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Optimus Primavera Sound 2013: Friday, day 2

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Optimus Primavera Sound. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Optimus Primavera Sound’s second day of concerts was assuredly the big day of the festival, with major headliners Blur stepping up to play one of the most important concerts in Portuguese soil this year. But there was so much more to it.

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OM. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

When Al Cisneros and Amos moved from their previous experiences to create OM, they were thinking about give to their fans a different experience. The droning metal invaded Primavera Sound when the sun was shining high. It may look a bit strange how you can mix the colorful landscapes of the festival with a dark kind of music. But it worked like a good trip of eastern-influenced type of music, rhythmic and smooth. It has a sort of mystical mood, kind of magic jam and the elements converse to a sort of joyful experience. The elements of the psychedelic, the walls of bass fuzz, sparse drums that have the power to create a pleasant mood. There was time for some songs off Advaitic Songs and a powerful “State of Non-Return”, where bass fuzzes get us to a new metal approaching, and the extremely tight drums gave us the sensation of clumsiness. The sound of OM is always about to free your mind there were the ambiences of the atmospheric keyboards and high-pitched wails working as backing vocals.  The power of OM has direct relation with the genuine elements that make the concert a transcendental moment, entrancing washes of depth and hypnotic groove. – CMT

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Neko Case. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Being the big fans of the AC Newman-lead supergroup New Pornographers that we are, it’s tough not to allow their shadow to cover Neko Case. Her outstanding performance on the record Twin Cinema is memorable, but the truth is her solo albums are also great. An indie-flavored version of the trve alt-country style, sweet songs, and slide guitars. One thing you can’t do, though: ask her to play “The Bleeding Heart Show”, maybe the best song she ever put her voice on – she’ll be mad at you. – RC

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Daniel Johnston. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Daniel Johnston wrote some of the most sincere and beautiful songs fo the past 30 years: “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Your Grievance”, “Devil Town”, “True Love Will Find You in the End”… It’s also pretty obvious to everyone that Johnston isn’t a performer. Most of the concert was not memorable – his backing band, unfortunately, is also nothing special – but the latter two songs I mentioned above, played on the encore, made me forget about the rest. It’s hard not to break down while watching him sing the first words in “True Love”. A truly touching moment.

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Swans. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Slower, louder and harder. It’s not difficult to define the power of Swans. Wave after wave, there was heavy noise that let us in a blissful meditative magic in a stunning set. It’s like you’re seeing the darkest opera you will ever see, where the music is a punishing and visceral act, and yet stunning and beautiful. The majesty rides you to the storm, disturbing your head and dealing with the highest decibel possible.  Gira and his boys let us travel to the fringes of the universe and all the bizarre there is. There is a mixture between eastern drones, clanging metallic bringing an intense wall of vibration, hitting the Ritcher Scale. In the other point, you have Michael Gira singing an heavy melancholia and gorgeous acting, like if he’s the devil’s crooner. In the avalanche of terror and noise, we are always dealing with the frontier between the sophistication, the experimentalism of the repetitions, and the madness of the droning power. During the set you had some highlights like the unrecorded song “She Loves Us”, the title track “The Seer” and opening track “To Be Kind”. I’m not exaggerating to say the set is an amazing experience of modern music. They are beyond any categorization and they will sound like a brand new progressive stuff, even if we’re talking about their previous stuff. By the end of the day, seeing this live act makes almost all of other stuff sound lightweight and pointless. – CMT

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Mão Morta. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

9:30 pm, ATP Stage. While Swans were giving rude noise lessons to a large Primavera crowd, Rodriguez was supposed to perform an historic gig, cancelled few weeks before to be replaced by Portuguese rock dinosaurs Mão Morta. Of course this lead to a big doubt: was it really worth it to attend a concert of a band which surely two thirds of the Portuguese OPS attenders already saw? A “greatest hits” concert with no foreseeable album to come? A concert of a band whose main vocalist would miss in place of Swans (as Adolfo Luxúria Canibal would confess moments earlier)? Don’t even bother to roll the drums, the answer is “Yes”. Like I mentioned, it was indeed a greatest hits concert. And for starters this is why it turned out to be a great concert, simply because it became the celebration of Mão Morta’s career to an audience not entirely Portuguese (during the show some Spanish guy asked me the name of the band playing). The gruesome lyrics and Adolfo’s striking pose can’t age, songs as “1 de Novembro” or “Anarquista Duval” have become hymns – who wasn’t singing the “oh-oh-ohs” of “1 de Novembro” had it already been performed? – and mostly they gave a heck of an irresistible concert. Seriously I was just stalling time til Melody’s Echo Chamber started – ended watching the entire concert and no Melody’s for me. Regrets? None. – BSC

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Shellac. DSS

A Shellac performance isn’t just a rock concert. It’s a happening. Another happening, you might be thinking, as they play Primavera every year and mostly everyone has seen them by now. And yes, their live show hasn’t change a lot in the past few years: there’s always the “look at me I’m a plane” silly antic, Todd Trainer beating the shit out of his snare drum around the stage on “The End of Radio” and both Albini and Weston stealing his drumkit piece by piece at the ending of the concert. Then why do I went to see them for the third time instead of watching Grizzly Bear, a band I sometimes enjoy and whose concert I missed in the 2010 edition (to see Polvo or some other better band, I think)? Because it’s fucking fun. No one else gets on stage shouting “THIS IS A SAD FUCKING SONG” and then proceeds to beat the shit out of everyone’s eardrums and instigate madness in the front rows, where crazy Central European-looking couples teach the locals (and everyone else) how to have fun. Again, fun is the word. Even Steve Albini stated that between “Killers” and “Wingwalker”: “I side with the defenders, the defenders of FUN.” Me too, and I’ll be seeing them next year again. Never change.

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Grizzly Bear. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

I fucking love Grizzly Bear and think they are one of the most interesting, flawless, and important acts of the 00s and 10s. Following their 4th LP, Shields, it looks like Brooklyn-based quartet is now fully grown, and, with a perfect setlist, they were able to balance melody and improv. in the Optimus Stage, both in equal parts, in a way they hadn’t been able to done, e.g., at Super Bock Super Rock 2010. It was amazing, and totally worth to miss Shellac at the same time, back at the ATP stage. – RC

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Four Tet. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

The set of Four Tet AKA Kieran Hedben is truly more accessible than is record work. From the ethereal genre-splicing beats of the albums, he didn’t bring us almost anything. Trying to make people sway, he kept his choices for the upbeat. The chilling synths and constant rings, but he brought the bass, making everyone vibrate. It was physical as a performance in a open-air festival needed to be. – CMT

Meanwhile, Meat Puppets were clearly having the time of their lives at the ATP stage. With a still-rednecky, rockier-than-countrier setlist – and I was hoping for the latter – they pulled out of their hats an unexpected version of “Sloop John B” as we were leaving for Blur which made me stop somewhere between the bushes that separate the two stages, contemplate how nicely this kind of sorcery they call “world” works and sing/shout along with them. Jesus, I fucking love my life.

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Blur. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Not only Blur is one of the biggest (in dimension) bands of all times, one of the groups with which I started listening to music for real, and Damon Albarn is one of the greatest songwriters of pop/rock, they’re a band known for greatness live. And it’s outstanding what these guys can do with their age. Last year, Blur have released new songs. Good songs. They have played them in the Optimus Stage, at OPS, among all other tunes, a best of, totally, and it was so, so good. My only regret is that I was a little bit hungry and tired, thus not being able to really feel this gig. – RC

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Hot Snakes. Hugo Lima/Optimus Primavera Sound

Meanwhile, everywhere else…

My first concert at the Pitchfork tent was Do Make Say Think, one of the acts I wanted to see the most in this festival. Like I said on the festival preview, it’s not 2003 anymore, but “Fredericia” is still one of the best post-rock tunes ever written. How they’re playing in the worst stage of the festival at the same time as the bigger headliner instead of being alongside scenemates Explosions in the Sky in the main stage is still a mystery to me. It would be one of the contenders for best show of the festival if we could have the chance to see them while laying down on the hilly surfaces in front of any of the other stages, gazing at the stars or doing some other faggotry that doesn’t involve standing at a hard surface from 1:20 to 2 am on a music festival.

At the same time, the reformed Hot Snakes, one of the major American post-Drive Like Jehu post-hardcore bands, or a more mature version of them, were playing at the ATP stage for a couple hundred of fans. Although they were on heavy rotation on my MP3 player in the spring of 2005 or something, I just wasn’t feeling like punching people in the face after being shot in the heart by the Canadian post-rockers. I need these guys in a small club ASAP though.

Glass Candy is one of those bands that have all the ingredients that make me run away as fast as I can: cool ladies’ electronic dance music that attracts annoying fans eager to being earfucked by a singer who enjoys screeching a little too much for my taste. Normally I wouldn’t give them a chance, but I looked to the timetable to see what the alternative was and hah, there was no way I’d be near the ATP stage for a while. Against all odds, I loved this. Singer Ida No looks like a lovely housewife from the 80s and her singing voice is so good that I forgot about all the shouting that of course was going to follow as soon as she entered the stage for “Digital Versicolor”. The concert rapidly became a massive party – “Geto Boys” was the highlight for me, with that awesome beat from “My Mind Playing Tricks On Me” – which I was grateful to be a part of. As a bonus, I got to not see Fuck Buttons. I win. Your word, CMT.

Okay, Fuck Buttons. Their albums made a fantastic transition to the stage. The sonic experimental music of the duo mixes influences by a lot of genres with distorted tonalities and rhythmic noise. The strobing modulators and technological FX transformed the show in a hyperactive experience. The sort-of-like industrial psychedelic techno loomed in a blissful way. FB’s music makes the groove join the power of rock, twiddling distortions and reverb, screaming for the party to come. In the flux vortex you are sucked into somewhere galactic, shiny and immense. The fractured beats create a tremendous convulsion and when the bass kicks, there is a minor earthquake of dance happening, trashing the mass of the bodies. The physical, visceral and intense music is infectious and contaminates the audience. They have something special in the way they capture the hard-hitting sound and make all sound so furious that he have to conclude maybe there is just a small difference between techno and punk music. – CMT

– DSS/AMB except when noted

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