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Festival para Gente Sentada – the preview

The first thing you need to know about Festival Para Gente Sentada (FPGS) is the
meaning of this long name. It translates quite literally to “Festival For
Seated People” and this should be enough to make you understand how much
this festival values a comfortable and intimate music-listening experience over
the massive-crowd and wild-party experience offered by most live music events. Over
the past decade, this festival has prided itself on its carefully curated
line-up (including names like Bill Callahan, Sufjan Stevens or Low*) that
attracts festivalgoers for the music itself and not for some other gimmick.

This year the festival moved from Santa Maria da Feira
(a small town between Porto and Aveiro) to Braga. This move allowed the
festival to grow and evolve a little into its biggest and most ecletic edition
ever spreading all across Braga’s downtown. The main stage is the jawdropping Theatro
Circo (a century-old theatre in the heart of Braga) and it will accommodate the
biggest and most sounding names from the billboard. But that’s not all there is.
The small downtown stages, spread across the city, will feature a handful of
up-and-coming portuguese acts and the very hip and modern GNRation (an old
military headquarter recently turned into a culture hub) will surely make us
forget all about Theatro Circo’s comfy chairs and make us dance well into the
night in a sort of after-hours party.

Braga’s Theatro
Circo, easily one of the most beautiful venues in Portugal

Onto what really matters: looking at this year’s
line-up we can’t help but feel that the festival played it a bit safe – the
change of setting was probably a big enough risk already – and chose to somehow
“recycle” some of the names from NOS Primavera Sound. At first this  might sound like a flaw but, when you really
think about it, this might actually be great news because, the truth is, we
can’t get enough of Howe Gelb’s
bohemian-gentleman charm and, in this year’s NOS Primavera Sound, we actually
had to cut Yasmine Hamdan’s set
short to go see Giant Sand’s concert in full. This will be a great chance to see them both again and we’re pretty
sure both acts will benefit from moving into an indoors venue.

Giant
Sand’s Howe Gelb covered in kitties and Yasmine Hamdan covered in glittery tulle.
Who looks more adorable?

So there you have it, the first two things we wanted
to highlight for you: Giant Sand’s borderless
country songs and Yasmine’s
hypnotizing middle-eastern pop/folk. Throw in Bruno Pernadas – whose first album was a great critical hit last
year – into the mix and the main stage is set to have an incredible first day. Also,
make sure not to miss Mdou Moctar on
the GNRation stage – his touareg music
is bound to transport everyone into the shifting sands of a scorching desert.


Moving on to the second day’s headliners: have you heard
that Mercury Rev are releasing a new
record? It’s true they haven’t been the most active or relevant band for a
while so we can’t really say we’re hyped for it but we do know they can still
pull off great live shows (Optimus Primavera Sound’12 anyone?) and it’s hard
deny the greatness of songs like “Opus
40”. We’re cautious about our expectations towards their performance
but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t the least bit curious.

Speaking of new releases, FPGS also has some fresh talent worth checking out. We’re talking
about Sun Blossoms, the dreamy lo-fi
bedroom project of young Alexandre
Fernandes that has just released his first LP (check it out).
Also, even if they can’t really be considered new-comers on their own, we have
to mention Rui Carvalho’s (known as Filho da Mãe) new collaboration with Ricardo Martins (drummer from the
now-extinct experimental rock duo Lobster) for a really promising album set to
be released this year. The advance single from their joint-venture is called “Tormenta” and it totally sounds like a
clash of titans, really ominous and sort of distressing but also somewhat
exotic, making us want to hear more as soon as possible – this will be our
chance.

Mercury
Rev’s Donahue and Grasshopper posing with fancy cocktails while Rui Carvalho
and Ricardo Martins toast to their new collaboration

We have absolutely no doubts that DJ Coco will throw one hell of a party, we just don’t really care
about his set or any of the other DJs. We love to party but partying all night
is not why we go to this festival. We go to this festival because of our love
for the singer-songwriters that mean something to us. We go to this festival
because (when we’re not busting dancefloors) we’re just a bunch of sappy fellas
and there’s nothing wrong with that. We understand that it’s nice to have an
after-party to really make the ticket price worth it for the festivalgoers and
we’re sure lots of people will love the chance to party late into the night but,
to us, that’s not really what Festival para Gente Sentada is all about.

Let’s check how everything plays out next weekend. See
you then.

JR

* Also, Devendra Banhart. <- this was the mandatory
mention of Devendra Banhart on all pieces about Festival Para Gente Sentada
.

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live

LISB-ON – the review (Day 2)

LISB-ON. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

Remember the long lines and overall mayhem that was the day before? Well, Sunday for some reason (and obviously for some effort put by the organization of the festival) was the complete opposite, dragging no crowds at the entrance and quickly charging the bracelets of festival-goers so they could buy stuff inside the festival. An explanation for this is certainly the fewer people to arrive earlier at Parque Eduardo VII, instead of the VIP crowd gathering at the improvised food zone next to the stage on Saturday afternoon.

Moving on, no reasons to be witty, since we arrived late as well to Mr. Herbert Quain’s set during the afternoon, but it sounded gracefully when entering the site. Hoping to catch you again sometime, mister.

Andras & Oscar. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

The hangover wasn’t that troublesome, we’ve had worse, but you kind of get into that brainfreeze state when listening to Andras & Oscar performance. And not in a bad way! Allow me to explain: this duo brings an aura of sunset, chillout house, and it’s easy to imagine that, if we actually had a hangover, these slow jams would make wonders to cure it. But of course, shall we not reduce their talent and comfort when performing, since Andras can really play the synths and Oscar’s voice is on point. Really cool concert for this time of the day!

Jazzanova. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

“Concert” is a word we didn’t use a lot during our review of Lisb-On. And presumptuous of me for bringing this antiquated distinction to the table, but for god’s sake, Jazzanova knows how to play a concert. Lead by Paul Randolph on voice and occasional guitar, Jazzanova brought some of their Funkhaus Sessions, starting with “Look What You Are Doin’ To Me” – right when Paul Randolph joined the stage and after the band ended their jam for beginners. This concert was really a complete joy. It would be hard to find a low point during the whole show, and they sure aren’t single note: funky at times, slow groovy here and there, with the constant soul vibe of Randolph, this was a party.


Todd Terje. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

As for Todd Terje: I must start with the disappointment it was for me (and many) that the “Live” aspect of the concert was him playing, alone, with the synth and running the rest of the songs with his computer. Sure, Lisb-On, you didn’t assure us it would be with his band, but at least you could certify it wouldn’t leave it to expectation. Nevertheless, this was pretty good as well, being actually more pumping and, erm, duh, electronic than it would be with band. But hell, I missed the strings and the flutes, the more gaudy drums and the equal result: dancing. At least “Oh Joy” and “Inspector Norse” for closing were incredible as usual, leaving us on a high note and hoping for more of Todd Terje’s moderate and effective house.

Michael Mayer. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

The sun was about to set entirely and Lisb-On was about to give us their last name: Michael Mayer. And what a class of a DJ, a very much deserved name to conclude the festival. Although very much straight-foward techno at times, Mayer knew how to build up the song and by the time the drop came, the structure of the song would be much richer and complexe, adding actual melody appealing to the ear. And of course, nice touch to play “Loud Places” by Jamie xx and closing the set with the tongue in cheek “Love is in the Air” by John Paul Young.


Surely this Sunday proved the naysayers of the previous day wrong, with a stronger line-up and space to dance and move around. And we hadn’t said this yet, but even with all that free space, the festival had sold out. I think it’s safe to say then that Lisb-On, by its second edition, has space to grow, either as a household name within the Portuguese festivals’ circuit, or as grounds to fill with bigger crowds. Expectations are high for next year’s edition, we can’t wait to be surprised by newer and exciting names in 2016! Keep “On” Moving!

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LISB-ON – the review (Day 1)

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LISB-ON. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

The birds were chirping, the sun was shining , the beats were kicking and… holy shit, this is right in the center of Lisbon.

It’s unusual for the city center to be the scenario for an open air festival, exceptions being supermarket sponsored public picnics. And Lisb-On makes it work so well. With a name not easy to google, the festival uses the hashtag #jardimsonoro (sonorous garden) to distinguish itself, and places the one stage amidst trees and grass. It’s an idyllic atmosphere that almost makes us forget that just outside the trees the city is still running and the traffic is still going.

The second edition brought bigger names, and with them, bigger crowds. The festival struggled the first day, with long lines for, pretty much, everything. A long line was spotted at the entrance, and the charging of the electronic bracelet for purchasing drinks and foods brought even more waiting to those hoping to have a beer or a fancy drink.

Meanwhile, those who got in early enough got to enjoy free food to the smooth sounds brought by Isilda Sanches of Rádio Oxigénio, and relax sitting on the grass or on some of the beach chairs available.  

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Fandango. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

Gabriel Gomes and Luís Varatojo introduced us to Fandango, their brand new project, where Portuguese traditional music meets the dancefloor. With a long history in the Portuguese music scene, both musicians were completely at ease in the electronic festival. Suddenly, the accordion or Portuguese guitar had become best friends with the backing beats and rhythms and it didn’t seem as anything could go wrong. A different sound from everything else playing in the festival, you can expect them to draw a few weirded out looks and to become a crowd appeasing act after the synth settles in.  


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Mirror People. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

Crowds were still finding their way in when Rui Maia stepped to the stage as Mirror People, and being soon after followed by the Voyager Band. Although very similar to what he has been doing around the country during the summer, the band really made the difference in terms of warmness to its sound. It’s a totally new experience when you distinguish the drums during the beat of the synths, or when the bass guitar adds an organic bass line to the songs. The set was a well packed shot of electro pop, reaching new heights when accompanied by the live vocals of Maria do Rosário. While Rui remains inconspicuous behind the synths, a barefoot Maria takes on the band lead and gets people attention. Watching Mirror People play is never a wrong choice, and getting to see the new album Voyager played live makes it obvious that Rui and the band still have a lot up their sleeves.

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Palms Trax. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

A little schedule switcheroo catched some people by surprise when Jay Donaldson showed up instead of the previously announced Nicolas Jaar. Not that we minded, any time is a good time to catch Palms Trax doing his thing on stage. Many others were disappointed to miss the chance to see him for the first time in Portugal, while still being stuck outside on the line to get in. As the sun was getting ready to say for the day, BPM’s inside Lisb-On were increasing. And don’t let his boyish lookings fool you, Palms Trax’s set is not joke. From techno synths to soulful tunes, the majority of the sitting crowd was starting to get up and feeling the need to move. We bet he won’t take long to come back (Lux Frágil, make it happen).


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Nicolas Jaar. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

In Portugal we easily create love affairs with bands and musicians. There’s the chosen ones, the ones who the Portuguese audience will never get tired from and will always welcome with smiles. Nicolas Jaar is one of the chosen ones. And let me tell you, he knows how to play a crowd. Who else to begin a set with “Vampiros” by Zeca Afonso, the 1963 poetic intervention ode to the fascist “vampires” who eat it all and leave nothing. The song brought the crowds’ biggest reaction yet, as only the Portuguese language can. Arms were raised, approving whistling was heard, hands were clapping, and the amorous affair with Jaar was once again rekindled. But as in any Nicolar Jaar set, there was time to travel all over the place. Minimal, funk, disco, house, gospel, you name it. The important thing is leaving every electronic heart fulfilled. Feeling down and need a pick me up? Let Nicolas Jaar take care of it.

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Nina Kraviz. Photo by Sílvia Fernandes

The night (ha, it was only 9 pm!) began with an uncomfortable Nina Kraviz behind the mixers. The reason? The entire front row demanding for the sound to be louder and complaining with fists raised to the security guards. And frankly, the sound was indeed lower than it had been in the previous set – actually, all the previous acts had the best sound mixtures we’ve heard the whole Summer, great sound all around. Amidst mixer changes and the angry whistles of the crowd, things were shaping up to go south once again. Nina held her ground nonetheless, and worked with what she had. The fact that the festival is surrounded by expensive hotels was probably not helping to the whole “we need it to be LOUDER, NOW!” side. Whether the crowd ended up being hypnotized by the wacky projections on the trees or the glowing target that surrounded the stage, Nina’s circular bass tunes must have helped. As the volume seemed to increase and people were starting to enjoy it better, the Bolachas’ team left to continue the Saturday night fun.

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LISB-ON – the preview

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LISB-ON,
you’re peculiar, I’ll give you that. For once, it’s great to attend a festival in which the action takes part mainly during the afternoon, leaving the last act to
close until midnight because there will always be dancing fools until the end.
But, sure, if you’re not one of them, you can leave the festival just in time
for dinner, which is something admirable in this day and age. Why do you think
matinées were such a big thing?

And then
the other peculiar aspect, who shouldn’t be that peculiar as well: Eduardo VII
Park is one of the must-see places in Lisbon, and the most big central
park of the city, a perfect place for a festival, especially during the afternoon.

Taking this into consideration, what if we told you that there’s definitely great dance music in this
line-up? That’s right, and we’re about to check up all there is to see. So keep
reading and see if it fits your taste.

Saturday 5th

It’s ladies
first! Isilda Sanches, better known
as one of the faces of Rádio Oxigénio, one of Lisbon’s best alternative radio
stations, will have its DJ skills tested, choosing
some dance songs as she’s used to on the radio. Can’t be that different, right?

So, what’s Fandango? It’s the junction of two very
experienced musicians from great Portuguese bands – Gabriel Gomes with Sétima
Legião and Madredeus, Luís Varatojo with Peste & Sida, Linha da Frente e A
Naifa – trying to bring very Portuguese instruments and musicality to the
electronic based music they’re playing. Interesting, at least, should be
quality live.

Much better
known to the audience is Mirror People,
X-Wife’s Rui Maia’s dance project. Here he will summon The Voyager Band, and I
must say I’m very curious to check how this will be brought live. I can say I
already saw Mirror People as a DJ set (no music of his own but a nice set), as
a live act (on Vodafone Paredes de Coura, and it was okay, but the songs could’ve flow better), and now we’ll see how we’ll do it in a proper
concert.

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Very
interesting Portuguese acts so far, but how’s for a headliner at 6:00 PM? It’s Nicolas Jaar and he really needs no
introduction. There’s two new EPs released this year (Nymphs II and III),
soundtracks to two movies, one being the winner of Palme d’Or at Cannes, Dheepan,
but there’s still the critically acclaimed Space Is Only Noise back in 2011
and the collaboration with Dave Harrington, DARKSIDE, now on hiatus. It’s a
must see.

Speaking of
the youngsters (Nicolas Jaar is, like, my age, FML), Palms Trax started professionally just in 2013 with the Equation EP,
but shows signs of knowing the old school back to the 80s. Really excited to
see this protégée of the Berlin scene, to the point of living there this
Bristol born fellow.

Speaking of
the devil, Nina Kraviz may be Russian (I think), but she’s got the Berlin scene
all over her DJ set as well. It’s up to this fine looking lady to close the
first day of the fest, giving us a practically 3 hour set. Be ready to feel the
pedal!


Sunday 6th

Moving on
to the second day, it’s up to the music journalist, DJ and basically Portuguese
scene guru Rui Miguel Abreu to warm
up the stage for the later acts, turntabling some funk, soul and jazz hits for
the crowd. Expect a sort of musical lesson while you move your feet and be
ready to press Shazam!

One hour
later, time for other Portuguese fellow to bring his electronic music act
alive, being Mr Herbert Quain doing
a live act in collaboration with VJ João Pedro Fonseca. Let’s hope this collab
still works during daylight, if not well, bringing your sunglasses may help?

Next, time
for another tag team, Andras & Oscar.
While Andras Fox works on the producing of countless and contagious electronica,
Oscar Key Sung puts his sweet voice to the action. The result
should be a classy house jam for all the duration of their set.

But the
reasons why Sunday will be a hell of a festival day are still to come, and for
starters one of them is Jazzanova.
Somewhat of a historical act by nowadays, but not that much, releasing three
albums in the timespan of 13 years (yeah, that’s some work they put on each record),
but occupying their time in remixing other artists, these German giants will
form a band, inviting the singer Paul
Randolph
to put on stage a brilliant act of chill-out, jazz house music.

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The other main reason to come to Eduardo VII this day is, of course, Todd Terje. Not only because of “It’s Album Time”, one of the
fundamental albums of 2014, but because, as you may have read, it’s yet another
“Live Act”. And if you haven’t seen videos of the band Todd Terje managed to
form performing these songs, well, prepare to be VERY amazed. It’s a whole
different feel to see real strings of even Terje Olsen (real name) playing the
keys to their own songs. It’s a blast.

And guess
what? Yup, the day will end with a big German electronic DJ, how’s that for a
change? But no mind, Michael Mayer
knows the stuff and not only his extensive discography proves it, but also some
well know remixes to some famous bands, like Depeche Mode or Pet Shop Boys.
It’s a great way to end the festival and a great way to remember this LISB-ON is all about a concept and bringing quality acts that feature well on it.
That’s the way to bring a festival alive, and you may bet next Saturday there won’t be as much excitement about other events as much as there will be about LISB-ON.
We’re on!

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Vodafone Paredes de Coura 2015 – the review

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Someone playing in front of a lot of people in the most perfect scenery you can get in a music festival. Photo by Hugo Lima [Vodafone Paredes de Coura]

Writing a review about Vodafone Paredes de Coura is always one of the most painful things I can do as a music writer. First, if I am to judge the musical performances – and, of course, some of those were pretty forgettable, others not even worth mentioning, as there are always some rotten strawberries even in the nicest basket – I can never do justice to how good the festival is as a whole. Second, if I’m to write a review, it means this years’ edition of the festival – and the best week of the whole year for most people who attend it – is over, and there are 51 boring weeks left until we return.