“The power of music, whether joyous or cathartic must steal on one unawares, come spontaneously as a blessing or a grace”
We said it before – in our previous article about Amplifest – that this would be a cathartic experience and we were definitively right. If the festival’s epithet was that “it’s not a festival, it’s an experience”, this edition came as its confirmation. Amplifest is more than just a festival, more than a “heavy music” festival, and it’s definitely bigger than just an array of artists that we could have seen anywhere else. It’s something else, something transcendent.
First of all we caught a glimpse of three of the most promising Portuguese acts: Memoirs of a Secret Empire, Juseph and Filho da Mãe. The first two bands, MOASE and Juseph, played in a kind of collaborative set where each band would play and then leave the stage – which didn’t convince us at all – but in the end, the two bands joined forces and gave an explosive ending to the set. Then we rushed to the second stage, a smaller one, to witness an incredible set by Filho da Mãe. Armed with only his guitar, Rui Carvalho stroke us with a heart-felt set intensified by its loops and strumming patterns.
In between these two concerts we attended “Writer’s Block”, an Amplitalk concerning the importance of writing and reading about music, the difference between nowadays’ access to information and the lack of access to information that there was in the past, the importance that music magazines have versus the importance that the prolific webmagazines do have these days. This Amplitalk was moderated by José Carlos Santos and the guests were, José Miguel Rodrigues, Emanuel Pereira and Luiz Mazetto.
But Amplifest is an experience of contrasts: if we gave in to Filho da Mãe’s melancholia, in the next set we were punched in the face by the young and indefatigable Full of Hell. It was probably one of the shortest and more powerful sets of the festival – an inconceivable concentration of energy. We were fairly surprised, but in the other way around, Full of Hell need yet to flourish and thrive, something that comes with experience. We’ll definitely keep a close eye on them.
Sarah Lipstate was the biggest surprise of this year’s edition – there’s a tremendous difference between Noveller’s studio releases and her live performances. The way too clean guitar riffs were superseded by noisy and drone-ish guitar melodies. But the dreamy and delicate nature of Lipstate’s work wasn’t lost somehow, she was able to create a harmony between something rough and something gentle.
“The inexpressible depth of music,” Schopenhauer wrote, “so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain.… Music expresses only the quintessence of life and of its events, never these themselves.” As I said before, Amplifest is an event of contrasts and after Noveller, we were privileged enough to witness one of the Altar of Plagues (presumed to be) final shows. It was an incredibly intense and poignant set. Altar of Plague have and are depth – we can tangibly feel something that in some bizarre way it’s both personal and universal – they are catharsis themselves. There was a sense of release and purification and that was what made this set a memorable one. If Altar of Plagues is – metaphorically speaking – the tragedy in Ancient Greek Theater, WIFE is James Kelly’s other mask, the comedy. WIFE performance was also some sort of purification, not through laugh but through dance. That was the perfect ending for Amplfest’s first day.
“Music can also evoke worlds very different from the personal, remembered worlds of events, people, places we have known”. Everyone was sitting down and almost completely submerged in a blue covered room where William Basinski carried us to a different world – it’s not only a dimension of melancholia – we are slowly and gently falling apart over and over again to sound of his loops –we were stoically drowning and we were genuinely ok with it.
But this edition’s most anticipated band was definitely Converge. Five years have passed since the last time they came to Portugal on their “Axe to Fall” European tour. The expectations were high and they were unquestionably delivered. There was pure energy flowing between the crowd and Jacob Bannon: he was like a conductor of a “stamina” orchestra. We could only see people jumping, moshing, crowd-surfing, stage diving, all sorts of madness happening all around us. Even though in the background was a massive Jane Doe cover inspired banner, the concert was dominated by their recent albuns, Axe to Fall (2009) and All We Love We Leave Behind (2012), as well as some tracks from You Fail Me (2004). From Jane Doe we were presented with “Concubine”, “The Broken Vow” and, saved for the encore, the selftitled track, that put a perfect end to that authentic sweat bath that we were all in.