Text: Emanuel Pereira
Photos: Lais Pereira
Day 0 [Barn Owl]
For those who already have been in the Tilburg colossus, known worldwide as Roadburn, Amplifest can be quite a similar experience, although in a smaller version. You don’t have a one-day ticket, but you get the opportunity to watch some of the most exhilarating alternative music acts playing full (or almost full) sets. Instead of 013, you have Hard Club – a venue with two rooms: the first with a capacity for 1000 people and the second for 400, both always ready to deliver some of the best acoustic quality you might find in Portugal. This year, however, two extra places were added for two special gigs.
Full review and photo gallery after the jump!
The first one happened on the first day – or day zero, if you prefer. Cinema Passos Manuel, a small theatre inside the Porto Coliseum, opened its doors to welcome those who were ready for the weekend. The band chosen for the occasion? Those two skinny guys from San Francisco, who are injecting drone music with some of the most captivating and mesmerizing sounds. Yeah, Barn Owl. It made all the sense: Porras and Caminiti were present on Amplifest 2011 and they delivered one of the best shows of the first edition. Why not being masters of ceremonies for the second one? This time, though, Barn Owl offered quite a different show: instead of just focusing their music on the guitars and their thousands of pedals, they seemed to have incarnated Ben Frost or Tim Hecker’s spirits, and they punched the audience with some violent noise and glitch. There was no fluffiness or beauty: it crunched us. And after 50 minutes of getting our ass kicked, they left. The crowd wanted more but it was good enough.
Day 1 [Six Organs of Admittance + White Hills + Bohren & Der Club Of Gore + Process of Guilt + Amenra)
Saturday, 27th. The real thing was about to happen. Entering the Hard Club building, you could see, on the hallway, the bands already selling their merch – a delightful vision for music lovers. Amenra kept sauntering throughout the place, talking and smiling (yeah, they do both!), and so did Ufomammut. The Italian heavyweights stayed all weekend at Amplifest, since their Malleus Rock Art project was decorating the walls of Hard Club, with some of the finest music posters you can find nowadays. At the same time, Ben Chasny and his Six Organs of Admittance were playing the first show of the day, where you could hear a large range of things: kraut, psych, drone, folk. Chasny was good at all of them, but not exceptional at a single one. White Hills, on the other hand, focused themselves on hitting the crowd of Room 2 with just a gun: fuzz. They know how strong their space rock craft is and they just kept bringing riff after riff, while their drummer was smashing his kit relentlessly. The Brooklyn folks got some love from an audience that always like a band capable of playing some solid and loud rock.
But they enjoy, as well, the darkest stuff out there. Talking about dark, is there anything more toneless than Bohren & Der Club of Gore? Playing for the first time in Portugal, the doomjazz pioneers invaded the main room with fog machines and one of the gloomiest atmospheres possible. Almost lightless, Bohren’s show fulfilled the expectations and we got the chance to watch some tunes of the almighty Sunset Mission and Black Earth. What surprised the most, probably, was hearing the sax player Christoph Clöser talking. Yes, Bohren has a voice. More than that: Bohren has a drunken voice that enjoys blabbering some bits of philosophy like “even if you don’t expect anything from life, you will end disappointed”. Cool.
The night was getting weighty. Process Of Guilt is quite probably the heaviest musical thing we have in Portugal. Gathering influences from legendary acts like Godflesh, Swans and Neurosis, the quartet knows exactly how to doom, with that sharp and icy post-metal edge. Faemin, their newest record, is a quintessential piece and they pounded the audience with it. Chomping riffs, a tribal drumming and one of the loudest voices of Amplifest 2012: Process of Guilt nailed it in Porto, after a week of touring Europe. They are ready to blast everything abroad and Roadburn 2013 will be the ideal place for them to do it.
It was a shame that Amenra couldn’t watch PoG’s gig – I’m pretty sure they would have loved it. But it’s understandable. For the Belgian crew, things start to get serious before entering the stage since they need some focus for what usually happens next: the obliteration of their own souls and bodies. The Church of Ra mentors never give anything lower than 200% on stage and, on their Portugal debut, it was no different. You can say that they aren’t the most original band in the post-metal niche, but you can’t contradict Amenra is the most heartfelt group out there. Their stage presence is gigantic – Colin H. van Eeckhout is the embodiment of suffering and desperation – and their sound is grotesquely heavy. And if this is not enough, while you are completely absorbed by their entrancing riffs and sluggish ambiances, your eyes are harassed by some of the greatest visual projections. By the way, if you have any doubts about what is coming on Mass V, Dearborn and Buried is another massive thorn in the crown of Amenra. Are you still uncertain? You can always ask the guy who was standing next to me – he almost fainted after it. Portuguese acts Löbo and RA finished the first official day of Amplifest, but, following Amenra, my mind was completely wiped out and I couldn’t stay to see them. Check them nonetheless, they are worth the effort.