2023 was a landmark year for Primavera Sound Porto: the tenth coming of the festival was also its first without their lifelong naming sponsor, the first four-day long edition at Porto’s Parque da Cidade, and a new main stage and festival grounds’ layout were tested for the first time. Ditching the gorgeous, secluded meadow where the ATP stage once sounded like sacrilege. But the new layout, including previously fenced off areas of the park that are closer to the sea, undoubtedly makes things smoother in a festival that started to feel too crowded, as per last year’s experience. We could do without the smell near the new main stage, but let’s blame the weather for that.
Garrett T. Capps. Photo by Knelis / TakeRoot
It’s midnight in Groningen. It’s the end of an abnormally warm November saturday and it should also have been the end of an eight hour marathon of roots and americana across six rooms in the De Oosterpoort complex. But Garrett T. Capps and his NASA Country have different ideas. Suddenly, a “curfew” seems like a malleable concept as fellow Texans Robert Ellis and James Steinle join the band on stage for a sprawling and ecstatic “Born in San Antone” and a version of the classic “She’s About a Mover”, penned by San Antonio’s very own Doug Sahm. Capps seems comfortable as the frontman to a 21st century version of the mighty Texas Tornados, powered by a strong rhythm section and an unusual synth that takes his brand of Americana to another dimension. I’ve been calling it krautcountry after seeing them in Paradiso’s small room in the same evening as Faust and Camera, and you should too.
One of the worst nightmares of a music festival – especially one that boasts as one of its highlights the stunning greenery of the park where its grounds are located – is having twelve hours of non-stop rain as its headliner. Saturday, June 9th, the third and last day of a sold-out NOS Primavera Sound, was blessed with a late autumnal weather that might have ruined the day for some, but ultimately enhanced the experience for most. We’re talking about the stoic vast majority of festival goers who endured the most annoying of elements for what it seemed like forever to witness a rare local apparition of the biggest headliner of the circuit, one of the least divisive big acts of the scene, the constant top performer while most big names go through phases.
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…
I’ll start this article by stating the obvious: the fifth edition of NOS Primavera Sound ended up having the most solid set of shows so far. As it’s the case with most festivals, this obviously depends on the choices you make, your taste in music, from where you choose to watch the gigs from, your level of intoxication, your company (or absence of) and, of course, the profile of the crowd surrounding you. Never leave those bastards spoil any show for you. Also, don’t be that bastard. Everybody hates you. Why don’t you just play with your phone in the new amazing food truck area instead of being in the front rows shouting like you’re in a loud bar? Summer festivals definitely need to have a stage with DJs permanently playing dance music the whole day. Maybe those idiots who don’t want to see concerts anyway spend the whole day there.