In partnership with MEO Kalorama
“This is our last show of the summer and what a truly lovely place to be”, says a beaming Damon Albarn midway through Blur’s triumphant headline set on the Thursday night of MEO Kalorama. He’s got a point as well, taking stock of the beautiful views in the valley of Bela Vista Park just north of the city, you’d be hard pressed to think of a better way to see out the season.
The Britpop giants are effortlessly whipping up a storm with a flurry of classics with ‘Coffee & TV’, ‘Country House’ and ‘Parklife’ and a palpable sense of joy emanates from the crowd. But Albarn wants more from the bouncing masses, stabbing, “come on, that’s not good enough!”. The band are capping off a day brimming with even more indie royalty, with the likes of Metronomy and Yeah Yeah Yeahs putting in performances that prove why they’re still among the best to do it, dispatching hits from their iconic catalogues on the mainstages.
A vital and defining factor of MEO Kalorama though, is that it’s not all about the big names, but the festival also proudly shines a light on the rising talent on its own doorstep. Lisbon local Pongo kickstarts the weekend with a high-energy set of pulsating African baselines and frantic dance routines, as she runs along the barrier summoning a wave of dust and applause. “Obrigada,” she says to the adoring front rows who’ve turned out early in the sunshine.
Elsewhere Lisbon-via-Brooklyn dream poppers Hause Plants impress on the mainstage with their buoyant and uplifting melodies that seem ripe for the sunshine. Representing a complete other end of the genre spectrum, Dino D’Santiago proudly flies the flag for the city’s thriving afro-electronic scene in front of huge crowds, met with the response of a bonafide superstar, he jumps into the crowd to perform as reggaeton beats roll down from the stage.
It’s not just local musicians the festival are proudly championing either. The rattle and hiss of spray paint cans is a common sound around the site as Lisbon artists showcase their wares. It’s something festival-goers can immerse themselves in as well, with regular arts workshops and mural painting activities taking place in corners of the park. Perfectly reflecting the city’s vibrant arts scene, a sense of community looms large.
Friday night’s headline set feels all the more poignant for Florence + The Machine, with it being her first return to the stage after undergoing emergency life saving surgery. “I’m alive, it was close but I’m alive,” she says crackling with a breathless sense of giddy emotion, before bursting into an explosive and rousing rendition of ‘You’ve Got The Love’.
At their very core, these are anthems from the heart for the people, songs of love and togetherness, and as she runs into the crowd, Welch doesn’t just hug her adoring fans, she embraces them like long lost family. A festival winner, the world needs Florence + The Machine, but judging by the adoring screams, it will have to fight Lisbon for her first.
Still riding high after a busy summer sealing their status as headliners once and for all, Foals feel like the safest booking in the world to bring the party on Saturday night. “This is our last festival of the year and it’s been fucking amazing,” says Yannis Philippakis before soaking in his view from the stage. “What I want you to do now is grab your lover, grab your best mate, let’s go,” he says as they unleash ‘My Number’, sending thousands of Portuguese fans into delirium.
Followed-up instantly by the rollicking rock and roll anthems of indie veterans The Hives who still pack all the explosive energy of a band much younger than their years, it’s crystal-clear that this really is a festival with something for everyone. If MEO Kalorama’s mission statement is to embrace the diversity and beauty of Lisbon, then it’s most definitely succeeded here.