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Always been curious about scenes in other cities outside your own little cocoon? We assumed you were! As much as we can, we’ll feed your hunger for insights and secrets in the Scene Report. This time, our man Joaquim, a long-time promoter in Porto, tells us about the city’s musical and touristic renaissance and the music scenes of the nearby towns. And he also plans your next holiday in Porto – with a pit-stop at festival in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Text by Joaquim Durães
Photos by Renato Cruz Santos, shot in Porto, Portugal
Lovers & Lollypops is an independent label and promoter established in Porto, celebrating 13 years in 2018. We run our little operation like a family business and our ground support comes from the artists we release and work with, creating a sense of community between them, us and the audience, as we grow together. Besides our activity as a label (84 releases to the date), we run two celebrated festivals: Milhões de Festa and Tremor, the latter hosted in the magnificent Azores Islands.
I’ll start with the future, as this year we’ll have our own venue, one of our wildest dreams coming true. It will be in an avant-garde venue that was active in Oporto from the ’80s till the ’00s, called Aniki Bóbó. We’re retaining its name as we want to keep expanding the ideas celebrated back then, exploring and defying as much as we can and bringing together different artists and audiences. It’s located in one of the most symbolic and antique areas of the city: the Ribeira neighbourhood, right at Douro’s riverside.
Talking about Porto also means talking about some nearby cities that contribute to the region’s pulsating underground scene
Talking about Porto also means talking about some nearby cities that contribute to the region’s pulsating underground scene. Small cities like Barcelos, where we host Milhões de Festa, is now experiencing its fourth generation of some of the most interesting rock bands in Portugal – Black Bombaim, Glockenwise and Killimanjaro, to name just a few of the dozens of names that are active over there. Milhões is the beacon for all our work. The festival lives with the local artists who gravitate around it and who experiment with no borders, from the most danceable of pop to the most extreme metal. It is also about African, Latin-American and Asian musical languages, promoting and supporting all kinds of experiences and cultural exchanges.
Just next to Barcelos we have Braga, where venues like GNRation or the Semibreve festival provide an interesting insight into experimental electronic music, connected with the idea of placing the city as a capital for media arts. Finally there’s the beautiful Guimarães where Revolve, also a label and promoter, provides groundbreaking work in the city’s constant search for new and exploratory sounds.
As for Porto, after a dark and gloom era on the first half of the ’00s, the city has found a new heart for its nightlife. Right after that, the rest of the world discovered it too, with more tourist flooding it every year. As the city saw a new life, it also started to suffer from the lack of housing and increasing rents. With many people struggling to keep their homes, we started questioning whether this cultural resurrection will flourish into something sustainable or collapse after the hype.
In Porto, I don’t think we can say that there’s a scene but we have all these micro and cross-genre collectives, spaces and events that pollinate and spread across the city. Even if at times I feel that there should be more collaborations between all these different structures, it’s interesting to find audiences so young and curious, constantly attending new gigs and parties, from exploratory gatherings at Sonoscopia (an old kindergarten school run by local experimental musicians that hosts max. 50-capacity gigs with a side serving of dinner for just €6) to secret rave parties led by Parva or Ácida, or even Favela Discos (a younger collective connecting the dots between experimental and rock culture). A constant presence at these raves is local hero DJ Lynce, who entwines techno and jungle sounds with an intense psychedelic touch. Be sure to catch him every Wednesday at Café Au Lait, one of Oporto’s nightlife hotspots.
A constant presence at these raves is local hero DJ Lynce, who entwines techno and jungle sounds with an intense psychedelic touch
In the last half decade we’ve seen dozens of new bars and clubs mushrooming, but it’s interesting to see that promoters like ourselves or those at Amplificasom are still favouring long-running venues, where music and gigs are still the core of their work. These include Maus Hábitos, located on the fourth floor of a garage building or, right in front of it, Passos Manuel, an old cinema converted into the most iconic venue in the city, or even Hard Club, an old market-turned-two-room venue for larger gigs.
Finally, I would recommend visiting Porto in March, hanging there for a few days, then catch a flight to the Azores islands and go to Tremor Festival (20 to 24 March), a true musical experience in the heart of the Atlantic Ocean.