“It was as if that band had been forged in my imagination, it felt personal”… These words from Simon Armitage on Joy Division, pretty much sum up my feelings toward Reverence Festival Valada.

Now in it’s third year, this niche within a niche, has rightly been described as, “Southern Europe’s best underground rock festival, held in the beautiful village of Valada, on the banks of the River Tejo…”

2016 was the second pilgrimage, Sarah and I had made to this Portuguese boutique festival. Had I known then what I know now, I’d have eschewed the promise of Liverpool in 2014, and completed a hat-trick of reverential affirmations, by attending that inaugural event.

This year had the added allure of a DJ spot for me, spinning the fabled “wheels of steel”, or at least their digital, binary counterparts, over 3 sets on the Saturday afternoon – a personal milestone in the making…

The run up to this weekend, had been buoyed in the extreme, by the barely conceivable knowledge, that my beloved Killing Joke, would also be playing on that same Saturday.

Killing Joke were the band “forged in my imagination”. Mostly thanks to Keith Legge at school, who as well as being their number one fan, bore an uncanny resemblance to Jaz Coleman. For me, ‘Chop-Chop’ was the epiphanic track that changed everything – a debt of thanks, as with many others, owed to John Peel and his 1981 BBC Radio Session. As far as I can establish, it was around this time that Geordie Walker got his Gibson ES-295, that unique tone holding me in it’s thrall, aboard their magic, esoteric carpet ride ever since. I struggle to think of any other band with the same longevity or vitality – Killing Joke stand taller than ever, with their integrity still largely intact.

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Imagine you’ve been listening to a band for 30-odd years… Imagine, that band are still around, and that their last 3 albums are every bit as good as their first 3… Imagine that they are announced to be playing at Reverence Valada, a festival you just happen to be already going to… Imagine you then get asked to DJ on the same day that band, Killing Joke, are playing… Imagine being so fucking thrilled, at having the poster with your name and Killing Joke on it, you have it framed and up on your wall for a month before the gig, as an inspiration, to hone your Youth-inspired DJ sets… Imagine being punctured, when you find out 3 days beforehand, that Killing Joke have cancelled, watching helplessly as that 30-odd year trajectory, mercilessly crashes and burns…

The sense of loss felt irrevocable. Destiny and fate it seemed had conspired to hoist me aloft, far and away beyond my wildest expectations, only to be dashed below, on the rocks of bitter disappointment.

As Nietzsche once said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger”…

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The best thing about revisiting a venue, is the benefit of knowledge, gleaned from that earlier encounter. This time I’d known to secure accommodation early and within walking distance of the gig – Quinta da Marchanta proved a gem of a find. A former winery established in 1877, this quintessential rural property, provided the perfect ambience to compliment our festival experience. Last year, unsure of the geography, we’d hired a car – this time, the unhurried journey by metro then train, bus and taxi, made for an altogether more relaxed atmosphere. This year I’d also promised myself to just go with the flow, to revel in the social element, to see what bands I could, without too much haring around, burning the candle at both ends.

So it was, that we found ourselves having the most exquisite lunch at the Restaurante Casa das Enguias, (House of Eels), in Valada. The most excellent fayre, washed down with the local wine, pretty much set the laid-back culinary tone, for the remainder of the weekend. It was something of a rare holiday as well, after all.

By the time we’d checked in to the hotel, and grabbed some shut-eye to make up for the 02:03 a.m. starting gun in Belfast, it was already approaching dinner time when we made it back to this jewel in the Ribatejano crown. As ever, there was ample on site catering to choose from, and this year as a nice eco-friendly touch, there was re-usable drinks “glasses”, emblazoned with the Festival logo and all the artists taking part. As this included yours truly, we came home with 4 of them for posterity!

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Reverence Festival Valada, and Portugal in September has become synonymous not only with fantastic music, but also for catching up with the great and the good! Last year we made firm friends with Graham and Louise – this year, not only were they at the gig, they were staying at the same hotel! Between catching up and eating, 800 Gondomar, here recorded earlier this year on Porta 253…

…and Sun Mammuth, here recorded earlier this year for FORA DE REBANHO, had been and gone…

Which meant that my first true baptism of 2016, was left to Minneapolis’ finest – Flavor Crystals

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François Sky has long opined on the quality of these guys’ output. On that balmy evening, their “minimal drone and chime filled with air and ripples”, courtesy of “currently in the same room” – Josh Richardson sing chime warble, Nat Stensland rumble filter, Vince Caro twang swell and Jon Menke bomp bap, was an absolute pleasure to witness. There can be few better ways to help usher in the dusk…

Garage Surf Punks from Porto, The Sunflowers are up next. This uptempo, “Rock 4/4, fast, loud, unkempt and dirty.Garage rock duo fueled by beer”, were just the ticket to kickstart the twilight party. I was particularly smitten with the anarchic track, ‘Hasta La Pizza / Rest In Pepperoni”, from their recently released LP, ‘The Intergalactic Guide To Find The Red Cowboy”…

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Here is the full album version…

The trips to the bar had become somewhat hazardous! It hadn’t really been that apparent initially, that a “large” measure of the delicious local red wine, actually equated to 50cl or two-thirds of a bottle! Haha… but it sure tasted good!

BLAAK HEAT proved to be the first revelation of the weekend. I was genuinely surprised, given their pedigree, that I had not even encountered their name before this evening. As their page attests, “Like an Anatolian fever dream, BLAAK HEAT engulfs your mind in images of mystic castle mirages, slamming body and soul into an ocean of reverb fuzz. BLAAK HEAT’s “Mojave soundtracks” rest upon a rich history of musical tradition, drawing from the Middle East as naturally as from California’s deserts and beaches, with one foot still firmly rooted in the streets of Paris. The end-result is a timeless, vivid blend of thundering psychedelic rock and Arabian tonalities, an altar to heavy riffage, mind expansion, and social insurgencies”…

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Here is the full album version of ‘Mola Mamad Djan’…

The band I’d really been looking forward to seeing, on this event opening Thursday, was Thee Oh Sees. Unfortunately, their set was still a distant two hours away. The combination of the early start to the day, the travelling and the by now copious quantity of red wine consumed, sadly put paid to that live encounter…

Our early departure also signalled us a no-show for J.C.Satàn

…and Riding Pânico

The half hour, bat accompanied, stagger home in the dark proved an entertainment in itself. The waiting bed at Quinta da Marchanta proved irresistible, as we willingly submitted to it’s warm, air-conditioned embrace…

Day 2 to follow…

 

 

 

Written by Chromaticism