Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Reverence Festival, Valada, Portugal Sept 11-13th, 2014

This was the first time this festival was held and the organizers went for an amazing world class line up of psych bands, flying them in from UK, USA, Germany, Sweden, etc.. to play. It was a good showcase of young Portuguese bands as well. The audience was mostly PT music fans but I met people who flew in from the UK, Ireland, Scotland, Holland, Germany, Finland and a few other places as well. The weather was the best I have ever experienced at a music festival. A mix of sun and clouds all day and clear and warm at night. You could go in shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt 24hrs! Unbelievable.

          Valada is a very small town about 45mins away from Lisbon on a beautiful river setting. The festival site was amazing with three stages and the camping out in a small area full of trees. It was very easy to get around to all the stages, food and beer places nicely placed, decent bathroom facilities, etc.. This was all great and no complaints. Very cool decoration as well with the snake theme and these orange stretched fly overs between the trees. The mood was fantastic and I guess there was about 1000-1500 people. There was actually 3500 on friday and 4500 on saturday but it did not at all feel like that many people.  Small beers were 1€, large 2€. Food and drinks were very cheap. The festival t-shirt was 10€. The band merch was normal Europe prices of 15-20€ for shirts, cds, lps, etc.. so I guess they did not sell much except to the foreigners.   The security people were really cool and laid back and when they checked my bag one time and I was telling them I only had my diary, glasses, camera, phone, etc.. He said and a big bag of marijuana! They did not care. People were freely smoking everywhere, which was nice to see, such a relaxed environment and attitude. In fact, I never saw a single person totally out of it the festival. Ok, so about the bands…

We arrived on the Thursday around 16, after a very nice grilled salmon lunch at the hotel. It was pretty easy to find the festival site and find a place to park.  This was a  sort of pre-festival and they had a stage set right on the water in a location near the church in town. It was basically free for everyone since it was on a normal street but you could get your wristband near the festival site so you could just to straight in the next day. The first band was supposed to start at 17 but they did not start until a bit after 18:45, so they were already nearly 2hrs behind to start. The first band was a PT band called Unrecognized. They were a trio with a powerful female singer, drums and guitar. The drums were very loud in the mix and terrible sounding (but it would get better). They played a sort of bluesy hard rock and would have been much better if they had a bass player. The guitar player played some cool riffs but it was all a bit too much the same in the end and no guitar solo or anything interesting to make their music stand out. They played like 25mins. There was around 100 people watching.

DW VOID was next and they were no psychedelic either, a pretty standard rock band with bass, drums, guitar and organ. The bass player doing the vocals. Sue and I hung out a lot this evening with the old bass player from Toner Low and his wife. Very cool people. They were ok but did not do much for us.

It was still nearly 1½hrs later when Torpe hit the stage. They were a five piece band with two guitars, keys, bass and drums. They had a great bass player and drummer and played instrumental music but neither guitar player played any solos or anything particularly interesting which was a pity as if they had a great guitar player it would be a pretty cool band.

Squq was next and now quite a lot of people, maybe 200 were gathering around on the hill and near the stage. This band had a great energy and a cool 4 piece horn section. The singer was a bit like Eddie Vedder, good presence and some excellent songs. We really got into this band and they also had a very good time. I would like to hear more of these guys. Hung out with a really cool Spanish guy who was a big Øresund Space Collective fan. We would see him a lot and hang out over the next days.

Aqua nebula Oscillator were on and I had missed them or only seen a few minutes at Roadburn when they played so it was cool get to see them play at least a 45mins set. We had talked with the singer/guitar player earlier and he was very nice. He liked their show in Copenhagen a week or so ago even though few people were there. Anyway, they play really cool Occult psyche rock with strange themes, samples and cool spaced out synths and amazing guitar solos. He is a far out player but really cool. They get all painted up and have a cool stage presence this three piece of guitar, drums and synths. Fun stuff. It was nearly 1 in the morning now and I had to drive 20mins back to the hotel so we missed Mars Red Sky, which is a pity as I have all their records but still have not seem them live. I heard they were really good.

Day 2

Feeling of Love
This day started at 12 with Cave Story and ended at 6:00 with the Cosmic Dead! Each band only gets 30mins and like 25 bands will play today. A bit crazy I think but let’s see how it goes. We arrived in time to catch some of The Feeling of Love so we only missed 3 bands (Black Leather, Putas Dedadas, The Jabberwocky Band). Feeling of love played some cool 60s inspired psych with organ and a really good singer. Killimanjaro (PT) was a high engery R&R band with a cool black bass player. They had the crowd going a bit but still not that many people watching the bands yet (maybe 200?). 

Francois Sky and Guests
Francois Sky (DE) and Guests, was an interesting mixture of people from different countries and bands joining Francious, who played guitar and activated the drum machine and sampler for the other two guitar players and bass player to play along to. The first track was really cool and then the next one did not really go anywhere and he aborted it as the band was not really doing what he wanted them to. They played two more songs and one was cool and the other was not so… It was clearly not very well rehearsed or planned.

Asteroid 4
          Originally you should have been able to see on band on the Rio stage and then go down to the Sabatoge stage and see the next but both scenes were off schedule so it was a bit of a mess and you either watched one full concert and then caught a few mins of the next and vice versa so you only caught pieces of these 30min sets.. Real bummer they could not keep the schedule.

Born a Lion
Born a Lion was a kick ass PT band with the drummer singing. They were very stoner rock like but the guitar player was only riffing and played very few if any guitar solos. Seems the art of the real rock guitar solo is dying out. Asteriod 4 was a band I wanted to see but due to the schedule, we only caught like one song (really cool HW inspired stuff) as I was hanging out with my friends in Graveyard and watching the only other Swedish band at the festival, Bombus. They were the only metal band that played at the festival and they were cool two guys doing the lead vocals, dual guitars but only riffs, no solos, and high intensity. The soundman was terrible and I would say this was the only band for the whole festival that did not have quite excellent sound. Way too much bass and you could not hear the guitars clearly.
Wooden Hand

Sleepy Sun
Wooden Hand, is an American singer songwriter guy who just sings cool stuff and plays electric guitar with some reverb on it. It was chilled and people seem to like it quite a bit including us. Sunflare were a very intense PT instrumental trio that liked to freak out! Guitar player was quite mad and cool. A bit like a noisy version of their country mates, Black Bombaim. Sleepy Sun from San Francisco were excellent and we caught most of their set as Sunflare only played like 20mins. The singer in Sleepy Sun was cool and it was a great band with cool songs and some excellent guitar work from the guy on the left. So far, this was the best band of the day and also the most people we had seen. Seems there was maybe 300 people and about 500-1000 on the festival site. Cave were a five piece instrumental PT band that played really hypnotic music. Some was a bit boring but then some of it was really great. They reminded me a bit of 7 that Spells but without the really great guitar playing.

The Wytches
          We were really in need of food now so we headed over to the only restaurant in Valada, called the Eel house, where the main dish was some sort of pork, everyday. We could hear Woods play as it was not far from the Sabatoge stage and they sounded really excellent. I wish we could have seen that concert. We saw one song of Ringo Deathstar on the Rio stage, who were a trio with a female bass player. Rock and Roll! This was the end of the bands on the small stages and now they opened up the big main stage area for the first time and 5 bands will play from 20 to 02 in the morning and then the small stages start up again until 6 in the morning. The Wytches (UK) was a totally new band for Sue and I and we thought they were pretty cool. They reminded me a lot of Nirvana but with a totally different guitar sound, more 60s with lots of reverb and effects but the same attitude and energy. Cool stuff.. 

Sweredriver, were an old UK band from the 80s, I think. Sue and I did not like these guys at all. It was a very dated Indie psych that I was never much of a fan of. Crowd seem to like them ok but they did not get as good a response as The Wytches. We walked around and checked the artists, people selling clothes, the painting wall, merch stand, etc.. bought a t-shirt. 

Red Fang, had played at Roadburn but I did not see them so this was the first time for me. There was about 1000 people now and they crowd was really into it and crowdsurfing, etc.. I quite liked the attitude and high energy. These guys were really into it, powerful and very professional with some tight arrangements. A really Rollins band, like hardcore energy.. Hardcore and metal mixed but almost no guitar solos despite two guitars.

Graveyard were next and again the crowd a big and the sound good. The guys were in a great mood when I spoke with them earlier and this was their last show for half a year as they start to make the demos for recording the next record in 3 weeks. They opened with Blue Soul and it sounded great. They would also play 2-3 more from the first record. The songs from Lights Out really don’t stand up that well live to the early songs and they hardly have any guitar solo parts. Man, the singer is still just sounding totally amazing and the band have such and great vibe and sound. I really hope they go for more longer tracks, with cooler guitar parts on the next record. Still a great band. Love em!

Electric Wizard had the largest crowd of the entire festival for sure. I guess 12-1500 people. I had hoped they would play some new material but it was more of less the same stuff I have seen them play the last few years, with Supercoven, Black Mass, Dopethrone, etc… What a killer and powerful sound. They did not seem as spaced out and jamming as the last gig at Roadburn but Sue and I liked them a lot and so did the crowd. 

I spoke a bit to Dave and Ego from White Hills but Sue and I were pretty blasted after 12 hours of running around that we did not stay to see them play starting at 2:20.. All the best bands for the day were late tonight with White Hills, Naam, Black Bombaim, Cosmic Dead, The Telescopes, Rising Sun experience (I just reviewed their CD and really wanted to see them) and Miss Lava… Damn… Wonder how many people saw all these bands til 6 in the morning? Next time we will rent a camper so we can stay locally and not have to stay sober to drive the 20mins back to the hotel every night.

Day 3

We arrived a bit later today but seems they were running behind schedule on both stages so the first band we caught was Dreamweapon. This was a three guitar line up and included the same bass player as in Francois Sky’s band. They played very hypnotic stuff with some effects on the vocals that made it pretty psychedelic at times. François came out and played on their last number. Next up was a UK band called Air Formation. They were an hour behind schedule now. Air Formation were too boring. I have never been a big fan of this melodic dreamy psych stuff even though they can sometimes have some really cool guitar. We saw only two songs and then left to go see Exit Calm. This was also some sort of indie rock that sounded like Slow Dive (that is what my Finnish friend, Arto said!). We saw a few songs and then back to the Rio stage to catch the band Mugstar, whom I had never seen before. There was not a pretty decent crowd of 2-300 people. This was really hypnotic stuff with a very simple bass line, in fact he played almost the same note the entire 30mins but the keyboard player who also did the vocals, was freaking crazy and made far out sounds, strange vocals, and even played melodica! I would like to see them do a longer set. Fun stuff.

Luckily, we only missed the very beginning of the the PT band, The Quartert of Noah! This was probably the best PT band we saw at the festival. A very intense distorted sound and infact their sound guy screwed up the PA as there was some noise from some bands all the time after this! Anyway, intense guitar, bass, drums and orgain-keyboard player. The guitar and organ player shared the vocals and both just really had a lot of energy. I am not sure how to describe them really. Freak rock! The guitar player said he would send me their CD to review. This was also the biggest crowd we saw at the Sabotage stage the entire festival, so they must be getting popular.

Asimov was a stoner rock duo of just guitar and drums. They really gave it all but it is so limited what you can do with no bass player and the guitar player never did any solos so it was a bit tiring and the riffs were not that cool and unique to really hold my attention. We saw the first 3 songs of the PT band, Murdering Tripping Blues. They had a really cool name but sadly the music did not really hold up for me. It was a trio of guitar, keyboards and drums. The guitar had a nasty distorted sound but it was not really very bluesy or trippy at all. Distortion rock. They could have done so much more. Bardo Pond, wow.. last time I saw these guys was at an apartment party event in Boston called Deep Heaven in 1997 and the police closed it down after the band played 8 mins….  It was really cool to see the band again and they are nearly as stoned as they used to be but the music is a bit more pretty and melodic and not quite as dangerous as it used to be. I spoke to them and they were really cool people. I enjoyed their short set a lot.

We took at break to get some food so we did not see Bruto and the Cannibals and only just saw the last like 1 min of Christian Bland and the Revalators. Spin Drift from Los Angeles were a strange band. We only saw the last 15mins when they played Ghost Riders in the Sky, an old Country western standard but in a quite psychedelic version. The lights were really amazing for these guys. The rest of the set was hard to describe. Very interesting band. I will have to check them out some more.

Now the main stage area was open and it was time for the band, A place to Bury Strangers. This was another young band that I had never heard of before. The crowd was pretty big for this young trio playing loud, angry, psychedelic noise rock with some melodic edges at time. The guitarist did not do proper solos but made a lot of crazy sounds and noise with his guitar. They played about 30mins and then it took at least 30mins to set up Psychic TV, so they were now behind and soon would be way behind after it took like 45mins to set up Hawkwind.
Psychic TV started with a strange version of Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd but it was pretty cool. They played another short, happy pop song that sounded like something from the late 80s. They have such a great guitar player. The best of the entire festival. The last song of their set was a killer song and also had great guitar solos and an awesome riff. They only played 4 songs for about 45mins or so and had amazing visual projections just like at Roadburn Festival. Cool band these days.

Hawkwind was supposed to start at 22 and did not start until like 22:45. They played an excellent 75mins set with quite a lot of different tracks than when we saw them less than a year ago. The sound and the projections were simply stunning. Dave’s guitar was the lowest instrument in the band, which is always a pity as he still plays fantastic guitar. Tim only had a computer for samples and a thermin, no keytar or synths. The band was in top form but I wish Dave would sing more and when he did, I wish the sound man would not let Dibs drown him out. Anyway, cool to hear a new version of Utopia, Uncle Sams on Mars, Orgonne Accumulator, a killer version of Sonic Attack, Assault and Battery and new working of the Golden Void (not nearly as cool as the old with the wonderful Brock guitar solo), and they ended with Hassan I Sabha, which they had to cut short due to time. This was our favourite band of the festival.

What a super cool festival but also pretty draining and difficult and I wonder can the young stoned people remember all these bands that they only saw play for a few minutes?? It was a lot to take in and I was writing down notes. I have my doubts they can pull this off again and if they do it again they should the same quality of bands but half the number so they can play longer. Congrats to Nick and the organizers. It might not have been a financial success but musically for the fans and the bands, it was amazing.


  1. Awesome review about all the Reverence Festival, i really enjoy compare different opinions to mine !! But did you watch "Mão Morta" and "Black Angels"?? I would like to know your review about that ... thanks a lot, Scott.

  2. Very cool read, thank you for your kind words, i promise much better soon.
    It was a great festival.