Milhões de Festa 2016

Deconstructing music in northern Portugal

22 JULY 2016
Deerhof on stage, 2015
Deerhof on stage, 2015

Portugal. Land of good beaches and a surfing paradise. Culinary secret with ancient food at incredible prices. Country of navigators and travelers with universal poets confined in the oldest European borders. Endless source of stories and legends of the past. European Football Champions 2016 ... and nest for summer music festivals? Well, apparently.

In a few years now, the music scenario in Portugal has changed significantly. Crossing publics, genders and cities in a multiplication of cocoons that any city plans to reproduce. In fact, if effectively compared with other European countries, it is difficult to find one that rivals in supply and demand, proportionally. This phenomenon extends from north to south, both in urban and natural contexts along with the international line-ups and catchy pop names that make up the plurality of events. The very international press has amplified this radar throwing recommendations in major newspapers like Corriere della Sera, Libération or Guardian. We can highlight, the trippy Boom Festival, the global Músicas do Mundo or the groundbreaker Amplifest just in the big picture.

However, in the northern cost there is a touristic spot in the middle of July, which become suddenly for three days in the music capital of the country. Definitely, the site in which any music lover wants to spend his time. It started in 2006 on an experimental attempt to create in Porto, a spiritual bond between seven bands and about twenty witnesses. The following year, the festival took the train to Braga and evolved a bit more, due to the growth of the label that sustains it. Three years later, finds its permanent headquarters in Barcelos for an unforgettable journey. Spreading rumors about these three exciting days through the musical forums. A discovery space of individual freedom and artistic emancipation. The youthful excitement to share what you hear for a group of ardent followers. In the afternoon, two swimming pools in the municipal complex, intertwined by a stage where, as a Caribbean portrait made by short bikinis, mojitos and beach balls – the mood is fueled by a laid frenzy between bands and djs, on the scorching heat of summer. On the other side, the rebellion is encouraged by the diversity of underground sounds echoed along the banks of the river between white wine mugs, and snacks in the free stage, “Taina”.

As the night falls and the strong names didn’t arrive, the city is involved in the very plot of the festival and suddenly ceases to be another small county on the Portuguese coast to become a small version of ‘Austin’. The comparison is not overstated. The environment contaminated by the spread of styles and the unbridled praise of the public, is likely to host TBA concerts by the streets of Barcelos and unusual after-hours in ordinary bars. The next step is unpredictable. Milhões de Festa has this power to - unlike other megalomaniac festival with endless advertising funds and unachievable budgets - merge with the place where was born and blend the onlooker with the artist in the same space. Most of all, it’s a festival based on the rebirth of the band as a creative epicenter of a music event, as well as the exotic melting pot of a truly global and transversal line-up. In contrast to the rise of the massive attendances, with mobs solely focused on their instagram and vintage sunglasses. When the music festivals have ceased to be?

By the dinner time, the pilgrimage between the two main stages, settled in the river park of the city, begins with an interleaved schedule. Milhões stage, the largest of the four, fulfills its function of hosting the biggest names of the list. In the break of those gigs, the stunning Vodafone FM stage emerges, flanked by a medieval wall and the Cávado river off the bridge. Here in this space, pop stories are told with screams of heavy metal tales beneath, giving free rein to the most daring rock’n’roll and dancing up until the sun comes from the most deranged electronic to the most lustful hip hop. In its sixth anniversary, Milhões de Festa is old enough to make its own analysis and has the needed background to predict its future. It is time to put it on the map and to say openly that this Barcelos’s festival, no longer belongs to Barcelos or to these 3,000 people who go there cyclically. It’s part of an idealistic and nonconformist atmosphere that infected a very precise circuit of players willing to put this small country in the musical vanguard of the twenty-first century. GOAT, The Bug, Dan Deacon, El Guincho, Sons of Kemet, The Heads, Bixiga 70 or Islam chipsy OR Nídia Minaj are just a few examples of this year’s showcase.

Text by Manuel A. Fernandes