Just a few weeks ago, I set off on my first festival abroad, Optimus Alive (now rebranded as NOS Alive) in Alges, Portugal. Having only ever been to festivals in the UK, I arrived not being sure what to expect, but knowing that three magical days of music, fun, and dancing were waiting for me! Here’s a little review of the three days:
Day 1: Thursday 10 July
We arrived in Alges, just outside Lisbon, in the baking heat, with the dulcet tones of Ben Howard playing on the main stage in the distance. At the main entrance, they even had a stage, which is in the picture below – pretty cool, eh?
After swapping our tickets for wristbands – which may or may not still be firmly attached to my wrist as I type this post… yes, I’m still holding on to that festival dream 😉 – we made our first trip of many to the Heineken bar. Obviously, the organisers are extremely considerate for having so many pop-up bars and even – wait for it – Heineken beer guys around the site! They wouldn’t want you to go thirsty, so it’d be rude not to buy a drink, surely? : )
Sadly we arrived too late to see the Temples perform, but they’re still on my list of bands to see live. We did, however, see:
The Lumineers: Surprisingly good live – totally different sound to what I was expecting. Of course, when Ho Hey came on, the whole crowd sang along (although I still hold that E.ON advert fully responsible for making me fall a little out of love with the song last year… but it still sounds pretty good live.) They were an excellent start to the festival, enjoying music in the sunshine with so many other happy music fans was a great feeling 🙂
Imagine Dragons: They were also great live, Radioactive is really catchy!
Elbow: I’ve been wanting to see them for a few years, and their live sets don’t disappoint in the slightest. Guy Garvey has a beautiful voice. Particularly enjoyed Build a Rocket Boys, Grounds for Divorce, The Seldom Sung Kid, and their finale (of course) One Day Like This. It’s such a striking song. Seeing them live was made better by the fact they played at the Heineken Tent, which is way more intimate than seeing them on the main stage. Even managed to get near the front, win 🙂
Sadly, Kelis clashed with the Arctic Monkeys, but I’ll make sure to see her the next time she performs in London – I’ve heard she’s great live.
Arctic Monkeys: Having been a fan of the Arctics since their debut album Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not, they were one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing the most. Similarly to most of the bands throughout Optimus Alive, they were as epic as I thought they’d be live. Getting squashed in with thousands of other fans as we all sang our hearts out to Brianstorm, Dancefloor, and one of my favourite songs, Crying Lightening (not influenced by the fact Josh Homme worked with them on the Humbug album it was from, but still.. ahem) was a great feeling. One of the highlights of the set was belting out the lyrics alongside a really friendly Portuguese guy who was a major fan of theirs, and had hundreds of miles to drive home after the gig, but was singing his heart out. It’s truly lovely to meet people who are as passionate about a band as you are!
Day 2: Friday 11 July
The second day was slightly more chilled than the first – may have still been pretty excitable/tired after seeing the Arctics the night before! But this was pretty cool to watch on the second day/evening:
MGMT: A great set, with plenty of visuals and classic songs that complemented the beautiful sunset. Hearing Electric Feel and Kids live was fantastic.
Sam Smith: Only caught the end of his set, but was pretty gutted to miss Money on My Mind – hearing him sing Stay With Me was lovely though. He has a beautiful voice, and there’s no doubt that 2014 is his year. An extremely talented guy.
Black Keys: Amazing stage presence – stand out songs of the set being Gold on the Ceiling, Fever, Tighten Up, and of course, Next Girl.
Day 3: Sat 12 July
The War on Drugs: Hadn’t heard of these guys before, but they’re pretty good! I’d recommend checking out some of their songs, they’re very energetic live.
Bastille: I’d been looking forward to seeing Bastille for a while, having got into them early last year. Hearing Laura Palmer, Things We Lost in the Fire, their cover of Rhythm of the Night, Overjoyed, Bad Blood, Icarus, and – of course – Flaws, was fantastic. They even covered No Scrubs by TLC, which was totally unexpected but excellent – I know I’m not the only one that loved that song back in the day! Dan, the lead singer, has a very strong voice.
The song I’d been looking forward to hearing live the most was Pompeii. Sadly after he’d started the song, we suddenly couldn’t hear anything but the instrumental, despite being able to still see Dan’s mouth moving. At the time, we had no idea that there had been a technical fault – I wrongly assumed he was miming, even though I couldn’t understand why he would, as he can definitely belt out a tune. The song finished and the band left the stage. We had no idea what had happened.
I harmlessly* tweeted about it the next day, purely as a fan who was looking forward to seeing one of her favourite acts play live, and not knowing at the time that it was down to sound issues that the crowd missed out on the final song. Randomly, I got a response from Dan, who confirmed that they didn’t mime, but that it was a technical fault. I really wish the OA organisers had at least told us what happened, and allowed Bastille to get back on the stage once the sound was sorted out.
*Side note: What I thought was a harmless tweet on my part then brought on a bizarre onslaught from a lot of young angry Bastille fans – which I thought was completely unexpected, and totally uncalled for. If you’re in the crowd at a gig and miss out on the last song which you were looking forward to, and you’re not sure what’s happened – surely you’d be gutted too? It was totally unnecessary, and a few were pretty rude. It makes you aware of how anonymous the Internet is, and how people are very quick to start conflict. I get that people want to defend someone they’re into, even if they weren’t there when something happened. But what I wrote wasn’t malicious, and I thought it was a bit extreme. 😐
Daughter: Although they were playing in the Heineken tent this year, I could easily see them making it to the NOS Stage next year. Their set was great and the tent was packed out. Ended up deciding to chill near the back of the tent with a lot of chocolate waffles while watching, and it was wonderful. Daughter + waffles = excellent combination! Elena Tonra has a beautiful voice. They’re an incredibly talented band who will keep going on to bigger and better things in the months to come. If you haven’t heard any of their material, I highly recommend Smother, or their cover of Get Lucky by Daft Punk (that song is still just as catchy as it was a year ago!)
The Libertines: Before getting to Lisbon, I was quite surprised that The Libertines had been announced as the closing act for Saturday night – an opinion that was shared by a few people on various festival forums (see previous post for the various headliner rumours that were flying about prior to Optimus Alive!) Safe to say doubts were completely washed away when they came on stage. Favourite songs of the set were What Katy Did, Can’t Stand Me Now, Don’t Look Back into the Sun, What Became of the Likely Lads, & Boys in the Band.
They did an amazing job, and played to a massive crowd. It was a comeback gig like no other. They truly gave it everything they had, and their energy was infectious.
Of course, Heineken guy getting in on the action! (genuinely the first festival I’ve been to where they have drink sellers like this in the crowd – super efficient.)
When their set finished, the crowd was left wanting more. This was the point where a guy asked me: “what’s Portuguese for ‘one more song?’ and I had to disappoint him and say I was from London, and had no idea 😐 Fortunately for us, they came back to do a big encore – Up the Bracket was particularly good!
Despite the sound fault on the final night – pretty minor in comparison to the rest of the weekend – Optimus Alive was by far one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. The crowd was great, the variety of bands was really good, and who can complain about somewhere that you can enjoy music in the sunshine? Plus, how many other festivals serve KFC at 2am?! What more could you want from a festival 😉
The next festival I’m heading to is Sziget, in Budapest, which kicks off in just 4 days time… let’s hope it’s as epic as Lisbon was!
Will I be back for the newly rebranded NOS Alive for 2015? Yes, definitely. I’d recommend it in a second, and have a feeling it’ll be even bigger and more popular next year.