Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Lisbon Scene (1)...

Last night I ventured once again into the dark world of the Lisbon underground music scene (this time literally as the setting was the ever gloomy Musicbox, situated under a bridge in one of the less salubrious neighbourhoods of Lisbon). On this occasion we were there to see a concert of two of Lisbon's new, upcoming, bands: Os Capitães da Areia and Feromona.

The newer, if not the upcoming-est, of the bands are Os Capitães da Ariea. A band who take their name from the Jorge Amado novel of the same name but who are aptly titled in more ways than one. Both the book and the band prominently feature gangs of children, in the case of the band put together by the proudly lusophone indie label Amor Furia, and the overriding thought as the band take to the stage, near midnight on a Wednesday, is, "do these guys not have school in the morning?". Much the same is thought about the crowd at this point and this reviewer definitely started to feel his age.

The second reasons the band are so well named comes the instant they start to play. Following in the footsteps of the latest movements in surf rock that seems to infuse much of what's going on in indie at the moment it is the Portuguese equivalent of naming your band Surfer Blood/Beach House/Beach Fossils or whatever the beach related band of the moment is named. And completing this impression is the band themselves wearing the pastel jeans, plaited belts and naval accoutrements that have given followers of Vampire Weekend a waredrobe for the past couple of years.

When the music starts the sound unmistakably conjures up the new wave of surf rock doing the rounds but with something of a Portuguese twist but also the gaucheness of youth. This was the second Capitães concert I had seen in around a month and already I had noticed the steep learning curve that playing in a band has on young players. The backing band seemed somewhat tighter and the melodies crisper but unfortunately the band are a bit hampered by their own lead singer. It's not just that he's not a very good singer (even taking into consideration the idiosyncrasies of Portuguese as it is sung) but he also seems particularly clumsy on stage. In a style that craves a bit of suaveness he can't really pull it off, instead lurching about somewhat surprisingly (to the crowd and to the rest of the band on occasion). All this is a bit of a shame because by far the strongest element of the group is the interplay between the guitarist, Tiago, and the keyboardist, Fred. If they could somehow combine to also tame the rhythm section from their wilder and heavier moments (and here to be very pick I think the bassist should be playing with his fingers here, but that's just my opinion) then I think there could be something interesting here.

When Feromona slouch onto the stage they couldn't be more in contrast to the previous band. Seemingly wearing the clothes they woke up in (at least for the 3/4 of the band who were fully dressed) there is really a sense of the confidence that comes with age, ability, and playing your millionth gig of the year. Feromona's classic grunge meets Portuguese rock is at once more direct and definitely tighter and better formed that the Capitães' sound. Their hooks are snappier even if the songs at the beginning of the set quickly start to sound a little samey. The 'Rock out, grungy intro, moving into the more crooney Portuguese verse followed by a rocky chorus' formula is definitely present in more than a few of their songs but that's not to say the band sound really very repetitive. A possible reason for this is the snappiness of the songs, a few of which seem to be over before they've really got going which actually gives the effect of making you want to hear more.

The second half of the set was enlivened by a quick strip show by the band, including the reluctant keyboardist, but was rather more varied than the first in terms of style and this seemed to get the crowd a little more lively. The band were fading noticeably towards the very end and returned rather reluctantly for the briefest of encores, not surprising in the increasing heat and gloom of the Musicbox.

Intentionally or not Feromona are a band who leave their audience wanting more.

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