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Day Doiysh - Lips on fire
We're getting to grips with the lingo out here now - well, we've worked out that doiysh is how you say two - and the pork bifanas are going down a treat. But we're not here to discuss the culinary delights on offer in Porugal's second city, nor discuss the relative merits of shrimp omelettes and boiled squid. It's all about the music, so let's go.
The line-up for Friday night of this inaugural Optimus Primavera Sound Festival had more heavyweights on it than a David Haye press conference. Two new stages were opened up to accomodate them all, yet it was to throw up several agonising clashes. The early set times cued a scuttle from the Poland v Greece game we’d been watching in a beachside cafe, and the first clash of the night (TENNIS v THE WAR ON DRUGS) caused a split in the Team Bido camp. The Philly group’s Kazimier showing earlier this year gave Penno reason to catch their set over Tennis (an unfortunate clash), which turned out to be a good call for him. A more considered, pragmatic performance than their solo headline show (perhaps due to the earlier stage time) but it resulted in a more precise end result. The long embellished wig-outs of Baby Missiles and Brothers we loved so much in Liverpool appeared leaner tonight, and the vast space exposed each constituent element. Yet, The War On Drugs were extremely comfortable and relished the physical scale of tonight’s show. Clearly their huge ongoing tour has bred immense confidence and here we found a group operating at the pinnacle of their craft.
Tennis' second album Young And Old provided the majority of their set at the ATP stage, a surprising hit with the locals who were singing every word back at them. Produced by the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, this husband and wife duo have seen their latest album propel them in to a much-deserved area of exposure. It was all pretty low-key and quaint, but carried along with a verve by Parick Riley's crunchy guitar, and a doo-wop swoon due to Alaina Moore's soulful voice. Though disappointed about the clash, this was still a gorgeous early evening start as the sun was setting.
Then a hop, skip and a jump down the hill and across the park to the Optimus stage for RUFUS WAINWRIGHT AND HIS BAND to "say a little prayer for Greece." Sporting some natty red shoes, Wainwright flew through an impressive set of modern greats, staying mainly front of stage and letting his effortlessly graceful voice woo the crowd. If the performance of his old fella's One Man Guy wasn't good enough, he topped it off with an impromptu trip through Hallelujah, to the delight of the converted masses.
And then came the space show... I used to regard a Radiohead show in Toronto back in 2001 as the finest live event I’ve personally experienced. FLAMING LIPS surpassed that tonight. True, the astral glory of this Atlantic setting helps, but The Lips are a band so mesmeric, so gloriously unique, it really is hard to fish out the superlatives. Opening with a strobe-addled ticker-tape explosion and a formation of huge balloons that danced across the audience (the largest of the weekend thus far) from the outset Flaming Lips incorporate the crowd into their show. This literally took the form of a collection of ‘Lippettes’ either side of the stage bopping and jiving throughout, alongside various animals and aliens. The performance certainly felt like a communal happening, rather than a Wayne Coyne sermon, solidified as he ventured out from the stage for his signature zorbing adventure. Flaming Lips are blessed with vast, symphonic choral anthems, which provided the musical main course to the firecracker’s entree. Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots had glorious mass binding power, Coyne having the congregation eating out of his hands, but it is a position he clearly accepts with wholehearted gratitude as he regularly referred to the festival as “the most fucking beautiful of the whole summer”. Anyone can set off firecrackers, throw balloons into the audience, invite attractive ladies to jive side of stage, but the difference with The Flaming Lips is that it doesn’t feel contrived, it doesn’t feel novelty. This collective experience is Wayne Coyne’s world view; one of love and one of mutuality. When the refrain of Do You Realize?? echoed around this Portugese Park you did indeed realize Flaming Lip’s collective power; bringing together a congregation of thousands in the name of love, collectivity, hedonism and a celebration of life. Rock n roll at its life-affirming finest.
Everything else seemed to be a bit of a come down after that, and it felt like we were being cheated by everyone that followed. Its hard to compare acts in those situations, but we got the impression that SHELLAC would have disappointed anyway. Steve Albini has been involved with plenty of great music over the years, but we left thinking that he could have lifted a few more tricks from the likes of Pixies and Nirvana: heavy rhythms, but all a bit Rage Against The Machine for our liking. Similarly WILCO seemed to be plodding along, so much so that we spent half an hour watching the stage team clear the debris from the stage left behind by The Flaming Lips.
NEON INDIAN offered a brief perk (can we have some of what they're on please?), before THE WALKMEN rescued the slump. Looking sharp in their suits they were adored by the crowd even before they smashed it out the park with The Rat. Now, we might have imbibed a bit of sangria by this stage, but we were convinced Pat Nevin was drumming for them. Strange.
Round at the Club stage the crowds were spewing out the sides when BEACH HOUSE were on, so we had to make do with watching from by the beer tent. The starry skies provided a fitting backdrop as the duo tripped lazily through their minimal dream pop. On any other night Victoria Lagrand could have claimed to have had the most swoonsome voice on show, but Alaina Moore and Rufus Wainwright were stiff competition in that respect.
By the time M83 took to the Primavera Stage Team Bido was one man light (Shakin Penno Stevens departed to resume his battle with that shrimp omelette - I did warn him), but we'd had quite enough shoegazing indietronica by 2am to really appreciate Anthony Gonzalez and co. Fortunately San Fran's THEE OH SEES were on hand at 2.30 at the ATP Stage to give us just the riotous garage rock send off we were hoping for. Making up for us missing Black Lips, Thee Oh Sees waded straight in to the raucous stride set out on Carrion Crawler, falling about the stage and throwing out winning hooks left, right and centre. All except Brigid Dawson, who remained cool and still behind her keyboard at the head of the stage. The side of the stage was crammed with bands and artists who had finished for the night and wanted what we did: some hedonistic garage punk to end the night on. And boy did they get it.
So, what did we learn from our second day in Portugal then? Zorbing is good, shrimp omelettes aren't. Lesson learnt we think.
See you on the morrow, bom tarde x