Amplifest returned in 2012 for the third edition, putting Porto again as the Portuguese capital of dark alternative arts.
Even if you think at this event as a “post intelectual” festival, Amplifest 2012 was much more than that. First of all because Hard Club is probably the best Portuguese venue for the moment; In second place the quality of the bands was a guaranty for all of us, and they pulled out terrific shows, filling our egos for the weeks after.
Well, Friday night at Cinema Passos Manuel wasn’t exactly the first day of the festival. It was more a kind of day zero or pre party. In fact, we had only one band – Barn Owl – and they didn’t play for the announced 2:00 hours. It was an electro atmospheric set, with distorted guitar riffs here and then, while some semi- dark isolated images were passing on the screen behind the stage. Even if the Barn Owl duo seemed to be living the moment, we felt that something more dark and industrialist was possible with that set. Nevertheless the environment of the room was announcing what was coming the next two days.
Saturday night started with Jem Cohen’s “Instrumental”, a Fugazzi’s left wing documentary that, even though valid, could easily been replaced for a live group.
So it where the psychedelic rockers Six Organs of Admittance the first band to set on stage #1, presenting to an almost full room their modern blues rock, played faster and darker than usually, for a good, but late, start of the real live ceremonies.
White Hills was next. Playing on stage #2 this heavy space rockers gave one the best shows of the weekend. Distorted vocals, noisy guitar riffs and a well-balanced rock n’roll attitude turned out to please a sold-out second room, increasing the level of the performances so far.
Then came the Portuguese doom masters Process of Guilt to finally fulfill our souls with the first “real metal” concert of the festival. It was a more direct gig, with few light effects, and a somewhat archaic sound for the first two songs, Empire and Blindfold. In fact, although still strong, it seemed like one (good) garage rock concert. And so it kept feeling like an underground show, but the weight of the sound increased for the three next songs (Harvest, Cleansed and Faemin), making everybody sweat till the end of the concert. Strong riffs, perfectly paced percussion exhibition and the always present hallucinogenic guitar melody made this one of the high points of Amplifest (as usual).
But the time to flavor their journey ended shortly, because Amenra was the next band. We’ve seen these Belgian doomsters earlier this year at Hellfest and the concert was overwhelming. At Amplifest, they had one full hour and one own stage to repeat the dose. And so they did. Strong and slow riffs kept going and going, while the bass sound continued to balance all of the room, giving space for the anguishing schizophrenic vocals that make your head spin around, with uncontrolled anger. The stomach kick was there again, as the punishment continued for almost an hour. The vocalist remained the entire show with his back to the audience, like cement closing a concrete wall. The Hellfest gig was more direct, while this one was more intense. But the setlist was heavier this time: The Pain. It Is Shapeless. We Are Your Shapeless Pain.; De Dodenakker; Razoreater; Terziele; Am Kreuz; the new Dearborn and Buried;and Silver Needle. Golden Nail.
It sure must have been difficult for Ra & Lobo to perform next, but a day closure is a day closure, and they entertained us well, with their alternative doom, sometimes approaching a funeral doom line that was perfect to end that second night.
For those who weren’t fucked up yet, Neurosis last album “Honor Found in Decay” was playing exclusively at an underground Ribeira’s bar.
Day three started with Jozef Van Wissem acoustic performance at one of Porto’s headlining monuments – the ancestral Sé. Well, it was still too soon for us, so we had had to miss it. But later, back to Hard Club stage #1, Portuguese Black Bombaim putted out their usual good performance, filling easily that big stage, and showing that their Roadburn confirmation was not by chance. The invited saxophone was also one good innovation for these stoner guys.
Highly awaited Necro Deathmort played next at stage #2, with a demolishing performance. Two guys, one keyboard/set and one distorted guitar made this the perfect soundtack for our funerals yet to come. Industrial electronic punches, along with dark atmospheric rites, shaded our souls with anguish, in this industrial funeral show.
After this great performance, it was difficult for the Oxbow duo to convince us to keep at their alternative blues experience, and so, dinner won the duel, and we had to miss their performance. Nevertheless, we couldn’t stop thinking that the stage was to big for the north-americain duo. It was in fact a relaxing moment, once some Isis videos were playing next at stage#2, and so our experience outside could extend a little bit.
And we are glad for that pause, because Ufomammut were coming to consume all of our energies. Their industrial, avant-garde sludge/doom seemed heavier and slower than ever, with constant paranoid guitar riffs putting our heads down. Presenting the new “Oro: Opus Alter” album, the Italian band provided us a hallucinogenic trip with an amazing stage performance, very close to the audience. And that Sulphurdew song it’s really something. Maybe Amenra was more intense, but Ufomammut was probably the most consisting show of the festival.
William Farley documentary “In Between the Notes”, seemed like the perfect stop to gather our forces back, while a huge line was formed, with (almost) everyone trying to get the best place for Godspeed You! Black Emperor closing show.
In fact, it was definitely the most awaited performance of the festival, and the Canadian post-rockers were able to almost sold out the main room of Hard Club. Being several musicians, they occupied all the stage, disposing themselves in circular positions, allowing them to almost avoid direct contact with the audience. And so the journey started, with sorrow melodies, and space lifting interludes that kept everyone inside the room for more than 1:30 hour. One of the most amazing things about this concert was the movie projection film, being “hand made” by the projectionist, always putting the right image at the right time, and with a peculiar technique that impressed everyone passing by. Godspeed You! Black Emperor presented their 2012 album “ Allelujah”, inviting everyone to board along them in this eternity trip, that closed perfectly the 2012 Amplifest edition.
Photos by Maria Louceiro.