Optimus Alive: Final Thoughts

I just got back from Portugal today – no need to rush leaving 30 degree sunny weather for 18 degree rainy weather, right? And since I saw fellow Optimus Alivers at the aeroporto, I figure it’s not too late to provide my final thoughts. In case you missed it, here are our run downs of Day 1 (Friday), Day 2 (Saturday) and Day 3 (Radioheadday Sunday)

As a bonus, I have some thoughts on Bilbao BBK, from the fine folks at PPSF. If you’ve never been to a European festival or even a festival, check out both articles to see what you’re missing. Check out our Optimus Alive final review below.

Festival Grounds: The grounds were located in Oeiras, which is just west of central Lisbon, easily accessible by transit. Given how cheap it was to rent a flat for a week or stay in a hostel, I’m not sure why you’d camp and bake in the heat.

The grounds had picnic tables, lots of food and beer stands, and a few washrooms. There seemed to be a traffic jam from people leaving/arriving at the main stage, where the washrooms are (particularly the location of the men’s) and add the beer stand and club stage into the mix, and you have a bit of a shit show. I know this is petty and to be expected, but perhaps relocate the washrooms?

Organization: There were 2 stages and a DJ/club stage. The walk between them was generally under 10 minutes, and there were info people near the entrance and banners with stage times at several locations (plus on the handout provided). Could they make it pocket sized though – I don’t want a dorky booklet hanging around my neck.

The video screens gave train information and other tidbits when bands weren’t playing (such as “Pee when bands are on”). Perhaps the screens could’ve shown band times or let people know who replaced Florence.

The Sound: There was little to no sound bleeding from stage to stage. Things sounded good, if not a tiny bit quiet at times. Basically no complaints.

The Crowd: The crowd was mainly Portuguese, with lots of fans from Spain and of course the UK. Since the camping was offsite and since a lot of people didn’t camp (based on the people I chatted with), it didn’t feel like a “proper” festival. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it meant the toilets weren’t a COMPLETE disaster, and that not everyone smelled horrible. It also meant that you could focus on the bands a little more. The feel from the crowd was that this was a series of great gigs, and not a festival per se.

The crowd often used the 2nd stage to hide from the sun, sitting down and talking amongst themselves. For the “big” bands, the crowd jumped and cheered where appropriate, giving several rounds of clapping during Radiohead’s set. Not an insane crowd but not quiet either.

Moments of the Festival: Lots to pick from. From Morcheeba covering a snippet of Florence’s cover of You’ve Got The Love, as well as Skye Edwards jumping in her 4 inch heels and urging the crowd on during another song was cool, Morcheeba clocked 2 memorable moments for me. Marcus Mumford banging a drum with his left hand while nursing a broken right hand also stands out. The silence that followed the start of Radiohead’s Exit Music (for a Film) was stunning, too.

The “Holy Crap” Award: Justice’s set had the crowd pretty much blown away from start to finish, oddly worshipping a giant illuminated cross. Holy symbolism (pun bonus points for me)! The same can be said for Radiohead and their tight set featuring 2 drummers and video screens behind them.

The Pleasant Surprise Award: Eli “Paperboy” Reed. I didn’t know anything about him and loved his throwback sound and energy.

The last word(s) – 3 Reasons This Festival Kicked Ass:

1 – Relatively cheap beer (€3.50 for 500 mL) in general, yet alone a festival.

2 – An eclectic mix of bands and stages, playing well into the night (4-5am end times). How is this allowed with homes so close is beyond me, but I’m not complaining, and presumably the neighbours aren’t either.

3 – The thought the organizers put in to have a) have local bands playing IN the entrance sign to greet the masses and b) handing out Optimus straw hats and bandanas to beat the heat. Very cool.

If you attended and want to share any thoughts, let us know in the comments. Or keep it to yourself, you selfish bugger.

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Bilbao BBK Live

As PPSF points out in their Friday review (of Radiohead and others), a record breaking 39,500 people were estimated to have attended on Friday. It seems that Friday had a mix of Optimus Alive’s Saturday and Sunday line ups, seeing Noah and the Whale, Mumford & Sons, The Kooks, and Radiohead all play. Mumford & Sons played 5 new songs in Spain, showing that they’re not afraid to road test songs off of Babel at either festival.

The Spainish festival saw Radiohead play Karma Police – often a closer in their live sets, not played in Portugal though. The band also cut their set short, likely due to the rain. As I noted in my review, the set was also not for the casual fan, as hardcore fans with knowledge of their complete catalogue likely got more enjoyment out of the show (but I suppose that is just common sense). Read the whole review by PPSF over at their site, and compare the 2 shows if you’re a super fan and saw them both.

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