“Sunrise Session Featuring 10000 Russos / Mugstar 04:40 – 06:00”! “Sunrise Session Featuring 10000 Russos / Mugstar 04:40 – 06:00”!! “Sunrise Session Featuring 10000 Russos / Mugstar 04:40 – 06:00”!!!
If I had been inexorably drawn to Reverence Valada for any one thing – it was the, “Sunrise Session Featuring 10000 Russos / Mugstar 04:40 – 06:00”. There was the minor obstacle of it taking place in the middle of the night, but no matter, this was one I did not intend to miss for the world. The downside to being awake at this god unknown hour, was the unfortunate reality bite of basically jettisoning the afternoon program – my apologies to all of those bands I missed, for which I hope to make amends somewhere down the line.
The plan was simple, get up, have yet another leisurely breakfast at the superlative Vila Benavente, take a stroll around the gorgeously, sleepily bustling market town, afternoon siesta, then on to the Parque de Merendas, Valada do Ribatejo in time to catch Samsara Blues Experiment at 18:00. From there, we’d see 10000 Russos, grab dinner, followed by Joel Gion & Guests then One Unique Signal, before dropping Sarah back at the hotel to pack, whilst I caught an hour’s kip. Then it’s back to the gig for me in time to catch The Horrors and the remaining acts on the night owl programme, before scooting back to the hotel for 06:30 – which should leave me just enough time to wake Sarah, grab a shower, have some breakfast, then head back to the airport in Lisbon for our flight back to Dublin, then home to Belfast… Piece of cake!
Samsara Blues Experiment were one of the many bands I had been looking forward to seeing and I am delighted to say that live, they delivered in spades! As the band’s page attests, “Samsara Blues Experiment are a German three-piece who channel their musical forms in extended forays of psychedelic blues rock. Founded in 2007 by guitarist/singer Christian Peters, the group plays a mixture of stoner rock, psychedelic blues, Indian raga, thrash metal and traditional folk. The band is completed by bassplayer Hans Eiselt and drummer Thomas Vedder”.
The transportive quality of Samsara Blues Experiment’s music is expansive and enveloping, the perfect opening to my marathon odyssey.
At the tail end of May, I’d had the unmitigated pleasure, not only of Reviewing the Fuzz Club Records release of 10000 Russos‘ eponymous debut album, I had also thoroughly enjoyed making their collective acquaintance, albeit electronically, with a supplementary Interview. Not only did these guys shape and play the music I wanted to hear, they talked the talk with equal eloquence. As a direct result of the 10000 Russos’ release, I was also introduced to Bassist, André Couto’s other project, Dreamweapon – yet another sublime vinyl experience.
10000 Russos take to the stage with little in the way of introduction or fuss, their minimalism forming a perfect backdrop for their measured and deliberate aural massage. Pedro Pestana coaxes all manner of unearthly feedback from his flame red Firebird, João Pimenta’s god summoning drum war chest compels order, whilst André Couto’s insistently repetitious, SG Bass mantras coupled with João’s distinctive vocal style, completes and rounds out that signature Russo sound. The band blaze, all too quickly for my liking, through an effect drenched set, the mic between the cymbals or used as an extra drumstick, Pedro’s pedalboard finds him at devotion in front of it as much as we see him standing up – the Fender Deluxe Reverb, firing on all cylinders. At one point I swear the very earth is vibrating in harmonious bass-driven unison. “Yugoslavia”!
Preceding Reverence Valada, 10000 Russos had spent, “the next weekend and first days of the next week we are gonna play to these silent stones in a sacred place called Cromeleque dos Almendres in Guadalupe near Évora, Alentejo. To be recorded on what will be a live video. The cromlech of Almendres is composed by 95 stones set in two circles. Some of the stones are decorated with schematic and geometric carvings. A little further away we can see the Menhir which is about 4 metres high. Recent researches proved that the most part of the stones are in their original place and date the cromlech from the neolithic ( 4.000 a.C.) and chalcolithic (2.500 a.C.)”. Which, I understand, even included imbibing the essence of rock as an essential ingredient in their soup! Truly, my kind of band…
We make our way to the caravan of comestible cuisines, only to find it strangely quiet and bereft of much in the way of food! Horror of all horrors, the pig on a spit man is absent too – what the fuck? We surmise that everyone else is steeling themselves for the night ahead too and that perhaps things are a little later getting started this evening. Fortunately, we find the Press Tent well stocked with sandwiches, coffee and water – after last night’s tête-à-tête with the Guarda Nacional Republicana, I’m taking no chances – though mainly in the hope of a further encounter, for which I will be more than ready.
What is there left to be said about the enigmatic Joel Gion? I have literally lost count of the number of times I have watched the Brian Jonestown Massacre documentary ‘Dig!‘, perhaps one of the most absorbing, no-holds-barred, fly-on-the-warts-and-all, insights on creativity. Billed tonight on the main Reverence Stage as Joel Gion & Guests, one of whom thankfully is Miranda Lee Richards – who I had sadly missed earlier in the day. The audience are treated to an up-tempo roller-coaster ride through Joel’s shoegaze, post-punk, psychedelia, alt-country and beat music influences.
One Unique Signal are a band who really impacted my radar, thanks to their inclusion on Fuzz Club Records’ ‘The Reverb Conspiracy Vol.3‘, I reviewed their contribution to this compilation earlier this year as, “space-kraut post-drone noise-core, track ‘Tungsten’, showcases the London band’s innovative experimental edge, in all it’s layered druidic intoned glory”. On the Praia Stage, the band deliver on these credentials and then some.
Time then for the mad dash back to the hotel with Sarah and an attempt at an hour’s sleep.
I make it back in time for The Horrors, not really my cup of tea to be perfectly honest, not dark enough for my tastes, but there is a sizeable part of the crowd here tonight to whom they clearly mean the world – who am I to argue otherwise. As the closing headliner on the main Reverence Stage, they breeze their way through a classic bubblegum set which sends the faithful, satisfied into the small hours of the morning.
Lâmina are one of those bands who had caught my attention whilst researching the setlist in the run up to the event. They appear to be practicing voodoo up there on the Praia Stage, the shapes and sonic shrieks they conjure, horns aloft in salutation of the Flying V. The sheer power of Lâmina’s onslaught, has me at times in mind of Megadeth’s, in their prime rendition of ‘Set The World Afire’. Tonights incendiary performance is certainly one I will long remember.
By now, the runs back and forth to the Press Tent, utilising the supply of caffeine to propel me through the night had become ever more frequent. It was working, I was buzzing like a worker bee, criss-crossing between stages in fevered search of evermore sweet ear-nectar.
Electric Moon were another must see band. Not least because Komet Lulu – Bass, Effects, (+vocals, lyrics, art), Sula Bassana – Guitar, Effects, (+organ, recording, mix) & Marcus on drums have become something of an institution, their commitment to music on every level, simply oozes from everything they turn their hands to. I was fortunate to catch a few words with them before they hit the stage, and as expected they are fine, down to earth, humble people who live for their craft. It is 02:00 by the time they grace the full house at the Rio Stage, with their simmering, telepathic, majestically shifting, te(u)ctonic plates of mesmeric trance. Electric Moon put the I into improvisation, their page attests, “influenced by the moment, electric moon will blow your brains off with timeless psychedelic acid grooves”. As if the output of Electric Moon was not prolific enough, in the forms of Krautzone, Zone Six and Sulatron Records we have further reason to gape in awe at, and give gracious thanks for.
Next up on the Praia Stage are Magic Castles, yet another band whose name seems to have garnered such respect, that the name is almost whispered in hushed tones. There is something about seeing a Farfisa Organ that immediately transports you to a bygone world of “Wooly Bully” and early Floyd right through to the 70’s garage-influenced New Wave. The richness and pedigree are inescapable. As a corner stone of the Magic Castles drone atmospherics, that trademark swirling sound adds further textures to their BIG, full, melodic reverb tone. Magic Castles are a band I could have listened to all night, thanks to Jason Edmonds inclusion with 10000 Russos and Mugstar’s Jason Stoll later – that is a wish, that under tonight’s full moon, at least is partly granted.
Dead Ghosts have the honour of being the penultimate band on tonight’s Rio Stage. This garage-surf-punk 4 piece from Vancouver are something of a revelation, their bouncing, haunted desert highway, high energy aesthetic, has a rockabilly, djangling howl. Dead Ghosts are a wailing bright mix of Mescaleros from the Canadian backwoods, a twist and Tarantino shout, coloured through with a Gerry Anderson soundtrack. I loved them to bits.
Clearly, the witching hour is upon us as Ghost Hunt follow the Dead Ghosts. Ghost Hunt are the Lisbon dynamic duo of Pedro Chau and Pedro Oliveira, bringing us their brand of “electronic instrumental psychedelic” – a heady, chill-out, infectious brew. Ghost Hunt win tonight’s prize for the mother-of-all pedal/effects boards, ushered in and taking centre stage on one of the largest tables I have seen. Their motorik sensuality, ripples and soothes with otherworldly precision.
Finally, finally, finally… 10000 Russos, a Mugstar a Magic Castle and Joel “Kikas” Costa (maracas, tambourine) ignite the Rio Stage, any thoughts of it being 04:40 have skulked away to the darkest recess of my mind.
“This is this. This ain’t something else. This is this”.
This rolling thunder, dawn session, dual bass of André and Jason S, thrums with studied chiaroscuro; a transitional ground heave as Pedro-pedal-master, scopes an infinity groove improv, in perfect accord with Jason E’s sunburst archtop; João’s incantation celebration, eloquently evoking the spirit of, “No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn”; this sorcerer’s seance gives wings to my thoughts with a timely,”Bird of Prey” sample; the Floydian heartbeat bass rhythm; “Changes are coming”, free-form, abstract shapes are thrown like a text(a)ural Basquiat banquet, Bacon and Pollock feature vividly in this articulate soundscape rendering; “She got a TV (3rd) eye”, a veritable, Reverence reference rave fest; for those, “gathered together on this thin raft”, the bodies swayed in tribal genuflective communion; the jam funk of a dirty Hendrix vibe coalesces with a VU-drone tinged finale, an irresistible siren song.
I leave with João’s call to “Say – yeah, yeah, yeah”, echoing around the now, forever enriched chambers of my psyche.
Not only was this, “this” – it truly was something else.
One of those Festival, fantasy football like, anomalies where the dream team inhabit a blip in the space-time continuum. If you have been one of the fortunate few to witness this pulsating confluence, it is something that will stay with you forever. The genuine warmth in congratulatory grins onstage says it all.
All in all, just as Eindhoven Psych Lab has become my indoor venue of choice, Reverence Valada is by far the best outdoor experience I have had in 30-odd years of gigs.
The diversity of the music on offer was fantastic, the sound quality and visuals belied their outdoor setting, the food and drink was excellent, the amenities were refreshingly clean, the atmosphere and ambience of the venue was perfect, in pretty much every conceivable way.
I had commented at some point over the 3 days to Nick Allport, the classic quote, “if you build it they will come”.
A Festival as idiosyncratic, as unique, as well organised and as individual as Reverence Valada, is a beacon in the quagmire of a festival calendar, overstuffed with corporate hype.
That the Festival has the backing of the Communist & Green Party coalition who administer the district, gives some hope for those of us languishing under the Tory yoke of austerity.
All power to Nick Allport and Jason Fletcher’s collective elbows, not forgetting all the near invisible backroom staff working hard to make this a truly sublime and memorable experience.
Reverence Valada 2016? You betcha…