli and the surrounding parking area, for five stages in total, and a variety of artists of different genres. Many of these were, of course, overlapping in time over the weekend, so we will focus on our own personal highlights. The festival took place over June 16th through 18th. Check out the gallery here and stayed tuned for the following days.

Thursday began as mentioned with a very long queue – albeit surprisingly swift – under the first heatwave of June. While checking out the area and location of all the services, stages, etc., there was still time to catch some of 22-PISTEPIRKKO’s show. The 45-years-old band certainly has played their role in the Finnish rock scene and their groovy sound helps navigate through the stands, while the early fans had begun crowding every sitting spot, benches, and other available sitting spots, with different and colorful drinks in their hands. 

It’s actually quite impressive how many people had been walking around with wine bottle shares, given that these were not really cheap. There were also some freebies, thanks to the Magnum crew handing out ice creams throughout the festival (a welcome relief from the heat).

Later in the afternoon, the excitement grew for the next act on the main stage, RUUSUT, with a multitude of fans eagerly following the performance of the electro-pop four-piece lead by Ringa Manner. They must have felt at home here, considering that their first-ever live performance was at this very same festival in 2018. At the same time, a pleasant surprise awaited inside at the Black Box stage, namely BEAK>. The Englishmen gave a captivating performance with their experimental electronic/rock mix: the instruments are key to their offer, leading the crowd into their soundscape and leaving them longing for more. Bonus points also for the “Fuk Putin” taped on the drum kit, and Geoff Barrow’s humor: “Thank you for coming to see us, I thought everyone would be watching Iceage outside now.” We clearly weren’t.

One of the big things of the first day, DINOSAUR JR., was another known presence at Sideways before (see the 2017 edition), and while giving a solid performance, were not able to excite the fans nearly as much as what RÓISÍN MURPHY did later (in between, we had the chance to try one of the many vegetarian/vegan only food options in the area, as Sideways has now chosen a meat-free policy, like Flow Festival). One can also blame the circumstances in which the band’s instruments didn’t join them to Finland, so there is that to keep in mind.

Coming to Róisín Murphy, the eclectic Irish singer kept confusing everyone with her costume changes and stage moves – betraying a pretty good shape throughout the show. Colorful and over-the-top, engaging as much as entertaining, the artist also briefly chastised one of the photographers who nearly shoved his camera on her face when kneeling close to the edge of the stage: “You Sir, are very naughty!” The audience laughed it off and someone shouted back, “YOU are naughty!” 

Late in the night we went deep underground for what is my favorite stage of the whole festival area. The Basement always gives a certain vibe, which is totally different from any other stage in this festival; it’s darker, more intimate (even when completely crowded), it has it’s own atmosphere, added to that sense of adventure in climbing down beneath the hockey arena, welcomed this time by art in the form of fluorescent paintings that dimly lit the path. 

Here, HAUNTED PLASMA – a project uniting members of Oranssi Pazuzu, K-X-P, Hexvessel, Circle and Ruusut – had their first-ever live performance. The band was formed during the pandemic and the only other time it’s been possible to witness them play was in the Svart Session recording as part of the streaming Roadburn Redux event last year. At the time, it took some actual effort to be able to see the entire show, given the technical difficulties with the video recording, so many people opted to wait for the glitch to be fixed (kudos to everyone involved in sorting these technical issues late at night in real-time!).

A whole different story is seeing the band finally taking shape in front of your eyes, with their still vaguely familiar music (from the live recording) and hypnotic rhythms described as “futuristic synths in symbiosis with kosmische black metal.” In the early stage of the show, we found Mat McNerney entertaining us on vocals, then everything turned instrumental until Ruusut’s Ringa Manner showed up on stage for the latter part of what was definitely one of the top highlights of this festival (if you are into this sort of weirdness, that is). What a night!

Text & photos by Marco Manzi