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Festival para Gente Sentada – the review (1/2)

Time stops for no one and the Bolachas crew is
now growing old

and
can barely handle the intensity of the big summer events. That’s just one of
the reasons we embrace Festival para
Gente Sentada
(FpGS) dearly. What’s the other? The chance to see some of
our favorite singer-songwriters in a semi-intimate setting while comfortably
seated, of course. Despite what we just said, don’t think that FpGS is a
festival for “old people” (whatever that is). The wide range of generations we
saw in the audience should be proof enough of that.

Officially, the festival opened on Friday afternoon
with performances by Serushio, Benjamim and Box 2 Box on tiny outdoor stages across the city. Unfortunately other
responsibilities prevented us from being there from the get-go so our festival
started at 21h30 when we stepped into the majestic Theatro Circo to see Bruno Pernadas.


With a remarkable line-up of nine musicians (including
members from You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown, Tape Junk, Minta and a three element
brass section) this show was a real treat. Even if you don’t really like Pernadas’ music it’s hard to look at
this group of talented musicians and not admire the way they work together complementing
each other and creating this organic free-flowing style somewhere between the
soundtrack of a space-opera and some exotic old-time big band while still
sounding fresh and maintaining a pop-like charm. From the brass section to the
choirs, to the synths and the drums everything fits perfectly together sounding
as complex and exquisite as in a studio recording. Truly impressive!

Starting the show off with “Ahhhhh”, which
is also the album opener, Pernadas
and his band seamlessly played the songs from his critically-acclaimed work and
immersed the audience in his imaginary outer-space fantasy in such a way that
it was really disappointing when, after announcing a new song to close the set,
the production didn’t let him play it due to schedule restrictions. It was a rude
awakening back to a reality where (unfortunately) there are no pink ponies
flying on Jupiter.


The next artist to grace the stage with her presence was
Yasmine Hamdan, the alluring bare-footed
beauty from Lebanon. With songs ranging from love and heartbreak (like the
lovely “Hal” from the Jim Jarmusch film “Only Lovers Left Alive”) to traditional
fisherman songs from the gulf of Persia or theatrical representations of
stereotypes in old Egyptian films, Yasmine
and her band took the everyone for a smooth ride across the Middle-East.

Even if the audience can’t really distinguish any
words (apart from the occasional habibi),
the truth is that music doesn’t always need words to get through to the
audience. This was a prime example of that because, even if Yasmine did put some effort into
briefly explaining the stories behind most of the songs, her sensual dance
moves and emotionally charged voice would be more than enough to enthrall
everyone. It was almost magical, like she was some kind of enchantress from an
old One Thousand and One Nights fairy-tale. Shakira must’ve been onto something
when she claimed that the hips don’t lie.


It was time for Giant
Sand
to blow us away with, not only one of the most musically fulfilling
shows of the festival, but also the most entertaining one. Presenting
themselves to Braga with a classic rock-band formation (guitars, drums and
bass), the new moniker they have adopted (Giant3
Sand
) works both as a way for them to keep making new songs (their new
album Heartbreak Pass proves that) and also to celebrate their 3 decades of
history.

Between toasts, cell-phone pictures, crazy
pedal-effect guitars and other funny antics, Gelb was acting even goofier than his usual self so it was kind of hard
to take even the most heartfelt ballads (like the beautiful cover of Leonard
Cohen’s “A Thousand Kisses Deep”) too seriously. There’s no doubt that Howe Gelb is the star of the show and
heart and soul of Giant Sand but,
despite his intense presence, it was humbling to see that he doesn’t selfishly
hog the attention for himself and is able to disappear into the shadows and let
the spotlight shine on his bandmates Brian
Lopez
and Gabriel Sullivan as
each of them each perform a song of their own authorship.

We won’t deny that, for a few minutes, we were taken
aback by the heavy focus on their most rock’n’roll-tinged songs (their concert at
NOS Primavera Festival, earlier this year, was mostly country-based and we
expected something along those lines) but, as we settled into the noisy storm Gelb had prepared for us, the surprise turned
into pleasure quite naturally. “It’s ok to leave a little early.” Howe said “You’ll hear the last one
from the street.” he warned before throwing “Tumble & Tear” (from Giant Sand’s first album) at the
audience and ending this terrific concert with a very loud ‘bang’.


Not everyone decided to take the short walk between
Theatro Circo and GNRation to see Mdou
Moctar
and his band (if you are
one of those persons: too bad for you) but, as the trio stepped onto the stage
of the adequately named “black-box”, the room was still comfortably crowded. Moctar and his bandmates took the tribal
rythms and the arabesque finger-picking from their homelands and evolved them into
a sweet psychedelic desert-blues that was the perfect excuse for us to stretch
our legs and loosen our muscles a bit after all that time in Theatro Circo’s
chairs.

There were only two downsides to this show. The fact
that the encore had to be cut short (and we mean really short… that was the
shortest encore ever) for the band to make it to Barcelona on time and the many
technical difficulties that made the technician look like the fourth member of
the band – always on stage checking the cables and the amps. Fortunately, none
of those managed to disrupt the communion between band and audience or stop the
band from bringing the Saharan heat to Braga and ending the first night of the
festival on a very high note.

JR

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