In the middle of Portuguese nowhere, next to a tiny bridge and a lakeside village, sprout Reverence – a music festival’s debut.
Some kind of weird waves could be felt in the air. There was no doubt that people were excited to be there, and eager for each and one of the sixty-something bands – a borderline obscene number for a relatively short festival that turned out to be surprisingly functional. However, there was an overall feeling of tranquility. Not a drop of tension in the air. Surely one should have in account the generalized (and obvious for anyone with a sense of smell) substance use – Electric Wizard could spare the smoke effects on stage and they’d still have a fog for free. But there was still something in the atmosphere. Maybe a total lack of judgment, maybe the worshipping of the remains of the summer – whatever it was, it was priceless. It might have been the kind of place where you’d be able to roam around naked without causing much of a fuss. If the heat makes a return for the next edition, we’ll have that in consideration.
There was something to see wherever you went. At almost any given moment, you could choose between green quiets spaces, a spot by the river, a lowly populated clean little village (with a variety of friendly dogs included), a market, some food stands, and of course the almost continuously ongoing concerts.
The inhabitants of Valada seemed to welcome the festival goers and organization staff in general. Although initially, as is typical in small Portuguese villages, the distrust could be heard coming from some of the population (“Shouldn’t these youngsters be working on a Thursday?”), the whole of Valada soon succumbed to curiosity and was witnessed having laughing chats with the visitors.
The camping area was more than enough for the campers. We would estimate that no more than a quarter of the space was taken at its occupation prime. It was a pleasant camping site, with lots of shade and the kind of cushioned vegetation that you could either lie or sit on. Inside the camping area there were cold covered showers available, as well as a few food stands with accessible prices and quite creative and diverse solutions. Two Finnish neighbors of ours, who were starting to fall in the foulest of hangovers after being up all night, merrily came back from said stands with two glasses of watermelon juice – it goes to show that it’s not only the booze that makes or betters the music festival. And however well picked that area was, it severely lacked lighting. Since it was quite a large area, as soon as it got dark it turned into a cell phone firefly field. Quite charming if it weren’t for the inability to watch your step.
The location was clearly well studied and chosen forehand. Not only the strategic organization of the different spaces was optimized for general access according to the dynamics of a music festival, but it seemed like a little kingdom was built specially for that purpose. The village of Valada, near Cartaxo, has road accesses with landscapes that make you think you got lost for a moment. But ultimately you arrive at this colorful complex, raised in the middle of plains and forests.
The venue was located between the village of Valada and the Tagus River, in a huge leisure green area. It ran parallel to both, and several little dinners, caffees and grocery shops spread along the straight street that ran the side of the venue area. Inside the venue was the camping area, three stages, a market named “Feira das Almas” (“Soul Market”) where items kind of relatable to the festival were sold, such as merchandising, vinyl, clothing, books and fashion accessories, the DJ set area and finally several food stands that, given the event where they were included, presented really cheap prices and a lot of different solutions for everyone’s taste.
As one should mention when describing a music festival’s resources, the portable toilets were surprisingly clean. Note that this festival gathered an alarmingly large group of people given that you had little choice other than that. But after years of perfecting the technique of how not to touch anything other than the ground with your shoes, this was a pleasant relief. Besides the general cleanliness, they were in great number and strategically spread in little clusters.
Did we mention the visuals yet? Oh dear lord, the visuals. The graphic work on the festival’s brand was already a masterpiece by itself, but raising a tunnel made of a fabric orange snake in the main entrance was superb, not to mention the colorful covers that were put up for the River Stage, that had significantly less natural shade than the Sabotage Stage. It seemed like a practical temporary solution, and it additionally made for a fine spectacle.
Besides the main stage, aptly named Reverence Stage, there were two smaller stages (River and Sabotage), that worked before and after the performances at the main stage. Additionally, one should consider the DJ sets, which unfortunately we were unable to attend, but the word around was that they were fairly entertaining. There were concerts from 12 PM until 7 PM in the smaller stages, then in the main stage from 8 PM until roughly 2 AM, and finally the concerts resumed in the two smaller stages until dawn, having the end of each night been scheduled to around 6 AM. The program was functional in the sense that there were always concerts going on, but frequently there were bands playing simultaneously in the two smaller stages, which could turn out as less than practical. This was more noticeable on Saturday, when there was a clear attempt to catch up with the schedule and try to avoid any further delays. For the most part, whenever you were awake, you had the chance to watch a show. The concerts on the smaller stages, especially in the afternoon slots, invited to a rested kind of posture. An intimate place, with trees and reasonable shade all around, rarely with more than 100 viewers, a lot of people to sit next to, an accessible supply of fresh beer nearby, and you were set for hours. However, having the chance to listen to something whenever you’re awake also means that you’re probably not going to be able to watch everything – and that, unfortunately, was our case. Although we had little sleep, tiredness got the best of us on both nights when approaching dawn.
The Outfest concerts in the Marina Stage started with a staggering one and a half hour delay, but that didn’t matter since the location was excellent. Inside the village, outside the venue where Reverence would take place, the scenery with the Tagus River was perfect for a beer in the sunny afternoon. Some of the early arrivers even got a chance to swim in the river before the concerts. The stage was put right next to the road that ran the side of the venue. The road was not traveled enough to keep a concert from happening, but the traffic was sufficient to make the audience have to move out of the way several times. Not only was the crowd made up from festival goers, but the inhabitants of the village (mostly retired old people with a curious heart) came to witness the opening day: six concerts, free of charge to give people a preview of what Reverence would be like.
At 6:30 PM, the trio Unrecognized opened the stage with about 20 to 30 minutes of classic rock ‘n’ roll, and although their sound was good, the lack of a bass player really took the depth away from the sound. Still, Bárbara Isidro’s voice was the driving force that really got people going, especially in their cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Gold Lion”.
At 7:30 PM (the soundchecks took way too long for all bands), DW Void started with their alternative rock, and although they were full of energy (they went as far as screaming “Gimme some love!”) the public just didn’t seem to enjoy it as much as themselves. At the very least we have to give them credit for attempting to introduce different things into a live rock sound, but it just didn’t work that day.
It was after one full hour of soundcheck that Torpe (a band formed after the musicians that made the soundtrack for the TV show “Os Filhos Do Rock” decided to get together) started playing their mix of rock ‘n’ roll with some influences of prog and post-rock. Torpe benefited from being the first band to play after sunset, and they had the biggest audience of the day until then. A well-executed concert, with the instrumental tracks having been performed with almost clocklike precision. Torpe were, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the highlights of the Outfest.
Souq was a pleasant surprise; for a band that throws a legion of performers onto the stage, one would expect some level of confusion, but their time at Outfest was not wasted. Their mix of psychedelic sounds, blues, pop and jazz left the public in a frenzy, like Morphine (the band you fiends, not the drug) on acid. It was an interesting sound that would not be heard again during the whole weekend.
It was then that Aqua Nebula Oscillator took over the proceedings, entering the stage like a deranged version of Rush of the cosmic robes phase on mushrooms, imbued with some sort of celestial awareness. This was the gig of the evening, well deserving of a bigger spot on the festival. Not only was the public completely immersed in their fearsome sounding message, but their intoxicating acid rock was chaotic enough to ensnare even the most distracted listener. This is the way psychedelic prog rock should sound: cosmic, apocalyptical and colorful. Throughout the concert Aqua Nebula Oscillator gave us the best their title album and “Spiritus Mundi” could offer. This is the kind of genre-bending historical bands that Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O aim for.
The last band of the day was Mars Red Sky, considered to be one of Europe’s most recognizable stoner rock bands (even psychedelic to be honest). They entered the stage bathed in a strange red light that complemented their infectious groovy riffs and harmonious vocals. Mars Red Sky delivered a powerful concert where the audience seemed to respond with devotion to their most introspective moments. However, it is a shame that they played after Aqua Nebula Oscillator, since their concert did not have the energy needed to continue the hectic chaos imposed the French.
The first day was gone, it was time to sleep and recharge batteries for what was to come: over 30 hours of concerts in the next two days.
Unlike most festivals, Reverence seeked to deliver a full time experience of sound; therefore, it was at the crack of noon that the Rio Stage came alive with the first gig of the day.
Cave Story were the first band, playing to a crowd of people sitting on the ground, still trying to wake up under the scorching sun (thank God for the artificial structures providing shade). Their sound could be described as a post-punk/garage/surf rock, it was mellow enough to awake the ears of anyone still sleeping.
The Sabotage Stage opened at 12:30 PM with Black Leather, a rock act with a mix of garage and post-punk sounds that relied heavily on fuzzy guitars and vocal effects to create an interesting fusion. It’s a shame that their gig was plagued with some sound issues, that caused the shrieking guitar effects to be quite annoying.
The Jabberwocky Band were next, exciting the crowd at the Rio Stage with a very good showing of some psychedelic rock with a dark edge to it that left the crowd quite hypnotized. Also, and this is important, it was the first band I have ever seen to employ a full time tambourine boy in the band. His antics on stage were quite a sight to behold. All in all, one of the best concerts of the day.
Next were Putas Bêbadas, in what they like to call Whore Punk, that really was just punk with nothing to it. Straightforward band playing punk with an indecipherable voice. It’s nothing more than a gimmick and the public responded with complete disinterest. The lack of applauses was somewhat awkward. Too punkish, too repetitive and with an unclear sound.
It was still only 1:40 PM when The Feeling Of Love climbed on to the stage to play their brand of garage rock. Some problems with the sound were still there, and having the band turn up the volume did not help. They did show some peculiar details with interesting psychedelic keyboards, which made them sound like weird Beatles in the “Revolver”/“Rubber Soul” sense.
Up next were Killimanjaro, a Portuguese rock band that relied on vintage vocals, Sabbath riffs and one magnificent performance by the drummer. They were truly one of the best bands of the day, intoxicating everyone with a monstrous attitude by the lead singer.
François Sky & Guests was a different thing from what we had seen up until now, with a more direct electro sound that almost reached drum ‘n’ bass levels. Their gig made people wonder if they were watching a tribute band for Chemical Brother’s Beatles inspired phase. It was a bit dronish for that time of the day, and it probably would have worked better at night.
Born a Lion was what their name told us, an almost complete homage to Danko Jones. It was a pure, straightforward hard blues rock, with sufficient balls and testosterone to please any man in the audience. The drummer/vocalist’s happy simple attitude kept them from being just another lively concert.
As their show proved, The Asteroid no. 4 picked the right name for themselves. They enthralled the audience with their psychedelic post-rock sound, weird guitar effects and one of the most pleasing vocals of the day. Too bad the sound was once again too loud and unpleasant when the guitar employed different sound effects, a problem way too common on the Rio Stage.
It was almost 4 PM when Bombus entered the stage, and boy did they cause an impression. The first and only true pure heavy metal band of the entire festival had about 30 minutes to showcase their Swedish heritage in a mix of heavy-melo-thrash metal party. They were fast, fun, and at times even prog in their approach to a very traditional genre. It was not a concert to lie on the grass in the sun.
I don’t know if it was on purpose, but after the adrenaline of Bombus’s concert, we were treated to Wooden Wand, a one man show of American acoustic folk inspired by the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan. There was a melancholic wave in the air that took the audience to another time and place, and the Rio Stage was the perfect setting for this intimate concert.
Sunflare entered with a dronish kind of sound, with voice samples repeated over and over and over again. This noise/lo-fi rock trio from Portugal divided the audience: while some remained fixated on their performance, others were quite simply bored. They had some interesting mixes between rock and electronic sounds that ultimately proved themselves quite anti-climactic.
Sleepy Sun was a pleasant surprise. Picking up were Wooden Wand left off, the spiritual journey through American sounds continued. Their folk approach to psychedelic rock took the audience to the deserts of California, a place relatable to their sound. The central point of the gig was without a doubt the lead singer, a second-rate reincarnation of Jim Morrison that did a pretty damn good job of looking like a ‘70s rock shaman. Sleepy Sun also take the prize for being the first band in the Rio Stage to make people stand up.
We were late to Cave, and what we saw tells us we didn’t miss much. Playing a kind of jazz-rock instrumental fusion could have been fun, but they were so goddamn awful and repetitive that even their technical skill, that ensnared some in the audience, got really old, really fast.
“Keep Austin Weird” is the motto by which many of the bands from Austin–Texas live by, and Ringo Deathstarr take that lesson to heart. Start with one of the coolest names in Reverence, add a unique mix of alternative, indie, shoegaze and desert rock and you got one of the most intriguing gigs of the first day. The distorted guitars created the perfect fuzzy backdrop to Alex Gehring’s sweet vocals, and there were no sound problems to be heard. The highlight was “Gods Dream” from their 2013 album with the same name.
Woods was the last band of the afternoon stages, and their calm demeanor and gentle approach to a folksy prog-inspired rock was the perfect way to close the Sabotage Stage. Woods benefited from having a clear sound (something many bands did not have), and Jeremy Earl’s vocals were simply delicious. They provided the perfect ending to the afternoon, and now we had one hour to rest before entering the grand stage aptly named Reverence.
The Reverence Stage turned out to be perfect for the bigger bands, as it had adequate light, clean sound and no dust to annoy the audience.
The first band of the night started at 8 PM. The Wytches are one of the most recognizable names in garage rock, and although some people may wish that they stick to that genre, during the concert they became possessed. Dan Rumsey played his bass like a surf rock god who found the devil somewhere between the strings, and Kristian Bell’s quasi-psychedelic guitar solos matched his demonic antics on stage. Some of the highlights were songs like the show opener “Burn Out the Bruise”, followed by “Digsaw” from the new album “Annabel Dream Reader”, and even though there was a good response to these tracks, it was the fantastic “Gravedweller” that brought out the biggest reaction from the audience. It’s hard to imagine any fan of the band leaving the concert dissatisfied.
Next up were Swervedriver, a band classified as shoegaze and alternative rock, but they’re actually much more respected as one of the bands that brings those styles towards a much more lighter/pop realm. Their show had a flawless sound and they were greeted with enthusiasm by the public. As the concert went on their technical ability came through, the sound was thick but well controlled, and although there were some instances of shoegaze, one could be fooled to think that it was a rock concert (the brief guitar solos were particularly good). The highlights came in such tracks like “Rave Down”, “Sandblasted” and the obligatory “Duel”. Overall it was a good introduction for the onslaught of awesomeness that would follow.
Red Fang walked onto the stage with a purpose, and that purpose was to rock! The audience was nervous with anticipation, waiting for what would be the heaviest band of the evening. From the land of hipsters they came, and the beating they delivered with the opener “Dirt Wizard” was a joy to behold. The audience was instantly grabbed, and by the time they played the blues-inspired riffs from “Number Thirteen” and the first heavy metal chords from the new “The Shadows”, already small clumps of mosh pits had appeared. If some might say that Red Fang have a somewhat flat sound in record, no one can say that about their live performances. Their stoner rock is flawless and powerful, and Maurice’s vocals, along with Aaron and David’s contributions, give them a depth unlike any band in the genre. The highlights came with “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope.” And although we didn’t get the awesome “Reverse Thunder”, they closed with one of the most imposing tracks in stoner history, “Prehistoric Dog” – who doesn’t like to close a show with lyrics like “Dogs that howl from outer space/come to Earth to lay to waste/with fang and claw to shred your face/they will erase the human race”. Red Fang delivered one of the best concerts of the entire festival, and one that fans will remember for years.
Graveyard entered the stage when the audience was already amped up from the Red Fang concert, and because of that they had a difficult mission on their hands. How would they keep the energies up with their cross of hard rock and blues melodies? Also, the crowd was already craving something a bit more heavy, and a lot of people were seeing them as a kind of intermission until Electric Wizard came on. Well, the Swedish rockers did not fail. Opening with “Blue Soul”, they caught the attention of those who were not expecting such a great rock sound, and when they started playing “Hisingen Blues”, well, that’s when everyone got hooked to their ‘70s inspired dirty riffs. The show ended with a perfect trilogy: “Goliath” pulled the crowd with infectious groovy riffs, “The Siren” provided calm, slow blues that grew to explode on stage, and with the closer “Evil Ways” people were actually headbanging. There was just one issue at the beginning of the show: sometimes the guitar sound would get some weird interference, like a really annoying crackling. However, as the concert went on it became increasingly better, and by the end no one remembered it.
Electric Wizard came out to a roaring applause by the crowd. This was the band most people wanted to see in the first day, and when they came on the cult of the wizard began. When the first sounds of “Supercoven” exploded from the stage, a cloud of smoke rose from the audience, as if an Electric Wizard concert could not be complete without it. “Witchcult Today” and “Dopethrone” transformed the show into a ritual of Sabbath solos breaking the drone-like continuous attack of groovy riffs coming from Oborn’s and Liz’s guitars. Jus Oborn asked the crowd who was high, and when the crowd responded with delight, they turned up the energy and the speed. Playing faster than they usually do in the records, they incited chaos among the crowd with “Funeralopolis” and “SadioWitch”, but it was “Black Mass” that shook the ground beneath our feet. We went from a concert to a gathering of followers of the cult that is Electric Wizard. The sound was perfect, the crowd was completely dedicated to it and the band made no mistakes – it was something to remember.
After the Reverence Stage closed for the day it was time to get back to Sabotage and Rio.
Process Of Guilt started at about 2 AM, and although the hour was ideal for a doom metal concert, the mood was not. They played a very competent show indeed, without any sound problems, but it was just too slow for the high number of people present at the Sabotage Stage.
White Hills were next and they played for one of the biggest crowds of the evening in the Rio Stage. Their unique brand of space/psychedelic rock was enough to make people fall in love with them, but add to that a trippy projection in the back of the stage and a lot of theatricality by the band and you have a recipe for a great show. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have Ego Sensation in the bass guitar, she is as gorgeous as she is talented and the audience appreciated it.
The Rising Sun Experience was always going to be a difficult show. Their instrumental complexity is so great that we felt the sound would have to be perfect. Sadly there were some blunders, the vocals would occasionally disappear, the guitar effects were confusing and annoying, but when it worked, it worked perfectly. Their thick guitar riffs and their progressive guitar solos were undeniably one of the best things in the entire festival.
The Telescopes hit the stage at 3:10 AM, and in spite of their interesting mixture of dreampop and shoegaze, the repetitiveness of their sound quickly got tiresome. We do have to give it to them for being such a lively bunch on stage, even if they looked a bit sinister while doing it.
After this it was way too late, we had been attending concerts for almost 14 hours. It was time to call it a day, tomorrow would prove to be another marathon of rock and prog madness.
The second day started with a delay of over one hour, but we can hardly blame the organization for it. The diesel truck for the generators was late, the firemen were called to a fire in a nearby location and we were all waiting for the day to start. However, by the time everything was ready it was still only 1:15 PM.
The day began in the Sabotage Stage with Conjunto!Evite, a prog rock band that played mostly instrumental tracks. It was a vintage sound filled with trippy mellow keyboard sounds that contrasted perfectly with the energy released from the guitars. It was a perfect way to start the day that would bring us Hawkwind.
Meanwhile, and because the organization was trying to play catch up with the schedule, at the Rio Stage the psychedelic sound of Celestial Bums was already turning the audience into hippies. The sound effects employed to enhance their live experience made it a perfect gig to be seen during the day, under the last rays of the summer sun. The enthusiasm of the band was notorious, even if their smooth and calm sound invited a more tranquil gathering.
Next up was One Of These Days & Thee Heavy Random Tone Colour Lab. These Galicians played a dark and unsettling kind of prog/space rock, their guitars were gentle and slow, providing the perfect scenery for the electronic sounds in the backdrop. The keyboards were always lurking behind the guitars, but the show really picked up when those same keyboards, along with the drums, increased in intensity. It was a small show, but they made it count by beginning slowly and ending in a release of space sounds.
Meanwhile, at the Rio Stage, Sonic Jesus were coming on. A very straightforward shoegaze/folk-influenced show with some interesting details, especially the blue-haired singer that joined them on stage for one song only. Her voice was fascinating, but troubles with the sound took away from what was supposed to be the highlight of the show. Add to that the drum cymbals that were drowning the rest of the instruments, and as the show went on, it became too dronish and repetitive to listen under that scorching sun. Not one of the best of the day.
Holy Wave were supposed to be at the Sabotage Stage at this time, but apparently they lost their airplane and couldn’t make it in time.
In the Rio Stage, Dreamweapon were announced with a distorted sound that provoked some chuckles in the audience. These Portuguese gentlemen brought their finest mix of psychedelic and desert rock sounds to Reverence; the only problem is that we had already seen too many bands with the same sound, the same guitar effects. It was a good show, but it was starting to be repetitive and Dreamweapon were not sufficiently distinct to hold a place in the memory of the audience.
After the show, the organization did something that most festivals don’t seem to care about, a cleanup act of all the garbage left by the audience, a class move by the Reverence organization.
Keep Razors Sharp was a pleasant surprise for anyone who doesn’t like all-star super bands. With members from various Portuguese rock bands, these guys gave one hell of a show – catchy riffs and intoxicating choruses is their deal. The voice distortion was simply cool, not overused, complementing their thick garage rock sound. One of the few bands that brought people out of the shade and into the afternoon sun, they’re proof that rock ‘n’ roll is very much alive in Portugal.
Air Formation was a breath of fresh air with their cross between shoegaze and minimal post-rock sounds. They were gentle with their sound, playing some of their most contemplative tracks like “I can’t Remember Waking Up”, “Adrift” and the amazing closer “Cold Morning”.
Exit Calm certainly had a reason to be at Reverence, I just didn’t find one. It was decent alternative rock, with the usual influences of shoegaze and stuff. The problem is that in a festival with this many bands, a little more diversity would be welcomed. Exit Calm looked like they were simply there to add to the already astronomical number of concerts. If not for the audience’s reaction, showing that they wanted something heavier, they could have been mostly forgettable.
Onto Mugstar, one of the afternoon concerts that was able to break the doldrums of the garage/shoegaze repetition. These English lads brought keyboards, fast guitars, progressive sound effects and a much harder rock attitude to the table than the previous bands. Their mix of Hawkind-inspired sound paraphernalia and all around “badassness” made for one of the best shows in the afternoon, and the public reacted like it. They probably deserved a bigger spot on the card.
The Quartet Of Woah! are quickly making a name for themselves as Portugal’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll maniacs. Their concert at Vagos Open Air earlier this summer had some sound issues, but not here. 30 minutes, 5 songs, always kicking ass. It was the first time today that the Sabotage Stage was completely full, and the only reason was those Deep Purple, heavy metal influenced rock ‘n’ roll devils. The battle between the guitar and keyboard pushed the audience into a frenzy, especially in the closer “Your Turn”, where Gonçalo Kotowicz seemed to lose his mind to some rock deity. These are the kind of performances that lead a band to greater heights.
Asimov may call themselves post-apocalyptic space rock, but when they’re playing live, they’re just rock with some weird effects on the guitar. Although they showed great energy on stage, the sound problems were just too many. The volume was too high, and when the vocalist started to shriek and scream it became almost unbearable. Asimov’s sound looks like it could have worked better live, but the sound issues prevented anyone from enjoying the gig for more than a couple of minutes.
Back to the Sabotage Stage, Murdering Tripping Blues were the perfect follow up to The Quartet Of Woah!. They played a very dirty blues rock with progressive keyboards coming and going all the time. The occasional contribution of Mallory Left Eye’s voice to the tracks made it all much more interesting and the crowd made sure that the band knew they were loving the show.
Bardo Pond were a blunder unfortunately, not by their fault we think, but because of the numerous sound problems from the PA. Their psychedelic rock, filled with Sabbath influences and the occasional flute, needed a crystal clear sound, and the problems began right in the first song. They were sufficiently original to stand apart from the other bands, but if the lead singer’s mic completely fails during the show, along with other problems, then you can hardly blame them. We felt that they cut the show short due to technical problems.
Bruto & The Cannibals are no surprise for anyone who has listened to the stuff Mr. Bruto has been doing for the last couple of years. Calling himself the Reverend Bruto and looking like a 90 year old matrix cowboy, Bruto led his disciples onto the stage to deliver their dirty blues rock gospel. Even if Bruto looks like a worn out version of Iggy Pop, even if his English and accent are sub-par, who cares? His energy is magnificent and it captivated the public, it was overall fun.
Christian Bland & The Revelators captured our hearts. It wasn’t their garage/surf/psychedelic rock in bite size portions (which was perfect for the time of day they were playing), it wasn’t the keyboardist’s Amish hat and their overall friendly attitude. It was the two very competent covers of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” and “Lucifer Sam”. That’s what made an entertaining gig into a must see concert.
Spindrift say they’re a psychedelic rock band, but they’re so much more than that. They’re a goddamn western movie and they’re fun as hell. They gave a mostly instrumental show where the only voices were choruses and the occasional scream. The thing is, with their North American influences, old Californian rhythms, and even some Mexican touches, their gig went from a curiosity to a full-on party with everyone in the audience jumping and dancing to their Wild West sounds. This was a fitting ending to the afternoon concerts.
In the previous day there was one hour to recharge batteries. However, and due to the delays at the beginning of the day, there was no time to rest before moving to the Reverence Stage to go and witness the madness that was A Place To Bury Strangers. The first noticeable thing was that the amount of people was much greater in this second day, and these New Yorkers sure took advantage of that with one of the best noise/psychedelic rock concerts of the entire festival. The audience was presented to a show where the power trio delivered distorted guitars and heavy thick bass lines that the crowd could feel pumping in their chests. With such highlights as “I Lived My Life to Stand in the Shadow of Your Heart” and “Deadbeat”, the crowd started to get the feeling that, even more than in the first day, they were in for a night of rock ‘n’ roll classic moves as the destroy-your-guitar cliché was fulfilled by the band to the absolute delight of the audience. It’s a shame that at times the sound was not up to the standards required by the band, but still it’s something that one easily forgets during the show.
Psychic TV are already a cult band, and with a leader like Genesis P-Orridge it’s no wonder that the audience fell into a trance during one of the weirdest and most stimulating visual and sound experiences that day. Playing a mixture of experimental/psychedelic rock, and aided by dreamlike, drug-infused projections in the background, Genesis took control of the crowd like a deranged shaman. Starting their ritual with their homage/cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive”, the audience was quickly transported to a performance of sacramental rock. With synthesizers, distorted guitars and multiple sound effects, the crowd quickly followed Genesis in his ritualized dances and prophetical chants, until the “Greyhounds of the Future” closed the show to an astonished audience. The spirit of what Reverence wanted to achieve was truly present – more than just music, this concert was a communion between the band, sound, image and each person in the crowd. It was the perfect introduction to the arrival of the giants Hawkwind.
Most people were expecting the great classics by Hawkwind in their first appearance ever in Portugal, but these legendary beautiful British bastards decided to give the Portuguese audience a show to remember, something unique and different from most of their performances. Therefore, they decided to mix it up a little by adding more recent songs to their setlist, and let me tell you, it worked perfectly. They entered the stage like the gods of space/prog rock they are, wearing such interesting things as a roman helmet with sequins, making everyone wonder if in their old age senility had started to creep in, but no, it was just their way of saying “we’re here, get ready”. The show started with “Seasons”, the opening track from “Onwards”, setting the mood for what the gig would be – less space/ambient stuff, more rock ‘n’ roll. Then Hawkwind delivered “Steppenwolf” from the album “Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music”. After that it was a parade of lesser played tracks like “Utopia”, “Prometheus”, “The Iron Dream”, “Assault and Battery” and “Golden Void”. It was at this time that the projections on the back became increasingly important to the experience. “Uncle Sam’s on Mars” got the crowd riling with the theme, the powerful psychedelic keyboards, and especially the eerie sounds coming from Tim Blake’s theremin – he gave one of the most chilling performances of the show when he later treated the crowd to a theremin lesson in space prog. The apocalyptical messages (that collided with the band’s looks) continued in the furious “Sonic Attack” that, along with stunning visuals in the backdrop, transported us into a dystopian reality were the audience was under attack. “You’d Better Believe It” was instantly recognized by everyone because of its classic status, giving way to “Orgono Acumullator” and the unexpected, but magnificent, closer “Hassan I Sahba”, with Persian influenced sounds that managed to make the entire audience jump in delight. It was the best concert in all of Reverence, and the simple fact that you were in Portugal, in a crowd with 70 year old Dutch hippies, Finnish Crocodile Dundees and a myriad of different people all together in complete harmony made it all better. The sound was flawless and clear, the visuals stunning, nothing more could be asked of Hawkwind.
Mão Morta, unfortunately, were in a tough spot, and although you cannot deny the sheer quality of their music and act, Hawkwind’s amazing show was a tough act to follow. Their sound and demeanor is powerful, but it is also very negative, and under those circumstances it was hard to truly appreciate Mão Morta. We got the same old Adolfo with its antics, dancing like a lunatic, inciting the crowd into madness in tracks like “E Se Depois”, “Charles Manson”, “Berlim”, “Barcelona” and the always insane “Vamos Fugir”. The show closed with their new classic anthem “Horas de Matar”, a violent call to arms against the establishment that the crowd simply loved. There is something to be said about Mão Morta live: they are extremely competent, almost to a point where their recorded tracks and live acts are indistinguishable. A good concert that didn’t quite fit in because of its place in the schedule.
Black Angels entered the stage to a lively crowd expecting to be swayed by their psychedelic rock of desert influences. Their thick sound, along with the usual effects and stimulating visual paraphernalia, made for an entertaining show with tracks like “Evil Things”, “Indigo Meadow”, “Yellow Elevator #2” and “Bad Vibrations” shining through the setlist. It was a good opportunity to rest a little while listening to one of the most relaxing shows of the main stage.
With the main stage closed, it was time to return to the Rio Stage for the last concerts, and it was here that the biggest crime of Reverence was committed. Crippled Black Phoenix had their show cut in almost half due to what we believe were time issues, and the audience suffered greatly, since this concert was amazing. Entering the stage with an army of guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, Crippled Black Phoenix proved once more why they’re the closest to what Pink Floyd achieved live in their heydays. The magnificent mind of Justin Greaves, the lack of effects on the vocals, the unusual female voice, all of this created the perfect gig that ranged from folk to post-rock to progressive rock, all in almost 30 minutes. “The Whistler“ created one of the most haunting soundscapes in the entire festival, and the combo of “Rise Up And Fight” followed by “Burnt Reynolds” brought the audience into a passionate state. By the end of the show everyone present was singing in chorus to Crippled Black Phoenix’s powerful words.
Meanwhile, at the Sabotage Stage, System 7 were turning the afternoon rock stage to a full-on night rave. Their trance-like sound and unusual samples created a mad stage where the audience was unable to stand still, giving way to almost an hour of almost pitch black dancing. They started with about 10 people watching the show, and ended with a full frantic crowd.
10.000 Russos entered the Rio Stage with what sounded like a distorted bastard son of post-punk and synth rock with too much distortion. The show was interesting due to being played in almost complete darkness, with frightening trippy projections in the back. The crowd was left standing, admiring the combination between visuals and sound.
Meanwhile, Moon Duo were starting in the Sabotage Stage with their self-proclaimed “repeat-o-rock”, where psychedelic guitars and space-like sounds are dragged to eternity, repeating themselves until every member of the audience was in a full trance. The audience responded with enthusiasm to “Free Action”, “In The Sun” and the magnificently named “Motorcycle, I Love You”.
The Oscillation were the last band we got to see, for our strength was gone. When these English lads started their progressive space rock, the audience began to slowly dance in a trance. The Oscillation presented us with a very rich wall of sound, aided by the effects applied to the guitars.
It was over for us, about 60 concerts in three days, a rock fan could ask no more of a festival. Our apologies to Naam, Black Bombaim, Miss Lava, The Cosmic Dead, Equations, White Mana and Jibóia, for we were unable to stay awake in order to enjoy the privilege of their experiences on stage.
To sum it up, the environment completely rose up to the expectations of such a music festival – the whole color spectrum completely splattered over the venue, the audience and the bands, drawing some bigger psychedelic entity resonating through the trees. Every corner was cozy, every piece of grass inviting, every colorful goer a native. For three days it felt like this amazing event had been planned with thousands of people at once, with common intentions, goals and desires. Everyone knew everyone – why bother with names. Kids, the word of the day is “cosmic”.
Photos by Jorge Pereira