It doesn’t take long for the listener to realize Natalie Mering is an artist in her prime while listening to her fourth record as Weyes Blood. While the already remarkable “Front Row Seat to Earth” had its number of high peaks coupled with a couple of less remarkable moments, “Titanic Rising” is a serious contender for album of the year, and definitely a career best for someone we once thought was just Enya for people who order matcha lattes at modern coffee establishments. (Sorry about that.)
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.
Right after Cinerama, Mikal Cronin made anice 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. 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. 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”.
Combining a rural setting like Paredes de Coura with music of fearsome intensity is a great idea and the festival offers the opportunity to wander green fields and watch acts of a stunning quality. Paredes de Coura is one of the best organized festivals it has been our pleasure to attend. Hosting two stages, people who come to this festival like music and are open to new things. For most of the audience, will be their first time hearing many bands and it’s usually love at first sight. If you’re going there, you definitely need to look to some bands and here’s our recommendations.
Her intimate nature, fun-loving attitude and great natural talent are the main qualities of a born entertainer. In her last sophomore album called Electric Lady, she find a way to give us more of herself. She synthetises a parade of golden touchstones like Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye into a show-stopping display of force and talent. The emotional core of her music almost every time succeeds to connect us to gorgeously tender soul ballads mixed with singular swagger and schizophrenic sonic, making the concert an completely unmissable experience.
Conor Oberst – Friday, Vodafone stage, 9:20pm
Conor was 19 when we wrote some beautiful poems recorded in Fevers And Mirrors, an album ridden by angster and a fantastic lyric depth. As frontman of Bright Eyes, he always tried to lead us to existentially tinged meditations on life, philosophy and depression. A decade and a half later, in his first solo album, he still writes about high times and bad choices, about matured love and responsibility in a sumptuous immersion of californian folk. He still has some of the most passionate, angry and damming songs. The Los Angeles band Dawes, will back up Conor after playing a dependable set of their own, helping him to keep a steady grip on songs from his new solo record and some music that ranged from Bright Eyes.
Mac DeMarco – Thursday, Vodafone stage, 9:20pm
DeMarco’s current Salad Days brings us far more serious and personal songs that he’s ever made. The flamboyant personality and the jokester persona get him over a abundant public adoration but maybe he wants to be appreciated for the right reasons, trying to be a little more mature and making the things easier for listeners. You can expect some fusing airy jams and soft rock to lo-fi psych-pop with blasé lyrics and lots of echoes of reverb driving the sparse into a frenzy with a engaging set.
Dawes – Friday, Vodafone.fm stage, 6pm
If you already like them while reading these lines, thank Conor Oberst for bringing them along, or else you’d probably never see them around. Dawes, a rootsy rock band from LA, is the kind of band that doesn’t really attract much attention in Europe, let alone in the British-generic-pop-rock-band-paradise that is the festival scene in Portugal. In the past 5 years, brothers Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith have surrounded themselves with some of the finest musicians and producers in southern California (Jonathan Wilson, Conor Oberstet al.) and released three of the best sounding Laurel Canyon-like records in years. Don’t miss them.
Buke and Gase – Friday, Vodafone.fm stage, 7pm
Noisy rock alchemists Buke and Gase will also play their debut show in Portugal. This duo of multiinstrumentalists from Brooklyn is one of the few bands in the mindiestream festival circuit who can proudly carry the tag ‘experimental’ without sounding like lazy and pretentious twats. Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez actually build their own instruments like the “buke” (some sort of really small 6-string guitar) and the “gase” (guitar/bass hybrid) – hence the name.
The Dodos – Saturday, Vodafone.fm stage, 7pm
The Dodos finish their latest European stint with a show in the last day of the Vodafone Paredes de Coura festival. Presenting their latest album, Carrier, they’ve been playing small venues in Portugal since 2008. I first heard about them when some friends from Coimbra booked them their first show in Portuguese soil back then and I always found something refreshing in each of their five albums they’ve released so far. From catchy indie pop tunes (like “Fables” on Time to Die) to the delicate folk songs of their debut LP, everything they do, they do it well. Can’t wait to see how much their live show has evolved in the last 6 years and you should too.