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NOS Primavera Sound 2015: the review. DAY 3

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Foxygen. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

We told you Xylouris White would be one of the acts to watch on the last day of the festival and they didn’t disappoint. Too bad their entertaining lute-drums combo was witnessed by only a couple of hundred people, some of them laying down in the ATP meadow, enjoying the sun without having to see local hero Manel Cruz on the main stage, who gathered a huge crowd early in the afternoon (full of people who clearly need to check their priorities, of course). The Thurston Moore Band was next, interesting as always, but we would rather listen to Demolished Thoughts-era straightforwardness rock songs instead of seemingly endless guitar riffs that seemed to go nowhere. 

Now, Foxygen’s circus was pretty entertaining. Sure, if you saw their concert in Barcelona you noticed none of the theatrics was improvisation (he also broke up with both his girlfriend and boyfriend a week before…) including their stage exit mid-concert when they left their best song, “San Francisco”, playing in the background and then came back to butcher their second best song, “Shuggie”. Sam France knows how to annihilate his own band – they’ve announced this as their last tour ever – going out with a bang and having fun while doing it. Kudos.

Kevin Morby. Now we’re talking! It was Kevin Morby’s second time in Portugal (remember the first? We do.). Now presenting his second album, Still Life, with an added bass player that adds an extra layer to his songs (what a fantastic performance of “Harlem River”!) he has clearly surpassed what was already a great concert back in October. Songs like “Amen” (video above) or “All of My Life” sound even better live, and the final sequence of Bill Fay’s “I Hear You Calling” into his own “Parade” is already a live classic that we’ll be sad to see vanishing from his setlist when the time comes. A truly fantastic concert by one of the best songwriters of this decade and the best of day three.


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Death Cab for Cutie. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

Death Cab for Cutie was right next on the Superbock stage. Nostalgia was never my thing – and it still isn’t. Ten years ago, I’ve listened to Transatlanticism and Plans more often than I would admit today. But hey, I also listened to the Editors and Kaiser Chiefs’ debut albums and people would have to pay me for me to go through the pain of seeing them live in 2015. What drove me to see DCFC instead of one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live (Einstürzende Neubauten at the marvellous Casa da Música back in 2008)? I don’t know, but I’m glad I did. For the first time in Portugal, and after cancelling their gig three years ago due to heavy rain (maybe they just wanted to see Portugal vs Germany like everyone else) they’ve presented some sort of greatest hits set (”Crooked Teeth”, “Soul Meets Body”, “The New Year”) along with a decent selection of songs off their latest albums (including the beautiful opener “I Will Possess Your Heart”). But what really made DCFC’s Portuguese debut memorable for the fans was show closer “Transatlanticism”, which lead to a reasonable amount of tears being shed throughout the audience. 

One Direction for adults.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I would rather see 1D among thousands of hysteric 12 year olds than sit through five more minutes of The KVB or aligning myself with all this fake nostalgia that is pretending to be a massive Ride fan when nobody actually listens to Nowhere or Going Blank Again since the 90s. Unless you were one of those post-rock nerds who listened to all instrumental rock albums released between 2005 and 2007 then proceeded to experiment with similar genres, like shoegaze or dream pop. Either way, you’ll probably never listen to Ride again until they’re announced to play other festival.


Speaking of bands people only listen to once per year, Shellac has played for the first time outside their natural habitat, travelling from the ATP stage to the Pitchfork tent for yet another massive show that words can’t explain. And I wouldn’t do it if I could, go check them for yourself next year. No excuses!

The New Pornographers were up next at the ATP stage. Massive disappointment for those who were expecting Dan Bejar and Neko Case on stage. Bejar is simply irreplaceable – so irreplaceable that the only song written by him that the Pornos played was the amazing “Testament of Youth in Verse” – but Kathryn Calder’s stellar voice quickly made most of us forget Neko Case wasn’t there. By the apotheotic show closer “The Bleeding Heart Show” you couldn’t tell if it was Case or Calder singing the coda. A great concert that could’ve been something else if Bejar had nothing better to do back at home.


If you were expecting to read a really excited review of Underworld’s rave by the main stage, please go somewhere else. Still on the ATP stage, Ought stole the show by playing one of the most exciting shows of the festival, which is even more surprising if you take in consideration the fact that Tim Darcy’s voice sounds like the official soundtrack of being constantly bored/being hollow on the inside. (That’s a compliment!) Starting with a triad of some of the best songs in their debut More Than Any Other Day (”Pleasant Heart”, the frantic “The Weather Song” and “Today More Than Any Other Day”), Ought then proceeded to numb the audience with some slower but inspiring numbers (including some new songs) and then proceeded to rip it all again by playing album closer “Gemini” by the end of the set. By the end of the concert – after shouting WANT IT!/WANTED! countless times – you could see people in such a state of ecstasy that made them celebrate, run and dance all at the same time while trying to catch a glimpse of Underworld’s concert. I might have been one of them. Right on time to experience “Born Slippy .NUXX” live, the moment everyone was waiting for (and which made a lot of people leave the ATP stage before the end of Ought’s gig). That “Gemini” -> “Born Slippy” sequence was probably the most exciting combo I’ve witnessed live – a mix of old and new, of organic and electronic, of shouting and dancing – and it could only have happened in one festival. See you next year, Primavera.

DSS

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live

NOS Primavera Sound 2015: the review. DAY 2

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Giant Sand. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

Again, a slow lazy beginning to the second day of the festival. While the uninteresting PT/BR outfit Banda do Mar opened the afternoon on the main stage, Lebanese songwriter Yasmine Hamdan was spotted chilling on the green grass before her show. Accompanied by a drummer, a guitar player and a keyboardist, her voice soared through the mostly empty meadow right in front of the ATP stage. Her music deserved more attention but after a couple of songs Howe Gelb’s Giant Sand was calling and gathering a decent amount of people in front of the Superbock stage. In the preview of the festival (and in one of our weekly playlists) we said their latest album, Heartbreak Pass, might be one of the best in their 30-year career. Their show, based mostly on the new record, proved us right. “Transponder”, “Song So Wrong”, “Every Now and Then” or “Man on a String” were some of the highlights – along with the rollercoaster ride that was the show closer, oldie “Tumble & Tear”, straight from their debut. The only concert in the whole festival where we felt there was no need for more pedal steel. Top 5 material.

Patti Smith. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

On the other hand, Patti Smith’s second concert of the festival, performing Horses in its entirety, apparently (at least taking into consideration the opinions of those who saw both gigs) wasn’t as powerful as the one on the day before – some of the songs aren’t really tailored for being performed live, so we moved on to Viet Cong on the ATP stage… only to leave it less than ten minutes later. “Let’s play louder than everyone else to sound really powerful and tough” is almost never a good approach, so we managed to go back to the NOS stage just in time for Patti Smith’s encore: the lively classic “Because the Night” and the boring hopeful-leftie-young-adults-anthem “People Have the Power”. Speaking of boring things, who decided to allow José González to play at dinner time? Probably the show more suited for sitting up in the hill discussing football/soccer news until you lose interest in González’s languid folk songs and decide to go eat something. Or check out aussie jangly pop sensation Twerps, whose two songs we listened to were pretty interesting. Remember that Australian singer-songwriter that also played early at the Pitchfork stage last year? Check where she is now. Let’s see if we see something similar happening with them.


The Replacements. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

Turning our heads to the past now: The Replacements are up next on the main stage and it seems like time has been kind to Paul Westerberg. Jumping around, his voice as good as always, Westerberg certainly looks younger than he is. He thrashed one of his guitars, mentioned this was their last show ever (is it?), sang classics like “Bastards of Young”, “Androgynous”, “The Ledge”, “Can’t Hardly Wait” or “Waitress in the Sky” before jolting into an encore that started with a version of T.Rex’s “20th Century Man” and ended in apotheosis with timeless classics “Left of the Dial” and “Alex Chilton”. Sometimes it’s perfectly acceptable to look back.

The same opinion might hold Jason Pierce and his Spiritualized, dedicating a massive chunk of their setlist to Amazing Grace, the not-so-amazing ugly duckling of their discography (the usual suspect “Lord Let It Rain on Me” plus “Rated X”, “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)”, and the admittingly gorgeous “Oh Baby”) and revisiting absolute classics like “Shine a Light”, an amazing, endless version of “Electric Mainline” and a surprise appearance of Lazer Guided Melodies’ “Take Your Time” by the end of the show. Spiritualized’s delicate but powerful sonic endeavours need space and time to cooperate in order to provide the audience with the best possible experience, and a (starry) night slot at the ATP stage is all they needed to shine brighter than everyone else. Without a shadow of a doubt, the best concert of the festival.


After such an incredible show, only someone special’s music could possibly hold my attention. At this point I wondered if other artist’s music could add something valuable to my night, and I thought I should probably let my eardrums think and dream about what they have just experienced and call it a night – like I did some years ago after finally seeing Tortoise in Barcelona, only to be reminded that Mission of Burma were playing not far away from where I was standing, refusing to listen to other music – but the thought of experiencing Antony playing live with an orchestra quickly set me in motion to the main stage, passing through what seemed like a boring Belle and Sebastian show, unlike their Paredes de Coura one a couple of years ago. 

Sure, Antony & the Johnsons’ latest album isn’t the most interesting work of art I’ve appreciated, but his live shows are always breathtaking – and songs like “Cripple and the Starfish”, “Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground” or “Hope There’s Someone” will always try and push a shy tear out of the most stone-hearted person in the audience. If Spiritualized wasn’t one of the greatest live bands on Earth – or if older classics were played instead of “Swanlights” and the likes – Antony would be taking the crown.


What are the choices after such an emotional rollercoaster? A one-hit wonder nu-soul band, the most bland and just plain shitty songwriter on Planet Earth or the hip-hop version of a Michael Bay movie ridden with explosions, shouting, special effects, etc? I went with the latter, and although Run the Jewels 2 was a decent, badass album and Killer Mike and El P’s over-the-top stage antics were entertaining for most, fortunately – for my own good – my mood isn’t easily swinged and I would rather sit on the grass by the ATP meadow taking and uploading really bad photos for the Bolachas instagram account. There’s still a big day ahead.

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live

NOS Primavera Sound 2015: the review. DAY 1

Caribou. Photo by Miguel Oliveira [Point and Shoot]

On its fourth year in Porto, NOS Primavera Sound has set a record attendance of 77 thousand people who passed through the Parque da Cidade during the 3 days of the festival, including a sold out Friday session, with the likes of Antony, Patti Smith and Belle and Sebastian headlining. As usual, the quality of the acts built on a crescendo, with Saturday night ending on a bang, making up for a weak first day (please make it a full festival day next year – only the two main stages were opened, along with the Pitchfork stage just for Patti Smith’s acoustic/spoken word performance that ended up not being an acoustic/spoken word performance at all) although, to be honest, it went better than last year’s. 

Traffic jams meant we missed the unmissable Bruno Pernadas concert and arrived just in time for the second half of the Cinerama gig. David Gedge’s least known act provided not much more than a nice soundtrack for exploring the beautiful, green, and still uncrowded festival grounds: a scenic paradise right in the border between the city and the sea that would be a perfect setting for a festival if not for the chilling climate the ocean provides us with during the night. But we would never trade our warm sweaters for the sight of tarmac or concrete everywhere we looked.

Mikal Cronin. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

Right after Cinerama, Mikal Cronin made a nice move, trying to win the audience over by playing songs off the excellent MCII and not his (weaker) latest album MCIII. The live show lacked spark, though: “Weight”, “Shout It Out” or “Am I Wrong” are the definition of crowdpleasers, but they not only weren’t improved from the studio versions, they didn’t sound as good as on the record. His pop punk/garagy tunes may be suited for a late sunny afternoon, but it didn’t work out this time. 

Mac DeMarco. Well, what can I say. The dinner was nice, as always. NOS Primavera Sound has the best food stands of all music festivals I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to quite a few. This year there were 0 chain fast food stands available, which lead to people having very few options besides trying traditional Porto dishes and sandwiches prepared by some of the nicest restaurants in town (Conga’s bifanas, Lado B’s francesinhas and, of course, Guedes’ pernil). The only festival I’ve been where dinner time needs his own slot on the timetable just like any band. 


FKA Twigs. Photo by Miguel Oliveira [Point and Shoot]

FKA Twigs. Such overproduced and carefully crafted songs, regularly accompanied by visual stimuli (check out her music videos) need more visuals when translated to a stage environment; they ask an experience instead of a regular concert. Twigs’ voice is stellar live, but her music is clearly unsuited for daytime in a festival – probably unsuited for a stage at all, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.


Interpol. [There are more people clapping on that backdrop than when they first left the stage. Poor guys.] Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

Interpol. Or the shadow of the amazing band Interpol once was. Paul Banks’ 2015 voice is frankly below average, and, even with a competent band behind him, he managed to ruin a show with an almost impeccable setlist (maybe better than the first two times I saw them back in 2007). Sure, timeless classics like “Take You On A Cruise”, “Slow Hands”, “PDA” were sung by many old fans, “The New” and “Pioneer to the Falls” are still two of the best songs of the 00s, but show opener “Say Hello to the Angels”, “Evil” or “Leif Eriksen”, in the early stages of the concert, were thrashed by Banks’ flameless voice. Once they were done with the weaker El Pintor songs the show got slightly better, but the least asked for encore I’ve ever seen in a festival setting (seriously, it was depressing) was a complete disaster: “Untitled” is probably the weakest song off the first two albums, “Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down” was never interesting live and I had to walk off the concert in the middle of the show closer “All the Rage Back Home”. You simply don’t put a close on your “greatest hits” concert, made to appeal to people who loved you ten years ago, with a song from your uninteresting last record. Interpol, please go back to room 2005 and throw the key off the balcony. Rest in peace, like my memories of them will.


The Juan Maclean. Photo by Hugo Lima [NOS Primavera Sound]

The Juan Maclean. Speaking of the mid-to-late-00s, The Juan Maclean sound like they never quitted that era. Electropop with female vocals? Ok, nothing new to see here. They certainly aren’t the most interesting band on Earth, but at least they seemed to be enjoying themselves on the stage – and so were everyone around us by the middle of the concert, especially those drug-fuelled tourists right next to the drinks stand on the right side of the Superbock stage. All in all, a very fun way to make everyone forget about the disaster witnessed just a few minutes ago.

But the only truly magical moment of the night came from Caribou. For about a hour and a half, Dan Snaith and the rest of the crew took care of us all. Putting his last album Our Love on center stage, starting with ”Our Love” and the fabulous “Mars”, the result was an unforgettable aural and visual show – admittingly with some least interesting building-up moments mid-concert that, although technically incredible, felt somewhat out of place on a late night show – that ended on ecstasy with a wonderful sequence that included Swim’s “Jamelia”, “Odessa”, the magnificent closer “Sun” and last years’s most infectuous tune, “Can’t Do Without You”.

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Bolachas Now Playing live

#20 & #21: NOS Primavera Sound 2015 ++ timetables

© Hugo Lima, NOS Primavera Sound

NOS Primavera Sound 2015 starts tomorrow! Before you go, be sure to print our printable timetables: XLS editable version or the beautiful PDF version made by the fine pals at fiasco. As we’ll be busy there, there is no weekly playlist this week: Bolachas Now Playing 2021 is a NOS Primavera Sound ‘15 special! Includes songs by Mikal Cronin, the Replacements, Viet Cong, Ought, Shellac, Spiritualized, Kevin Morby, The New Pornographers, Xylouris White, Giant Sand, Sun Kil Moon and Bruno Pernadas. And here it is. See you tomorrow!

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live

10 reasons not to miss NOS Primavera Sound 2015 (pt2)

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Xylouris White (Sat, 6; 5:30pm, ATP stage)

Besides having some of the most chill promo pics of all time [pictured above], Greek singer/lute player George Xylouris and Dirty Three’s drummer Jim White are THE unknown” band to check out in this years’ NOS Primavera Sound. Tradition meets modernity in this unusual synergy between Cretan folk and modern, inventive rock music.