Sometimes it’s hard to be objective and unbiased when writing about a festival that is such a big part of your life. Except for two (very) unremarkable lineups that made me stay home, since I was old enough to go to college all my summers involved a trip to Paredes de Coura (and a painful trip back, too). When you’re a kid, they say you’ll eventually get older and boring, in a process they call “becoming an adult”. This usually comes with amazing perks such as ceasing to listen to any new music whatsoever, stopping seeing your (also ageing) friends, having great conversations about changing diapers with your remaining friends (yes, the other couple with kids you always go vacationing with to some shitty beach full of other couples with kids and the odd mother-in-law). Obviously, a multi-day, non-kid friendly, rural music festival such as Festival Paredes de Coura seems like one of those things that are amongst the first to drop from your newfound “adult life”. Except you don’t have to be that person; and is there anything better to remind you of that than going there and finding all your friends in the same place, same month, year after year, all over again? (Well, other than imagining the smell of those diapers.)
Vodafone Paredes de Coura 2018. Photo by Hugo Lima.
Another summer, another missed opportunity to have a vacation somewhere because there’s nowhere else we’d rather be other than at our little paradise of Paredes de Coura, in northwestern Portugal. The festival runs from the 14th to the 17th of August, but, like always, the fun begins way earlier than that, with four fun-packed, free entrance days with concerts and DJ sets right in the center of the small Minho village.
(At the Drive-In. Photo: Hugo Lima / Vodafone Paredes de Coura)
10. ALEX CAMERON
Pop music for “indie” audiences done right. Co-writing songs with Angel Olsen and Brandon Flowers? Check. Singer-songwriter-performer-dancer Alex Cameron and saxophonist Roy Molloy are two of the funniest guys in the circuit and of course it was physically impossible for us to leave early for Benjamin Clementine.
(Photo: Hugo Lima / Vodafone Paredes de Coura)
9. FUTURE ISLANDS
You’ve certainly overheard comments about how all their songs sound the same, right? What if their one song is actually great and you’re standing there hungry in the middle of the crowd, waiting for one boring song so you can go eat something, but somehow you cannot leave? Yes, they all sound the same, there’s only so much variety Samuel T. Herring can fit into his dance moves and growls, but guess what? It was one of the most entertaining concerts of the festival and we would totally see it again from start to finish (but probably having eaten something beforehand).
8. BRUNO PERNADAS
The Portuguese composer and guitar player opened the main stage on Friday and, unlike your typical festival opener acts, actually set the bar pretty high for what would be happening next. His ensemble, composed of nine musicians – including one of our favorite national songwriters, Minta – was certainly the biggest discovery of the festival for those who didn’t know his music before. No wonder the people in BadBadNotGood were amazed by the show.
(Photo: Hugo Lima / Vodafone Paredes de Coura)
7. MÃO MORTA
On Wednesday, the legendary Portuguese rock band revisited their 25 year old record Mutantes S.21 for a few thousand devotees who knew every word to every song. In a corny but sweet moment, near the end, there was still time for them to sing happy birthday to the festival.
6. LIGHTNING BOLT
Lightning Bolt’s only European date this summer and their first in Portugal since 2008 was everything everyone was waiting for: the last adrenalyn discharge of the festival in a huge pit far from the dust-covered main stage that was leaving everyone coughing (still dealing with it a week after it). No Dracula Mountain? No problem.
Some skeptics might have thought jazzy vibes wouldn’t fit a territory where big sound indie rock bands usually prevail, but those who watched Bruno Pernadas’ ensemble take over the main stage earlier on Friday quickly forgot about it. The Canadian outfit didn’t take long to win over the audience – although, frankly, judging by people’s reactions on social media when they were announced to the festival, we could have anticipated that this was one of the most celebrated concerts of the festival anyway – and, mid-concert, the crowd cheers were as loud as any headliner could get. The four musicians seemed to be having a blast. BBNG are a band on top of their game.
(Photo: Hugo Lima / Vodafone Paredes de Coura)
4. TIMBER TIMBRE
Tucked away in the Vodafone.FM stage and starting before the end of Car Seat Headrest’s lukewarm set, the Canadian outfit did not make as big as an impression as they could if the circumstances were different, but they were still one of the highlights of this years’ festival for the Bolachas crew. The dark, brooding melodies of Timber Timbre were good company to the beginning of the night, transforming the stage in a mini-batcave. (Seriously, where did those people around me come from? Did their goth-y clothing just appear from the middle of nowhere and vanished after the gig? I didn’t see them anywhere else during that day. Oh well.)
3. AT THE DRIVE-IN
Omar, Cedric & co would probably haven take the first place in an alternative dimension where 1) we weren’t too old for this shit; 2) their new record didn’t exist. Not that the new songs are particularly bad – they aren’t. They were also useful for the older folks in the audience, some of whom have waited 17+ years to finally see them live, to catch their breath before and after the classics. “Arcarsenal” provided everyone with their first energy bump of the night. Old farts and young kids smiling, shouting and hugging regardless of their past experiences with the band. Such a pretty sight to see. If only you could see anything, as dust was reigning supreme over the crowd. Set closer “One Armed Scissor” unleashed both the last moshpit and a collective sigh of relief brought to you by everyone’s lungs. It was fun, but can we new ask for a The Mars Volta 2018 De-Loused in the Comatorium 15th anniversary tour?
2. ANDY SHAUF
Everyone who reads us knows we’re all about songwriter music (whatever that is), so it’s no surprise Andy Shauf, the top songwriter music guy in the program is as high as it could be in this list. The surprise, instead, came from the little army of devotees in the first few rows who knew all the brass melodies from Shauf’s latest record, The Party, who seemed to melt the songwriter’s heart midway through the set. The sweetest show of the festival.
(Photo: Hugo Lima / Vodafone Paredes de Coura)
1. KATE TEMPEST
Come on, you knew this was coming. Kate Tempest is the finest artist of our times and that kid who was trying to take a nap during her set right in front of me will, one day, look back at his life and and tell his very disappointed children that he was lying down while KATE TEMPEST was performing right in front of him. KATE FUCKING TEMPEST
Our favorite week of the year is coming up fast, and in less than a week time we shall be praying for rain not to grace the beautiful and green Minho region. If you’ve been following us, you know we rarely miss an edition of Vodafone Paredes de Coura, regardless of the part of Europe we’re living in at the moment.
And, of course, half of the reason why you still care about us is our insistence in creating the famous printable timetables that, inevitably, you’ll lose somewhere in the festival grounds before the third day. Stop saving trees and print some for your friends, too. PDF version / editable XLS version. Scroll down for our special Spotify playlist with our 11 artist picks!
ALEK REIN (Tue 15, 22:30, Main Street stage)
Plenty of people choose Paredes de Coura as their yearly summer holiday destination. Why wouldn’t the organisation put together an extended four day warm up? From Saturday 12 to Tuesday 15, a small stage is set up in the town center, where up and coming Portuguese artists play free entrance concerts from 22:30 to past midnight.
Alek Rein is probably the most interesting of the bunch (but be on the lookout for the Sunflowers [Sat 12, 23:30] and Nice Weather for Ducks [Sun 13, 22:30], too) and could easily be in the main festival programme. The southern psychedelia of his debut LP, Mirror Lane, has been on heavy rotation around here late last year. Having a relaxed, hearty dinner at one of the village’s nice and cheap restaurants would be a good reason to go to Coura earlier, but this year there’s an added value to it.
MÃO MORTA (Wed 16, 21:55, Vodafone stage)
Just like the festival itself, Mutantes S.21, the iconic fourth album by the most interesting Portuguese rock band ever turns 25 this year. They’ve also put out one of the more memorable shows of the festival’s history, in a rainy and muddy night back in 2007 – the first time yours truly, an inexperienced camper, went to the festival and swore to never do it again. Ten years later, they’re back to trigger veterans’ old memories and show the new kids who still keeps the Portuguese rock and roll crown.
(Yes, The Wedding Present and Future Islands will surely be two of the most celebrated gigs of the festival on what’s probably the best Day 1 of the festival history, but we can’t focus on everything…)
KATE TEMPEST (Wed 16, 01:55, Vodafone stage)
Earlier this year we went to South London’s Brixton Academy to witness Kate Tempest’s homecoming concert in her biggest stage so far. The humbleness in Tempest’s words and facial expressions when taking and leaving the stage certainly triggered a shy tear in the local kids who have witnessed her rise from performing in open mics to performing in one of the biggest venues in the city and huge festivals like Glastonbury. If you told me ten years ago that a poet, rapper and spoken-word artist like Kate Tempest would play Paredes de Coura’s – or any other Portuguese summer festival’s – main stage, I would probably laugh at you. If you told me someone like her would be the most interesting artist performing in that festival – or any festival – in 2017, I’d politely ask if you need medical help. I’m so glad you were right. There’s no one like Kate Tempest and you’d be a fool to be somewhere else than right in the front of the stage during her time slot.
TIMBER TIMBRE (Thu 17, 20:30, Vodafone.FM stage)
The Canadian quartet has been releasing stellar records on Arts & Crafts since 2009, but it wasn’t until sometime during the wait between 2014′s proper breakthrough Hot Dreams and this years’ Sincerely, Future Pollution that I’ve seen more and more people join us in our devotion through enthusiastic Facebook posts. Better late than never, and their announcement for this year’s edition was one of the most celebrated between the festival’s fans. The small stage will be packed for Timber Timbre’s debut concert in the country and they will surely come back soon.
CAR SEAT HEADREST (Thu 17, 19:40, Vodafone stage)
Sometime during Primavera Sound 2016, around dinner time. This weird kid called Will Toledo had jumped to the “indie” spotlight a couple of weeks ago when his second “proper” album – after a shitton of Bandcamp-released bunch of records that sounded like Pavement demos – Teens of Denial, was released on Matador. Maybe a couple of hundred kids would be curious to see them at Pitchfork’s stage at 9pm with something else going on in the main stages, so we thought. Well, a couple of hundred kids _were shouting the lyrics to the newly released songs _and hundreds more flocked to witness the start of yet another love story between an indie rock band and the enthusiastic Portuguese sub-25 public. Toledo and his band have so far matured their live show, as we were fortunate to witness in a sold out show in Brussels’ L’Orangerie du Botanique last March. Can’t wait to see them again.
AT THE DRIVE-IN (Thu 17, 23:15, Vodafone stage)
Well, you don’t really need an introduction, right? This is maybe the laziest way of introducing a band, but of course you know who they are. At the Drive-In are the band you want to see because you probably never did, either because you were too young to know who they were back in 2000 or too young/too poor to travel elsewhere to see them back then. Their two most famous “spin off” bands, Sparta (2007) and The Mars Volta (2008) have played in the festival before (no one really cared about Sparta, though) but the original band was yet to play in Portugal. Founding member (and Sparta’s frontman) Jim Ward is not with the band anymore, but Cedric, Omar et al. have just released their first post-break-up record, in•ter a•li•a and seem to be enjoying themselves in this new reincarnation of the band so far. Don’t forget to not mosh.
JAMBINAI (Thu 17, 02:00, after hours stage)
What’s a South Korean band who play post-rock music with traditional Korean instruments doing in an after hours time slot? Well, it’s waiting for you to go see them. Because you need to. If this description and the two tracks on our playlist didn’t make you feel like you should, chances are there’s something wrong with you.
ANDY SHAUF (Fri 18, 19:00, Vodafone.FM stage)
The Bearer of Bad News is coming to Coura and he’s already the winner of the “Artist Who Sounds Like Something You’d Listen To in a bolachas.org Playlist, No Shit They’re Promoting Their Concert” award of 2017. The Party was one of our favorite albums of 2016 and we’re glad we can see Andy Shauf still promoting that amazing record before venturing on new endeavours. Catchy, sophisticated but simple pop tunes, too perfect for those Coura lazy late afternoons (too bad he’s not playing the main stage for “sitting in the grass” purposes).
BEACH HOUSE (Fri 18, 00:45, Vodafone stage)
List of bands everyone else has seen live except for me: Beach House. That’s right, even though they play Portugal (and, frankly, everywhere) all the time, this will be the first time I’ll get to see the most important dream pop duo of the past decade, so shut the hell up if you happen to be nearby and help me pray for a good career-spanning setlist (like this one, please).
ALEX CAMERON (Sat 19, 20:30, Vodafone.FM stage)
Fresh off a hot new track from his forthcoming album (a duet with Angel Olsen), the Australian exquisite (fancy word for ‘weirdo’) songwriter will still be presenting songs from his critically acclaimed debut album, Jumping the Shark, released exactly a year ago.
LIGHTNING BOLT (Sat 19, 22:20, Vodafone.FM stage)
We’re all gonna die. Wouldn’t it be fun if they didn’t play on top of the stage, like in the good ol’ days? Bring your balaclava (or buy one – why would you already own one, you filthy hooligan?) because you’re healthy and want to keep your lungs intact, unlike all those fools (read: me) who decided to join the dusty pit at last year’s Thee Oh Sees gig.
Focusing on the concerts only would never do justice to a festival like Vodafone Paredes de Coura. This foreword is, therefore, an ode to the friendliness of the locals, who year after year warmly welcome the thousands of city-dweller ‘invaders’ in the decade of the ‘touristophobe’, when suddenly became cool and trendy to talk shit about those fucking loud/quiet/poor/rich tourists who came from somewhere else to enjoy the beauty of our two main cities. /rant
Is there any other time of the year where you can see so many people enjoying themselves in total harmony with their surroundings and everyone around them? I swear to God I didn’t notice a single sad person around in the six days we spent in Paredes de Coura. Please, never take this away from us. (Bonus treat: the festival grounds were much more walkable this year after last year’s sold out edition. Congrats!) (Photo: Miguel Oliveira)
10. PORTUGAL. THE MAN
They weren’t even in our top 10 of artists to see in the festival, but a band who decides to jolt out a hilarious cover of ‘Dayman’ in the middle of their set along with a completely unexpected “Don’t Look Back in Anger” deserves a mention. Sure, we could do without those jams near the end and with more older songs, but at least they were entertaining – even for those who weren’t fans of the band. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
9. PSYCHIC ILLS
The last time we saw them – last June in the Best Kept Secret festival in Hilvarenbeek, The Netherlands – they seemed to get their groove on pretty early in the set. This time around something was lacking, but they still managed to entrance all those who were willing to be enchanted by the warm, hypnotizing sounds of the NY quintet. (Photo: Miguel Oliveira)
8. MINOR VICTORIES
We could barely hear Rachel Goswell’s vocals for the first couple of songs (although we could see her green feathers) but when the problems were sorted out we were hooked. The dreamy, machiney sounds of “A Hundred Ropes” and “Scattered Ashes” were the highlight of the first day of the festival, making us forget about the hideous football match we witnessed a couple of hours before. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
7. RYLEY WALKER
Same as Psychic Ills – nothing wrong about the concert itself, as his songs are perfectly suited for sunbathing in the green hill of Coura at 6pm – but, having seen him live a couple of months before, something was lacking here. And it wasn’t the terrifying heat of the 2pm sun in the tent he was playing at Hilvareenbeek. What we really missed was his keyboard player, who helped adding some more layers of complexity to his already complex compositions. Not that his trio, composed of two of the most brilliant musicians of the Portuguese underground, was a particularly bad combination, but there’s some nuances that are present in his recordings that you just can’t reproduce without a full band. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
6. JOANA SERRAT
What a beautiful show by the Spanish singer-songwriter. Accompanied on stage by a full band, Joana Serrat’s concert was arguably the biggest surprise of the festival, especially given the fact that only a handful of people knew her beforehand. “Cloudy Heart” and especially “Black Lake”, off her latest record, were the highlights of a concert we’re waiting to be replicated in a nice theater soon. If you live in Portugal, that could be by mid-September at the Festival para Gente Sentada. Highly recommended! (Photo: Hugo Lima)
As the first couple of songs soared through the main stage we knew Whitney would be the next love affair with Portuguese audiences, something that happened many times before with bands that played the festival during daytime: Arcade Fire, The National, The Tallest Man on Earth… And don’t get us started talking about their cover of Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”. We’re already expecting them to come back to the country every six months. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
4. KEVIN MORBY
…Like Kevin Morby, who already has two more shows scheduled for November in Espinho (Auditório de Espinho) and Lisbon (Vodafone Mexefest). His live band keeps increasing (drums + guitar combo in his first show in Aveiro, a three piece at NOS Primavera Sound, and a four piece in Paredes de Coura) and so does his repertoire of beautifully crafted songs. So wide that he doesn’t even need to cover Bill Fay songs anymore, he doesn’t even have time to play all his best stuff. Old favorites “Harlem River” and “Miles, Miles, Miles” (which made this guy cry in front of everyone) were still the highlights though. What a wonderful time to see a star like this being born and grow over time – if he keeps this consistency over the next few records, which we’re sure he will. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
3. THEE OH SEES
Are there really any more words to describe Thee Oh Sees live shows? Two drumkits, two guitars, dust-inducing chaos and people flying everywhere. We thought maybe they couldn’t reproduce the frenzy of their show in the smaller stage back in 2014 in a bigger stage, but boy, they could. Now excuse me while I’m trying to get all this dirt off my nose. (Photo: Hugo Lima)
2. THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH
Six years ago he was all alone on the big stage, sporting a shiny Gayngs t-shirt and playing the yet unreleased song “The Dreamer” (arguably the best song he ever wrote) for a few hundreds of devotees. Now, after a couple of successful records, Kristian Matsson (who every day looks more and more like the Portuguese football manager André Villas-Boas) can finally afford a five piece band, and he’s deservedly playing at a respectable 9:30 time slot for thousands of people, many of them shouting or whispering the lyrics, like those songs were part of themselves. And, like the last time he was around, he also played a yet unreleased song that will surely be the quintessential Tallest Man on Earth song from now on. (Photo: Miguel Oliveira)
1. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM (Photo: Hugo Lima)
No surprise: they promised us the best hour and a half of our year, and they delivered. Sure, there’s no time for any improv and everything’s planned to the milimeter, from the light show to the setlist itself, but hey, who cares? What a fucking triumphant band. See you in five years – don’t spoil us with a show like this every summer, we don’t deserve it…