Nick Triani gives his personal recommendations as to who you should be catching at this years relocated Sideways festival.
Increasingly Sideways has started to represent, in earnest, the official start of the summer music festival season in Finland. Its timing at the beginning of June this year is like a starting pistol to a varied series of events set to dominate the musical landscape across the country.
As well as relocating the Festival to the distinctly middle-class Töölö area, we’re told ”the festival site Nordis include Eläintarha park areas and Helsinki Ice Hall’s surroundings. Main stages are located outdoors, and there are also three stages inside the Ice Hall – after the sunset the festival continues indoors until early morning.” One of the interesting aspects of this years festival will be how Sideways adapts to its new surroundings and how someone as directionless as myself manages to navigate the new location and not get lost between stages.
One of the interesting aspects of this years festival will be how Sideways adapts to its new surroundings
The main draw for me of course is the music programme, which feels like the best the festival has delivered thus far (more on that in a bit). But Sideways also feels more expansive in its reach this year: from dance productions to cinema, skateboard parks and arcades, stand-up, interpreting bird song (really), bingo, sound performances, radio tie-ups and much more. There’s more than enough to keep you occupied without actually watching any bands.
The music line-up is an interesting mixture of indie guitar cream, indie-pop, hip-hop, electronica, experimental sound and anything in between. Within its left-field leanings, Sideways feels defiantly diverse. Although I’m struggling with a lot of new Finnish pop music at this time, the festival programmers have managed to locate some interesting Finnish artists to compliment a more heavyweight international presence. Lau Nau, Islaja, Plastic Tones, Mirel Wagner, Karina, Henna Emilia & Houreet, Detalji and Litku Klemetti at least reflect the potent rise of women artists working within the Finnish domain, whilst now delivering the most interesting music. Antti Autio, Versace Henrik and my favourite new band Too Slow (Byrds vs GBV anyone?) – means there’s plenty else for me to enjoy between the margins.
We are living in a time when most bands I’d like to see have already played these shores. With this in mind, many of Sideways headliners are repeat offenders. But even this feels OK today.
we are living in a time when most bands I’d like to see have already played these shores
I was at the Tavastia show post-Microcastle’s release almost 10 years ago. It was great of course and anticipation for this show is still high with me, mainly due to Bradford Cox – that rare breed – the consummate artist with attitude (a rarity in these grey times). Beneath the sexual ambiguity cloak, the occasional outburst and the mercurial music, Cox remains an original presence, still moving forward. Deerhunter by sheer will of just being consistently great, remain valid and relevant. A new Deerhunter lineup is here and a new record produced by Cate Le Bon (swoon) is in the offering, which suggests the best might still be to come.
The appearance of Rodriguez feels like a real coup for Sideways. It is six years on from Searching for Sugar Man (also being screened at Sideways), the film that put Rodriguez back on a wider map after years of being lost, dead end-jobs and general obscurity outside of South Africa. His first album especially has been thrust into the instant classic canon of popular music by a new audience. But if the weather is good you can imagine some special moments between Rodriguez and the crowd at Sideways this year, especially if he plays some songs from 1970’s Cold Fact.
Natural heirs to the late great Mark E Smith and The Fall – Sleaford Mod’s are the real voice of the disillusioned 30-something-white-male, just scraping a living to get buy in a post-Brexit Britain. The Sleaford Mods world is real, I recognise it. I’ve seen it close-up. But even more intriguing is how Sleaford Mods haven’t deviated from their core essence. Anyone who witnessed their Flow Festival appearance a couple of years ago can attest to this. There’s a lot you can achieve with pure attitude and a laptop – a crude energetic rush that few can muster.
There’s a lot you can achieve with pure attitude and a laptop – a crude energetic rush that few can muster
Cigarettes After Sex
There is something corny and grating about the overtly romantic themes on the Cigarettes After Sex album which seems to have appealed unsuspectedly to so many at the end of last year. They’re like yuppy dream pop, or alternatively, try and imagine if James Blunt had invented the original shoegaze footprint, it might have sounded something like this. The androgynous nature of CAS vocalist Greg Gonzalez’s voice suggest the comparisons with the former British soldier aren’t so wide off the mark. Yet the songs on their self titled debut album are so direct and simple and focussed and often stunningly beautiful that you can forgive them that lack of grit, raw emotion and instead take CAS for something else, something you can cuddle up to. Do it, it’s ok.
I’ve never been a massive The National fan, although I really like some albums a lot (Alligator, The Boxer). Last year’s Sleep Well Beast was a welcome return to what they do best. As well as not forsaking the pop hooks, The National bought a new sense of mood and subtlety to their sound with vocalist Matt Berninger adding a little extra timbre to his well know baritone. Finnish guys seem to really relate to Berninger, who pre-National had a career in advertising. And that’s maybe the thing I can’t shake about the band: an in-built uptightness and Bad-Seeds lightness that always feels like they’re a little too studied and holding back. Still, I’ll be looking forward to seeing how they present the new material.
that’s maybe the thing I can’t shake about the band: an in-built uptightness and Bad-Seeds lightness that always feels like they’re a little too studied and holding back
Honourable mentions: Dead C, Preoccupations, Alex Cameron, Warpaint, Ben Frost, Actress, Bardo Pond, Ezra Furman.
Sideways 8th -10th June.