We thought about not posting anything else for a day except John Prine tunes. But hey, there’s 1h43min of new tunes to listen to, and we’re not holding them hostage. This week, we focus on M. Ward’s tenth LP, Migration Stories. Which is, basically, more of the same. Fortunately for us, was there a time where “more of the same” from the American singer-songwriter meant anything other than good news?
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)
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…
You and everyone you know already know you shouldn’t miss LCD Soundsystem, The Tallest Man on Earth, Sleaford Mods, and Thee Oh Sees, so we’ll skip the obvious parts of the programme and go straight to the fine print.
MINOR VICTORIES (Wednesday 17): Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell and Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite – two old favorites of the Paredes de Coura crowd (Slowdive has played the festival last year; Mogwai were there in 1999 and 2011) are half of this so-called superband, along with the Lockey brothers (you might recognize Justin as Editors’ guitar player). Minor Victories’ self-titled debut album sounds exactly like you think it does: dark pop rock passing through a post-rock filter.
RYLEY WALKER (Thursday 18): Walker’s concert at Paredes de Coura is the last before Golden Sings That Have Been Sung, his third LP, finally sees the light of day. Playing his first Portugal show ever, the American guitarist closely follows the footsteps of Steve Gunn, who debuted in the country exactly in the second day of the last year’s edition of the festival. Here’s to hoping the weather will be great while he plays – his “contemplative” guitar work is an ode to the sun.
WHITNEY (Thursday 18): Rising from the ashes of late-00s indie darlings Smith Westerns, Whitney has just released their debut album, Light Upon the Lake, on Secretly Canadian, to almost universal acclaim. Right place at the right time for someone who fancies the record, something that’s not so usual for Portuguese fans.
JOANA SERRAT (Thursday 18): The Catalan singer-songwriter signed to Primavera Sound’s record label finally crosses the border to Portugal. Her newest album, Cross the Verge, was recorded at the mighty Hotel2Tango in Montréal, a name that instantly tickles the brain of any Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Vic Chesnutt, Basia Bulat, or Arcade Fire fan.
SUUNS (Thursday 18): It’s SUUNS’ fourth time in Portugal, after a delightful tour with Battles some five years ago, a clubshow alongside Jerusalem in My Heart in Lisbon and a more recent trip to the Azores islands at the Tremor festival this year. The synthy, psychedelic outfit will certainly have a blast where they seem to fit better: the after-hours stage, as that post-LCD Soundsystem balm not everyone wants because they still don’t know they need it.
KEVIN MORBY (Friday 19): The absolute champion of the Now everybody likes it label returns to Portugal for the third time, less than two years after his debut at a Bolachas-organized concert in Aveiro. Now playing for way more than the seventy lucky people who witnessed his first concert in the country, the LA-based singer-songwriter who was once half of The Babies and the bass player for Woods will present the songs off his third LP, Singing Saw, released earlier this week.
JACCO GARDNER (Friday 19): As a Portuguese living in the Netherlands, it’s not hard to understand why the Dutch songwriter (and master melody crafter) can usually be found enjoying the Portuguese summer every year. I don’t know who’s the luckiest, the ones who are able to witness his live shows or Jacco himself. Be sure to bring a sweater for the cold nights of Coura, though. It can be as cold as your typical summer day in Terschelling.
PSYCHIC ILLS (Friday 19): Their transformation from being a duo playing exploratory trippy niche music for 20 people in old basements ten years ago to a full grown six piece band that draws big crowds in festivals is one to behold. Carrying their latest album, Inner Journey Out, all around Europe since the beginning of this summer, this is the opportunity to see Psychic Ills in their prime.
SEAN RILEY & THE SLOWRIDERS (Friday 19): This summer was supposed to be one to celebrate for the Coimbra-based indie rock band, playing two of the biggest festivals in the country (NOS Alive and Vodafone Paredes de Coura) after the release of their third album in the beginning of April. But since tragedy struck the band with the disappearance of bassist Bruno Simões last June, it’s his life and legacy that will be celebrated instead.
LUST FOR YOUTH (Saturday 20): The last band in the last night of the festival. Hannes Norrvide and his pals created some waves with International a couple of years ago, and they’re back in the country with a new album released in the spring. If you’re into Scandinavian danceable (but not euphoric) electronica, this is what you want to finish your Paredes de Coura experience.