Optimus Primavera Sound makes us pee
Destination Porto. Portugal’s second largest city which, if your not familiar, is famous for port wine and a fucked-up beer-cheese deep-fried sandwich called Franceschina, which has enough different kinds of meat and, consequently, servings of fat that could work towards solving world hunger. Seriously, I only ate half and I’m still having horrifying meat sweats.
On top of these touristic attractions, Porto is an absolutely stunning city. In the way that it could be the ideal setting for you to star in a middle-aged escapist rom com; where you would rediscover your youth after striking up a spontaneous affair with your holiday house’s landlord’s grandson. Needless to say I was here for something quite different. But still made a mental note though, for when I become Diane Keating’s age. I’ll put that on the back burner.
Back on topic. I was here for the three-day festival Optimus Primavera Sound. For this reason; being the second year running, the picturesque city was contrastingly overrun by a different temporal demographic; festival goers from all over the world and a line-up of bands over which I almost peed my pants.
It is true in terms of line-up, Optimus dwells in the shadows a bit because of its age and more humble size compared to its decade-old mother ship, Primavera Sound in Barcelona. However since the original line-up in Barca was so incomprehensibly incredible for music geeks like me I was still hurling with excitement, as were the patrons.
To ebb and weave through the pros and cons of this festival would be arduous but here are some of my personal highlights and minimal lowlights for you guys to gawk over.
Setting the scene: The festival itself took place in the plain but practical ground of Parque da Cidade; a park situated the cusp of the Atlantic Ocean’s chill. They had all your usual stalls, beer gardens and the organizers clearly didn’t waste money on unnecessary frills or non-music related gimmicks. This was with the exception of these flower garland headpieces some silly bitches lined up for hours to get their hands on. It was kind of a good way to spot the wanker though. Sounds harsh but proved true probably 70 percent of the time as they were usually the ones passed out in the Somersby chill out area from act one onwards.
Patrons: Thankfully enough there was a notable absence of drunk/pinging gangas and bogans that are unavoidable in even the most decent music festivals today. How did you do it Portugal? HOW! Was it rat poison in the Red Bull or cyanide in the fake tan? It was amazing. Everyone was there simply to check out the music and really chill. Needless to say I was already in love with this place.
Best live: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Even the most deluded detractors of Nick Cave who witnessed this swamp goth king himself could not deny the murderous brilliance of the set with his reunited pack of Bad Seeds. It was dirty, dark, fucking incredibly sexy and I haven’t even started to gush about Cave’s entrancingly magnificent enigma that night…. Highlights were ‘Jubilee’, ‘The Weeping song’, ‘Stagger Lee’, Cave thrusting his goth silk-panted crouch into everyone’s faces in the front row (totally reeling with jealousy only two rows back), Warren Ellis doing his whole masterful epileptic fit of instrumentation that punches you in the gut it’s so good, all the while the rest of The Bad Seeds looking like they just rose from the dead. Seriously, I think age has worked wonders in contributing to the intrinsic morbidity of their murder ballads. But that’s only a few amazing aspects of this performance. it was all bone-crushingly brilliant.
Pure eargasm: Liars were also contending as my personal favourite and, as expected, reconfirmed how they are out of this world pretty much at the forefront of music today. In particular Angus Andrew violently spazing out during ‘WXIM’, the cultishly invigorating singalong to ‘Broken Witch’ by the audience, but then again it was the entire set that the three-piece exploded upon us and everyone was convulsively digging it.
Dark horse favourite: Dead Can Dance. Main bitch Lisa Gerrard with the killer pipes and Sleeping Beauty outfit along with her creative partner Berndan Perry and co, are the closet sound to otherworldliness I have witnessed. Their music is like neo-classical, art rock, tribal rhythms salted with Middle Eastern and Indian chanting, equating to an amazingly intricate auditory confrontation. Opening with the almost spiritualistic ‘Children of the Sun’, and onto the eery and intense ‘Agrape,’ it was like I was going down a dizzy spiral of musical hypnotisation. Towards the end all the layers and intertwining genres did get a bit intense and leaned towards causing my brain to explode. But seriously I think they are my new favourite band.
Anti-climax: Deerhunter. They played a great array of old and new. Maybe my expectations were too high. But coming from a massive fan, albeit hard to admit, the set for me was pretty goddamn boring. Mainly due to the fact that Bradford Cox sounded flat and more bored than usual, in combination with the band taking too many wanky liberties to jam out (partly at fault of the sound system which couldn’t really handle it). Meaning we were just listened to a lot of fuzz and monotone.
Anti-climax 2: Merchandise. I didn’t know much about these guys. But I went along to check them out as the program claimed they were a mixture between; Jesus and the Mary Chain, Swans and The Fall. I came to the conclusion that, number one; they do not sound like any of the aforementioned bands and number two; they aren’t worth the hype.
Gold moment: When Fucked Up’s massively awesome Damien Abraham came on stage to aggressively shout/sing the last song of Dinosaurs Jr’s set and, in turn, saved a kind of samey 60 minutes. I was totally standing next to Julian Gross (Drummer from Liars) at that point, which made it even more astronomically exciting.
Biggest endorphin rush: Dan Deacon. You’ve done it again. Unfortunately their set was cut short due to technical issues earlier on. But Deacon and his art house electronica, combined with his brilliant use of crowd interaction, land him as a contender for one of the top four acts of the three-day festival. The moment was crystallised when he asked the girl in the flower pants (yes, not to brag, that was totally me!!) and the short guy in the drive jacket to come forward to create the human flesh archway for the entire crowd to pass through. Seriously the level of goofy happiness this guy induces amongst the crowd is almost as if he filled the confetti cannon with MDMA instead of sparkles.
Best mosh/worst attempted mosh I’ve been in; in my whole life: It’s a tie, folks. Metz and Fucked Up. I was sooooo ready for this. Metz was the first ‘real mosh pit’ of the festival taking place on the second day. I fucking love these guys. Loud, physical and intense is what they emanate to the core. Naturally I thought a mosh pit was necessary, as any sane person would. But while sometimes it flowed, other times I felt like a psychopathic Godzilla pushing people maliciously around in a Florence concert or something shitty like that. Seriously I don’t know if it’s a Portuguese thing and they don’t really do that or what. I was really confused. The density and consistency would have been completely lacklustre if it wasn’t for a few irate Goths and punks obviously from out of town; but I still got some terrified stares and snubs in the thick of it at times. Whatever, YOLO.
From what I saw of Fucked Up, it pretty much cemented that Father Damian aka Pink Eyes aka Damian Abraham, the lead singer of Fucked Up, is an absolute god. Testament to that, by the time I got there Abraham was already bearing his large and hairy physic, in amongst the thick of sweat oozing from the depths of the crowd. At that moment it seemed there was little point for the visual vantage point of the stage where the rest of the band was, as we were all drawn to his flailing body like fearless moths to a flame. To the rest of the band’s credit they managed to uphold really good clear sound for music that is so intrinsically hectic. I cannot wait to see them again. In full. But we will get to that later.
Best Portuguese band: Paus. This is most likely the one band I truly regret on missing part of their set as, unfortunately, they clashed with Dinosaur Jr (left). They are almost completely instrumental band, which I came to learn is a commonality with many popular bands and quality bands in Portugal right now (on that note check out a band called Lulu Lemon I was introduced to them by my awesome host Rui). Their sound is kind of like Battles meets old/good These New Puritans. But better. They also have two drummers. Check them out.
Nostalgic 90’s: The Breeders played their entire 1993 album ‘Last Splash’ start to finish. It was kind of tainted by the horrible sound which almost completely muffled Kim’s vocals for both iconic ‘Cannonball’ through to ‘No Aloha’ but these ladies literally oozed swagger and cool which meant they came off like they didn’t give a fuck. Josephine total friend crush. She is most certainly the only person who can wear a beaked beanie and matrix glasses and make it look cool as shit.
90’s nostalgia token number 2: Blur. Total gluttonous 90’s brit pop indulgence. It was like these guys never really looked beyond the 90’s which is kinda awesome but kinda more sad. That woo hoo song, aka ‘Song 2’, totally killed it in the end as it was clearly what most of us were waiting for.
Honorable mention: Daniel Johnston (pictured, below right). This guy is heartbreakingly talented and charmed the audience with brilliant selection from his extensive extensive catalogue like ‘Speedy Motorcycle’, my personal favourites ‘Devil Town’ and ‘Rock and Roll/EGA’. He even came on to do an encore for ‘True Love Will Find You In The End’ which left an even more strange juxtaposition of melancholy and gratification on so many levels. I’m so happy I got to witness him and tick that off my bucket list.
Melody’s Echo Chamber. She’s a total French psych pop babeatron; vibrantly cute and talented performer. Admittedly, not really my jig as I have a violent aversion to girly pop indie chicks. But I can’t argue that these guys are on the verge of infinite explosion.
Explosions In The Sky. To put it simply they were found the perfect balance of calm beauty and mind-blowing intensity. It been said too many times before but I’m going to say it again. The power and appreciation this band has on an audience especially of this size being solely instrumental is a testament to their greatness.
Swans. One of my favourite albums of last year. Noise, weirdness and lack of structure were what drew me. But I was soon to realize these guys were even more complex, foreboding and louder in real life. Their set list comprised of a healthy mix of old and new. And they totally give Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds competition for the most badass and eerie gang of talented musicians to grace Optimus’s stages that weekend. They almost blew my eardrums out by the end as well.
Fuck Buttons: Of course they were incredible. Extra snaps for their backing visuals.
Dishonourable mentions: When the timetable was COMPLETELY WRONG. Which contributed to me missing half of Fucked Up’s set and all of The Drones. Not cool Optimus. Not cool. At least I could jump in Fuck Up’s ‘sort of’ mosh to expel a minor part I felt towards the organisers at that stage. I still want to burn whoever’s responsible eyebrows and eyelashes off.
– The sound bled quite clearly from stage to stage which is definitely something they will have to work on next year. Also the quality of the sound system on both the two main stages was pretty bad. Unfortunately this hindered some performances like Deerhunter and The Breeders in particular.
– For some reason they thought KFC and Pizza hut constituted as an international food fare. Not overly disappointing, but just why?
-Sangria on tap. You think it’s a good idea. But it’s not. Trust me, I learnt the hard way.
Overall, Optimus Primavera Sound was a pretty incredible festival. As it should be, the bands were the continuous highlight slot after slot. Also the crowd, although tame, were ideal in the way we all were on the same page of appreciating the music rather than getting totally off chops and munting out. So refreshing! I anticipate from this point on this little side project festival will continue to grow by epic proportions and levels of awesome. You will most definitely see me next year.
Words and pictures by Jemma Cole.