At the start of August, rustic Alentejo welcomed around 175,000 people to Herdade da Casa Branca: the home of TMN Sudoeste festival. ZOOT swapped the wellingtons and mud of Glastonbury with sandals and shades for arguably Portugal’s biggest music festival…
Text by Chris Clyde Green
TMN Sudoeste is undoubtedly (and typically) another of Portugal’s best kept secrets. Tucked away on the ‘surfer’s paradise’ of Zambujeira da Mar it boasts musical talent from across the globe, yet unsually the majority of the revelers are Portuguese, Spanish and “Bifes” (sunburnt Brits) on their way to the Algarve. But this year the lineup brought along a cocktail of partygoers with its unique selection of artists: from Snoop Dogg to The National. With every festival of this magnitude, there is only so much one person can witness so here’s a brief rundown of what was hot at this year’s TMN Sudoeste festival.
The 15th edition placed an emphasis on hip-hop and RnB, particularly on the main stage. On the first ‘proper’ day Janelle Monae stormed the stage with an electrifying performance. The diminutive 25-year old songstress powerfully explored a range of musical genres and pleased the crowd with fan favourites such as “Cold War” and “Tightrope” but no one expected her brilliant rendition of MJ’s “I want you back”. Janelle has been to Portugal before but this time Portugal visited planet Monae: a world full of monochrome, a massive entourage and swirling guitar solos.
US Soul-singer Raphael Saddiq masterfully crooned and rocked his way through his arsenal of tunes. He admitted backstage that he “hated [the] bridge of his guitar”, but if that’s the way he hates an instrument I’d like to hear him play when he loves one. Considering he’d been “touring since March” his performance was a tireless education for newcomers of Motown-soul and he was a definite crowd-pleaser. His relaxed yet assured presence was the perfect calm before the storm that was Snoop Dogg’s set. “The Dogg” swaggered onstage to Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ (the only way he could) to the roaring cheers of his Portuguese faithful. Snoop Crip-walked across the stage rolling out hits (and nothing else) such as his new song “Wet”, “PIMP”, “Drop it Like it’s Hot” and some classics too all dedicated to the “ladies of Portugal”, of course. It was his first time in Portugal and he is keen to return. Perhaps the weed-fumed air and tanned ladies were the cause? He was a perfect replacement for the late, soulful Amy Winehouse.
Festivals are rife with rumours and TMN Sudoeste was no exception. An exclusive source told ZOOT that the reason Kanye West’s performance was nearly an hour late was due to him being livid because Snoop Dogg’s crew had tagged his dressing-room the previous evening. Adding more salt-to-the-wound the crowd jeered and booed his lateness and the occasional chant of ‘Snoop Dogg’ could not have helped either!
Nevertheless, the Sudoeste crowd expectantly waited for West’s entrance onstage only to be fooled by him appearing on an elevated platform covered in dry-ice clouds behind the hordes. In typically God-like, melodramatic fashion the ‘Kanye’ finally landed onto a set containing: a Baroque backdrop featuring haunted and pained faces, at least 30 ballerinas and 3 Kraftwerk carbon copies on synths. The lights were blood red or the whitest white throughout West’s set. Perhaps reflecting his public persona: fraught with a huge ego frayed at the edges by a hint of elegance and sensitivity.
His performances of ‘Runaway’ and ‘Hey Mama’ for me were the standouts of his set that received a mixed reaction from a young crowd seeking less artistry, more party. Yemi A.D.’s choreography was beautifully implemented by the mostly Czech dancers that glided around West and Clipse’s Pusha T (who only turned up to rap 16-bars of music!) Apparently Kanye was so wrapped up in his music he didn’t even spot the stage invader that tried to enter his ‘dark, twisted fantasy’.
Festival goers endured the blistering sun in the morning and the sheer bodyheat of Planeta Sudoeste | Palco Santa Casa rocking to Belgians dEUS, the beats of Gui Boratto as well as others. Most of them partied well after the end of the staged events and into the predictably sleepless nights. Undoubtedly the crowd, the beach, the sun and the beer were the main stars of this festival.
Throughout the week long event an incredible amount of diverse music was on offer. This truly was a “music festival”; one of such scale that it seems the organisers did not need to pander to a monomeric pop-mob. Yes, Kanye was there. Yes, David Guetta was there but so were relative newcomers to the Iberian scene such as: Jamie Woon, The Script and elegant Eliza Dolittle.
The likes of Richie Hawtin and Underworld whizzed out electronic music alongside the established rhythms of Souls of Fire and Asian Dub Foundation. The inclusion of Portuguese bands was also a fine addition, particularly Valete’s barbed raps and Deolinda’s sweet melodies. Finally, Interpol graced us with their introspective rock, complimenting the atmosphere that The National has shown Portugal three times this summer already.
Essentially, this was a true celebration of music for music lovers. Where else could you find this mix of quality musicians by the beach, in the sunshine for a fraction of the price of some other ‘big’ European festivals? Only in Portugal… See you next year?
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRAHAM HEYDORN
ASSISTANT PHOTOGRAPHER CHRIS CLYDE GREEN