Portugal’s Amplifest 2012
Review and Photo Essay!
Text: Emanuel Pereira
Photos: Lais Pereira
Day 2 (Jozef van Wissem + Black Bombaim + Necro Deathmort + Oxbow duo + Ufomammut + Godspeed You! Black Emperor) Sunday, 28th.
The last day started in an unusual way. Sé do Porto, one of the oldest Portuguese cathedrals, decided to receive the Netherlander Jozef van Wissem and his lute in its cloisters. Even if you tried, it would be very difficult to get a more medieval atmosphere than what happening there. Forty-five minutes of landscaping sounds – a truly aesthetic experience and a nice way to begin the Sunday. At Hard Club, things started to roll with another Portuguese act, a power trio that will also be present at Roadburn 2013. Coming from the northwestern town of Barcelos, Black Bombaim deeply understand the dynamics of psychedelic jams, in the vein of what Earthless and Colour Haze do. They don’t stop for a minute – their drummer keeps sweating from every single pore – and, for this special occasion, they added a sax and a Theremin. Black Bombaim keep getting stronger with each show they play and this one was no exception. The finest stoner you can find in Portugal. Necro Deathmort is one of those groups that remain capable of smashing walls and finding some new territories for what we call doom. Most likely inspired by the work of Justin K. Broadrick, the British duo combines the rhythms of dub and industrial with a murky and mournful approach that certainly is more vivid live than it is on record. At least, it sounds harsher and more organic on stage, making the audience headbanging constantly. A nice surprise and an uplifting assurance: there is no reason for fearing stagnation in this kind of music.
There are some characters you need to see live at least once. Eugene Robinson is one of them. Playing only with the guitarist Niko Wenner (a live format called Oxbow duo), Eugene is a one-man show. With all due respect for Niko (who, by the way, is a great composer and delivered an awesome performance in Porto), Mr. Robinson could have played solo and it still would have been great. With his impactful vocal chords, which can reach a wide variety of tones, Eugene stunned the audience from the very first minute. Of course, he didn’t finish the show totally dressed, but he left the stage more clothed than some people could predict. Oh, and yes, he didn’t slap anyone’s face, but he did throw his lyrics, printed on paper, to the crowd: “I know you don’t buy the records, but you can have the lyrics this way”, said, smiling. He spits on the floor, he “makes love” with the mic stand, he throws away his chair and he is always ready to deliver some of his tenacious and clever sense of humor. Eugene S. Robinson, ladies and gentlemen.
I’ve already seen some of the best names in the doom/sludge scene, like Electric Wizard, Sleep, Yob, Bongripper, Church of Misery, High On Fire or Eyehategod. But I’m pretty sure none of them came close to what I saw Ufomammut doing at the main room of Amplifest (well, maybe Yob). Song-wise, all of those other bands mentioned above have much more significance for me. I’m not that much of a fan of the Romans on record, really, but on stage… They are incredibly well rehearsed and their sound is so tight and robust that you just have to nod your head and accept the fact that Ufomammut is one of the best live acts out there. Playing ORO in its entirety, their double record, the Italian trio wrecked the audience throughout 90 minutes and they were totally happy seeing the Portuguese capitulating. Once again, many centuries after, the Romans have conquered us. Fair, they are great.
I can’t look to Godspeed You! Black Emperor without their political side. Particularly now, in an era where the western world seems about to collapse – and Portugal will sure be one of the first nations to fall (haven’t we already? Oh well). Having them here, in 2012, after nine years of absence was really special. The expectations were so high that a lot of people felt disappointed afterwards for two mains reasons: they didn’t play their most well-known stuff (well, except Monheim from Sleep) and their show ended abruptly after two hours, due to technical problems with one of the guitars. Two fair points, undoubtedly. But, even with that, GY!BE proved, minute after minute, that they are by far the greatest post-rock band ever. Well, maybe we can say they are the only post-rock band that really matters. If you think they are bright and peaceful live, you, sir, are wrong. They are heavy, absolutely heavy, and dark – for example, Sophie Trudeau can make her violin sound almost like Greg Anderson’s guitar when he is with Sunn. And, I don’t know how, they just perfectly play everything live, even a forty-five minute track like the newest Behemoth. More than a concert, GY!BE on stage looks like a theatrical production: you have four old film projectors, eight people constantly changing positions and instruments and everything runs smoothly – the Canadians don’t get lost. They are scary and, even without The Sad Mafioso or Moya (or what song they were about to play to end the show), it was an impeccable display of what GY!BE really is. “Sorry Porto, the guitar is like the government of Portugal, European Union and the government of Canada. It is broken.” I can’t think of a much better sentence to end a great weekend. You better stay tuned for Amplifest 2013.