Royal Rumble: Sideways vs Flow Festival

Sideways kicks off the summer festival season this weekend. Extended to three days and move to a new location, the festival is bigger and longer than ever before.

After a few editions, Sideways is a strong contender for the title of Helsinki’s best summer music festival. The title holder is, of course, Flow Festival, which is firmly established as THE music even of the summer in the capital. 

Both festivals offer a multi-genre line-up, focusing on indie, rap, hip hop, electronic, experimental, a little bit of rock and anything in between. Sideways feels a bit more left of the dial, while Flow attempts to have mass appeal, while remaining interesting.

So, which one is best? Flow or Sideways? Let’s take a look.


Most of the European summer festivals present the same headliners with Arctic Monkeys, Fleet Foxes, The National, Nick Cave and A Perfect Circle being some of the hottest tickets this season. Sideways and Flow are no different, with little room for surprises. With many acts having visited these shores often —how many times has MØ played in Finland?, festival lineups feel a bit dull this season. At the end of the day, when it comes to headliners, choosing one festival over the other, it’s a matter of personal preference. Are you itching to see A Perfect Circle? Or perhaps you want to tick Kendrick Lamar off your bucket list?

That’s a tie.

Local talent

Sideways presents a good amount of Finnish acts, and unlike what happens at Flow, Finnish bands also take prime spots in the schedule. Obviously, the preeminence of local band is an inexpensive way to fill the lineup, but nevertheless, Sideways programmers have managed to curate an impressive list of Finnish artists, who are delivering the most interesting music made in Finland, from doom metal (Oranssi Pazuzu, Death Buddha Rising) to rap (View) and indie (Litku Klemetti, Too Slow).

+1 for Sideways.

Gender balance

While neither Flow nor Sideways reached the 50/50 male/female threshold in the music lineup, it’s getting better. In this respect, Flow leads the way with Patti Smith, Ms Lauryn Hill, Charlotte Gainsburg, Alma and Noname ranking high on the festival poster.

+1 for Flow.

Side activities

An impressive music line up does not cut it any more. Any festival must include a series of side activities, which can keep anyone occupied and entertained without actually watching any bands. In this department, Sideways comes a winner with the inclusion of karaoke, stand up comedy and.. a dedicated arcade area.

+1 for Sideways.

Hidden gems

If you take a closer look at the lineups, you will find among the smaller font size those artists with smaller commercial appeal, but big influence. At Sideways, you can find New Zealand’s noise rockers The Dead C, and at Flow Californian composer Terry Riley. Those artists won’t sell many tickets, but will drive the festivals’ reputation.

That’s a tie. 


Canadians used to say that drinking American beer is a little like making love in a canoe… fucking close to water. Unfortunately, the same can be said about Lapin Kulta, a mass produced beer brand which is the Finnish version of Budweiser. Unfortunately, it is also a major partner to Flow Festival, and therefore, it’s the only beer available.

Sideways, on the other hand, has chosen a more respectable beer partner. Brooklyn Brewery will provide a healthy selection of ales, lagers and sours.

+1 for Sideways.


Any music festival takes tons of energy and one must carb up to make it until the wee hours. Tacos, burgers, noodles, ice-creams, raw cakes and vegan choices… Food plays a central role at both festivals. 

That’s a tie.


Rock, pop and any music gender took over jazz festivals long ago, so it’s only far that any festival includes a good share of jazz in its lineup. Every year, Flow presents a carefully curated jazz program, combining local talent and international heavyweights. In this edition, California jazz superstar Kamasi Washington will take the Balloon stage for two extended sets. Will he sit in with Kendrick Lamar too?

+1 for Flow.


After a few editions at Teurastamo, an iconic abbatoir transformed into cultural and culinary center, Sideways has moved to the surroundings of Helsinki’s Ice Hockey Hall, including Elaintarha Park. While this is a very central location, it can’t compete with the iconic Suvilahti area where Flow Festival takes place. Plus, Flow has the Balloon Stage.

+1 for Flow.

Ticket prices

Unless you bought an early bird ticket, coughing 215€ up for a three-day Flow Festival ticket is a hard pill to swallow, while single day tickets are 99€. Being a smaller festival, Sideways has more affordable prices: 139€ for three days and 79€ for one day.

+1 for Sideways.