Why I fell in love with Milhões de Festa

Photos and text Luísa Cativo

As the title implies, this is not exactly a festival review. It’s more of an attempt at dissecting what was it about this festival in particular that got me in a near state of hypnosis during the whole experience, allowing me to ignore imminent muscle failure and overall exhaustion.

The festival is called Milhões de Festa (Millions of Party). It lasts for three musically intense days from 1pm to 6am, towards the end of July in a town called Barcelos in the north of Portugal.
The festivalgoers who don’t have friends in Barcelos that can give them shelter, can camp at the city park. When I visited the camping area I found it sort of charming: the sun was setting and all the tents were grouped in neat, colourful circles over the lawn areas around the swings, slides, monkey-bars and whatever else you can find at a park. Things seemed peaceful and pretty quiet (considering it’s a festival and all) as people were taking showers, eating dinner or getting ready to leave for the concerts.

Music Diary : Milhões de Festa (2011) from Vasco Mendes on Vimeo.

The festival is organized by the label and promoter Lovers & Lollypops, from Porto. There is a myth surrounding the festival; that it was initially conceived to find a kid they met once at Vilar de Mouros (the oldest summer music festival in Portugal) who they nicknamed Milhões. It hasn’t been very effective in that aspect, but it has brought joy to the hearts of many – I suppose the same can’t be said for other internal organs though.

The boys from Lovers & Lollypops have a special talent when it comes to putting together events that feel like you’re in your friends’ backyard grooving to the sound of the bands they’ve been digging lately; even in an open space such as the festival grounds everything feels so familiar and almost everyone seems close and comfortable with each other. I think it was the first time I approached so many people with my camera asking permission to take their picture and was only turned down once during the whole festival. To me, that speaks volumes about the general mindset of the crowd in Milhões.

The area of the festival wasn’t limited to the River Park of Barcelos, it also included the wonderful city pool, with its ever squirting mushroom fountain (that coincidentally isn’t squirting in the picture, oops) and a much less striking crying clown.
The pool is usually the stage to many memorable performances and innovative ways of enjoying both the music and the pool at the same time; such as a pool moshpit, or pool crowdsurfing and so on, soaked in caipirinhas and mojitos. To those of you who are thinking about napping at the pool before moving on to the main stages, sorry to burst your bubble but that’s nearly impossible. Seriously, I tried – the basses and guitars from Black Bombaim and Mr. Miyagi were making my head vibrate as I was lying down on my towel and the beats were far too distracting for my brain to shut down. You might get luckier than me if you’re a heavy sleeper or suffer from narcolepsy.

LSD Mossel were also keen on entertaining the people chilling in the pool; with their psychedelic looks, the Sponge Bob guitar and miniature sized drum kit. From what I’ve heard, they also made a visit to the camping area in the early hours of the morning, waking up the helpless campers with ear-bursting riffs. It must have been delightful.

Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to experience all the different venues at the festival; I didn’t have the time or brain power to figure out where the Lovers & Lollypops Stage was, I missed some sweet concerts like Botswana and Dirty Beaches because of this, so I can’t really write anything about it.

While things are still hot in the pool, the festival ground starts gearing up for the upcoming shows. People gradually start entering the precinct, exploring the premises and stocking up on beer tickets or chillin’ on the lawn.

It’s mostly after dinner that people start coming in bigger groups, gathering around either the Milhões stage or the Vice stage, and migrating back and forth the entire night. The party always ends at the VICE stage, usually with electronic influenced bands and DJs like Discotexas from Lisbon, Matanza from Santiago de Chile and Secousse from Paris who kept the troops entertained until 6am every night.

I’m not going to talk about each show specifically, but each day was a mixture of grooving, partying hard and nostalgia – with a bunch of bands reuniting especially for the festival like Riding Panico or Lobster (who apparently are back together and thinking about a new album, thanks to Milhões de Festa), or saying goodbye to the stages forever like Green Machine.

The environment is so relaxed the bands feel at ease to leave the backstage and mingle with the rest of the public without being annoyed. Good examples of this are the nice boys from Man Like Me, who must have met about a third of the people who attended the festival in two days and were even asking for an after-party.

Not everything was perfect, the only places where you could eat something in the main festival grounds was at this hot dog stand, another stand that only sold churros and stuff alike, and the candy stand. I hope we see more options next year.

I’m Focusing now about the promising Portuguese bands that played at the festival. Mind you, I’m not much of a music critic – just a music lover and enthusiast, like every other human being with a sentient heart.

First off, in no particular order, Black Bombaim. Heading from Barcelos (same town as the festival), they sound hazy and heavy and make you feel entransed as if you’ve been smoking the opium-laced hash they’re named after.

Then we have The Glockenwise, four kids also from Barcelos (I swear I’m not biased!) who play energetic, “shitless” (loosely translated from the Portuguese expression “sem merdas”) rock’n’roll. A big complement to their sound is their chill attitude and humorous presence onstage.

This time, from Braga, we have the boys from Long Way to Alaska – nominated by one of the guys from Lovers & Lollypops as the sweetest, fluffiest band backstage (especially when alcohol is involved). Their album Eastriver would be a perfect soundtrack for a long roadtrip to, let’s say maybe… Alaska? Or just driving into the sunset in a sunny summer afternoon, or pretty much any soothing scenery you can come up with in your head.

Throes+The Shine are something special, half the band comes from Porto and the other half comes from Luanda in Angola.
Their sound is a mixture of both cultures and backgrounds; rock’n’roll and kuduro. The result is a very high-spirited, fast-paced and exotic sound that makes it impossible for you not to move. Their album will be released soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

We Trust is the name of André Tentugal’s musical endeavours. His songs sound sunny and fresh and they also might remind you of Air or even The Beatles at times. The live show keeps you softly swinging from side to side from beginning to end.

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