Monday, September 11, 2017

Reverence Festival Santárem, Portugal Sept 8-9th, 2017

This is the 4th edition of the Reverence Festival, a very unique psychedelic and rock festival in Portugal. Due to problems with the previous town, Valada, the festival had to move to a new location. The new location is very close to the railway station, just below the castle and near the river. It was a dusty old lot that they managed to put up some fences and make a two stage festival site.  Quite a bit smaller than previous editions of the festival but still 20 bands a day for 2 days starting at 16 and ending at 04:40 in the morning (actually 6:30 as they were 2hrs behind both days!).  The camping is in a very nice looking area but our Finnish friends said it was terrible. The ground was very sandy and rough and full of thorns and you can’t go barefoot at all. There were 4 beers stands you buy the plastic cup for 2€ and use this over and over to create less garbage, which is a good idea. The cup is really small 225ml if filled to the rim but you pay 1.5€ for a beer or a glass of wine. 6 food stands with mainly burgers and hot dogs of different types. A couple of veggy options.

It was not a very good festival site, pretty crap actually and no real good places to sit except the sandy, dusty ground and it was windy all the time. I developed a terrible cough due to the dirt. No fresh water to drink or wash your hands, basically there was nothing good to recommend about the festival site. 

Ok, the music.. We arrived in time to catch half of Pretty Lightning, a duo from the UK. I got their album for review a few years ago and we heard it in the car and they sounded just like that. The guitar player switched from playing guitar to keyboards. Sometimes blues with some effects on the vocals to make it a bit psychedelic and other times this keyboard and drum driven music. There was about 50 people to see them play. People are pretty slow to show up in Portugal.

Quinten Gas and Los Zíngaros was next on the small stage (Tejo). This was a drum and guitar duo, where the drummer did some spacey vocals stuff but only at the beginning when they were quite cool and it was building up. Later it build up with some intense drumming and heavy riffing but over all it did not hold our interest that much. I bass player would have helped a lot.

Each band only has 20-40mins and most 30, so you go back and forth between the two stages. They were pretty good to stay on time until Oathbreaker fucked it all up. Anyway, Dead Rabbits from Spain were next and they said this was their first show ever in Portugal. They had a very retro sound and were very driven by the keyboard player (looked English). Early on in the set Sue said they sounded a bit like LOVE.  They were pretty enjoyable but had a lot of sound problems. The house sound man makes the drums and bass way too loud for all the bands. Wish he would come down and hear what it sounds like at the ground level where the people stand. Pity.

Cut, were a Portuguese doom trio of guitar (sounded like a bass most of the time), drums and an intense singer. I was really impressed with the singer but musically this band was pretty devoid of any new ideas. The guitar player was a mean looking guy and he was into his heavy riffs but he did not play anything very interesting or challenging. Powerful stuff but not good enough. This is a tough genre to break into and you really have to do something more unique.

The Gluts, I think were from Italy (Milano), played some pretty cool psychedelic stuff but suffered from bad sound. The guitar player you could hardly hear until the end of the set, it was all driving bass and drums and the occasional strange sound (which was way too loud at the start of the set) from the singer who had a table with effects pedals. He also played a floor tom on the last more spaced out jammy track. A bit like White Hills meets Spiritualized.. I enjoyed them but wish you could have heard the guitar player more.

Gossamers, was a single guy who had two Vox amps mic’d up (presumably in stereo), a midi-computer keyboard or sorts (I did not see a computer but maybe he had a pad?) and a load of pedals, effects and a mixer.  It was pretty noisy at times and a bit like Throbbing Gristle.  Pretty noisy, industrial but with some melodies underneath. He later played the guitar as well but I did not like this part as well. He did not do that much that was interesting.

Desert Mountain Tribe was one of my favorite bands on this day. They were from the UK or Germany (one guy is from Köln). They reminded me a lot of White Manna or early 90’s Sundial (92-94 era). Sue and I really got into this band but another one where the main cool guitar was just too buried. Sounded like he was playing from behind the stage.  They had some really great songs.

Tren Go! Sound System, was maybe the guitar player from 10000 Russos, but just one guy with his guitar and some pre-recorded (kick drum and bass). Some of this was really cool and other times it just repeated the same thing over and over for too long before anything interesting happened. Some of it I liked very much and some of it not. The crowd was pretty small for this set.  Too far out..

Oathbreaker (Germany?) was next on the big stage and there were probably at least 500 people now but they took all the time of the previous act and their own time slot just to set up. Seem like we stood around for 20mins for the just to get the front monitor and vocals right. This fucked up the entire schedule for the rest of the night and robbed some bands on the small stage of playing time or worse.  Anyway, this was a mix of post rock and thrash metal. The female singer who had a beautiful voice (when she wasn’t screaming for blood!) started off just by herself and then the melodic post rock guitars kicked in and then the band would go full thash metal but playing these post rock chords just really fast.  The drums and bass were so heavy you could hardly hear the singer most of the time but you could see and feel her intensity. They had very little variety and all their songs went to the same themes- mellow, heavy, thrash, screams, mellow and beautiful. Repeat cycle again in a very slight variation. It was a cool and intense band.

Now, timing was off by 30mins and Zarco was next. This was a really fun band. This young five piece had people dancing. They have two guitar players (one who played harmonica and also clarinet (but the sound guy was not paying attention so you hardly heard anything he played), a 2nd guitar player who played a lot of very cool lead guitar with wah. Very funky stuff. Bass player was the main singer but all except the drummer did singing. They sung in Portuguese and had a sense of humour. They were kind of like a PT version of Phish or String Cheese Incident, one of these type bands but not as skilled or jammed out (yet!!). Sadly, the end of their set was destroyed by Amenra, soundchecking through the PA of the other stage and ruining the sound on this stage. The soundman is supposed to only do line checks when the other band is playing. Stupid..

Amenra, was damn heavy and we really got into it but was also very much the same, all the songs. A very intense singer who sung mostly to the back of the stage, and heavy doomy stuff with angry angry vocals, again that were mostly buried in the middle where we stood (in the center of the people). They had some cool black and white images that went along with their tracks as well. First band to use the projector in any real way. This was the last band we saw as it was cold and windy.  They share about half the same members with Amenra.

We tried to stay and see a bit of Wildnorthe which looked to be two keyboard, drum machine set up but they were having technical problems and delayed so we left.

We had seen Moonspell before and they were the main act of the night on the main stage next. The rest of the bands were:
Néova, Bon Ningen, Melanchonic Youth of Jesus, Sinistro, Two Pirates and a Dead Ship and 10,000 Russos (who I spoke a bit with the drummer).

We had a good first day and we met a lot of nice people. I was surprised some of our Finnish friends came again, but that was cool..

Day 2

We tried to sleep in and rest as I was scheduled to play at 3:30 in the morning. We arrived in time to catch a bit of the first band, I am the Ghost of Mars. This was an instrumental guitar and drum duo. He had some killer riffs and good energy but they would we way better and he would have more freedom if they had a bass player.
Nonn was next and this was a trio with two guitars and a guy with a drum machine and some synths. The sound guy was total crap and the synth and drums were so loud you hardly heard either guitar player unless you were off to the sides. In the center, where most of the people were standing, you barely could hear them.  The sound guy should have been shot. IT was a great sounding bass from the PA but always way too dominant and drums were too gated and loud for nearly all bands as well.  Anyway, these guys were very 80’s sounding with both guys playing this sort of dreamy guitar stuff. Not really post rock, more 80s emo stuff.

Royal Bermuda was a fantastic acoustic guitar duo but there show was destroyed by the soundman testing the kick drum and drums through the PA on the main stage that was way louder than these guys playing really cool acoustic flaminco-fado inspired stuff.  I really liked them but it was too distracting with the drums from the main stage.  Really destroyed their show and most people disappeared.

The Janitors from Sweden, were next on the main stage. I have their first EP on Bad Afro but had never seen them live.  This was a pretty cool psychedelic rock set. They were a 5 piece with two guitars, drums, bass and a female tambourine player. They started off very Wooden Shjips like and then Sue said they sounded like Joy Division at times. The two guitar players did not do any traditional rock solos but more fast strumming neil young like guitar freakouts of sorts. Some great stuff. Crowd seem to like them a lot. There were only about 200 people at this point and I would say even less people today than on Friday overall.

Chinaskee & Os Camponeses we missed as Luis, who I would play with later and his wife had arrived and also my friends in Siena Root, so we got caught up talking with them.

The Underground Youth reminded me of Velvet Underground or Brian Jonestown Massacre at times. The audience also seem to dig them.  We did not see a lot of them either.

Asimov & the Hidden Circus was some really cool stuff. This was like a mostly instrumental Karma to Burn stoner rock thing but with lead cello, as neither guitar player did very many solos at all. It was pretty cool but sounded a bit too much the same, most the cello parts. This person should have used some cool effects pedals like a wah, and delay on some of the solo parts to mix it up. Still pretty cool stuff.

Siena Root was next and we were still pretty close to on schedule at this point.  The singer from Siena Root recently quit the band after 3 years and I was very curious who would sing with them and it was Sanya! Wow.. what a huge surprise. She has always been one of my favorites of the Siena Root singers and she has help to bail them out on several occasions (tours).  IT was great to see all the guys again and see them perform. They played a killer set but only 30mins long, as the stage manager cut them off. They were scheduled for 40mins. Sound guy also did a poor job as you could hardly hear the guitar despite the rest sounding pretty good.  It was a really cool mostly old school set (as Sanya doesn’t really know the new songs). They did end with Secrets from the new album and it was so cool to hear Mountain Pt2, which I don’t think the band has played in some years. Great stuff..

The food for the bands was from 19:30 so we went to eat after Siena Root and missed Conjunto!evite.  The next band we saw was Träd, Gräs och Stenar (Trees Grass and Stones) from Sweden. This is a band that started in 1969. They only have the original bass player today. I have seen the 3 times in the past, once with the original line up opening for Acid Mothers Temple, once at the Space Rock Odyssey Festival, which was one of the first gigs with Reine Fiske (Plays in Dungen, Elephant 9, Motorpsycho and others) and then at Loppen, which was the last gig with the original drummer, who died of a heart attack a few months after. Anyway, they were cool and had Hannah, the drummer from Hills playing with them. IT was like a psychedelic Grateful Dead jam session but cooler guitar parts. I liked it quite a lot. Kalle from Hills came out and played some awesome flute for the last track of their set. Cool stuff..

Cows Caos, were a quite fun and insane band that we heard mostly from the car as it was getting cold and windy and we were not really prepared for this. They played high energy Balkan inspired UK inspired ska with an intense horn section. The people were going crazy and having fun. This was cool stuff. Real festival music.
Gang of Four, an old UK pop-punk band from the 80s were next and they were fucking loud. They were super bass and drum driven and sounded really good but a bit dated. They had some cool visuals as well. They delivered the goods, better than some of these bands from this era.

Pás de Probléme was a sort of surf music strip tease thing. All the band were in white jump suits to start. Musically it was too much the same but the dancer that slowly got nearly 100% naked really entertained and maintained the audience. Another good choice for a festival band. People had fun at this one.  All the bands on the small stage only get 30mins.

Mono (from Japan) was next up on the big stage and now we were more than 90mins behind schedule as Gang of Four also took too long. Mono was pretty amazing. Very dreamy, beautiful music. They had great sound, the drums were not too overdominant. Probably had their own sound guy. I did not look.  Usually they have visuals but no movies or anything today. The crowd really dug it.. I had never seen them before.

Is Bliss, was a very Brit pop 80s inspired group but with some great energy and a cool guitar player. He played some great solos. I normally don’t like this kind of stuff much but they were pretty good.

Hills (from Sweden) was supposed to be on at 01:40 but it was after 3 now.  They played a killer concert.  Reine Fiske, joined them for the entire concert.  I think this was one of people’s favorite shows at the festival. There was a guy who video taped the show. I shot part of the first song.  I really liked their show but again, the drums and bass were way too loud so the three guitars were a bit too much in the background. Pity..

Lobo, had a lot of technical problems and pushed the program even further behind. They had two drummers (who mostly mirrored each other, so what is the point??), guitar and a synth player. They played this sort of heavy dark instrumental movie soundtrack music. All 4 of their songs sounded nearly the same. They followed the same formula with a heavy riff, some building parts, and some synth parts. The rhythm was nearly the same. It was pretty cool but not enough variety.

Foo by Theresa
Luis and I had to set up after Lobo so I did not really hear or pay attention to Esben & the Witch at all.  I was insanely tired now and it was about 5:30 when Dr Space and Luís Simões and I hit the stage and started the space journey. I guess we played for about 30 people.  We started off playing over a track that will be on my next solo album and then it was just a freeform journey for a total of 26mins (I recorded it). Very short and not really worth it to stay up til 5:30 and play for 30 people. We played totally for free, no payments at all.

That was it for me. There was actually another band at 6 called Throw Down Bones, so that last die hard 30 or so people headed over to the main stage.  It was sort of electronic music, quite heavy at times, I think. I was totally exhausted at this point.

One of my biggest complaints about the festival was the sound people on the main stage and the inability to stay on time (which is really unfair for the late night artists). Drums and bass were way too loud for every band and the sound man on the main stage, especially on the 2nd day ruined half the concerts on the small stage as he let bands soundcheck with full power on the amps and he would test the drums through the PA and it was louder than the band that was playing on the small stage. This is totally unacceptable. A festival killer, actually. If it was like this again, I could not recommend this festival, in fact, if it was not for the great program, there was very little positive about the festival this year. Sorry guys. I know you work very hard to pull this off but it just is not good enough, to raise it up to a professional enough standard. I also put some efforts into promoting the festival and supporting the guys but it has to be done better. 


  1. I tottaly agree with you.
    That was my first Reverence experience, and it was not good. Some friends and some bands saved the weekend though.
    Usually, even at the small portuguese fests, here in Portugal, people take care off the small details. Not this time.
    Looking at the pictures of previous Reverence, it was a huge step back.

  2. Ola... The organizers had a very hard time to pull off the festival this year with a very tight budget and some things had to be compromised but sadly, some things that are very important, that they did not realize how important they are were on that list. This might be the last or they will have to learn from these mistakes. It is a super nice and dedicated group that puts on this very unique festival. They work so hard ...

  3. Thanks for your honest review.
    It's not surprising this years event failed. Reverence peaked on the inaugural one & was never going to eclipse that. Some of those guys involved there have serious egotistical issues and sadly this is the result.
    I can say first hand 'Pride comes before a fall' after my own experience from Reverence 2015. I could've pressed charges yet didn't, purely out of respect for Nick & Jason's hard work & efforts.
    All is not lost though; The more treasured intimate atmosphere of 'Cartaxo Sessions' continues. A chance to catch 'Cows Caos' & the sublime 10,000 Russos' all for the princely sum of €5 !