By Kieran Ford
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I returned this year but just for the one day, the Saturday.
Biggest doesn’t necessarily mean the best, by the way. When it’s €4 a pint plus a euro for the plastic cup and €70 a day ticket with no exit and re-entry, you know you’re dealing with one of the more commercialised Portuguese festivals.
Having said that, you also know you’re in for some PRIME entertainment.
It’s July, you’re in Lisbon, the sun’s shining, the beer’s flowing, the beach is in the foreground and the floor’s beating to the bass of the stages you’re surrounded by.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you’re at Portugal’s NOS Alive festival, and some top artists are there too!
So, let’s waste no time and get straight to it, my picks of the bunch:
IDLES – (♫) “Dirty Rotten Filthy Scum!” (♫)
Yep, that’s a lyric of theirs. It’s a main chorus actually. Though it sounds abusive, IDLES are actually the opposite – they insist that they are not a punk band.
They’re often given that label as their performances are SO aggressively charged with loudly shouted vocals and violent body language. But rather than provoking a fight, they’re more like lions, roaring to the people to come join their herd and conquer Scar (…from the Lion King… as a metaphor for the bad guys… the lion thing…)
Also contrary to the stereotypical punk attitude, IDLES are all for kindness over selfishness, individuality over order, optimism over pessimism – if we work together we can dig ourselves out of this situation our world has fallen into.
Their passion to obliterate those derogatory views held by fascists, racists, feminists and all the other unpleasant-ists, is channelled into their forceful, brutally honest, statement packed songs.
One after another they smash them out. Each making a point. Each delivered with fury. The guitarists are crowd-surfing (while still playing). The singer’s thumping his fist into his chest. The bassist is roaring backing vocals. The fans are following the lead.
Lowlands Festival recently described their music as ‘defrosting Brexit’ which made me chuckle, and brings me nicely onto my next point – they’re surprisingly funny too.
Their lyrics are often SO straight up that they’re comical, in a shocking way… and the guitarist was wearing bright coloured swimming shorts.
Also, during a prolonged break in their track Love Song, they belted out drunken karaoke-style renditions of Nothing Compares 2 U and Adele’s Someone Like You.
Before rampaging back into their own tunes.
With SO much energy crammed into each song, every one of them feels like its own mini gig! It’s madness… It’s pumped. It’s political and it’s powerful.
If on leaving the performance I’d told you that I’d just been swimming, fully clothed, then I doubt you’d have struggled to believe me.
…Absolutely soaked in sweat from the craziness of the crowd. I felt nineteen again.
Top, TOP show.
Check Them – @idlesband
BON IVER – (♫) “My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my…” (♫)
Wow. What a rollercoaster of emotions.
Bon Iver are known for the raw emotion they cram into their music. I’ve been a fan for years but this was the first time I’ve had the chance to see them live.
I can safely say that they make EVEN more of an impact when witnessed live.
Singer-songwriter, Justin Vernon, seems to have the ability to hold entire crowds in the palm of his hand. Even HUGE festival crowds that he probably can’t even see to the back of from his humble seat amongst that keyboard, guitar and microphone.
I’ve always admired him for how he wrote his debut album – ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. Following a difficult breakup he practically went into isolation. Off to an old family hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere, where he hunted for food and had encounters with wild bears. He left having written a groundbreaking album.
So yeah, he’s a deep and thoughtful soul, and evidently has a gift for getting his heartfelt messages across through the means of beautiful music.
I was surprised by his scruffy appearance – three quarter length patterned pyjama-like bottoms, a casual, open shirt, a headband and scruffy hair.
He came across as a man who’s been overworked emotionally. This just caused the audience to become even more fixated on listening to the tales of the journeys he’s been through.
A supremely talented musician, shifting from instrument to instrument, playing each perfectly and delivering high pitched holy-like lyrics as an accompaniment.
The cameras focused a lot on the crowd, as one minute they’d be beaming with joy, a tear rolling down their cheek as joyous memories jump to the forefront of the mind. The next they’d be fully fledged ballin’ their eyes out! Reminiscing about those they’ve loved but lost.
It’s crazy, the power music can possess. Bon Iver demonstrated that perfectly, playing the audience’s hearts like a harp. ….ooo! …too cheesy?
Check Them – @boniver
THE BLAZE – (♫) “Let me Show you Something…” (♫)
They had the festival’s closing slot – 2:30am… It was well worth the wait.
Directors as well as DJs, the set-up is very cool – two large screens play-out collections of stunning cinematography, short-films and scenes to accompany each of their electronic style tunes.
After a couple of songs the screens divided and the two Frenchmen stood there on the decks sliding out tune after tune.
If you have the chance to see them live, do. Each song is like a thought-provoking journey through a film of relatable emotions.
Check Them – @theblazeprod
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS – (♫) Dom dom dom, do do dodododo do do do! (♫)
…You know the track I mean there in the heading, right?
Of course you do! Everyone (my generation, at least) knows one or two Chemical Brothers songs. They’ve been part of the theme tune of many a night out over the years.
…It’s the track Galvanize, by the way… just in case my onomatopoeia attempt wasn’t quite accurate enough.
I think they deserve a mention, they definitely get you dancing. The screens each side of the stage take the limelight. They use them brilliantly.
Watching a DJ play live isn’t QUITE as entertaining as watching a musician, you know what I mean? Nothing against them, I’ve just praised two DJs above. I mean, there’s only so much entertaining they can do while focusing on their intricate mixing.
This is the reason the top ones seek another form of entertainment to accompany their music. The Blaze use their cinematography. The Chemical Brothers use the delights of modern day animation.
These giant, funky, animated, varying coloured, light people/robots, dance their way through these crazy computer worlds, in tune to the hits in a silky fashion.
It’s mesmerising. I couldn’t help myself from being drawn in closer and closer. A real spectacle to behold (and lose yourself dancing along to).
Check Them – @thechemicalbrothers
Obrigado NOS Alive 2019!
Another brilliant Portuguese festival experience. And remember, all of that was in one action-packed night.
…I think I got my €70 worth!
Next up – the brilliant, Paredes de Coura. That’s definitely not one to miss!
As always, thank you for reading, it’s much appreciated. Please, do feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Until Next time! / Até à próxima!