There is no understatement when it comes to Porto.
Once you get there, here comes again the immense feeling of being welcome to a place that is not your own, but you always recognize as one of the most embracing ever.
NOS Primavera Sound is placed in Porto’s City Park; everyone recognizes the now inseparable resemblance and almost copy/paste headlines from the ten-year-older Catalonian counterpart (QRO recap).
Every year there is a national rummage up north. The ones that come from abroad have enlisted it as one of the not to miss great European indie music festivals.
This year’s edition went from Thursday to Saturday, 4th to 6th of June: enjoyable late spring days, almost erasing the chilly nights we’ve gotten used to in this urban park by the Matosinhos Sea.
It was Portuguese Bruno Pernadas‘ responsibility to open the hostilities around 5pm.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist, Pernadas is surrounded by friends on stage, like Francisca Cortesão and Afonso Cabral, singer and composers from other emerging national bands, like Minta & the Brook Trout and You Can’t Win Charlie Brown. The band onstage went from psychedelic rock, electronic, jazz to folk improvisation, presenting Pernandas new homemade album, How Can We Be Joyful In A World Full Of Knowledge?. On picnic mood, sitting on the lawn and enjoying the late afternoon sun, the crowd welcomed the national act cheering and clapping all through.
With only two main stages on (Patti Smith was the only one on Pitchfork), we had an easier task to chose the bands we wanted to see. Rushing through Cinerama, we had time to watch the band performed really well, warming the main stage for the acts to come.
Patti Smith, the rock queen and muse almighty, started her act at the same time as Mac DeMarco. We still had time to watch her come onstage, welcoming the crowd sitting at the Pitchfork tent. “Dancing Barefoot” sent chills down our spines. The warmth, the constant smile and her powerful voice, in spite of her 68 year-old brought a huge lesson to all the performers throughout the festival: power and energy has nothing to do with age, but a lot more with attitude and surrender.
We’d come back to her on the second day, on the main stage of the venue.
Mac DeMarco was already giving his energetic performance on the main stage when we got there.
The Canadian born singer and songwriter appeared onstage barefoot (wink at Smith’s first song), always communicating and in a great mood with the audience. It was a very similar performance to the one we had already witnessed last year in the Paredes de Coura Festival. An extended crowdsurfing, jumping or even dancing wildly, amidst songs like “Salad Days”, “Blue Boys” and “Saturdays” brought DeMarco like the original character he is. He could have come out of a comic book or even a Shakespearean play – salad days being a Shakespearean quote and all.
He will always be welcomed to cheer any festival in Portuguese lands.
Right after, multi-cultural and former dancer FKA Twigs (Formerly Known As Twigs) would make her debut in Portugal. She was one of the most anticipated acts. Backed by a competent band that mastered electronic beats, she filled the stage with sensual moves and warm voice.
Tahliah Barnett used to star on music videos of such as Kylie Minogue, Ed Sheeran or Jessie J. Perhaps she got tired of not being on the spotlight, she decided on her own to compose her own songs and develop her particular sound, inspired by Massive Attack, Tricky and mainly Portishead.
For almost one hour she greeted the crowd to the sound of “Video Girl”, “Two Weeks” and “Water Me”, making LP1 one of the most exciting albums to watch and listen to onstage this year.
Almost 15 years after Turn On The Bright Lights, Interpol aren’t the same band anymore. They arrived onstage shortly after 10pm, proving that the NYC band still makes us dream about “Stella” and the “Untitled” dreamy sound, though.
Having performed in Portugal in several festivals already, this time frontman Paul Banks decided to reach the crowd differently, changing his almost always-distant singing to a more interactive performance with the crowd.
Interpol made one of the most beautiful and sing-along hymns of the Radiohead and White Stripes era. 2001 was the year it all started for them. There is no denying that they’ve come a long way to this year’s El Pintor (QRO review). Either way, on the front row we watched with some nostalgia the new generations captivated by “All The Rage Back Home” and almost apathetic through “Take Me On a Cruise”, one of the most beautiful songs the band ever wrote.
The set list was incredibly delivered, ranging from all the hits, into some cathartic moments like “Not Even Jail” and the hypnotic “Leif Erikson”. Daniel Kessler’s energetic riffs and dancing moves are still the perfect boost for Bank’s melodic and almost whispering voice. And although the main stage sound was not perfect until the middle of the show, after that they were tuned and ready to leave some more thousand loyal based fans in Portugal.
The Juan MacLean arrived at the secondary stage around midnight. Guided by Juan MacLean and Nancy Whang vocalist, they utterly transformed the Park’s lawn into a dancefloor, between synthesizers and keyboards in a pop flavored electronica that made festival-goers dance to the sound of the most catching tunes, preparing themselves for what was to come next.
Caribou was next. Another Canadian, born Dan Snaith, who jumped into the spotlight with the genius album Swim launched in 2010 (QRO review). Since then, he has gotten us used to a series of dance hits we carry in our memories for years to come, like a soundtrack to our own most memorable and joyful moments. Our Love was spreading the love all around, having on the hit single “Can’t Do Without You” the highlight of the night. Those two records were the main choice for the set list, on themes like “Odessa”, “Our Love”, “Kaili” or “Silver”, closing the show with fellow countryman Mac DeMarco performing a crowdsurfing to the sound of “Sun”. Epic!
That made the day for us.
Still a weekday, but a lot more crowded than the previous day, the 5th saw Luso-Brazilian band Banda do Mar warm the venue around 5pm with their melodic and lovely joyful tunes. Mallu Magalhães, Marcelo Camelo and Fred Ferreira (former drummer from Portuguese hit band Buraka Som Sistema) united in a collective embrace the audience that danced all through the set. They performed for a small crowd, but all in all that day made the records: 28 thousand people, never seen on the previous three editions.
We even spotted Lebanese songwriter Yasmine Hamdan chilling on the green grass before her show. Accompanied by a drummer, a guitar player and a keyboardist, her voice soared through the mostly empty meadow right in front of the ATP Stage. Her music deserved more attention but after a couple of songs Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand was calling and gathering a decent amount of people in front of the Superbock Stage. In the preview of the festival we saw that, Heartbreak Pass, might be one of the best in their 30-year career. Their show, based mostly on the new record, proved us right. “Transponder”, “Song So Wrong”, “Every Now and Then” or “Man on a String” were some of the highlights – along with the rollercoaster ride that was the show closer, oldie “Tumble & Tear”, straight from their debut. One of the shows in the whole festival where we felt there was no need for more pedal steel. Top five material.
Right after came one of the most awaited moments of the festival. Patti Smith again, but this time, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Horses, considered one of the most important rock albums of all time. In spite of all the photo restrictions for photographers and the fuss around the rock queen, it was curious to see the contrast in the crowd. We could say it was a father and son reunion to see the 68 year-old lady with an amazing strength and ferocity in her voice and gestures. The highlights were “Gloria”, “Because The Night” and “People Have The Power”, the last one accompanied by the huge crowd that had gathered to witness this historic moment.
Soon to come next to the main stage was Swede José González, soothing everyone’s spirits after Smith’s call to revolution. We heard him announce: “This is a Kylie Minogue song”, while the guitar tuned the first notes of “Put Your Hand On Your Heart”. González always comes back to a certain sweetness that’s unique in his songs, giving to covers a tenderness that no other can achieve. Over there, we also witnessed the most beautiful sunset of the festival, to the sound of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop”.
We rushed through ATP to briefly encounter Viet Cong. Unfairly placed on stage at the same time as Patti Smith, we found a rather big crowd cheering them. Strong riffs, energetic drums and although the sound wasn’t great, technically speaking, they performed rather well, witnessing some suits mingled with leather jackets at the audience.
We were rather curious on what we were about to see at ATP, though. What was a Metal band doing at the NOS Primavera Sound?
The British Electric Wizard, that last year was one of the main attractions at the Reverence Valada Festival, near Lisboa. What really makes a live performance is the true connection between the bands and the crowd, and there wasn’t a great connection here. They were probably badly casted for this crowd, anyone, although they performed the psychedelic metal rock really well. The strongest themes were “Black Mass”, “Dopethrone” and ending with “Funeralopolis”.
The night was long and we still had to make a pit stop for dinner, but had to rush.
We ran through the main stage to see The Replacements, and it seems like time has been kind to Paul Westerberg. Jumping around, his voice as good as always, Westerberg certainly looks younger than he is. He thrashed one of his guitars, mentioned this was their last show ever (is it?), sang classics like “Bastards of Young”, “Androgynous”, “The Ledge”, “Can’t Hardly Wait” or “Waitress in the Sky” before jolting into an encore that started with a version of T. Rex’s “20th Century Man” and ended in apotheosis with timeless classics “Left of the Dial” and “Alex Chilton”.
Sun Kil Moon was starting at the Pitchfork stage, one we couldn’t miss for anything in this world. The true fact is that we never know what to expect from Mark Kozelek, former Red House Painters. The never to confess fact is that we are fascinated by him since we know about his record label being San Francisco based Caldo Verde, the name of a traditional Portuguese soup, hugely appreciated by locals.
Having heard the rumors of a great turmoil at the Primavera Sound in Barcelona, where he cursed at a journalist and had a foul humor all through the gig, here in Porto it was surprisingly (or even bipolarly) different. He made a warm welcome to the crowd, invited Portuguese guitarist from local band Blind Zero, Vasco Espinheira, to accompany him and even almost forced Hamdan to come onstage to perform a duet, Sony and Cher alike, “I’ve Got You Babe”. And not even the fact that Hamdan didn’t know the lyrics discouraged him.
“I love you guys, I wish you could be closer to me. Thanks for being here!” got the mood for the entire gig. A great visceral show, which made no one indifferent to the amazing storyteller Kozelek will always be. “I’ll return to Ohio, where I know I belong,” echoed all through the Pitchfork tent in synch with the audience. Perfect moments of empathy and connection with the crowd like this one are rare and unique, more and more each day. One of the best of the whole festival, no doubt.
Belle & Sebastian and Spiritualized were in synch on stage. But the one everyone was waiting for was Antony & The Johnsons, which eventually didn’t come out as a great choice, due to the particular features of the festival and even the crowd.
With an orchestra of more than 50 elements, Antony Hegarty came onstage on a Japanese Nô theatre set. All dressed in white, lights on the gown that covered him(her) to his(her) feet, never showing his(her) face, the melodic voice, angel like, soothed the crowd but, nevertheless, put down the mood of the most tired ones, sending them home sooner.
On screens, Chiaki Nagano’s “Mr. O’s Book of the Dead”, sent rare beauty and told stories of enchantment, but also of life, death and lost souls. It was after midnight and the crowd got restless, because they had no other bands to watch at the same time, as that was one of Hagarty’s demands to perform at the festival.
When it was over, simultaneously we had to deal with Run the Jewels, JUNGLE and Ariel Pink. Although we missed a huge party hosted by Run the Jewels at ATP Stage, with no regrets we headed to Ariel Pink, witnessed a bit of their sarcastic performance, dressed like women while singing and playing like we where somewhere between a hairband coming out of the late eighties and a hard rock scene from the nineties parody.
In a huge contrast from what we had witnessed and the main stage with Hegarty, right beside it JUNGLE made the night ending perfect and upbeat. We even risk to say it was the second biggest dancefloor of the festival, first being Underworld. With blasting singles as “Platoon”, “Busy Earnin”, “Time” and the most wanted “The Heat”, they threw one of the best gigs of this edition of the NOS Primavera Sound.
Everyone went home happy and dancing, and we dare saying the tunes kept on our ears and mouths for days to come!
The last day is always remembered as the day we have to keep our fuel at the top from the beginning, because the night will be long and cheerful! What better way to start then with local and former Ornatos Violeta, Manel Cruz?
Being one of the most celebrated artists of the nineties generation, having Porto as his hometown, the warm welcome made everybody there feel we were watching a true rock star by his own achievement. Totally at ease with the crowd, Cruz was the only artist of the early stages to make an encore, due to public demand. Before that everyone was mesmerized with the songs “Maluco” and “Sexo Mono”, this one from the Pluto project. Even the city mayor witnessed his performance right next to us, dancing quite discreetly. It’s always unforgettable to see him play at home.
At the NOS Stage Baxter Dury was being a victim of the bouncing between stages. Nevertheless, not giving up, he greeted festivalgoers with a great show. Quite talkative, he outlined the importance of that gig: “Today is the most important day of the year. We are in Porto!”
Thurston Moore and his band gave at the ATP Stage a sublime and filled with rock gig. Moore was co-founder of Sonic Youth and at this solo project; the sonic roots are always present. Guitars and riffs that can blow up a room. A huge crowd filled the most beautiful stage of the venue, surrounded by trees.
Next, Foxygen at the Superbock Stage delivered a stormy performance. The Californian band’s energy touched everyone who was watching them and beyond, with no moments of silence. Singer Sam France was seen drinking a bottle of Jameson without coming up for air, which revealed a super-sonic, jumping and dancing mood throughout the set.
We still had time to watch Babes in Toyland come onstage, watched closely by Moore and band from the pit area. Formed in 1987 and currently associated with the grunge scene, their sound is pure punk rock and inspiration for many female bands to come, such as L7 (also reuniting this year). Lead singer Kat Bjelland threw and energetic and almost demon-like performance.
Age is no synonym for boredom, no doubt.
After that raging act, it was time to cool things down with melodic and soundtrack boy Damien Rice. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, he’s a great singer with a powerful voice. The mainly female crowd knew the lyrics by heart, which revealed Great chorus in tune with Rice’s melodic guitar. The highlight as “The Blower’s Daughter”, rising up lighters and cellphones while the dusk suddenly set in.
Meanwhile, we were getting ready for the German and veterans Einstürzende Neubauten, celebrating 40 years together, at the now almost Industrial Revolution like ATP Stage. Suddenly the surrounding trees came alive, looking more like characters of a possible Tim Burton hypothetical approach of the post war and industrial feel of late 70’s Germany. “German engineering,” Jochen Arbeit joked. Blixa Bargeld and his visceral thunder-like voice mixed with the shattering glass and the scenic approach of a factory grinding steel and broken shatters, at “Von Wegen”, while the echoes of “Mela, Mela, Mela, Mela, Melancholia Melancholia, mon cher…” from the beautiful “Die Befindlichkeit des Landes” lingered in the surrounding woods.
In 2012, Death Cab For Cutie couldn’t perform due to heavy rain, but three years after and with a clear sky, the North American band delivered an impressive set. Peaks of euphoria were heard on the most recognizable songs, like the thundering opening “I Will Possess Your Heart”, and “The Grapevine Fires”.
The British Ride showed up as the headliners for today’s performances. They aren’t quite familiar to the Portuguese, but when we mention Andy Bell’s side project with one of the Gallaghers, everyone says “aaaaah!”
They reunited in 2014 and are as strong as ever. The opening was amazing, the sound was perfect and they made it all through the set with quite deliverance, although the audience was quite spread through the remaining stages for acts as The KVB or Ex Hex.
Shellac made their appearance at midnight, and like every single year at this festival, they didn’t disappoint anyone. A well fulfilled set, keeping the drums on a level of energy that the vibration gathered a cheering crowd around the Pitchfork stage.
We rushed to ATP to join our crowd and friends to witness The New Pornographers. Also Canadian, and united since 1997, almost all members have side projects. We had witnessed singer Neko Case on a previous Primavera Sound Porto Edition and her melodic tunes (QRO photos). Now to see them all onstage was perfect memorabilia.
They describe themselves as, “AC Newman and a group of ridiculously talented people uniquely equipped to realize his musical ambitions.” And that was what we witnessed onstage, while friends had a glass of wine and the dark tree-surrounded stage suddenly filled with colors and the melodic sound they all produced. They are our elected indie supergroup. The show ended perfectly, at their best, with “The Bleeding Heart Show”.
00h40 and the Superbock Stage was once more a lawn made dancefloor, all thanks to Dan Deacon. The super actual electronic, in synch with a perfect percussion made everyone dance and stamp their feet to the rhythm of the most recognizable tunes.
Last but not least, our final stop was at the main stage for Underworld, and what a way to end a festival! This was the one of the few gigs we saw from beginning to end. They were presenting the full and acclaimed 1994 album dubnobasswithmyheadman.
The giant disco or underground British music scene from the early nineties immediately came into our heads. Raves and partygoers, jumping up and down, hallucinating to the sound of the strong bass lines and upbeats. This is how electronic music should feel like. All in all it was a huge party. No one was seen yawning or standing still, and the set went almost until 3 am.
“Born Slippy” was the highlight, changing the album lineup to leave the best for last. A cathartic apotheosis, remembering us of what life is all about. Just like in Trainspotting’s opening scene: Choose life!
Choose anything but staying at home next year, when NOS Primavera Sound returns from 9th to 11th of June 2016!
-words: Carla Ferraz
-photos: Inês Henriques