To say that we are in love with this Portuguese music festival would be an understatement. And like us, there are many faces that we recognize year after year. So, if anything, we aren’t alone. We are all great fans of one of the best festivals in the world, the unique and unparalleled Paredes de Coura music festival.
Even the people making the event possible every edition are known faces. And that is probably why lovely tiny details like paying with real money instead of tokens – so uncommon nowadays – are possible. Because we don’t know you guys but we have a stupidly huge collection of useless plastic money leftovers from every festival we have attended in the last 5 years.
On the other hand, no other festival enjoys the greatness that Taboao river beach is, along with its atmosphere – which draws from festival-goers and locals to artists, or the main stage’s natural amphitheater.
Sobe à Vila starts warming things up the previous Saturday as many free concerts take place in the Portuguese village of Paredes de Coura during the days before the festival itself – or should we say town as it grows significantly later on. To the 9000 lucky inhabitants, we gotta add 26000 people every day.
Keep that in mind if you want to make it there next year, as hotel rooms are sold out in no time once the dates are out.
Whether you score a room or camp in one of the many spots conditioned for this purpose near the river; consider arriving early. The vast majority of regulars have been camping days, if not weeks when we finally set foot in the camp.
Long story short, our beloved Paredes has just celebrated its 27th edition (our 9th in a row), looking healthier than ever. Without further ado, let’s see what happened in Paredes de Coura 2019.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Wednesday used to be a sort of appetizer with the signature quality music this festival is known for and a moderate audience. Not anymore. This edition, Wednesday was the first day with sold-out tickets as headliners such as The National drew thousands. Something that will likely happen again next year, as Joao Carvalho – festival’s head – disclosed already.
Thing is that festival chronicles don’t pay the bills around here yet, so we could only get there in time for the last Boogarins chants. Used to smaller audiences, the band responded to the pressure positively and yet gave a great concert, at least the part we could listen to.
Right after, the greater show of the night – the Australian band Parcels – took the main stage.
As if they came out of the 70s, energetic but soft, with disco and funk touches, and without abusing of pre-recorded stuff as they played with a couple of keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, and their own voices; the 26000 souls approved their gig from the beginning. Wait for their comeback to Paredes de Coura in a few years. We can definitely see that happening.
‘There are no words to describe what happened last night. A moment that will go down in Parcels history’ – they were heard the next day.
The now woken up the audience was mostly there for The National – that had already played in the Taboao back in 2005, a historic edition that saw artists such as Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nick Cave among many others.
This time they were THE band to see on Wednesday. But to be honest, we did not really get their intimate and mature rock. Could that be because the weird time their gig was? Past midnight we are kinda looking to dance and, although we don’t doubt of their flawless sound – that put tears in many people’s faces as Matt Berninger gave them a voice during Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks, the song that closed their act and the main stage for the night – it left us somewhat cold. Yay! If you were looking for a soulless review, maybe we need to part ways now.
Kokoko quickly relocated people to the Vodafone FM stage – aka. after hours.
As if it were a musical antithesis of the latter, their sound system launched a party, putting everyone to dance straight away. Dressed in eye-catching work overalls, the members of this relatively unknown band of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are all good vibes and energy. We absolutely loved them.
Finally, at half-past 3 am, the acclaimed Portuguese actor and DJ Nuno Lopes took the stage to give a happy closure to the first day of the festival.
His easy and enjoyable tunes, along with this love for the festival – which has seen him close the festival pretty much year after year – made the rest. It’s a fact, the guy enjoys this event as much as we all do, and we could see him navigating a crowd in search of selfies with him for a few more days afterward. God save his endurance!
Thursday, August 15, 2019
Before arriving, Kruangbin and Black Midi were a couple of the bands we really wanted to check out. Unfortunately, we could not do that in the end but heard great things about both shows.
The festival grounds saw us just in time to enjoy one of the main acts of the fest, New Order. A band that made history indeed – watch ‘24 Hour Party People’ if you haven’t. A legendary one for every electronic music lover
They didn’t take chances, connecting swiftly with their audience from the beginning while making them wait for Blue Monday, Temptation, Atmosphere (Joy Division) and closing – and very emotive – Love Will Tear Us Apart (Joy Division).
Most of the attendees (average age is mid-twenties) hadn’t been born when still the best-selling 12″ of all-time – Blue Monday – was launched in 1983, but that didn’t seem to be an issue as the hymn was sung and danced by a unified crowd like there was no tomorrow.
Paredes making history once again.
Taking the stage right after a headliner is not a small task. Lots of people leave the festival or flock to the bars, food stalls, and toilets. On top of that, if a significant break takes place, the ones that remain cool off. Now, this is definitely not what happened with Capitao Fausto as they swiftly elevated his dedicated audience to an early climax with ‘Amanhá tou menor’, one of their most celebrated hymns.
Not only the keyboard and singer Tomas Wallenstein got slightly emotional, but Portugal was also there to welcome their band back.
After them, the French electronic duo Acid Arab brought their techno, acid and Arabic melodies to the second stage in a short but very sweet live act.
Finally, the Irish DJ Kristal Klear was given the important task of wrapping up the second day. And just like that, he planted the ‘Neutron Dance’ seed on everyone still standing.
Friday, August 16th 2019
As the festival’s main sponsor, Vodafone Portugal curates a series of unique concerts – Vodafone Music Sessions – for a very limited audience in a few spots around the municipality. The details, as raves, are only announced a bit earlier. On Friday, we were lucky to listen to a few more Capitao Fausto songs and anecdotes.
The act took place at Livramento church, in the nearby village of Formariz, a spot of particular significance to the band, as it saw them stealing the show and taking the stage seven years ago when another band was playing; after a few tequila shots. Gotta love a great story!
A couple of hours later, Derby Motoreta´s Burrito Kachimba opened the second stage.
A crazy name for a Spanish band disguised as Led Zeppelin and influenced by King Gizzard & The Lizzard Wizard, and trap music. Don’t ask. What matters is that they came out victorious with their fusion thing and all the souls that had left the river early to come see them play had a blast. Humble and energized AF, we can’t wait to see them again soon!
The dreamy alt-rock of the Portuguese band First Breath After Coma, that had already played in Paredes a few years back, was once again a real pleasure.
One that most of the people enjoyed comfy seated as the main stage can be seen from almost everywhere without even trying.
They preceded Balthazar, a loud indie Belgian band whose image is on point, but that didn’t connect too much with the audience. Or did not know their songs?
Shortly thereafter, in a stroke of very bad luck, Jose’s DSLR rushed from a table against the floor, smashing loudly. FML
From that moment, we tried, by all means, to get another one for that night but it was an impossible task. Meanwhile, we missed Black Midi, returning to the arena while the last chords of Connan Mockasin and Deerhunter were playing.
Right before 11 pm, Spiritualized took us back. Quite cool to see the outrageously different approaches of Bret Anderson (Suede’s singer, we’ll disclose more later on) and Jason Pierce (singer and guitar of Spiritualized).
While one cannot stop following the first one, the latter goes almost unnoticed, sitting in a corner and giving the spotlight to the band’s gospel choir formed by three gifted vocalists. Less garage and more gospel than we thought, they left the stage with ‘Oh Happy Day’, a classic I cannot take out of my head since watching Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet 23 years ago.
Almost clerical, and definitely at the wrong time, Father John Misty sent many to sleep.
We weren’t impressed either. Had it been in the afternoon, things would be different for sure.
Dub, new wave and disco. Peaking Lights dub, new wave, and disco dreamy tunes along with Romare Dj set’s also disco songs put the finishing touch on the third day with the 70s and 80s touch which usually works wonders between 2 and 6 am in the Vodafone FM After Hours stage.
Saturday, August 17th 2019
Like the previous day, this time among oaks and chestnut trees, we were lucky to enjoy the tunes of Time for T in petit comite, before getting into what would be the last day of concerts of this edition of the festival.
However, before we needed to solve the issue of the broken camera. A second-hand website, a basic reflex camera in good condition, and a very nice Spanish girl who came to sell her came into play. Once we fixed the matter, we entered the festive ground for the fourth and last time this year.
The fragile-looking South African Alice Phoebe Lou was already warming things up in the secondary stage, while the first big name of the day, Mitski took the main.
As if she just came out an Ikea catalog, armed with basic furniture, the girl put on a sort of pilates turned pole dancing show to keep all eyes on her.
Cold to some, idol to others, intriguing for all, the Japanese didn’t go unnoticed.
No furniture or synths were needed in the following act: punk poet laureate Patti Smith needs no introduction, as the rock legend she is.
Capable of bringing different generations together and with her signature torn voice, she and her band kicked off their show with ‘People Have The Power’. As if their music wasn’t enough, they brought a few friends back. Dead or alive, Jimmy Hendrix, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, and others were sung in loving memory.
Missing some classics such as ‘Rock&Roll Nigger’, they came to terms with some hundred ‘fucking peace and love’ shouts and a polite ‘Thanks so much for coming’.
Will hip-hop and Paredes’ romance ends up in marriage or divorce? Ask Freddie Gibbs&MadLib who took the main stage after the queen.
The non-stop swearing dude did not turn us on. Time will tell.
Now the iconic brit-pop band Suede was a completely different story. We have never seen someone to sweat as Brett Anderson during his show which says a lot about his commitment. What a showman he proved to be, going up and down the stage multiple times, singing torn while lying on the floor, lighting the audience on fire every song.
Such an epic and memorable gig to close the main stage – and the best Paredes concert of their lives for many, as a friend who had 5 editions under his belt recalled later that day.
The festival was not over yet though. The rapper Flohio, DJ Jayda G and DJ Mosca dismissed the festival from the second stage as it deserves: playing until dawn.
After that, other DJs were expected to play for 12 more hours, but rain – which respected the concerts until the very last moment – cut the party short, leaving the camping area a few hours of well-deserved rest before leaving.
As it happened briefly last year with Arcade Fire, there were several moments where ugly interferences occurred between the two stages. Specifically, during Patti Smith’s last torn and intimate songs, the loud and Kamaal Williams melodies could be heard.
And since we are at it, let’s talk about that road heading to the main entrance, a slope planned by the devil himself, that gets very tiresome after climbing it up a few times per day… How about another entrance by the river for next year?
Headliners such as Skepta last year and Freddie Gibbs & Madlib this one are making it clear: hip-hop has come to stay and the festival’s line-up consistency is suffering as a result.
On the other hand, we felt it was too crowded compared to previous editions. We are no one to judge, but perhaps cutting selling a couple of thousand fewer tickets next edition would help to keep things as nice as they have always been around there.
Finally, what happened to crowd surfing, Paredes? You guys used to be big on that!
Forgive our small rant. As it always happens, Paredes exceeded our expectations in so many ways once again.
A solid choice of bands, excellent organization, memorable gigs that will remain in everyone’s memories such as those of Suede, Patti Smith and New Order, improvements in the camping grounds such as the brand new Weber BBQ area, great weather, and unrivaled natural surroundings are a proven recipe for success.
People’s great vibe. All of them look happy – not in a ‘we’re so high’ kind of way but truly happy whether high or sober. Like 100%.
Thanks so much to the festival for trusting us once again to share their goodness with you all and thanks to our 2019 crew: Breixo, Sete, Bili, Suso, Sara, Roi, Marina, and everyone else we were lucky to catch up with. New and old Paredes friends, we love you.
God save Paredes de Coura!
The next Paredes de Coura music festival edition will take place from August 19th to August 22nd, 2020. See you there!
Words & pictures by Jose Martinez & Inma Gregorio