By Kieran Ford
Ohh Paredes de Coura! Ohh Paredes de Coura!
Top artists, banging out all sorts of tunes, being adored by 26,000 amazing people, in beautiful natural green surroundings baked by the Portuguese sunshine… Oh, and a thriving river beach that flows through the campsite…
Yep. They’ve smashed it. It feels like Paradise.
This was my third year in a row! Check my article on the 2018 edition by clicking here.
Every year the performances seem to blow me away at Paredes de Coura. Every year it doesn’t look the strongest lineup, but with the layout of the stages and the organiser’s sharp eye for suited acts, every year I come away having seen some of the best shows I’ve ever seen.
Just to lay some foundations for any new readers – I write in a conversational style. I’m having the true festival experience – right there in the mix. I’m camping, I’m bang in front of the stage, I’m partying… and these are my thoughts in those moments.
The festival runs over a rather unusual four night schedule from Wednesday to Sunday. There’s a two day pre-festival party in the local town too, if you want to make a whole week of it!
To give a real feel of how things went down, we’ll go in order, as it happened.
My Top 10 Performances:
(Click the day or the artist to jump straight to it)
19:40 – JULIA JACKLIN – (♫) I wanna watch you, I wanna stay here like this (♫)
A nice little set. Sweet, catchy songs. She has a cool, softly spoken, almost trembly kind of voice. I like it.
Quite sarcastic between songs – crowd cheering after a tune – “…Yay, music!”
But it’s more a hint of shyness or modesty than of boredom or arrogance. You can see the emotion in her eyes on the cameraman’s close-ups.
She’s poured her soul into these songs, and she doesn’t want to make out that she thinks you care.
“Who’s feeling sad? Time to feel sadder.” …Straight into ‘Don’t Know How To Keep Loving You’.
It’s a beautiful song.
She’s appreciative but seems surprised by every cheer – “Are you guys all really drunk or just always this happy?”
Introduces her whole band from Toronto, Canada. She’s the odd one out, Sydney, Australia.
Nails ‘Pressure To Party’ then departs.
Nice way to kick off the weekend.
Check Her – @juliajacklin
23:15 – PARCELS – (♫) So let’s get ’round to why (♫)
Ahh… What a show!
One of those you can’t get out your head and just want to talk to everyone about!
I wasn’t the only one. With their stylish performance coming on the opening night, there was plenty of talk of them throughout the festival.
Basically a band of mates having so much fun jamming out the grooviest of tunes, in front of thousands of people dancing along on the steadily sloped grassy park before them.
They even taught the whole audience a unique dance to do at one point.
I’ve never seen anything like it. It was one huge groove-fest!
“Thanks for joining us. Wow, there is so many of y’all!”
That sloped bowl shape of the beautiful Paredes de Coura park really does have a huge impact on every band’s performance. It creates a very personal atmosphere – The artists can see even those right out there at the back!
They were blown away by it. Enjoying every second, and it showed on their faces and in their actions – running and jumping around, busting out the odd synchronised dance with each other.
I liked their image too. They’re clearly ‘cool dudes’, but they’re not smug about it. They seem grounded and genuine.
“Are we gonna get down tonight?” …Straight into hit tune ‘Comedown’
One of them pointed out the spectacular full moon, facing them from up there above the trees, shining down on the colossal crowd.
His fellow frontmant agreed – “Yep. This is perfect.”
Bang. Huge Drop into another big hit!
The exchanges between songs were honest and funny. They really kicked up one of the best rapports with an audience I’ve seen.
That’s huge. Especially considering it’s a festival. The majority of the crowd probably didn’t know them beforehand… Paredes picked yet another winner!
Their debut album only launched last year, and they’re from all the way over in Australia. But Paredes de Coura had them on their radar! …You can always trust you’ll be shown a new artist to love.
They already play like seasoned pros though. A very natural, but also carefully crafted performance. They’d obviously put a lot of work into it.
And it paid off. It worked a treat!
All in all, the whole thing had a buzz about it. They won the audience over instantly.
Ended on explaining what an incredible feeling it was being up there.
It felt incredible all around.
Check Them – @parcelsmusic
00:45 – THE NATIONAL – (♫) Everything I love is on the table (♫)
Making their long anticipated return having graced the Paredes de Coura stage 14 years ago.
My first time seeing them, and they made a good first impression – a trendy, casually spoken, middle-aged dude, spilling the beans on the emotions felt through this journey of life.
Also complimented that night’s bright full moon – “A grapefruit moon” as he put it. Before dedicating a song to it.
He’s funny – chucks a scarf out to the adoring crowd during one song. Heads down off the stage where fans are clambering over the barrier to lay a fingertip on him, but he moved along the front just out of reach before running back up onto stage.
Seemed a bit harsh… doesn’t want to slap anyone’s hand?
Emotional song finishes and he comes to mic with a confused expression – “I was looking for my scarf…”
Suddenly spots it being waved frantically by a fan – “It’s alright. You can have it.”
He’s a character.
“Look after each other, yeah? If you see someone who needs help, help them out, ok?
I’ve been there… Got dragged out of a Foo Fighters show before.”
He’s like the ‘coolest teacher ever.’ A music and life teacher.
Once he’s in song, it’s dead serious though. He puts everything into every one.
You can tell that he’s still re-living those moments he’s depicting in the songs. Many of which he wrote many years ago – “You listen to this.”
Their music is generally slow and gentle but the lyrics pack plenty of powerful punches – “The day I die. The day I die. Where will we be?”
By the end of the set I’d come to the conclusion that singer, Matt Berninger, reminded me of a cross between Bill Murray and Heisenberg at his peak badass-ness in Breaking Bad.
Eventually ventures back down off the stage and dips into the crowd for a head rub at various points from left to right.
Ecstatic screams heard in the mic that he’s still singing perfectly into despite the scrambling hands.
His comic moody old heavy drinking, fed up with life persona between songs, and a dead serious way during songs, lasted throughout the set, and ended with him thanking us before bidding farewell and launching his half-full beer up high that crashed down onto the stage on his walk off.
Check Them – @thenational
Kicked Off and we’re Underway!
Always the same feeling when you’re in for the full ride of a festival – you’re exhausted from an abundance of quality entertainment, and while crawling into your dark tent, you realise you have it all to do again tomorrow and the next day and the next day!
…whether you feel QUITE so chirpy about it the morning after is another question.
19:50 – ALVVAYS – (♫) No need to turn around and see what’s behind me, I don’t care (♫)
Canadians with catchy tunes. I listened to their two albums before heading to the festival and was already singing along to multiple tracks on the second listen.
So I was looking forward to this one.
Nice combo of girls and boys in the band. The bright blonde front woman has an alluring voice – the way she cuts some sentences abruptly and extends others out for those “woh owoh owoah wohh!” style sing along moments.
They’re pretty perfectionist live – minimal jumping around and chat between songs, busy concentrating on swift instrument and pedal adjustments to ensure they sound strong and cram as many tracks as they can into the set.
They did it well. It was just like listening to the mp3 version but seeing them playing it in front of you.
This promptness also kept the energy of the set alive. So no need for erratic movements.
“Can you guys understand me?” – She was also self-conscious of her thick Canadian accent while addressing a Portuguese crowd.
It’s all about the music. And it was all good music!
Check Them – @alvvaysband
22:50 – NEW ORDER – (♫) I used to think that the day would never come (♫)
Fellow Brits. Aged now. Clearly. But understandably so – Two of them began as part of the legendary Joy Division formed in 1976!
But they’ve still got it. Still know how to delight a huge festival crowd in a foreign country.
Clear that they’ve played hundreds, maybe even thousands of shows. At times they looked so used to it that they almost seemed bored, just going through the motions.
It didn’t matter though. The songs were engaging enough to keep the audience providing the vigour that maybe the band have somewhat lost over the years.
To be fair though, it worked. As when it came to their biggest hits, they gave it their all.
It really kicked the audience into gear seeing frontman Bernard Sumner march to the front to strum out those iconic rifts.
When really he was only there to catch a closer look at what was going on out there – forgotten his glasses hadn’t he?
JOKING! …of course.
He’s still cool.
I LOVED that they played old Joy Division classics – ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ‘Transmission’. Back to back as well!
And absolutely nailed them.
Went down a treat.
In classic, polite, English fashion, he paused between songs to answer the boards held up at the front.
This rang out as a theme for me at this festival, but I by no means encourage them. It’s a royal pain in the arse if you’ve bundled your way to the front, then someone’s waving a cardboard sign in front of you the whole show asking for a drumstick…
But many of the artists addressed them. Almost as if it’s becoming part of festival setlists – ‘No.11 – Address signs in the crowd.’
Maybe it’s always been the case and I only noticed it this time around. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old too!
Anyway, point is that he addressed them in style.
“You’re from South Korea. Today is your birthday. Happy birthday to you.”
“Give me your drumsticks… Stephen, give us those drumsticks there.”
A lot of the festival were mystified as to why Portuguese band Capitão Fausto were given the ‘headline slot’ over New Order…
Seemed obvious to me – don’t wanna be coming out onto stage at 1am. They’re in their sixties now and want to get to bed!
I don’t blame them.
Point is. This seemed like the real ‘headline slot’.
Apologies for dwelling on the age thing. It’s by no means in a disrespectful way!
It was just very noticeable. Especially as a lot of their music is the sort of synth-pop stuff that was created back in the pill-popping Hacienda days.
That legendary Manchester music venue that these guys actually co-created.
I really liked how they got the audience going with their setlist. Havin’ us on weren’t they! – Bid farewell and left, before coming back to blast out colossal hit ‘Blue Monday’.
Then off they went again.
…But the people were still waiting. We all dreamed of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, but it seemed our luck was out when the stage crew came on and started clearing up.
The crowd began to sing that chorus though. Over and over.
And then they appeared… again!
BANG. Back they came. But still teased us… playing ‘Atmosphere’ instead – “Don’t walk away.” Fitting. With various commemorative close-ups of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis displayed on the background. Lest we forget.
Then it finally came – ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’
It went down an absolute storm.
Everyone was waiting for it. Everyone knew the words.
Everyone loved it.
Check Them – @neworderofficial
01:00 – CAPITÃO FAUSTO – (♫) Faço caras ao espelho, todas postas à venda (♫)
Portuguese outfit who I’ve come to know through my journey learning Portuguese. I singled them out as the best band I could find who sing in Portuguese.
And wow, they’ve grown fast since I found them a year or so ago!
I saw them playing a pretty early slot at Queima das Fitas 2018 in Porto. Now they’re headlining the Thursday night of Paredes de Coura!
Clearly aware of the scepticism – Burst out and straight into ‘Amanhã tou melhor’. It’s their biggest hit.
It was effective – fuelling them with confidence and getting the crowd onside for the remainder of the show.
The whole thing was also a piece of Portuguese pride.
…The Portuguese love a bit of pride. Which is a good thing!
And the natives enjoyed being able to sing along in their mother tongue to a band who’ve managed to make good music with Portuguese lyrics, rather than conforming to sing in English as a lot of the others do.
I’m guessing the non-Portuguese weren’t so impressed though.
The usually hair-clad frontman appeared clean shaven and neatly trimmed perm. He looked like an ‘old skool’ Kevin Keegan!
“O meu braço!” He said multiple times on finishing the set. A common Portuguese expression?
Nice to see how much it meant to them.
Check Them – @capitaofausto
18:45 – BALTHAZAR – (♫) I get the fever, every time you cross my mind (♫)
Many surprised to see these put on the second stage. Good to see a show in the tent though.
Two slick, open shirted and wavy haired frontmen, casually playing through their set of funky tunes and smooth lyrics.
It was all very cool.
They’re Belgian. Pretty strong breed those lot, aren’t they? Coming through strong in football and music of late!
I liked their impromptu twisty hip and heel moves every now and then, and the general air of confidence throughout the performance.
It felt like they were seducing the audience. They definitely turned them on – all dancing around. It’s difficult not to, with those swanky little guitar riffs and nonchalant vocals.
Caught everyone off guard at one point. Especially the scrambling security guards – Out of nowhere one of the dudes jumped off stage, leaped into the crowd and rampaged directly into the midst of it. Still singing.
It delivered a quick buzz to ensure everyone was still wide awake and focused!
Well played out ending to track ‘Blood Like Wine’ – Kept the church hymn-like chorus going and going …and going. Every time the audience cheered, assuming it was the end, they’d use it as a queue to kick back in again.
Clever and cool.
Check Them – @balthazarband
00:45 – FATHER JOHN MISTY – (♫) Ohh, pour me another drink. And punch me in the face (♫)
Second time gracing the Paredes de Coura stage. The first back in 2015.
He’s one of those clearly talented and intriguing kind of guys. Entertaining and interesting.
He’s a groover too. Unexpectedly slipping his shoes off to heel-toe shuffle his way to the mic on more than one occasion.
And just carried on barefoot.
Used the stage’s giant screened background very effectively. One of the best I saw.
Displaying cool short movies or brilliantly done animations that featured him, and helped to emphasise the story of each song. Watching the soundtracks being played out live.
With his serious expression, thick long hair and beard. He was quite Undertaker-esque I thought. Yes, the wrestler.
A pro at portraying emotion through his voice. The ebbs and flows and general rhythm of the vocals really deliver the feelings. They cover a lot of different topics too.
Barefoot, movie on, and ambient lighting, it’s like he’s playing to you in your living room at certain points. Combined with the Paredes de Coura setup being somewhat theatre-like, it was a very open and honest performance.
Moody ending though… no encore. Seemed to just want to get out of there. Simply – “This is incredible. Thank you so much.” Before launching the entire mic stand with mic still attached up into the air.
Fans I spoke to after insisted that’s just part of his whole vibe.
I get that. And he’s one of those I haven’t been able to stop listening to since leaving the festival.
Check Him – @fatherjohnmisty_official
23:15 – FREDDIE GIBBS AND MADLIB – (♫) Crime pays (♫)
Something totally different. Came out of nowhere.
That’s what I love about Paredes de Coura. The people are always open to new and different music. If you’re given a slot on the main stage, then you’re going to draw a huge crowd.
Freddie Gibbs is a straight-up, American gangsta rapper. Accompanied by his boy Madlib on the decks. They were clearly out of place on this lineup poster.
Did he care?
Of course not. Addressed it straight away – “I know I’m the only gangsta on this lineup y’all. But we gonna get down.”
His talking between songs was the highlight. Obviously his rapping was strong. But he’d give a stand-up comic a run for their money with the things he was coming out with.
He had the crowd in stitches!
“This some Super Bowl sh#; right now up in here! …Nah, this is crazy…”
“Now I don’t know what language ya’ll’s speaking out there, little bit of English, Portuguese, bit of Spanish going on there…”
It was Tupac style during the tracks and Chris Rock style between them.
“I’m high and drunk as f#%k!” …rips shirt off and straight into the next rap.
Telling stories of how he was supposed to play on this stage a few years ago, but he got locked up.
“Hey I know y’all been waiting a long time for me.”
Pure confidence. Boss.
Sparks up a blunt on stage – “If you smoke weed make some f#%;ing noiiise!”
…Sure to get a strong reaction at Paredes de Coura. You smell it everywhere.
A stark contrast between his rap and the majority of the rest being rock. But he embraced it and smashed it.
Check Him – @freddiegibbs
00:45 – SUEDE – (♫) Here they come, the beautiful ones (♫)
A good old London band to bring the weekend to an end!
Veterans nowadays, having burst onto the scene in the early 90’s.
Frontman, Brett Anderson, certainly isn’t showing any signs of age holding him back though – strutting out in smart-casual dress and being as kooky as ever. He played the majority of the opening two songs side-on to the audience. Only turning violently to face them for the sing-along choruses.
So, which bizarre look-alike comparison did I draw this time?
…A cross between Tom Cruise and Teddy Sheringham. Quite the compliment!
He’s still eccentric. Spent parts of the set strewn out on the floor while still singing. Staring up at the night sky, or maybe it was the blinding stage lights. Perhaps thinking to himself how unexpectedly long his band’s career has stretched out, and wondering how many more of these golden moments he has remaining.
I definitely had this impression, as he played the whole show as if it were his last!
Venturing into the crowd on more than one occasion to turn and sing with them, as one of them. Fans arms draped over his shoulders. He’s watching his own ongoing live performance. Pretty cool.
Stood up on speakers bordering the front of the stage to belt out those big choruses, and got down on all fours to sing into the floored microphone during those low, emotional parts.
He definitely gave it his all. The sweating was almost on a par with Lee Evans!
Points out a row of fans on the barrier at one point and excuses himself from the thousands of other people in attendance – “These people over there make it to every single show. Thank you so much!”
Pulls a stool up to the front right side of the stage where they stand, and plays a beautiful acoustic rendition of ‘The Wild Ones’ directly to them.
“This is the last show of our summer. And I think it might be my favourite one.”
Crowd erupts into “La la lala la lala!” From top hit ‘The Beautiful Ones’.
A fitting song for everyone at this beautiful festival to be singing and swaying along to as another year draws to a close.
Check Them – @suedehq
…Of course. It’s Portugal. Just because the headline act for the night has finished, the fun is by no means over!
If late night partying until the sun comes up is your idea of festival perfection, then you’re in for a treat. The DJs are still spinning and people still jiving come 6 or 7am, no problem.
The only problem comes when trying to finally catch some sleep and the burning hot sun turns your tent into an oven come 9 or 10…
But crawl outta there and jump straight into that river or those cold showers and ‘Bob’s your Uncle!’ You’re ‘good as gold’, ‘fresh as a daisy’ and ready for a new day of beautiful Paredes de Coura paradise-ness.
…Having said that, I did get stung on the arse by a wasp in the showers! A little extra wake-up call that morning…
PDC, I Love You
The third year in a row I’ve attended now, and it still stands as my favourite festival.
The brilliantly put together final video that’s displayed on the main stage following the final act brings tears to the eyes. It just has everything you could possibly ask for at a festival. You can check a shortened version of that video here.
A common question on the closing night of a festival will always be:
Best Performance of the Weekend?
Mine has got to be Parcels. One of those shows that’s had me searching online for where I can catch them again before the end of the tour.
But I saw so many! Paredes de Coura has a magic about it that makes every performance magnificent, thoroughly intimate and entertaining.
Even through the minimalistic stage setups. They have the big screen in the background, but everything else is always rehearsal space like – a mish-mash of different amps and a drum kit bunched together on a huge stage. Unlike the usual stacked, generic Orange or Marshall amps. It really does seem like a top act has just shown up to play at your birthday party or something.
And the way the hill slopes up and around, amphitheatre like. The atmosphere surrounding the main stage is difficult to describe, but when you’re there it feels special, every time. A feeling you can see the artists are feeling too. It’s brilliant and unique. Unlike any other live music shows I’ve seen.
Credit to the Organisers too!
I struggle to understand how year after year the rather underwhelming lineups end up overwhelming me. They must choose artists they feel will deliver in this relaxed, ‘living room jam’ sort of atmosphere.
Again, Portuguese festival style, not an overpowering setup. Just making great use of the environment – a huge park. A park that has music festival written all over it. It’s natural and it’s perfect.
The local town plays a big part too. A short walk or free shuttle bus away, every day crowds head up there for good deals on delicious local food and drinks. That plate pictured above cost €5!
Despite running into a fair few fellow Brits, Aussies and Spanish, everyone’s in tune with the customary friendly and easy-going Portuguese vibe. You always know you have someone to help you out if you need it. It’s the sort of place where if you dropped your phone there’s a HIGH chance you’d be tracked down and handed it back.
Check it out if you can. You won’t be disappointed.
Unconventional Writing – It’s Live!
Despite having ‘PRESS’ privileges this time, I still wrote this on my phone from within those bustling crowds.
Hence why this one’s clearly gotten a bit out of hand… I’m used to rambling on about a day or an evening. This was five action-packed days worth!
So, if you’ve made it this far, then go ahead and pat yourself on the back – You’ve just completed the Keywanders Paredes de Coura Festival book!
And I sincerely thank you.
And thank you again, Paredes de Coura Festival – No trouble. Everyone friendly. Everyone chilling. Everyone dancing. Everyone smiling. Amor + Musica – Courisimo! (Love and Music – Couradise!)
Paredes… you did it again!
Thank you very much / Muito Obrigado!