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NOS Primavera Sound : An Appreciation Of Porto

  • Published in Live

A while ago this site contained a few city guides for a handful of places in the UK & what they had to offer for the live music fan. They weren't regularly updated so we dropped them. This piece is though intended, in part, to fulfil the same function for Porto, where the younger & smaller Primavera Sound (NOS being the main local sponsor) event takes place a week or so after the original in Barcelona.

Having popped my cherry at the Barcelona event in 2016 & being possessed of a wish to visit Porto for two or three years it seemed obvious upon the release of the earlybird tickets for 2017 that one be bought as the event must have the same line-up in each city, right? Wrong - the Porto event has only four stages & consequently gets mainly the middle tier acts so no underexposed newbies or headliners such as Arcade Fire. Still, 85€ for the event was fine with me.

The city itself offers a very cheap and enjoyable holiday experience. Given that Ryanair only fly there from Edinburgh on Tuesdays & Saturdays I naturally had to plump for a week of sunshine with temperatures around the 30 degrees centigrade mark, rather than mist the final day of the festival. There's more than enough to keep you occupied aside from the festival, whether it be the art collection of Serralves, visiting as many churches as possible, doing one or more of the tourist tours or just crawling the bars drinking either the very cheap Super Bock or sampling the local wares of the city's newer brewers, seeing as it's experiencing a growth of those the same as most other places. There's also the wine. And the coffee. And the 1€ cakes and sandwiches although full meals cost far less than at home too.

Travel is cheap too - an hour on the train south to picturesque Aveiro set me back 4€ each way and the Metro around the city & out to the park where the festival takes place is in the main under 2€ for a single journey. There's an Oyster-like system in place so once you have your smartcard from the machine at the airport you merely need to top it up with the right fare(s) and step on and off buses & Metros as your needs dictate.

As mentioned NOS Primavera Sound takes place in a park, which gives it the edge over the Barcelona event in terms of comfort. At no time are you walking across a dusty, concrete desert and the hillsides allow for clear views of the stages from a prone position. As the overall site is though smaller there are far fewer art, clothing etc. stalls (my poster tube was a redundant piece of luggage this year) but, particularly if you're female, you can get a good fix of second-hand clothes shopping done in the city and the quality of prints, badges, cards & other artwork for sale (particularly around Rua de Miguel Bombarda and at the Circus Network space) is very high.  

So who was actually any good at the festival? Swans were a revelation to be honest. Not a band I've ever given much time to and I opted to chat to a site contributor over seeing them at Le Guess Who? a couple of years ago but this weekend their two hour set held me for the duration. I'm pleased to say I've finally seen Arab Strap although they maybe want to give themselves a rest from 'The First Big Weekend Of The Summer' and Teenage Fanclub were a solid presence on the Friday evening. 

Shellac were better than in Barcelona last year, possibly down to the Palco stage being head height rather than half that again. Mitski was good fun, Hamilton Leithauser was emotive, Against Me! were rock and roll, The Make-Up were infectious although having Ian Sevonious stand all over you was probably not what many in the centre of the crowd had bargained on, Wand were a great blast of energy & infectious guitar work (what King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard failed to be) and the tail end of the Evols set gave a hint that I'd missed something epic by being a tad late that day. Metronomy, who I see in a new light following Joe Mount's recent dismissal of The Flaming Lips, Japandroids and Pond were also great crowd pleasers.

Elsewhere Aphex Twin was a slow burner which I left for more immediate pleasures, Cymbals Eat Guitars seemed either oddly placed in the bill or are virtually unknown in Portugal, Cigarettes After Sex were nothing special (& what's with that REO Speedwagon cover?), Sleaford Mods were as bombastic as expected but if you've seen five minutes of them you've seen the whole show (which kind of goes for Death Grips too), Songhoy Blues got a good reaction from the crowd and Royal Trux were as ramshackle as when I last saw them 20 or so years ago. Sure they walked off about 20 minutes earlier than they should have but fair play - for all the drivel spouted between songs they didn't forget any of their lyrics, much as that constantly seemed a possibility. The Growlers failed to live up to expectations, sounding oddly one dimensional compared to on record.

Homegrown acts Samuel Uria, Rodrigo Leao & Scott Matthew and Miguel unfortunately made little impression on me. On the whole though I'd say the event for me came out ahead of its bigger brother, not least for the better quality food on offer but transport away from the site (the closest Metro ceases at 22:00) was better organised & information about it more readily available.

NOS Primavera Sound is for a weekend, not for life though & the city's live music scene continues after it's all over. To that end I headed along to the Cave 45 venue on Monday night to see Cleveland's Archie & The Bunkers, ably supported by energetic & entertaining local garage punks The Magnets. Two rather unorthodox acts - the latter field a bass/drum/organ & singer formation whilst the youthful headlining duo share vocal duties and play just a drumkit and an organ, albeit with gobs of energy & passion. The venue itself has good sound and two decent bars so provided a fine location to see out the end of this Portuguese live music experience.

Cheers to Eduardo & Francisco for excellent Couchsurfing, Ana for driving and Chris for the banter.

Further event photographs here.


Royal Trux - Platinum Tips and Ice Cream

  • Published in Albums

“Junkie Nurse”, the first track on the live album released alongside Royal Trux reunion tour, lets you know exactly what they are about. It is a slurred, sleazy, staggering account of stealing prescription drugs. Neil Hagerty’s guitar and Jennifer Herrema’s vocals are dragged in off the streets after a night passed out under a flyover. The track has apparently been recorded on somebody’s phone. It is a complete mess, and glorious with it. This is what Royal Trux have to offer.

Despite their unconcealed heroin habits and disdain for the sensibilities of music corporations, Royal Trux achieved major label status in the 1990s, holding out among the post-grunge wave of signings until Virgin gave them the terms they wanted. They responded with two albums, the last of which, ‘Sweet Sixteen’ featured a famously grim toilet bowl as a cover. The band then returned to Drag City and released a sequence of four turn-of-the-century albums which, in failing to fit the indie, grunge or rock templates on offer, sounded like nothing else. Then they split, leaving a trail of ludicrous drug stories and the respect of their peers, who saw through the junkie couple headlines, to the originality of their songs. Hagerty brought his spiky, feedback-laden guitar to The Howling Hex, a slightly more structured cousin to Royal Trux.

Given their disdain for musical convention, a reunion to hit the nostalgia market has to be more than it seems. Fifteen years after splitting, Hagerty and Herrema have again been lurching around Europe and the States, making a series of brief appearances on stage during which they argue, drink and sometimes play songs. Their gigs have ended abruptly when one or other can no longer stand up. Platinum Tips and Ice Cream faithfully records this atmosphere of uncontrolled chaos, punctuated with moments of exceptional coherence.

Platinum Tips and Ice Cream strips apart tracks from the full range of their career, rendering them looser, dirtier, nastier and messier than their originals, quite an achievement. If you thought 'Waterpark' from Veterans of Disorder was too fresh-faced and clean on the original, Royal Trux have fixed that for you. If you were hankering after 'Esso Dame' from their first, self-titled album all the way back in 1988, it’s here, sounding as though Sonic Youth could really learn a thing or two. 'The Banana Question' from Accelerator is ridiculous and irresistible, a retailing rollercoaster of a song. Royal Trux are experts in doing precisely what they please, and this album is the ultimate expression of their truly uncontrollable energy. They have dedicated themselves completely to subverting both the indie nostalgia industry and their own back catalogue, and the results are part performance art, part musical genius. The album is essential for understanding what Herrema and Hagerty are trying to achieve, and worth it for the exceptionally trippy, closing version of 'Ice Cream' alone. 

Platinum Tips and Ice Cream is Amazon and iTunes.

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