By Kieran Ford
Perfect Paredes de Coura
‘My favourite place in the world.’ A glowing phrase that I said to myself and others multiple times over the course of my four night stay at the Vodafone Paredes de Coura 2018 Festival. The four nights traditionally take place in mid-August and run over an unconventional Wednesday to Saturday schedule.
Situated up in the very North of Portugal, pretty much bordering Spain, Paredes de Coura is the name of the town itself and directly translates to ‘Walls of Coura’. One of the most prominent features throughout the festival’s twenty-six year history is the beautiful Taboão River Beach, which actually flows through the campsite!
This charismatic festival always promises an eclectic lineup of the brightest up and coming talents combined with four well established, diverse headliners. This year those four, in chronological order, were The Blaze (Electronic Dance), Fleet Foxes (Indie Folk), Skepta (Grime) and Arcade Fire (Indie Rock). The great thing about Paredes de Coura is that you can trust them with the lineup. Every year many head there without even taking notice of who’s playing, simply trusting that they’ll be brilliantly entertained. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone disappointed come Sunday.
“They absolutely smashed the occasion out of the park! It was the perfect way to end the festival.”
On to my top three performances of the weekend:
1) SHAME – (♫) I’ll Always be Here to Hear Your Words (♫)
South London based post-punk band rocketing their way to prestigious heights. Their debut album ‘Songs of Praise‘ was only released in January of this year and they’ve already played fully fledged tours of the UK, US and Europe. I can’t fault a single track on the album and was over the moon to see they’d be playing Paredes de Coura.
They’d been given a spot on the Main Stage but as one of the openers. Stage time 19:40, the arena is generally empty – far too early for a Portuguese crowd. I ran to the stage oozing anticipation before being greeted by what I’d feared… nobody. Well, somebody, but you could count them, probably about seventeen people.
One of them, stage crew, standing at the microphone and shouting offstage trying to coax the singer out to sound check. He suddenly comes marching on, a half full glass of red wine swishing around in one hand and the rest of the bottle in the other. He casually says “hello” into the mic while on his way to exiting off the other side of the stage. The coy member of the crew looks on scratching his head, before proceeding to say “1, 2. 1, 2.” into the mic multiple times.
After I’d stopped laughing, I felt like getting up there grabbing that mic and shouting out to all those still sitting about in the campsite to get their arses in gear and get down here! (I’d had a few beers by this point). They had no idea of what they were about to miss.
However, as I never should have doubted, Shame did it their own way, the best way – smashing out the first song with such force that on finishing, floods of people were rushing down the entrance hill like giddy little schoolgirls. They went on, belting out hit after hit.
They have an amazing energy on stage, the bassist runs around every now and then smashing out these crazy jumps. The highest I’ve seen by someone while still managing to play a guitar! The singer, a proper frontman. He roars each and every lyric with a captivating energy and fiery passion, interacting with the crowd between songs. In one instance putting the bouncers in their place – “Hey! Oi! Bouncers! Don’t stop them. Let them crowd surf, its fine…” An onslaught of bodies ensued, flung around down to the front and over the barriers for the duration of the show.
He got involved himself on more than one occasion. At one point audaciously and pretty skilfully to be fair, standing and walking on the top of the crowd’s outstretched hands! Before diving onto his back and being passed around as if floating on a lilo back at the river but still continuing to yell out those BIG choruses.
Then came a personal highlight – having ‘surfed’ his way back to the front of the barrier, noticing that I know every word, he calls me forward to join him in singing the chorus ‘Bathe me in blood and call it a Christening!’ while he pours a bottle of water over our heads. Christened by Shame at Paredes de Coura. Chuffed. Caught on Camera too! See it below.
By time they were finishing thousands of people had gathered to applaud them. One of the best performances I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot!
2) ARCADE FIRE – (♫) This Happy Family With Everything Now (♫)
The headliners of the weekend, the ones to bring this incredible festival to a close on the Saturday night / Sunday morning. A band that needs no introduction, but just in case you’re someone who’s still picturing the games area of the festival going up in flames – Arcade Fire are Canadian and have recently released their long anticipated fifth album Everything Now.
They’ve always been one of those bands that I’ve seen at festivals and enjoyed their most famous songs, but I’ve never been an avid admirer. This time around being the marquee act of the festival and with the new album there to be devoured, I paid them the respect they deserve.
They absolutely smashed the occasion out of the park! It was the perfect way to end the festival. Their performance inspirational, euphoric, mesmerising and full of passionate lyrics, that they actively get the crowd involved to sing along with in such an effective way that you feel as if you’re part of the show – you’re on backing vocals on some of the songs!
Even though I’d become much better acquainted with their back catalogue, it was their track ‘Afterlife‘ that really got me. One I didn’t know very well but was performed with such raw emotion that, I’ll admit it… a tear was shed! (I know… lol) But it was just everything about it. This amazing festival drawing the curtains after another special year coupled with the lyrics being so relatable.
3) THE BLAZE – (♫) Let Me Show You Something… (♫)
Yep, Paredes working it’s magic again. Headliners of the opening night, despite being well-known, I had no idea who they were. Now I definitely know who they are!
My general taste being ‘rock’ music, I’ve enjoyed other genres on many occasions but never really paid serious attention to them. Roll on ‘The Blaze’. Two French cousins who produce films as well as music. Full disclosure – I did partake in activities their name might be suggestive of prior to the performance. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
So, at times in the past I’ve been perplexed by people that love going to watch DJs. Why would it be anymore special hearing the songs played by the artist stood before you than… them not? Oh, now I know. Of course! The whole atmosphere, sharing it with thousands of others around you. Also, it definitely is a proper live performance!
They’re full of energy making the ‘drops’ so much more energising, produce numerous striking effects and have huge screens up broadcasting their films as a means to put their mainly lyric-less tunes into perspective. Each time illustrating the emotions they intended to encapsulate in the track.
I was blown away. It was a seriously impressive spectacle, like being drawn into a ‘live film’. It changed my whole opinion of electronic music for good.
The beer situation – you pay €1 for a festival branded plastic cup and a neck strap with a cup holder for handy hands-free holding! After this you head back with it each time for a refill or a new cup. Pint = €4, Half = €3, Water = €1.50.
The food is classic festival food trucks, pretty pricey but there’s a good variety if you need something. All in all, expensive for Portugal but not when compared with other festivals worldwide.
The great thing about Paredes de Coura is the town is just a short walk or free shuttle bus away. It’s a hangover remedy from heaven around there during the daytimes, as locals serve up classic Portuguese dishes for bargain prices. Also, the supermarkets are cheap so you can stock up and take everything back to the campsite. I probably spent around €150 over the four days.
Until Next Year
Ask anyone who’s been to Paredes de Coura and the first thing they usually say is it’s amazing because of the whole atmosphere there. The ‘good vibes’ all round. I wholeheartedly agree. It’s difficult to put into words so I’d recommend you go and experience it for yourself.
It’s the setting. It’s the whole of whoever’s within the intimate town during that week coming together for this celebration. The campsite has all the perfect spaces shower/charging/food and drink facilities. It’s warm, despite hosting over 20,000 people everyone just gets along with each other. I didn’t see one conflict the entire time. People of all ages are present, whole families with their kids, everyone’s friendly, everyone’s happy. Whether they be soaking up the rays by the river or having a race down it in their rubber dinghies, or attempting the craziest flip or dive from up in the highest point of the tree, or rushing off down to the front of the stage to get close to their favourite act, or relaxing back on that big slope that faces the main stage and still being able to enjoy the full performance in all its glory, the everything. Better finish there before another tear comes along… Paredes de Coura, Para Sempre! One of my favourite places in the world.
Have you been? Thinking of heading next year? If so, let me know in the comments below along with any other questions you might have.
Thanks for reading / Obrigado por lerem,