A Music Lover’s Dream: Amplifest 2022 – Weekend Two
Here we are again, back in the saddle, back at Amplifest. With a few days between both weekends of the festival, we took time to replenish our minds, body and spirit by doing some sightseeing around Porto, the beautifully majestic city that host Amplifest every year. Also known as Oporto in some languages, Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal and one of the Iberian Peninsula’s major 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. Every time we visit the city, we take every opportunity to absorb its life force unto ourselves, as its aroma and vibe invigorates any and all.
But sooner of later, we would return to Amplifest, renewed and ready to be crushed once again by all the acts that were performing in the second weekend. At the end of the day, we knew that this would be an arduous task, and that maybe our minds were ready for anything, but the flesh wouldn’t be up to the task. Be that as it may, we pushed ourselves forward and plunged back into the Hard Club and a universe of soundscapes that was about to unfold.
The first day started with an immensely emotional bang at the Bürostage. The upbeat progressive metalcore of Cave In had finally arrived in Portugal and boy, were we in for a treat. With the constant goal of honouring the legacy of their fallen brother Caleb Scofield, the trio of Adam McGrath, Stephen Brodsky and John-Robert “JR” Conners, joined by the incredibly talented Nate Newton, delivered an intense and highly passionate performance, that saw quite a few members of the audience cry, as they understood all too well the band’s bereavement. Nevertheless, the combination of galloping riffs, groovy hooks and dominant sludgy tones made the entire experience incredibly uplifting, as if Cave In were telling us that it was okay to cry, but at the same time, that we should honour our fallen brothers and sisters, rejoice in the legacy they left behind and carry on undeterred. No better way to start a festival. Their brothers in arms in Sumac came afterwards, also at the Bürostage, turning things around to a more dissonant and deafening side. Presenting their latest record, May You Be Held, the band peformed a spiritual cleanse through bone-shattering riffs and mind-melting melodies. We only had an issue with the lights that were either pointed directly into the band’s eyes – as Aaron Turner pointed out in the middle of the band’s set -, or pointed directly at the audience’s eyes, which made it extremely hard to see the stage at times. Despite that little nitpick, it was still a cool show.
We went to the Beerfreaks Stage afterwards to catch a glimpse of the hurricane known as Buñuel, which is a supergroup of sorts led by the ever-intimidating and colossal figure that is Eugene S. Robinson. Acting as energetic and unpredictable as ever, Eugene expertly conducted the band’s unforgiving and merciless, yet beautiful sound, while jokingly comparing people that record shows with porn directors that record sex acts. Tremendously amusing and odd at the same time. After that, we returned once again to the Bürostage to witness the return of Deafheaven to both Portugal and Amplifest. This time around, the North American post-black metal quintet was presenting their latest opus, Infinite Granite, which saw the band take on a very different direction, both in sound and visually. If in the studio the record results incredibly well, on stage the story is a bit different. Despite the alluring and sensual look of George Clarke’s figure, one can see that he is still not very confident in this new vocal approach. The clean vocals suit him well, he just doesn’t express them in their full potential yet. Nevertheless, a Deafheaven performance is always a grand thing, with tremendously expansive soundscapes filling the air constantly, and the audience was all too eager to show their love for the band that has been breathing fresh air to a stagnant genre for over a decade. And Clarke continues to be a beast on stage, his presence continuously leaving no one indifferent. And that’s the way it should be.
Remember the treasure hunt we mentioned when talking about the first weekend of Amplifest? Well, the game continued to be afoot on the second weekend, and this time around, the answer was as radiant as it could ever be: Liturgy. Mystery solved! And what followed was one of the most emblematic moments that the festival ever had, as the band took over the Bürostage and quickly treated the audience to a truly devastating and thunderous barrage of transcendental black metal that sounds as magical and melodic as it is violent and relentless. Triumphant surges of lightning tremolos are backed by rapid-fire blast beats, and together with frontwoman Haela Ravenna Hunt-Hendrix’s yearning howls, the sound reaches levels of cacophony never before heard. And we even got a taste of new things to come, as a brand-new track, “93696”, was sounded close to the end. A truly magnificent performance on a festival that keeps pushing the boundaries and isn’t afraid to take a stand against discrimination, sexism, hate and intolerance.
We returned to the Beerfreaks Stage for another steady shot of black metal, this time provided by the Canadian tour de force known as Spectral Wound. A relatively new band, Spectral Wound were presenting their latest release, A Diabolic Thirst, and were ready to split some heads and dislocate some shoulders while doing so. Quite literally, in fact, as vocalist Jonah Campbell used the shoulders of the audience as a foot rest more often than not. Quite the fun experience, which also continued a tad bit later with the fire-spitting speed metal sonorities of Hellripper. Between both bands, however, we had the phenomenal and enigmatic Anna Von Hausswolff performing at the Bürostage. We’ve been accompanying Hausswolff’s work but quite some time now, and even had the pleasure of catching two of her live performances before – one of them at Amplifest, back in 2016. Always ceremonious and haunting, Hausswolff is an absolute master of her craft, and her accompanying band don’t falter behind her either. Presenting her latest record, All Thoughts Fly, from which she played the title-track and “Sacro Bosco”, Hausswolff and company floated through their set in a splendid fashion, with the only grievance being the considerable amount of people present to see her. We know it’s quite the nitpick, but it made the experience a bit uncomfortable and hard to enjoy because of it. The end was reserved for Bongripper, a highly-requested band that finally made an appearance in Portugal. Owners of a potent mixture of sludge, doom and stoner, which they affectionately call Chicago miserable doom, the quartet of Ronald Petzke, Daniel O’Connor, Daniel O’Connor and Nick Dellacroce played exactly three songs – “Hail”, “Slow” and “Endless”. Despite the fact that the average time of these songs is almost twenty minutes long, we don’t really feel the extreme length, as their sound is so hypnotic, repetitive and tectonic, that one quickly forgets that so much time as already passed since they started playing their first riff. All we can do is headbang in unison to the sound of a reverberating and densely engulfing wall of noise. Talk about a spiritual cleanse, right?
The last day of any festival is always a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, we got a few more hours to enjoy performances by our favourite artists, but on the other, time flies by so quickly that we cannot stop ourselves from thinking that it will all be over soon. Nonetheless, this last day of Amplifest promised to be quite spectacular, and it all started with an intense, emotional and quite profound performance by Lingua Ignota. Helped on stage by her dear friend KW, who had performed with Vile Creature the weekend prior, Kristin Hayter immediately surrendered herself to an audience ready to receive her. Between awe and discomfort, exquisite beauty and excruciating pain, the anguish felt by Hayter was laid bare, as she moved between pillars of light like a ghost of the woods, alteranting between melancholic singing and tortured, banshee-like bellows. The violent mixture of emotions felt became almost suffocating, as we watched Hayter navigate through the crowd like a desperate mother in search of her child. Tears came to our eyes – we know her story, we know the betrayal, the anger, the sadness. And all we co do was share in that experience and offer our hearts as comfort pillows to her misery. Through songs from Caligula and Sinner Get Ready, as well as a rendition of Karen Dalton’s “Katie Cruel”, and the traditional song, “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”, Hayter exposed herself to an audience that wanted nothing more than to hug her and never let go ever again. It is a rather strange way to start the last day of the festival, and perhaps for many, the festival ended right there, on such a powerful note. But we still had a few more things to see before we were ready to let go.
Back at the Beerfreaks Stage, we got to see Bossk deliver a competent performance that took us beyond space and time, and not too long after, on the very same stage, Aaron Turner returned for an eccentric improvisation set filled to the brim with experimentation and drone. As we readied ourselves for our return to the Bürostage, we couldn’t shake the feeling of joy. Something that is a theme at Amplifest is facing our demons and then being washed clean by a sort of spiritual purge. After the intensity felt via Lingua Ignota, we were ready to once again have our spirits bathed in spiritual comfort, something that was undoubtedly provided by Envy. We had already seen the Japanese post-hardcore outfit once before, and once again, we were faced with the extremely hard task to describe a tremendous show. Once again intent on presenting their latest record, The Fallen Crimson, Envy delivered an even greater performance than last time we saw them, with frontman Tetsuya Fukagawa always smiling and demonstratively happy to be standing on a stage. Throughout the entirety of their performance, one could feel the sense of community as the audience gave Envy an incredibly warm welcome, sharing smiles with Fukagawa, playing some air guitar riffs and imitating Hiroki Watanabe drum fills, while also moshing and crowdsurfing without pause. There is not much left to say about a band such as Envy – their energy is as intoxicating as ever and we will happily see them again if we get the chance. We remained on the Bürostage to catch the Canadian godfathers of post-rock known as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but at this point, our bodies were starting to fail – the flesh was not up to the task, and the introspective, cinematic and transformative soundscapes of GY!BE didn’t help in keeping us awake. What did help though, was the energetic punk, metal, noise and funaná fusion of Scúru Fitchádu. As soon as Sette Sujidade and company stepped on stage, it was like we felt a sudden rush of adrenaline kick in like a flu shot – we were ready to dismantle ourselves and dance away to our hearts content. We got that same feeling during The Bug’s set with special guests MC Flowdan and Miss Red, and at some point, it was like we blacked out. If there is a more perfect ending to such a perfect festival, we do not think so. May we return next year and may we enjoy ourselves fully once more.
Words by Filipe Silva
Photos by Alexandra Ramos