Set in the beautiful coastal town of Porto in Portugal within the blood-red iron frame of the Hard Club, Amplifest is created by music lovers for music lovers, part of its unique appeal is that there are no clashes, praise the stage gods! There is a wide and scope of extreme and experimental bands and each of them are endearingly treated as headliners. A favourite act in the middle of the day will get the same amount of stage time as the last of the day and bigger names may appear earlier in the day. For the first time since its 2011 inception – and for those that just can’t get enough of the good stuff – the festival will be spread over two weekends; the first between the 7-9th October and the second starting a little earlier – from the 13-15th October.
Given the cathartic and thought-provoking nature of many of the bands, it is refreshing and relieving that the capacity is kept to a humble one thousand people. Focusing on quality over quantity, with the promise of incredible sound and did we mention no clashes(?), Amplifest strives to create an intimate space where musicians, crew and fans alike can interact and support each other through the power of meaningful music that seeks to change the world or be a break from the troubles of it.
Alongside post-rock and metal heavyweights such as Envy, Bossk, Caspian, and the mighty Cult of Luna, perhaps the highlight of the weekend will be the legendary Canadian post-rock collective Godspeed You Black Emperor. It would be remiss to not also mention the doom and stoner rock that will again grace the stage in the form of Americans Pallbearer and Elder.
With all of those big names out the way we decided to shine a light on another handful of artists from around the globe and from Portugal itself who will all be making their debut on the two stages of Amplifest 2022 – BUROSTAGE and BEERFREAKS.
LADIES TO THE FRONT
Hailing from Belgium, playing a less punishing style of post-hardcore than countryfellows Amenra, three-piece Brutus mix in shimmering post-rock elements with Stefanie Mannaert’s broad range of vocals, varying from a poppy upbeat style to emotional soaring howls which she then contrasts with her incendiary punky drumming. Now signed to Sargent House with just two releases under their belts they are set to release Unison Life on October 21st, fingers crossed for a cheeky preview at their Amplifest debut on weekend one, Saturday on the Bürostage.
The first Friday of the event will see Jo Quail and Midwife grace the Beerfreaks stage respectively. Quail recently released the simply phenomenal Cartographer, recorded and performed with an orchestra and choir which was an absolute joy to witness at this year’s Roadburn. As a frequent collaborator with a whole host of well-known artists some of whom will also appear at Amplifest we are eager to see what may transpire.
At this stage the prolific and endearing tiny powerhouse that is vocalist and composer, Lingua Ignota really needs no introduction, turning horrific experiences of abuse into the most spine chilling and stunning blackened country that has been known to silence and captivate vast audiences and gained her global critical acclaim. Her visceral works of church inspired art may not be for the faint hearted but is one hundred percent worth the agony of witnessing on the second weekend on the. Find her on the last day of the second weekend on the Bürostage.
Doom sludge duo and form Ontario Canada the opinionated and pissed off Vile Creature (Prosthetic records) who refer to themselves as “angry, queer, gloom cult”, have been making waves – of the seismic variety in the doom scene. With their refreshing and earth-shattering take on a well-played out genre they mix in choral singing to the claustrophobic, thick sludgy mix of bass, drum – all while promoting and striving for change in sexual and environmental politics. Friday – Beerfreaks
Another highly sought-after band reportedly voted for the by the audience and press are the Finnish avant-garde black metal outfit Oranssi Pazuzu they will make their debut on the BÜROSTAGE to perform their highly acclaimed psychedelic trip that is 2020’s Mestarin Kynsi.
American black metal trio Wolves in the Throne room are not quite newcomers to Amplifest having been brought to Porto by the Amplicasom promoters while touring their third album Black Cascade. They now return to play the festival as the reportedly most requested and anticipated band of the event. We already have chills running down our spine at the thought of their atmospheric modern approach to black metal.
Patrick Walker is best known as the founder of the doom band Warning formed in 1994 and currently leads 40-Watt Sun. As singer, guitarist and composer he will make his debut on Sunday on the Beerfreaks stage to perform a special, solo rendition of his band’s latest and third studio release Perfect Light. tissues at the ready in expectation of beautiful and intimate melancholic and delicate compositions packed with raw emotion.
Following the tragic death of bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield the nearly thirty-year-old Cave In made a triumphant return with Scofield’s Old Man Gloom bandmate Nate Newton taking over duties on bass. After many hiatuses and struggles they announced the 2019 release, Last Transmission, which was assumed to be their last. However the band have risen from the ashes, paying tribute to their lost brother with a sound that is more dynamic than ever with a Soundgarden meets hardcore vibe. Don’t miss them on the first day on BÜROSTAGE.
On the second weekend the inimitable Aaron Turner will be performing as part of dissonant post/sludge supergroup trio Sumac and later as a solo artist – expect synths for the latter. Featuring Brian Cook of Russian Circles on bass and the Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists, Sumac is now understandably considered somewhat of supergroup with a sound that is unique as the spice itself, developed through improvisation; the trio topple the scale of bleak but epic heaviness.
Born of the thriving scene in Quebec, the Spectral Wound collective offer up nihilist but mystical, with a cruel icy atmosphere. With a traditional European black metal sound the quintet add their own twisted, well, twist of sonic layers of gnarly howls, blast beats and hypnotic tremolos resulting in a relentlessly intense and unforgiving wall of sound.
Hellripper is a one-man project of the Scotland based James Mcbain, starting out as bedroom project he has garnered high praise from critics around the globe for his modern take on black speed metal, backed up by three session musicians, prepare for some fast as fuck satanic rock ‘n’ roll.
The elusive and notorious sludge masters Bongripper hardly ever tour so we can barely contain our excitement at being repeatedly battered over the head by their hefty slab of sludgy funeral doom. Set to be “a concert that will certainly go down in history as one of the most devastating of all of Amplifest’s editions”, this is an absolute must see. With at least an hour long set and with a notoriously long songs fingers are crossed for a rendition of their pivotal album Satan Worshipping Doom.
Showcasing a plethora of Portuguese performers interspersed throughout prolific global acts there are bound to plenty of wonderful discoveries. From the ambient modular synth of Clothilde to Indignu, who are set to present new work in the form of post-rock akin to Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mono. Something a little heavier is offered by Process of Guilt who promise heaviness and sheer desolation set to an industrial backdrop, among others.
Joining forces with brothers in arms; the ubiquitous Supersonic, the two festivals present The Bug featuring “incendiary grime wizard” Flowdan. Expect LOUD dub and electro mixed in with dancehall and industrial music, a filthy experience to shake up all the sombre reflection.
From the pulsing synth with a post punk atmosphere of Fotocrime to spacey avant-garde techno from Italian and French duo Putan Club. The reportedly long-awaited laptop composer and guitarist Christian Fennesz will also make his debut offering sonically textured, glitchy soundscapes which experiment with sounds from the natural world replete with feedback. He will perform on the second weekend.
Films, Talks, Collabs and Surprises
In case this roster wasn’t enough there are guaranteed to be some one-off collaborations to remember, whether they will present themselves in the mystery slot of the timetable or if it will be a whole new surprise band, (we don’t want to speculate but there are some other great bands touring nearby!) remains to be seen. Either way, we are positively chomping at the bit to find out.
On top of this there will be an opportunity to watch and participate in Amplitalks, savour a range of beer and local cuisine and take in the art exhibitions. The beginning of each day will feature the premiere of several films and in depth, intimate music documentaries. Most notably the first offering is the intriguing Amenra documentary A Flood of Light by tour photographer and videographer Bobby Cochrane set to show on the first weekend, with the band playing on the same day.
Interview with Amplifest founder- André Mendes
To gain some insider information and personal perspective we had some burning questions answered by the legendary founder and organiser Andre Mendes.
When did you begin Amplifest and what inspired you to start it?
André This year we turn 15 years as a promoter, and it has been an amazing ride. We had the pleasure to have almost all of our favourite bands here and we keep humbly running as a business as well. It has been a pleasure to see lots of bands that once played for 60 people now playing for 600 or 800, it’s been a pleasure to see new kids at every show, all we need is the storm to pass and get back to those moments that we all breathe as air. We always dreamed of putting on a festival, so at a certain point back in 2010, Amplifest was born, and the first edition took place in 2011.
What once started as a dream is now an established reality; one that leads hundreds of music lovers from all over the world to Porto to experience it. It’s not one more festival, Amplifest is the event that sums up the whole philosophy of Amplificasom in a weekend that is intended to be unique and unrepeatable. Anyone who has visited us before is aware of what we’re talking about: the intimate atmosphere between music lovers and musicians, the impromptu collaborations on stage, the discovery of a new favourite band, the friendly discussions at the Amplitalks and, especially, all the lasting memories that are created.
What obstacles did you have to overcome to get Amplifest off the ground and (especially following Covid 19) to keep it going
André: We all suffered a lot, and we all carry the silent weight of what the pandemic took from us. If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that life is very fickle, but we need to focus on the present moment and give the best possible response to these years without shows.
How has the festival grown over the years and has this growth also posed challenges?
André: A lot, thankfully. And I mean it. We have been selling out in advance all editions since 2015, but at the same time it is getting more and more complicated to put on a festival at this venue in Porto’s downtown area. We also produce our own festival, we are not just the promoters behind it. It is our job to find solutions to overcome any obstacle, but it is getting really hard. I feel we are closing a cycle, but this can be tiredness speaking. We are super focused on putting on the best edition ever though, that is our priority – that everyone involved (musician or ticket buyer) has an amazing experience.
Who are the bands from both weekends that you would most recommend watching? a) A returning act, b) For the first time, and c) A recent discovery
André: a)Godspeed You! Black Emperor and AMENRA are always incredibly rituals that fills our souls and hearts; b)Super excited for the debuts of Oranssi Pazuzu, SUMAC, LINGUA IGNOTA and The Bug debuts, cannot wait to feel Brutus live, the legend Caspar Brötzmann.. So many! c)Super curious to see Tenue, Hellripper, Portugal’s gems who will present their new works as Indignu and Process of Guilt.
Is there a criteria you stick to when picking bands?
André: Quality, no matter the genre. William Basinski before Converge? It happened and it was perfect. Fennesz after Envy? It will happen and it will be beautiful. Peter Brötzmann after YOB? Unforgettable. I could give you dozens of examples like this, we love it this way.
Who has been the most popular and frequently appearing act?
André: Probably AMENRA.
Is there a message you wish to promote/convey under the festival banner?
André: It is an experience. No headliners, all bands and slots are important; no clashes, you can actually enjoy the full experience; time to breathe between shows. As music lovers first, we appreciate when you can actually live a festival without any stress or queues, and of course expect the best live sound which is very important to us as well.
How has the feedback started off and changed from bands, the audience and of course the press?
André: At first, we were compared, I think it’s normal. We were compared with institutions such as Roadburn or Supersonic, but now everyone knows that Amplifest has its own language and we never wanted to be a copycat of anything. It is now considered one of the best indoor festivals around Europe, one of the best musical experiences and the fact that the audience comes from 35 plus different countries (from Seattle to São Paulo, from London to Istanbul, from Rome to Oslo) proves we are a small but giant festival.
Do you have any plans for expansion?
André: It’s not about the size, it’s about the quality of the experience.
Other than the music side of things are there any aspects you would like to highlight?
André: Live music can pump our hearts but Films, Amplitalks and other initiatives are also very important to what we believe Amplifest is.
What local food places would you recommend to refuel and soak up the booze during the festival?
André: If you don’t want to miss anything, Hard Club has a restaurant upstairs. If you do then just get lost in the beautiful tiny streets of Porto and eat wherever smells best – the food here in Portugal is amazing.
There will be plenty of time to explore the area between the two weekends, what spots in the city or nearby would you recommend visiting?
André: We actually suggest a few things in our website here: AMPLIFEST 2022
When I travel, as a tourist myself, I like to lose myself in the streets and explore – that’s my best recommendation. I could say “have a francesinha”, “have some grilled fish in Matosinhos”, “go up the 240 steps of Clérigos Tower”, “visit our amazing record stores” or “spend an afternoon at the beach enjoying some white wine” so it always depends on what kind of tourist you are. One thing I’m 100% sure of: Porto’s unique.
Words: Abi Coulson