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Monday, April 30, 2012

From Gouveia To Porto

All good things must come to an end. The view from the office this morning...



  

Lobby call at 10.00 a.m....


On board were Focus, Shylock, Strawbs and yours truly...







Two hours later we all said our fond farewells and I took the train into Porto...


The view from the office in the afternoon...


 I was lucky enough to be able to meet with Luis from the festival who lives in Porto...






Our sightseeing included a visit to the utterly fabulous Library Lello



They don't allow photography inside but the place is breathtaking. After a bit more wandering around, Luis and I sat down to a well-deserved beer...


Luis was a fantastic source of information on the revolution in Portugal and for an hour or so we chatted about that and the ramifications of the new austerity that's engulfing Europe and the rise of the Right. Then some more wandering...







World Book Night XLIV


Tomas

A figure of the world with colours in it

Whitley Bay Daily Photo CXXI


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gouveia Art Rock Festival Day Three

Today I was speaking at a discussion chaired by Thomas Olsson on the theme of writing about music. The talk was in the library in the town just a little way up the hill from the venue which gave me another opportunity to have a look around...






I had assumed there would only be a couple of people attending but the room quickly filled up to the point of overflow with more chairs having to be put out. “Don’t worry,” I was told  “this crowd isn’t because you are speaking. What else are people going to do on a Sunday morning?”

Thomas first of all thanked Eduardo and Luis, two of the key people who have helped make the festival the success it has been over the last year. They manfully endured praise being heaped upon them by Thomas and the audience.


After that I was bigged-up by Thomas and took to the small stage talked for a bit about different approaches to writing about something that's after all, a pretty ephemeral and completely subjective thing. The discussion took in the current state of play with dead tree publishing and the rise of the internet, and my belief that writing pointlessly nasty reviews where one heaps abuse upon the artist or their fans is just not worth it. Play the ball not the player to use a football analogy.

This point was agreed and expanded upon when Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk of the Strawbs joined Thomas and myself on the stage. Thijs Van Leer from Focus also came up, as did Marco from Calomito, Marcello from Altock records. Van Leer's contribution also included a wonderfully amusing flute solo which he dedicated to the festival. I was told the talk was a great success. I only wish I'd been able to take some snaps of Thijs in action!

Later that day it was back to the music and first up were French band, Shylock...


Shylock were taking to the stage 33 years after they split up, and are reunited once again thanks in part to the present day curiosity and interest in the 70s. What they play is very much part of the template of European symphonic rock, that’s to say they steer close to vintage Hackett-era Genesis... 



and they do it very well indeed with guitarist Frédéric l'Epée turning in a great performance despite suffering from a dreadful cold.


I confess I was not at all familiar with the name Patrizio Fariselli and it wasn't until it was patiently explained to me that he was a member of the Italian band Area that the penny dropped. Playing some of Area's music on the piano, he gave a stunning performance...




A bravura performance that connects dexterity with passion. Just one man and piano - no effects or anything else to get in the way. After this astonishing recital it was time for Strawbs in their acoustic formation to take the stage. The last time I saw Strawbs would have been sometime in 1974...

That's me standing next to Chas Cronk in that stalker-ish can-I-play-your-bass-please kind of way. It's fair to say that we've all changed a bit since then but the one thing that has remained untouched by the ravages of the years is the quality of the material. Dave Cousins took the audience on a guided tour of the band's musical history, almost as though he were narrating a fairy story, which in a way, it is.




More than anything, hearing the material spanning four decades stripped down to its acoustic basics shows that what truly matters is not the trimmings of production or the drama a full rock band reading can give, but the song itself; naked and unadorned. Strawbs were absurdly good.


It was left to Focus to provide the final performance of the festival. They were another band which I last saw in the 70s...





The played a barn-storming set which went down amazingly well with the crowd. I doubt there was a person in the building without a smile on their face during a set which involved van Leer wandering around the audience whilst playing the flute.

By the time they finished I was exhausted.

Stiff Upper Lip V


Whitley Bay Daily Photo CXX


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gouveia Art Rock Festival Second Night

First up today were the excellent A Presença das Formigas. I'd not heard of this excellent group from Portugal. There’s plenty of local folk-derived detail in their music which mixes sparkling melodies, rumbling drum-driven marches and flourishes from recorder, accordion, vibes and violin which blossom into life, adding ravishing details to their songs. It’s uplifting and beautifully played.





After an excellent set it was time for Calomito. I'd encountered this band before via the CD Cane di schiena which I was very impressed with. Marco Ravera and Francavilla’s guitar and sax will often meld into one instrument, locked together in the twisting themes. 



Such is the concentration upon the textural aspects of the band, there only a few solos, usually of such brisk economy that they are often over before you realise it. Though decidedly unflashy in the way they present the material, there’s a real power to what they do. Superb.

One of the difficulties facing a band like Änglagård is how to find their own identity whilst being so tightly wrapped in a vintage sound that liberally borrows from classic prog period.



Anna Holgren in her introduction says that every time they get around four songs together then they have the basis of an album “because our songs are not so short” she says wryly. Some of the material sounds like the best thing that 70s era Genesis never recorded. 

Univers Zero were late in arriving on stage because of Änglagård overrunning in the soundcheck. It was marvelous to see this band in concert. 


“Everything is OK?” enquires clarinetist Kurt Budé after Belgium’s finest RIO band have played four pieces. The capacity crowd in Teatro Cine leave the band in doubt whatsoever that everything is very OK. Hanging on every note, you could hear a pin drop in the quieter sections of the set and roar their approval after the end of each piece. 




A wonderful gig with the band receiving a huge ovation. I went back to the hotel suffering from
extreme bassoon swoon!





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