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Festival para Gente Sentada – the review (2/2)

Day 2 of Festival Para Gente Sentada (FPGS) and it was a sunny day in Braga. The conditions for an easy afternoon listening to the lovely music of Peixe, Sun Blossoms and Time for T were perfect. Unfortunately life had other plans for us and, by the time we got to Braga, we’d missed all three of those shows.  Or so we thought.

It turned out that we weren’t the only ones that had a hitch in our plans and it seems like Sun Blossoms ran into some car trouble on the way to the Festival so they had Toulouse fill in for them. Unlucky for Alexandre Fernandes and his crew, lucky for us that still managed to see them play later.


Playing at dusk rather than on the predicted time-slot, Alex Fernandes wore his
best Hawaiian shirt and brought out the warm and fuzzy summery vibe that lives inside of Sun Blossoms – his lo-fi bedroom
project that has just released its homonymous first album.

As we stood on that plaza the sun had already set but,
hearing these reverb-drowned but straight-to-the-point songs, we were instantly
reminded of a stripped-down version of the California rock-scene. You could tell
Sun Blossoms is still a fresh
project deeply tainted with genuine naivety and still searching for a firm
footing but that works in the band’s favor. Who doesn’t like seeing a bunch of kids
pick up their instruments with ambition? Ahh the promise of youth is so
refreshing! Way to go!

Sun Blossoms’
late performance messed up our timetable a bit so we left a bit earlier and quickly
grabbed a bite nearby before heading to Theatro Circo just in time to see B Fachada open the main-stage on this
second day.


B Fachada has
been splitting opinions ever since he first appeared in the music-scene. His
music started with simple guitar compositions, witty lyrics and off kilter
vocals but has since turned to samplers, synths and even more exaggerated
vocals. Looking at him now it makes us feel like grumpy old
men complaining about how much better things used to be back in the day. There’s
no need to make this a debate of guitar vs. synth – that’s not what this is and
we love them both. It’s just that the new direction B Fachada took his music doesn’t appeal to us and feels empty.

On stage, the feeling of emptiness on the new songs is
amplified and seeing Fachada alone,
behind a synth, flamboyantly singing over roughly cut samples was disheartening.
He was never much of a singer to begin with but, along with his lyrics, that was
what made him somewhat special. To us it just seemed like he was trying too
hard to be quirky, especially when he decided loosen up and dance a little.

Compared to the shy B Fachada we used to know, this one seemed almost like a joke.
There were good songs of course, like the guitar-driven ”Mané-Mané”, and we did
enjoy some of the more african-influenced songs from “Criôlo” (his fourth LP)
but overall the performance felt flat and uninspired. Like we said on the
review of the first day: “time stops for no one” and as much as we’d love to
see B Fachada perform acoustic songs
with his “braguesa” guitar that’s just not who he is anymore… or maybe we’re
just bitter that he didn’t include our favorite songs in the setlist.


With Lydia Ainsworth
things didn’t get any better and the prospects for the evening weren’t looking very
optimistic so far. With a long white veil over her head, Lydia resembled a ghostly figure – an eerie imagery that worked
very well with her somber spectral pop. Her gloomy songs have a heavy emphasis
on overworked vocal melodies and somber synths in ways that, at times, made us
think of Enya or Kate Bush (even if Lydia
Ainsworth
is a lot more restrained and far less kitschy).

We would’ve skipped this whole concert if we had known
how boring it would be. There’s no need to coat this with sugar – we literally
saw people sleeping on the audience – but, to be fair, things did warm up a bit
near the end. By finishing the show with “Malachite” (one of the stronger songs
from Right From Real) and a surprisingly dark cover of Chris Isaak’s classic “Wicked
Game” that could’ve come from Lana del Rey, Lydia redeemed herself and left a not-so-bad last impression behind.


After a couple of underwhelming performances it was up
to Mercury Rev to save the night. If
you read our preview for the festival you know that we were a bit skeptical of
this concert. We could say that the fact that our expectations weren’t very
high helped the show’s tremendous impact but that would be very unfair to Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and the rest of the band. To put it bluntly: it was just
fucking great!

Despite a few technical problems (the lead vocals were
causing some kind of resonance that was very distracting), the exuberant
crescendos we’ve grown to love sounded great and it was very fun to see them
bloom powerfully in response to Donahue’s
dramatic gestures. We felt deep pleasure in revisiting the magnificence of “Opus
40”, the ambition of “Tonite it Shows” or the heavenly choirs of “Endlessly”,
and even the new songs, “The Queen of Swans” and “Autumn’s in the Air”, perfectly
carried Mercury Rev’s spirit and emotion.

After the final song (“Opus 40”), Mercury Rev’s drummer, Jeff
Mercel
took the mic and, speaking in an admirable Portuguese, he declared
the band’s love for Portugal. After that not-so-subtle nudge we thought the
encore was pretty much a given (also they hadn’t played “Goddess on a Highway”
yet) but somehow, as soon as the band left the stage the lights got turned on
and people started leaving. Only a handful of hardcore fans stayed behind
cheering the band but to no avail. It was one hell of a show , too bad that it
had to end a bit abruptly… but at least we got a lovely Neil Young cover (“A
Man Needs a Maid”) and a beautiful tribute to the late Mark Linkus (“Sea of
Teeth” by Sparklehorse) – the biggest surprises from the setlist.


Still a bit disappointed with the lack of an encore, it
was time to go back to GNRation for a
quick math lesson. Filho da Mãe +
Ricardo Martins
is proof that the whole doesn’t have to be limited to the
sum of the part and this new project by two of the most talented Portuguese
musicians of the last few years results in something that is new to both of
them.

This time Filho
da Mãe
went electric but, even though that’s not entirely new to him (he
was If Lucy Fell’s guitar-man), this new path is less aggressive and a lot warmer
than before. On the drums, Ricardo
Martins
is still his colossal self, playing monstrous and unpredictable
jams – he was never one for simple 4/4 rhythms anyway. Together they form a
really imposing duo – two titans throwing everything they’ve got at one another
while the audience can only watch their clash dumbfounded and powerless. No one
would dare to step between them while they’re playing but no one could leave
until they were done either.

The night would wrap with DJ Coco’s performance but,
after the last two concerts we’d just seen, we had to go home to properly let
it all sink in. See you next year, Festival
Para Gente Sentada
. We’ll wait for you.

JR

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