Festival Review: Amplifest 2016

Amplifest 2016 // Hard Club, Porto
Words by Fausto Casais // Photos by Andreia Alves

I’m not going to begin this review with the cliché sentence, “Not a festival, it’s an experience”, but damn, that’s something we cannot for sure avoid. Portugal’s reality regarding Summer Festivals is always painfuly boring, the same bullshit boring bands, the same media stupidity euphoria over the same old overrated events and of course what we may call business as usual issues. Well, the difference between Amplifest and other festivals in Portugal is that they have an artistic agenda, everything is skillfully planned to the minor detail. They are not following any kind of musical trends just to make money out of it, they bring the artists and bands they love, respect and they just want to share that same passion with everyone else. It’s quite impressive and heartfelt, and demands to be witness directlt. By saying that we can’t for sure say that this was the best line-up ever, but it was strong and totally coeherent.

Unfortunately, this kind of experience only started on day 2, we sadly had to miss Friday’s warm up with French trio Aluk Todolo. So, our Saturday started with Minsk, the Illinois crew experienced technical problems – yeah, that happens – and their performance was somehow painfully merciless, their powerful stand was there but the sound problems really kick the dudes in the ass. Well, time to see if the hype around the Spanish death metal band from Bilbao, Altarage, was real… Their sound is massive and brutal, their image is absolutely perfect, but overall their performance was just average and sloppy. On the other hand, Kowloon Walled City took the stage for one of the most intense and infectious performances of the day. With Grievances on the menu, the San Francisco foursome was straight to the point, in a sharp and crushing performance.

Anna von Hausswolff was the following act. Bringing her most recent release The Miraculous to the main setlist, Anna and her band delivered a fearless, intimate and powerful performance. She’s for sure a remarkable artist and that night she proved more than enough her ability to create dense atmospheres and chilling melodies. Our night ended with Japanese post-rock royalty, Mono. It couldn’t have ended in a better way, and they brought along with them their new album, Requiem For Hell, which they gave to the audience a taste of what to expect from it. It was another surreal and passionate sound experience, just like they know how to convey at live shows, keeping the same intense vibe of their recording releases.

Kowloon Walled City
Anna Von Hausswolff

Sunday was the last day of Amplifest 2016. The Black Heart Rebellion are a rare gem, they sound heavy and different, always pushing their own boundaries, sometimes pushing too much. Unfortunately, their performance was full of oscillations, from their edgy and sometimes epic moments to a deep feeling of boringness and despair, their sound is not everyone’s cup of tea. Still, it’s quite impressive to see how they managed to capture live all those melodramatic and almost hypnotizing moments from Har Nevo and People, when you see the smoke, do not think it is fields they’re burning. Time for Caspian, and what a fucking good show they delivered. A strong performance that was both muscular and majestic, glimmering with ferocity and dynamism. One of the highlights of the whole festival.

This is Oathbreaker’s year and everyone knows it. Caro presence on stage was haunting and cathartically heavy, their performance was insanely heavy and brutally bleak, a defiant experience and challenging in every single way. Neurosis don’t need any kind of introduction, the moment that everyone had been waiting all weekend. Only few bands have the ability or power to change people’s life, and for the past 30 years their visionary, heavy and liberating approach was something inspiring in every single way. Their performance is flawless, engaging, a pure visual and sonic assault. There was adrenaline in the air, a limitless joy, emotion and euphoria taking the show to new levels of intensity. Well, the show’s over…

On Monday and part of the “extended experience” of this year’s Amplifest, we got the pleasure to get intimate with Steve Von Till, only him, an acoustic guitar and his unique way of singing along storytelling, an honest, stripped down and intense performance. It was an extended experience, they say…

The Black Heart Rebellion
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