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NOS Primavera Sound : An Appreciation Of Porto

  • Published in Live

A while ago this site contained a few city guides for a handful of places in the UK & what they had to offer for the live music fan. They weren't regularly updated so we dropped them. This piece is though intended, in part, to fulfil the same function for Porto, where the younger & smaller Primavera Sound (NOS being the main local sponsor) event takes place a week or so after the original in Barcelona.

Having popped my cherry at the Barcelona event in 2016 & being possessed of a wish to visit Porto for two or three years it seemed obvious upon the release of the earlybird tickets for 2017 that one be bought as the event must have the same line-up in each city, right? Wrong - the Porto event has only four stages & consequently gets mainly the middle tier acts so no underexposed newbies or headliners such as Arcade Fire. Still, 85€ for the event was fine with me.

The city itself offers a very cheap and enjoyable holiday experience. Given that Ryanair only fly there from Edinburgh on Tuesdays & Saturdays I naturally had to plump for a week of sunshine with temperatures around the 30 degrees centigrade mark, rather than mist the final day of the festival. There's more than enough to keep you occupied aside from the festival, whether it be the art collection of Serralves, visiting as many churches as possible, doing one or more of the tourist tours or just crawling the bars drinking either the very cheap Super Bock or sampling the local wares of the city's newer brewers, seeing as it's experiencing a growth of those the same as most other places. There's also the wine. And the coffee. And the 1€ cakes and sandwiches although full meals cost far less than at home too.

Travel is cheap too - an hour on the train south to picturesque Aveiro set me back 4€ each way and the Metro around the city & out to the park where the festival takes place is in the main under 2€ for a single journey. There's an Oyster-like system in place so once you have your smartcard from the machine at the airport you merely need to top it up with the right fare(s) and step on and off buses & Metros as your needs dictate.

As mentioned NOS Primavera Sound takes place in a park, which gives it the edge over the Barcelona event in terms of comfort. At no time are you walking across a dusty, concrete desert and the hillsides allow for clear views of the stages from a prone position. As the overall site is though smaller there are far fewer art, clothing etc. stalls (my poster tube was a redundant piece of luggage this year) but, particularly if you're female, you can get a good fix of second-hand clothes shopping done in the city and the quality of prints, badges, cards & other artwork for sale (particularly around Rua de Miguel Bombarda and at the Circus Network space) is very high.  

So who was actually any good at the festival? Swans were a revelation to be honest. Not a band I've ever given much time to and I opted to chat to a site contributor over seeing them at Le Guess Who? a couple of years ago but this weekend their two hour set held me for the duration. I'm pleased to say I've finally seen Arab Strap although they maybe want to give themselves a rest from 'The First Big Weekend Of The Summer' and Teenage Fanclub were a solid presence on the Friday evening. 

Shellac were better than in Barcelona last year, possibly down to the Palco stage being head height rather than half that again. Mitski was good fun, Hamilton Leithauser was emotive, Against Me! were rock and roll, The Make-Up were infectious although having Ian Sevonious stand all over you was probably not what many in the centre of the crowd had bargained on, Wand were a great blast of energy & infectious guitar work (what King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard failed to be) and the tail end of the Evols set gave a hint that I'd missed something epic by being a tad late that day. Metronomy, who I see in a new light following Joe Mount's recent dismissal of The Flaming Lips, Japandroids and Pond were also great crowd pleasers.

Elsewhere Aphex Twin was a slow burner which I left for more immediate pleasures, Cymbals Eat Guitars seemed either oddly placed in the bill or are virtually unknown in Portugal, Cigarettes After Sex were nothing special (& what's with that REO Speedwagon cover?), Sleaford Mods were as bombastic as expected but if you've seen five minutes of them you've seen the whole show (which kind of goes for Death Grips too), Songhoy Blues got a good reaction from the crowd and Royal Trux were as ramshackle as when I last saw them 20 or so years ago. Sure they walked off about 20 minutes earlier than they should have but fair play - for all the drivel spouted between songs they didn't forget any of their lyrics, much as that constantly seemed a possibility. The Growlers failed to live up to expectations, sounding oddly one dimensional compared to on record.

Homegrown acts Samuel Uria, Rodrigo Leao & Scott Matthew and Miguel unfortunately made little impression on me. On the whole though I'd say the event for me came out ahead of its bigger brother, not least for the better quality food on offer but transport away from the site (the closest Metro ceases at 22:00) was better organised & information about it more readily available.

NOS Primavera Sound is for a weekend, not for life though & the city's live music scene continues after it's all over. To that end I headed along to the Cave 45 venue on Monday night to see Cleveland's Archie & The Bunkers, ably supported by energetic & entertaining local garage punks The Magnets. Two rather unorthodox acts - the latter field a bass/drum/organ & singer formation whilst the youthful headlining duo share vocal duties and play just a drumkit and an organ, albeit with gobs of energy & passion. The venue itself has good sound and two decent bars so provided a fine location to see out the end of this Portuguese live music experience.

Cheers to Eduardo & Francisco for excellent Couchsurfing, Ana for driving and Chris for the banter.

Further event photographs here.


Incubate 2015 - Monday

  • Published in Live

Right from the off you can see that Incubate has a decade's worth of experience under its belt - keen eyed staff ready to sort out your wristband, festival publications etc. even on a Monday when things may well be quiet & the start of the week blues could be in play. Not that they won't have been working at a high pitch for months already. Either way it's clear that nothing would be beyond the realms of possibility for these people.

Staying 30 minutes outside of the city centre combined with hanging out with mein host means the festival opening event passes me by but I make it into town in time to drop in to Cul-de-Sac to catch the last couple of songs from Belgian quartet Umungus. They pour out a nice line in drawn-out stoner/prog instrumentals and immediately that feeling you expect to experience often at such an event exerts itself - "I wish I'd seen more of them". Cosy yet also inspiring you to nod along or more, their output is very easy to lose yourself in.

Second on tonight's personal bill is another Belgian act - Kiss The Anus Of A Black Cat. With a name like that they deserve at least one song's length of anyone's attention. Previously they've played neofolk (whatever that is) but tonight's show at Midi kicks off in a distinctly gothic vein with the four-piece pulling no punches and launching straight into towering rock noise mode. Stadium-level stuff in a mid-sized hall that no doubt built and built as the set progressed. Having a need to try and locate a bus stop for the end of the night I nipped off after a couple of songs and walked a couple of blocks over to Little Devil to see what Cheap Drugs were like.

Hardcore sums it up neatly. No nonsense, pit-inspiring noise from a great energetic band. The sort whose energy you can feed off for hours as they seem to be supercharged. Little Devil's backroom live space is probably not suited for the claustrophobic but it was exactly the right place to see this bunch and I'll make the point of seeing more acts here as the week progresses.

Back to Midi now and a slight change of pace, if not intensity, as it's time to see The Soft Moon in action. A good-sized crowd has made it out to see Luis Vasquez & his players and they get what they expected as the band's full-on, uplifting yet doomy set rolls over them. Vasquez does at least offer up some chat and thanks to the crowd so there's also interaction on that level too which is always good to witness. Here's their new video for good measure.

Time for another walk and a further reduction in intensity as Kevin Morby is plying his solo trade over at De NWE Vorst. Dapper in a practically all white ensemble he's also pretty chatty and gives a meaningful performance of 'Harlem River' to an undeservedly sparse crowd. As he says himself though there are a lot of options in town, especially for a Monday night but no one who saw him will have felt they made a bad choice. Finishing off the night with the score Belgium 3 - USA 4 ends up being the way to go as Wand are the penultimate choice at the Extase venue.

Unfortunately the vocals sound ropey upon arriving and after less than a song's worth all manner of guitar amp engineering is required. Cory Hanson describes the situation as "typical festival" in a tone that could be taken a couple of ways but mainly he sounds fatigued so maybe they've been on the road too long (in support of forthcoming album 1000 Days - watch out for our review next week). Either way it means a short walk around the corner and a longer viewing of The Shivas.

The Stadskelder turns out to be the basement bar in an otherwise respectable looking hotel; another of tonight's narrow rooms with a bunch of musicians sweating away at the far end whilst (in this case) a tiny crowd looks on appreciatively. Photographers come close to outnumbering fans but that doesn't put the trio off from delivering up a great sun-drenched, Californian sound with surf elements and nods to Redd Kross and suchlike. A world away from the wood-panelled room in the bowels of a Dutch hotel and the rapidly cooling night outside but all the more enjoyable as an end to the night's entertainment for that very difference.

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