Baking heat, cheap food, big beers, friendly faces, original music. Has Dan Davies flown on another plane?
After the abysmal summer we’ve had in the UK, festivals have taken a nose dive in my estimation. When called upon by the good virtual souls to cover a festival I’ve made a rule: either I go to festivals close to home (so I can get back if the weather collapses), or I go to festivals in hot countries.
There has been a steady increase in the latter over the last few years, so it was really a case of timing a good holiday. This, rather than any line-up considerations, is how we found ourselves out in Portugal for the Sudoeste festival.
We roll into the festival at 8 ‘o’ clock. The event isn’t held in the day as it’s too darn hot! As the big red sun is setting we turn down a dusty country lane and are confronted with the arena on the hillside, we drive into the field. Hear lies my one gripe this festival, but keeping in the spirit of old fashioned festies, no-one at all seems to be co-ordinating the car parking. An apathetic policeman stands by and yawns as cars weave their own way across the field.
As we’re walking in someone points to my T-shirt and says “Hey great T-shirt man,” I’m suitably chuffed but am also wondering how they worked out we were English. Well, maybe it’s because we’re the only ones in fancy dress and face paints. A trend which I hope we’ve successfully imported.
Once inside we explore. After a wander round, we’re uncontrollably drawn to the food stalls. Considering, but rejecting the burgers and hot dogs we sample the Portuguese stand. I say sample because they let us try before we buy. Two minutes later we’ve got bread and a delicious beef mixture for just three Euros. More bargain basement surprises are in store when we purchase a Super Bock (beer) in a massive one litre plastic tumbler, for just three Euros!
Suitably booted up we wander down to the main stage to watch Ojos De Brujo from Barcelona who are just beginning. With a spicy fry-off of flamenco, salsa and hip hop supported by a strong multi-instrumental band and some dazzling visuals, the band truly blow our minds. Next is I’m From Barcelona – from somewhere in Scotland, a surreal situation that IFB follow a band actually from the city. The band’s Flaming Lips style theatrics are pantomime compare to Ojos’s drama.
We were probably expecting less from Loney Dear in the cosy confines of the Tenda Planeta Sudoeste. A small but respectful crowd listens to Sweden’s refined form of indie pop and the lead singers Hobbit-type face. After a brief spell in the MTV tent watching a DJ, play, MTV videos we go back into the Tender Planet for Camera Obscura. They were suitably romantic in a tender sixties manner, highlights were Tears For Affairs and Hey Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken.
We start chatting to a few of the locals and share a locally rolled special cigarette. My co-ordination goes during Damien Marley, his similarly dope infused Bob impressions have me attempting to fall asleep standing up. It takes Manu Chao to bring me back to reality. A truly fantastic appearance with his Radio Bemba Sound System, a faultless international radio world. It occurs to me that Britpop is a small and fairly insignificant island away from here. Quite why anyone would ever want to watch Keane in drizzle again is beyond me.
Chao says “ciao” (and good-bye in at least five other languages) at 4:00 in the morning as the after hours Silent Disco is calling us… silently.
We traipse up there and dance until another one of us conks out. We walk back to the hire car and I sleep off the two litres of beer I had at midnight and leave as the sun is coming up and the dusty roads have settled.
There were two other days – my friends got very stoned watching Cypress Hill; moshed out to Mary Anne Hobbs; dubbed down to Steel Pulse; insulted The Streets; got on stage with Groove Armada and roundly collapsed by the pool with a day to go.
Me and my girlfriend however are locked into the other Summer weekend pastime which besets our age. A wedding.