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Festival do Norte: a protected space for good music

From Trajano! to Dorian via Standstill, Los Punsetes, Glass Animals, Neil Halstead or Hercules & Love Affair. Galician bands as well as national and international ones performed between the 3rd and the 5th of July in a natural environment where landscape and community mixed without prejudice…

Illa de Arousa (Pontevedra) José Antonio Vega

Changes need a bit of time to become established and the latest edition of the Festival do Norte has proved this. Having been held in Vilagarcía de Arousa for a decade, it was now moved to the neighbouring Illa de Arousa, initiating a new phase whose birth was marked by a violent thunderstorm that spoiled the performances. It seemed that 2015 was like a test to find out whether the change was a success. And the final result shows that it passed – with a remarkable number of visitors who exhausted the capacity on the second day.

Those who came to the island found themselves facing a tight schedule of concerts from morning to dawn, distributed on three spaces: the centre stage at the edge of the Caribbean beach of Bao, the municipal hall, and six bars spread over the town centre. This last novelty came to be the big surprise and gave memorable moments in the middle of the morning with bars and restaurants customised to be improvised concert halls. Saturday took off with the show of Chicharrón, a Galician band founded in 2013, and continued with a magical set of the inexhaustible and personal poet Fernando Alfaro, who, accompanied by his acoustic guitar, gave a performance of the sonorous stories of Saint Malo, his latest disc. It was 45 moving minutes with songs like La Edad Media or Tempus fugit. Without any transition, Trajano!offered a set that was bathed in sweat and full of oppressive heat (literally, for them and for the crammed audience) in which they proved their passion for Unknown Pleasure by Joy Division. Sunday’s matinee started with Alex Casanova, a young Galician talent who, without prejudice, offered a repertoire that went from the hedonism of the eighties to the synthetic new-wave trash pop. A funny set that was observed just as attentively by GenisSegarra as it was by the grandparents at the bar. The Galician electro then made room for the elegant and sparkly pop of Cooper. Since Los Flechazos, Alex Díez has always been a guarantee for good live shows and the audience that filled the room at two in the afternoon confirmed that once again. The centre of the repertoire were the songs of UHF, the mini LP on which the songs Entre Girasoles and Hipsters stand out. He said “all the songs are songs about love and summer”. The end of the festival in the bars came led by the hand of Hidrogenesse, who had just returned from their tour of Latin America and who seldom show up in the West of the peninsula. The organisers reserved them a seventies club with mirrors – the perfect furnishings for the masters of electronic art-rock. GenisSegarra and Carlos Ballesterosmade people dance without a break to the rhythm of Roma, their latest production, and various songs of the compilation Most, which was edited in Argentina. Like dumb and dumber, they silenced the last international rumour, put on a tiger costume and asked people to come to Italy with them. For all of this, they achieved unanimous applause.

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The hall was reserved for the afternoons and through it passed Polock, Cazador, White Bats and Neil Halstead. The musician who spent the 90s with Slowdive and Mojave 3 is a declared enemy of imitating revivals and thus performed a set that was focussed on his three solo discs. He was very much into ardent sonorous palindromes like Digging Shelters or Full Moon Rising, which enabled an immediate chemistry with the dedicated audience that kept filling the room. Without doubt, one of the moments of the festival.

Eleven bands and two DJs played on the Son Estrella de Galicia Stage. The blue flag on the Bao beach welcomed people on the site, which was meticulously cared for by the organisers. A solicitousness that made them receive the prize of the Colegio de Arquitectos de Madrid for the best transient architecture a few months ago. The beginning of the late afternoon had a Spanish accent on Friday. La Bien Querida changed their acoustic performance from last year for a more electronic set – without completely convincing about the change. That’s something that also happened with the live shows of Los Punsetes, whose songs are still routinely laden with the ballast of the hieratic attitude and pose of AriadnaPaniagua. Broncho paid Spain his first visit in Arousa and played a pointed rock with winks to North American postpunk of the 80s like The Cars. Glass Animals defended their fusion of electronic music with guitar indie with a strange result, especially as the attitude and movements of the singer were more reminiscent of those of those mainstream bands for whom school girls slaver. The performance of Standstill didn’t sound like goodbye but it was one, as it was announced to be their last concert in Galicia before the break they will take for an indefinite period. That’s probably why the show was followed with a maximum of expectation. Javiera Mena, the queen of Chilean pop, was the one who was given the task of closing the night with her most electronic offer, accompanied by four female dancers with whom she interacted several times. Rhythm of the night.

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The sun decided to take part on Saturday afternoon and it even stayed until the beginning of Grupo de Expertos Sol y Nieve. With Jota and Manu Ferró at the front, the band performed an anxiously awaited set in which they mixed their hedonistic point of view and the political duty – having in mind what was at stake in Greece the next day – with class. The guitar sound of Perro and the short and failed performance of Other Lies made room for the concert of Dorian. The band came on stage telling the audience that the first festival at which they performed was the Festival doNorte. Because of this, they dedicated their performance to ToñoCanedo, the head of the festival, who included them in the programme at a time when they had only just recorded their first trial version. Dorian and the festival have led parallel lives because both have been able to make fast progress to the musical first division and they already associate with the big ones.

The grand finale of the festival came with the well-guarded surprise of Hercules & Love Affair, who proved that they are more than just a one-hit wonder. Liberated of the rock that having Antony &The Johnsons sing Blind on their first disc had imposed on them, the band from New York plunged into the deep waters of the disco music of the 70s for more than an hour. Waters as pure and transparent as the ones of the Illa de Arousa which softly rocks the Festival do Norte. It’s already closer to when the tides of 2016 return accompanied by good music.

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