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. Read about day 1 or day 2 and check out the gallery here.
As earlier promised by the forecast, on Saturday it was pouring quite a bit during the afternoon, spoiling most of the outdoor fun for festival goers. This came true in the early hours of the day in particular, when the overall atmosphere was much gloomier, but still did not prevent people – armed with raincoats and such – from having fun, although not many were present at this point for the early shows.
Things started to turn around at the time when HUORA took over the Aurora stage. Their singer, energetic as always and with “Die Putin” written all over her left leg, transferred some of that energy into the crowd and the band warmed up everyone with their crossover punk-thrash. People then began flowing in more, and there was a proper crowd in front of THE AGENTS when they played with the duo MAUSTETYTÖT; an interesting combination for sure – at least for those not very familiar with their music – considering the stark contrast in the attitude compared with the previous act.
One of the highlights of the day was definitely the collaboration between Richard Dawson and CIRCLE, in the form of the highly acclaimed “Henki,” performed on this day in front of the Sideways audience. Funnily enough, it was in 2018 that we last saw CIRCLE at this festival, and that time also featured Richard Dawson as a guest, although that was not at all planned. But for something that was expected to be good, there was also an unexpectedly positive find, so we need to give a notable mention to DRY CLEANING, or at least for the last few minutes of their show, which sounded very interesting and would definitely be worth exploring more on another occasion (a future club gig, maybe?).
Swedish DUNGEN was next on the main stage. The psychedelic folk rock band was indeed quite Swedish in their sound, which included flutes and tambourines to spice things up. It did work well at this time of the evening, when the rain finally started subsiding once and for all, until it completely stopped. It was also a good opportunity to try some raspberry waffles before heading back inside for MOLCHAT DOMA. Both proved to be pretty good choices.
The Belorussian trio seemed like they came straight out of the ’80s synth-pop scene, except in a weird alternate Soviet version, and with dark post-punk vibes. This combination, and the lyrics in Russian, strangely worked very well and many in the audience were absolutely captivated by the vocalist, Egor Shkutko. This relatively young band seems has come out at the right time and might just be soon enjoying its dose of success, given all the ’80s revival going on nowadays (see Stranger Things’ effect on Kate Bush, just to name the most recent). The heavy influence of Russian rock music only adds to their appeal.
However, THE AVALANCHES were rather disappointing to see, as it’s hard to understand what’s so great about seeing a couple of old guys jumping in front of their console, smiling and pushing buttons, while colorful visuals come up in the background. Still, many people seemed to dig this sort of thing, and yet again that’s proof of how varied the audience at this festival can be. For us, it was far better to ditch this and instead check out TEINI-PÄÄ on the opposite side. Apparently we were not the only ones, given the whole space was completely crammed.
Again, this was a pretty good idea since, much like KISSA on Friday, the band let off some really contagious vibes. Self described as “nössöpunk, teenage dream, ja pöhköpop,” the music is as glittery as their outfits and cheerful as the decorations that adorned the entire stage. It was a very good change of pace before diving into something else entirely, when ALTIN GÜN presented their Anatolian rock/folk music for the first time on Finnish soil (and with good results, we must add). The distinctive sound certainly helped in making them stand out from the rest of the bands on this evening, but aside from that, the Dutch/Turkish band showed some proper talent on stage, particularly from the singer and the keyboardist/“baglama-ist” (a traditional Turkish instrument), seemingly the core of the band – and the two Turkish members.
There was still a somewhat Dutch feeling in all the orange on stage and also in the audience, when VESALA took the role of the closing act for the Sideways stage (HERCULES & LOVER AFFAIR were still going to play in the Black Box later). Having seen her perform as PMMP many years ago, this was the first occasion to check her out as a solo artist. Not much has changed: bright choreography, many dancers in orange sport clothing making confusing but well-synchronized moves (modern dancing, one would call it), and a charisma that affects the fans of this leading Finnish pop act. She also hasn’t lost the habit of jumping off stage to be in touch with her crowd and sing among them, which she already did in the early stages of the show.
While some people had already left, maybe ready to party elsewhere, some were getting ready for the last band, some went off dancing or singing karaoke, and the background fireworks were coming out of the nearby stadium where HALOO HELSINKI! was performing at the same time; this, for us, was a wrap. Concluding yet again another rich Sideways experience, confident in the fact the festival has been growing still despite the forced hiatus, and reinvigorated by the enthusiasm and the passion of fans, bands, and everyone behind the scenes in coming together to make this happen. There is always a certain magic to festivals and live music in general, and that’s something many of us have really been missing for way too long.
With these thoughts, we headed out just as HJK tied his night game in the other nearby stadium (so many events simultaneously in the same area!), happy that we don’t need to join in on the public transport madness or cab queues that are now being unleashed, and waiting to see what next year’s edition will have to offer!
Text & photos by Marco Manzi