Monday, October 18th 2010
Shows: SWU Music & Arts Festival
Brazil is a country that’s had its fair share of big music festivals over the years. After the Rock In Rio festival in 1985, there have been several attempts at making large events in the veins of Glastonbury and Lollapalooza. In recent years, however, none has come quite as close to that epic scale as the SWU Music & Arts Festival, which happened last week in Itu, São Paulo.
SWU (which stands for “Starts With You”) attempted to portray itself as an environmental event, raising awareness to all the sustainability issues everyone is blatantly aware of by now. Their practices in doing so were rather questionable, but what really matters is, of course, the music. The festival spanned across three days. The Mars Volta & Rage Against The Machine were the standout acts of the opening day, while Kings Of Leon & Dave Matthews Band held day two together. Here’s a full summary of the closing date, the most jam-packed of the three:
The first show on the main stage was by a man who is no stranger to Antiquiet: Mr. Alain Johannes put on a wonderful performance to a crowd that was a bit clueless at first, but was easily won throughout the gig. Unfortunately, due to poor scheduling by the festival organizers, he started a bit late, and had two songs from his set cut off. Nevertheless, he had enough time to win the crowd over.
After three unremarkable acts (Gloria, Crashdiet, and Rahzel), the end of the afternoon brought Yo La Tengo. Their great brand of experimental indie music fell mostly on deaf ears, as emo kids had scoured the front rows to secure a spot for gigs that would come later on. As if that weren’t enough, their last (and best) song, the ten minutes-long jam Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind, was constantly interrupted by people chanting for Avenged Sevenfold.
Cavalera Conspiracy, the band started by brothers Max & Igor Cavalera of Sepultura, finally played their first show in their native country. The set was arguably the heaviest of the night, and very well received by the crowd, who were showered with Sepultura classics. They relied on more than sheer aggression to get the point across, as Igor’s groove on the drums proved what was so unique about his previous band in the first place.
Avenged Sevenfold’s set, however, was pretty much the opposite. Where the Cavalera brothers took metal staples and made them their own, A7X (ridiculous abbreviation notwithstanding) seemed very comfortable reproducing tacky cliches. They’re not bad per se, but they’re also not even close to being slightly relevant. However, credit has to be given where it’s deserved: Mike Portnoy, former Dream Theater drummer, does beat the hell out of that giant drumkit.
With about half of the eyeliner-wearing crowd finally gone, it was time for Incubus. Though I’ve never been a big fan of them, the show was pretty damn good. They relied more heavily on their less-poppy songs, and frontman Brandon Boyd put on a very energetic performance, much to the joy of his hysterical female fans, and much to the dismay of anyone close enough to listen to those fans yelling.
For a lot of people, the main attraction of the night was coming up next: Queens Of The Stone Age, for their first time in the country since 2001. There was a very noticeable hiss on the speakers, and the techs spent almost a full hour trying to fix it. They did not succeed. When QOTSA finally came onstage, the breathless anticipation was almost too much to bear, but the band delivered on all fronts. Yes, the sound had some serious issues, but the wall of sound propelled by the band onto the audience was so unstoppable that no one really gave a damn. The setlist wasn’t anything spectacular, and Misfit Love had to be cut due to the delay, but, again, when a band is this powerful live, and when people are so excited to see it, these problems can easily be overlooked.
After the Queens’ hard-hitting performance, many wondered whether or not the Pixies would be able to surpass it. At the very least, they managed to equal it. Frank Black & co. were extremely enthusiastic throughout their entire set, which didn’t consist of Doolittle in its entirety, but instead made a fantastic selection of fan-favorites from all their albums. They weren’t taking requests, but every single song asked by the crowd was played at some point. The atmosphere at the gig was unmatchable, with a mutual respect amongst the people present, and gleeful chants all the way through. Combine all these factors, and you have what was most likely the highlight of the night.
It also didn’t hurt the Pixies’ gig that every single Linkin Park fan in the audience was lined up at the stage that band was supposed to come on afterwards. Unfortunately for just about everyone present, Linkin Park shit the bed almost as hard as they did on their newest album. The show started out with a few heavy tracks that were actually pretty palatable, but soon enough it diluted into a sub-Prodigy, pseudo-electro-rock mush. As if the band’s attempts at ripping off Nine Inch Nails haven’t been made obvious already, their lights+screen show were also trying to imitate that NIN’s live act. To avoid looking like a skeptical bastard, I asked around, and apparently both Linkin Park fans and haters had pretty much the same consensus: NIN rip-off.
Linkin Park closing the night didn’t seem like enough of a turnoff to the festival organizers, so they decided to book Tiësto as the very last act of the entire event. By then, pretty much everyone left – including me. While it’s certainly a disappointment to have the last two shows of a great festival finish the thing on a low note, nothing can hurt the fact that everything was so beautiful until the Pixies’ very last note.
Pictures courtesy of Fabricio Vianna.