A Music Lovers’ Guide to Amplifest 2019
We are getting very close to the return of Amplifest. In fact, the long-awaited return of the music lover’s festival happens next week, on October 12th and 13th, at Hard Club, in Porto. In lue of such an important event, we have put together a compendium of sorts – a guide for the music lover to know how to fully enjoy Amplifest. We have divided this guide in six different categories, each dealing with a different aspect of the festival in regards to music, films, exhibitions and more. But before we begin talking about this year’s edition of Amplifest and going through everything that will be a part of it, we feel it is important to give a little context to those that don’t know what Amplifest is and/or are attending it for the very first time. For that reason, we will first go back in time and chronicle a bit of the festival’s history and that of its promoter, Amplificasom.
Founded in 2006, in the midst of the city of Porto, Amplificasom is a group of individuals that love music first and foremost, and whose commitment and passion for the events they organise and the respect they have towards the artists they collaborate with is awe inspiring. They consider themselves as purveyors of musical adventures for adventurous minds, providing their audiences with eclectic and memorable shows. On their catalogue of past events, you can see names such as Scott Kelly, Boris, Russian Circles, Earth, Wolves in the Throne Room, Isis, Kylesa, Shellac, Yob, Zola Jesus, among many others. For them, each and every single one of these shows is as important and historic as the next and it was for that very reason that they created Amplifest back in 2011, a gathering for music lovers by music lovers, in which there are no discernible headliners – every act is given the time and space they desire to perform. This sense of respect for the artist helped build Amplificasom’s reputation as an esteemed promoter.
But as we mentioned earlier, Amplifest’s history began in 2011. Its first edition, celebrated in October of that year, boasted an impressive lineup. From Godflesh, Jesu and Acid Mothers Temple to Barn Owl, OvO, Rorcal and Process of Guilt, among others, this was the edition that gave birth to a new cultural movement within the city of Porto – and the rest of Portugal. The inevitable comparisons to other festivals in the same vein like Roadburn, Incubate and Supersonic were not unfounded either – in fact, the latter became the inspiration for Amplificasom to create their own festival, a similar event in this side of the continent. They succeeded and what followed were five more editions, each more successful and memorable than the last, that established Amplifest as the go-to festival for musical exploration. Who can forget the tremendous concert of GY!BE in 2012, or Neurosis’ definitive debut in Portugal, in 2016? Or even Russian Circles on stage with Chelsea Wolfe, in 2013, or the absolute sonic devastation provided by Swans in 2014? Amplifest is made of momentous performances that will forever endure in our hearts and minds, from the simplest act to the more complex one.
It isn’t just music that drives the festival either. At its core, we could say that Amplifest is an arts festival. Music may be the main course, but it is complemented by a selection of documentaries and films, talks with artists and other promoters, and exhibitions on the main floor. And this year is no different. After a two-year hiatus that sadden us all, the festival finally returns next week. We are beyond excited and we know you are too. That is why you are reading this article right now too. You want to know it all. You want to know all about Amplifest 2019, be it the music, the exhibitions, the amplitalks, the films and even the city. You want to discover the festival and we are happy to provide you with the information you need. So continue reading and discover Amplifest 2019. And remember – it’s not a festival, its an experience.
This year’s music lineup is as varied and broad as the festival as accustomed us to. From post-metal, black metal and post-hardcore to folk rock, drone and noise rock, there is something for everyone to enjoy, and the first day of the festival will include a little bit from all these genres and more. For the opening sonorities on the Bürostage, we will see Emma Ruth Rundle perform some songs from her latest release, On Dark Horses, as well as past material from her back catalogue. Unlike her last visit to Porto, this will be a totally solo performance by the Californian singer-songwriter. Birds in Row will follow-up with the first chaotic riffs to be heard on that very stage. Showcasing their sophomore record, We Already Lost the World, the French will bring an unparalleled energy onstage with their devastating and emotional mixture of hardcore and punk. And speaking of devastating and emotional, those same adjectives can and should be applied to Daughters. Returning after what seemed to be an eternity and releasing an album that became an instant classic, this noise rock collective has been bringing everyone to their knees with their intense and flaming live performances since their comeback and at Amplifest, we will stand in awe of the deranged but controlled chaos that Daughters wreaks onstage. The cathartic and transcendent ritual of Amenra will come next, as the band presents their sixth opus in Portugal for the first time and celebrates their 20th Anniversary, in what will be the band’s third time performing at Amplifest. The brilliant JK Flesh will end the first day at the Bürostage with an heavy dosage of pure electronic and industrial punishment.
Over at the second stage, entitled Oitava Colina Stage, the first day of the festival will be composed of the mysterious Lisbon duo Candura, that despite being a relatively recent name, are already turning some heads with their dark and impenetrable wall of drone and noise. The darkness will then be filled with light as Some Became Hollow Tubes – a project formed by Eric Quach, the master behind the drone one-man band Thisquietarmy, and Aidan Girt, the drummer of Godspeed You! Black Emperor -, bring a new level of improvisation to the second stage. Author & Punisher will bring back the darkness in a different form, as he brings the perfect fusion of man and machine with his infernal industrial passages. And from infernal sounds, we will move to the black metal/electronic hybrid project known as Bliss Signal, a duo composed of James Kelly (Altar of Plagues, WIFE) and Mumdance, a magus of everything techno and grime. The first day at the Oitava Colina Stage will end with a DJ set by none other than Walter Hoeijmakers, the founder of Roadburn, who will be joined by his shadowy cohort NO JOY.
For the second day of the festival, the Bürostage will open with the massive sound of Inter Arma, a band that fuses together the best aspects of sludge, post-metal and black metal. Their fourth and latest record, Sulphur English, has been described as their most powerful studio effort yet and we will be able to fully experience it live onstage, in what will be the band’s definitive debut in Portugal. A much anticipated event that will be coupled with the long awaited return of the post-metal masters of Pelican, who will present their brand-new record¸ Nighttime Stories, not long after. The second day at the Bürostage will continue with the post-hardcore discharge of Touché Amoré, one of the essential names of the genre. The immense Deafheaven, a name that can no longer be ignored in the black metal scene, will follow-up with a show that promises to be as destructive and emotional as their records. This will be the band’s second time performing at Amplifest and they will use the opportunity to present Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, their fourth record and one that has been said to be their best yet. After that, we will have an unknown band. As per a tradition created at Amplifest 2013, there will be suprise act performing at the festival and its name will only be known once the show starts. You might be twisting your nose as you read this, but if the festival’s history as taught us anything, is that you should never miss the “?” band of the lineup.
Back at the Oitava Colina Stage, the second day of the festival will have the honour of receiving the Portugal debut of Portrayal of Guilt, a band that has been in the mouth of many a music lover since the release of their debut release, Let Pain Be Your Guide, a record that rejuvenates the screamo genre by bonding it with post-hardcore and sprinkling it with a tidbit of grindcore for good measure. The enigmatic Portuguese quintet known as Gaerea will perform afterwards, promising to envelop the second stage with a suffocating veil of bleakness, as they play themes from their debut LP, Unsettling Whispers, and Ingrina, a post-rock collective from France that seemingly appeared out of nowhere, will follow-up by projecting their cinematic vision of the genre, journeying between aggression and beauty with their two drummers and three guitarists. The second day at the Oitava Colina Stage will end with a performance by the ambient drone duo Nadja, formed by the couple Aidan Baker and Leah Buckareff, who will bring a monstrous dosage of decibels and harsh tonalities that are filled with a peculiar sense of melancholy. And least we forget, the Iberian Barbarians will spin a few vinyls to end the night and the festival with a bang. For the full running order of bands – and everything else -, check the festival’s official page, here.
As mentioned above, it’s not just music that makes Amplifest what it is. There is always a selection of films to watch during the festival and this year, we got two very special ones. The first one is Where Does a Body End?, the very first authorized documentary on the savage and tender extremes of a band called Swans, told through a unprecedented amount of archive footage and interviews spanning the past 35 years, filmed by Marco Porsia. Back in May, we had the pleasure of writing a few words about such an important film – you can read them here -, and it’s without a hint of exaggeration that we say that you need to watch it.
The second one is a singular independent documentary by Monzer Darwish about how Syrian heavy metal bands struggled to survive the war. Entitled Syrian Metal Is War, this documentary addressed the Syrian metal movement through the war that struck Syria in 2011 and that is still ongoing to this very day and sees Darwish journey from Salamiya through Homs, Damascus, Lattakia, and finally, his help on putting on the last heavy metal concert during heavy fighting in Aleppo. An incredibly important documentary that needs to be watched by everyone attending the festival. Both films will be shown at the Oitava Colina Stage – Where Does a Body End? will be on the first day and Syrian Metal Is War will be on the second.
It wouldn’t be an Amplifest without Amplitalks. Usually moderated by José Carlos Santos, the Amplitalks see artists, promoters and other relevant names of the alternative music scene and industry debate various themes that range from discussing the meaning behind post- music, how the media and music coverage has changed over the years and the creation and maintenance of a festival, among others. This year, there will be two Amplitalks, one in each day.
The first one of these Amplitalks, entitled We’re The Alternative To The Alternative, has its guests discuss what it’s like to be an outsider in every music scene and how they navigate the relationships between all different kinds of alternative music and their audiences. The second one, entitled Let Us Entertain You, will see the organisers of two essential – and very different from one another – European festivals: Roadburn and Hellfest. Both guests will talk about the hardest challenges they face, how the scene has changed in the last few years and reveals a few secrets about how they operate behind the scenes. Like the films before them, both these Amplitalks will take place at the Oitava Colina Stage and we urge you not to miss them.The Exhibition
Last, but by no means least, we have the exhibition. In the past, the show floor of Amplifest was host to many different exhibitions – we recall Error! Design, Münster Studio, André Coelho and David D’Andrea as being some of the artists who embellished the main floor with their artistic creations and designs. This year, the honour goes to Dehn Sora, a brilliant audiovisual artist and graphic designer from France. As a member of the Church of Ra, an artistic collective formed by Amenra, Dehn Sora explores facets of the seen and unseen via many channels. With Treha Sektori, he explores ambience, repetition and distance. With Throane, he delves into nihilism and pessimism. A natural born artist and musician, he has also contributed artwork and overall design for bands such as Blut Aus Nord, Code, Ephel Duath, Misþyrming, Manes and, of course, Amenra. His talent is unparalleled and at Amplifest, you will be able to discover some of his best works, whether artwork, photographic or otherwise.
Coming to Porto for Amplifest also means visiting the city itself. Also known as Oporto in some languages, Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal and one of the Iberian Peninsula’s marjor urban areas, famous for its beautiful and serene landscapes, as well as its varied gastronomical offerings, which range from port wine to the famous francesinha, without forgetting the typical “cozido à Portuguesa”, the “tripas à moda do Porto” and other traditional dishes. There are many restaurants and pubs to choose from to get a feel of Porto’s culinary delights – D’Gema, for example will provide you with the best selection of hamburgers in town and Casa Guedes will do the same for you in regards to their famous ham sandwich. Boa Bao will fill your belly with asian food goodness and for our veggie friends, Rosa Imunda is the place to visit. But if you are looking for a place with various options – including the famous francesinha -, Duas de Letra and Café Santiago da Praça are the way to go. And for that late night drinking with friends, we can recommend a visit to any of the following venues and “tascos”, each with their own appeal and distinguishable nature: Maus Hábitos, Metalpoint, Barracuda, Cervejaria Miria, Taskinha and Praça Poveiros.
Porto is also home to some of the most beautiful landmarks that you can visit. For example, the avid followers of the Harry Potter series will certainly be drawn to Lello Bookstore, which tremendously inspired J. K. Rowling during the writing of her famous book series. Others might be more keen on taking a walk around the garden surrounding the Crystal Palace (also known as Rosa Mota Pavilion or more recently, Super Bock Arena) or even cross the Dom Luís I Bridge, a double-deck metal arch bridge that connects the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. For the more historically inclined, the Clérigos Church offers a bit of Baroque history, and those with a more artistic view of life will love to see the magnificent tiles in São Bento Station or the inner and outer allure of Casa da Música. As an end of day activity, if not occupied with the festival itself, we recommend watching the sunset at the Ribeira Wharf. And if your artistic side is still craving for more, a visit to the various galleries around Porto will suffice, whether it’s the AL859 – Ars Longa Vita, Brevis Associação Cultural, Ó! Galeria or Senhora Presidenta. There is plenty to do in your stay in Porto besides Amplifest and believe us when we say that combining all these elements together will make for the perfect festival experience. See you all next week.
Words by Filipe Silva, with suggestions by the Lore team