Paredes de Coura 2014 Chronicle 2/2
Friday, August 22nd
I woke up at about 10 AM and ten seconds later had to ran outside the tent, due to the boiling conditions that I was experiencing inside, as any living being (except for those pesky wasps, God I swear the fuckers where literally EVERYWHERE) would find that inhospitable at the very least. So after taking this hit from our old friend: the desert-like heat that permeated every second of the daytime, I just inhaled smoke until all my problems turned into a big pile of moot.
Yes, we spent most of our mornings just coming back to life, basically by sitting, chugging hot as hell beer left there the night before, smoking dope and gazing at the sky, after all it is Paredes Coura. Only tardigrades could stand the heat inside the tent and the river was too far away from base camp as to rule out any possible expeditions before the sun went from ‘infernal’ to ‘barely tolerable’. Still my massive two-day (and counting) hangover was still hanging around my cortex at 2 PM, so I decided (read: my self-preservation instinct decided) to grab some food, charge my phone (my closest relatives were delighted to know that I was still alive and didn’t catch any particular high morbidity disease) and of course have a taste (more like several glasses) of that marvellous apple-based cider that all my comrades enjoyed equally.
While everybody else was enjoying the river (i.e. enjoying the views at the river, if you catch my drift), my partner and I stayed where the drink and food stands were, playing and singing The Beatles while standing everyone’s astonished looks; smoking doobs and drinking spiked cider until about 5 PM, when the extremely hot girls (Fun fact: Paredes is full of really handsome people. And I mean full. Plus everybody spends most of the time wearing skimpy swimsuits) who sat in front of us decided it was the perfect time for a shower. It was the perfect, indeed, for going back to the camp and getting ready for Killimanjaro, a really powerful band that’s a rising star right now, be sure to keep them under your radar. In the end we decided to stay and enjoy the heavy guitar work and punching drumming from the comfort of our camp (which was conveniently located in front of the main stage, at the other side of the river). Not the best acoustics but, hey, we got cheap, high-proof booze and at least you can sit down somewhere.
The ‘big bad’ of the day was Black Lips, my companions were ecstatic to see them in an otherwise pretty relaxed day overall in terms of performers. But I knew better, as I already saw them at this year’s Primavera Sound, Barcelona; and was quite disappointed with the gig. I didn’t expect much from them, but what happened was below even my lowest expectations. They sounded like a teenage pop-punk band, say Blink-182 or late-era Green Day. Perhaps it was the biggest flop of the fest, as almost everyone agrees that they simply sucked for a myriad of reasons. They undoubtedly delivered a sub-par performance at best, with some really embarrassing moments (clicks, shoddy solos, improper volume levels, feedback: you name it).
But before Black Lips came one of the surprises of the fest: Perfect Pussy.
Despite some sound control problems (“always blame the engineer”, Galician proverb) their act was full of energy, anger and everything that makes punk so fun to listen to. It was one of the few times I saw a band who was able to pull off a credible enough lo-fi sound in front of such a massive audience. Screeching vocals and non-stop noise are the bases of this girl-fronted group (Meredith Graves looks like a hurricane in the stage), making every song feel like a kick in the balls –and I mean that in a good way.
After this rush of energy we had some food (two bifanas, Paredes’ official food) and went straight to Cut Copy.
We went down to the front as fast as we could, knocking people aside and losing every notch of shyness.
Absolutely worth it: as the amazing visuals danced before our eyes and so did we, like maniacs who were just released from prison; a very fun and engaging electronic music.
In my head this gig flowed seamlessly with the last act of the day, Fort Romeau (DJ set) and the party roared until almost 6 AM, with most of the people completely destroyed and wanting some much needed sleep. Not us.
My partner and I (the only ones who could stand the pressure of the day) met with some friends while coming back to base camp, only to discover a group of about 8-12 people dancing in the middle of the camping zone to a boom box and The Doors’ ‘Light my fire’. Someone gave me a bottle of tequila and I greeted him or her with a joint. That was the general MO. The music and the open air drug consumption attracted even more people until we formed a Paredes inside Paredes, a self-organized mini-fest with almost 200 people raving to a boom box and an mp3 player and where anyone could play his own music. This is the true magic, the spirit of Paredes de Coura. We got back to base camp at about 10 AM and I fell unconscious again in the floor of my tent, a faint smile on my face.
Saturday, August 23rd
This is where the experience starts to get a bit fuzzy. I remember listening to Kurt Vile & the Violators from the comfortably numbness of our base camp.
The country-based songs did nothing to heal our massive hangovers, already worsened by the well-known heat we had to endure since we woke up, beaten and in the brink of collapse. All of us went through a recovery process formed by several naps, smokes, food and grazing like cows. Before that, my partner seemingly went back home, having to leave the fest early due to work, only to get back two hours later saying that he “lost the bus back”. A feeling of cheerfulness permeated the camp when we saw him coming back yelling “Colegas!” and each of our individual hangovers diluted in that marvellous feeling of community that only Coura can bring to a group of people.
From that moment on, we just burst through the war spoils from previous days, knowing that we couldn’t go back home with anything left. Most of the action took place in base camp, while listening to the previously mentioned Kurt Vile and later The Growlers.
Sorry if I was too busy chugging coke and rum mixes and laughing my ass off instead of paying attention. Still some friends back at home yelled at me when I told them we listened to Beirut from a distance.
And after that came the most boring show of the entire fest: yes, I’m talking about James Blake.
Even when I listened to him at the ‘Ganja Party: Prepare for Paredes de Coura Edition’ that we usually do before the fest to check the artists that we don’t know and have some smokes, I didn’t enjoyed it a bit. It was too minimal for my taste. And the scheduling couldn’t have been worse: 1:00 AM of the last day, 90% of the people are bouncing their tits off. We didn’t need that, Mr. Blake.
Things got better at 1-800 Dinosaur. While we were looking for a ‘friend’ (who ended up being complete bullshit), James Blake spun some records that suited us much better than his previous show, proving that he was indeed a good musician who suffered from terrible timing on this particular fest. After going to the bathroom, most of my pals had left for base camp, looking to get some rest (or at least try to) for their ravaged minds and bodies. I, too, knew better than staying at the last DJs who went on well into 7:00 AM. Or did I?
Strange tales in the border of Portugal, it felt more like the border of reality and a marvellous fantasy world, a Disneyland for adults, where anything can happen, life-lasting relationships are built and life-changing experiences await in every step. This may very well be our Vietnam, our Civil War. This self-expression of almost breaking ourselves must mean something. Perhaps it’s just that, a fantasy fabricated by the cultural and –most important- counter-cultural structure that permeates our western, middle class dominated society. We do it because we can.
Maybe nothing will come out of this, but we will all know that somewhere in time and space, we broke the sky and try to reach for the stars, only to come back crashing into tiny, grounded dust.
PD: Thanks to the very owner of this website for giving us the ride back home, it was great getting lost among astonishingly beautiful landscapes while listening to Janis Joplin and cracking jokes. A truly perfect ending.
Words: Lois Agrelo Arxóns aka “J. Duke” is a Galician writer from Noia who also happens to love music. He writes poetry, narrative, scripts, and articles; you can catch a glimpse of his work in The Ganja Papers.
Photos: Taken by Inma Gregorio, edited by Jose Martinez who have been enjoying this music festival since 2011 and are already looking forward to 2015’s edition.