Grupo Republika at Águas Boas


It’s been a couple of years since I have been to a local festival, and I had forgotten how energetic and spectacular they are. Last weekend, in Águas Boas, it was the Festival da Santa Margarida, held over the weekend of the third Sunday in July. Like all local festivals in Portugal, the weekend is an opportunity for church services, dancing, parades, fireworks, and of course the shows from the bands that tour the Portuguese countryside during the summer and autumn months.


This year it was the turn of Grupo Republika to entertain the crowd on the Sunday evening. The bands travel around the country with their own stage, lighting and sound system in the back of an articulated lorry, and the stage for Republika was huge! The bands play a mixture of popular covers and traditional Portuguese ‘pop’ music known as Pimba: energetic songs with a bouncing simple structure, played with accordion, keyboards, guitar and drums, and accompanied by singers and dancers in a variety of flamboyant costumes.


Republika were excellent, fronted by four singers – two male and two female – and backed up by two female dancers. The crowd was a little slow to respond, but as the numbers swelled people began to dance along with the tunes that the band belted out without stopping. As usual most of the music was beyond me, but I was swept up with the uptempo beat and recognised several of the covers of popular Portuguese songs that the band played.


At around 23:30 the band paused while the organisers of the festival held a small celebration and firework display for Santa Margarida and then the music resumed and the band played into the small hours. I had to leave around 00:15 but it was reluctantly and I look forward to see Republika again.



Vagos MetalFest 2016

It’s August in Vagos so it must be time for heavy metal. I was fortunate enough to be covering the first Vagos MetalFest, a new name for a new promoter, for Metal Rules magazine but once again a great weekend of metal was had by all.

You can find the reports from Metal Rules here (Day One) and here (Day Two), and the gallery below was released with kind permission of Joshua at Metal rules.

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Vagos Open Air 2015

My report and photos from the first day of Vagos Open Air 2015 were posted on the Metal Rules website:


(Gallery released with the permission of Metal Rules magazine).

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Blues on the beach

Last weekend we did something quite unusual, we went out to see a band just for the fun of it – no work just relaxing to the music with a cold beer and a glass of sangria (not at the same time).

The event was the anniversary of the opening of the Casablanca Bar in Vagueira, a little town on the Portuguese coast just south of Barra, where we do most of our surfing photography. It’s also one beach up from Labrego, another great surfing beach. Vagueira now is a fantastic little town, the former stony path along the beachfront has been replaced with a new (concrete) pavement and the walkway along the back of each beach means you can walk from Barra all the way to … I’m not sure where, but it’s along way.

For the anniversary the Casablanca has put on a Blues evening, with a local band from Aveiro, the Moonshiners. The band were placed on a little stage overlooking the beach, and they were great. Later the band relocated to the rear of the bar for a second set.


There’s nothing better than dancing away to the blues as the sun sets.

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Vagos Open Air 2014 – Day Three

Being the first band to perform on the last day of a festival is a tough place for anyone to find themselves, and the audience for Opus Diabolicum was a little sparse to begin with. Sound problems during their first song didn’t help, but these minor faults were quickly and professionally rectified and  Opus Diabolicum got the final day of Vagos Open Air off to a classical start. Literally. Founded almost as a joke by a group of music students, Opus Diabolicum are the trio Valter Freitas, Diogo Penha and André Pontiff. With their electric cellos, they played acoustic covers of the Portuguese heavy metal band, Moonspell, such as Nocturna, Alma Mater, and Full Moon Madness. While modern interpretations of classical music aren’t new, Opus Diabolicum’s classical reinterpretations of heavy metal were like a breath of fresh air; vibrant, aggressive, powerful and guaranteed to get heads bobbing and fingers tapping. At first, the crowd seemed bemused by the three musicians sitting on the stage, as if they were surprised to see classical musicians instead of heavy metal behemoths, but Opus Diabolicum soon dominated the session to leave a packed crowd with their hands in the air singing along to the music and chanting for more. Certainly one of the most interesting concerts of the festival.

Set List: Opus Diabolicum, Opium, Nocturna, Vampiria, Everything Invaded, Scorpion Flower, Tenerarum Oratorium (Andamento I), Alma Mater, Full Moon Madness.

Opus Diabolicum

Murk is a Portuguese band from the Algarve that has only been around for a couple of years but is made up of a number of experienced musicians: Bruno Viegas on drums, Bruno “Bazuka” on bass, Diogo Brito on lead guitar, Vitor Campina on keyboards and Nuno Faria on vocals and rhythm guitar. With a bilingual Portuguese/English approach to their songs (it was surprising just how many bands sang in English), Murk brought their unique style of death metal to Vagos Open Air with a range of songs from their debut album, Tyrants of Decay.

Before, during and after their set, Murk were supported by a vocal group of supporters in their ‘Tyrants of Decay’ T-shirts. During the autograph session Murk, like most of the bands at the festival, were great with their fans, chatting, having photographs taken with them and signing whatever the fans liked: papers, photos, albums and even once, a pair of boobs. As a sign that you’ve made it as a band, being asked to sign a fans breasts is surely it.


For me the most anticipated band of the afternoon were the Lisbon-based band The Quartet of Woah!This four-piece, after all what else would a quartet be, of Gonçalo Katowicz on guitar and vocals, Rui Guerra on keyboard and vocals, André Gonçalves on bass and Miguel Costa on drums, have a style that harks back to the classic era of psychedelic and progressive rock of the 70s, which of course is right up my street. Despite being troubled by sound issues in their first song, the Quartet pounded out their own brand of psychedelic/stoner songs such as U-Turn, Announcer, and Empty Stream from their debut album, Ultrabomb, and their new single Backwardsfirstliners.

Set list: The Announcer, Empty Stream, Balance, The Taste of Hate, Backwardsfirstliners, Slingshot Sam, U-Turn


If the Quartet of Woah! gave us classic psychedelic/stoner rock then the Spanish sextet Vita Imanagave us something else entirely. This little-known band came on the stage and gave an adrenaline pumping performance of what they call groove metal; rhythmic base, drums and percussion counterpoised with aggressive guitar riffs and a vocal display from front man Javier Cardoso that left the crowd breathless. Cardoso’s manic performance, leaping around the stage and glaring at the crowd with his piercing blue eyes, in turn encouraged the crowd into a frenzy of jumping and crowd surfing. By the end of the set I wasn’t sure who was more exhausted: Javier and the rest of the band from their performance, or the crowd from watching them.

Vita Imana

The second English band of the festival, the gothic metal band, Paradise Lost, was founded way back in 1988, a fact that lead vocalist Nick Holmes never let us forget as he led us cheerfully through a catalogue of their songs, from 1991’s Gothic to 2012’s Tragic Idol. Probably the highlight of the performance was ‘a song from our album Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, called “Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us”’, which gives an idea of the humour that Nick Holmes and Paradise Lost brought to the afternoon. Following a rousing session, at the end of the set the crowd wasn’t satisfied and they were left chanting for more. So the band came back with a powerful three-song encore.

Set list: The Enemy, So Much Is Lost, Remembrance, Gothic, Enchantment, Erased, As I Die, Faith Divides Us – Death Unites Us, Tragic Idol, One Second, True Belief. Encore: Isolate, Pity the Sadness, Say Just Words.

Paradise Lost

One of the things that Paradise Lost apologised for, being from England, was bringing the rain with them, as just before their autograph session there was a brief spattering over the festival. Thankfully the rain stayed away… until Paradise Lost had packed their gear away and just before the last session of the evening, and of the festival. As Gojira, the French heavy metal band, prepared to go on stage a steady downpour of rain started. Stopping briefly as they came on stage, the skies opened again during their second song, and the last session was more like Glastonbury than Vagos. But the rain certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the audience, who head banged and crowd-surfed (and for the second year in a row I was hit on the head by an over-zealous crowd surfer, who apologised profusely before going back for more) their way through an impressive set. Despite the close connection of the Duplantier brothers, Joe on lead vocals and guitar, and Mario on drums, to Portugal – their grandparents were from the Açores – this is the first time that Gojira have been to Portugal. For this the crowd made them especially welcome, and in return Gojira treated us to ninety minutes of perfect death, thrash and progressive metal that even the rain couldn’t dampen.

Set list: Explosia, The Axe, Backbone, The Heaviest Matter of the Universe, Wisdom Comes, Love, Flying Whales, Toxic Garbage Island, Oroborus, L’Enfant Sauvage, Vacuity. Encore: Drum Solo, Where Dragons Dwell.


And so Vagos Open Air came to an end for another year. Whether a fan of black metal, death metal, thrash metal or even classic heavy metal, there was something for everyone this year, and despite a few sound issues the crowd seemed to have a fabulous time. Thanks as always to the organisers, Prime Artists, to the technicians and lighting guys, for all your hard work and making a festival look so simple, and to the security and fire department, who were on hand to quell any difficulties and keep order, although I didn’t see any need for them, and of course to the bands for coming to Quinta do Ega and giving everyone a fabulous time. See you next year.

See my review of Day One of Vagos Open Air 2014 here

See my review of Day Two of Vagos Open Air 2014 here

Vagos Open Air 2014 – Day Two

The first band of the day, Requiem Laus, formed in Madeira in 1992 but didn’t release their first album until 2005. During that time they have garnered a reputation as a solid death/black metal band, so it was a shame to see such a small audience at the start of their performance. However, as everyone knows, the first act of the day after the night before is always greeted with a certain lack of enthusiasm, as everyone is tired from a late night. Despite this, Requiem Laus put up a spirited performance, and by the end of the set had gathered a decent and enthusiastic crowd who certainly seemed to enjoy the music.

Requiem Laus

The second band of the day was the Spanish thrash metal band Angelus Apatrida. This year, the Spanish bands, Angelus Apatrida and Vita Imana on the last day, were one of the great surprises of the festival, and Angelus Apatrida certainly set the standard for the rest of the day, getting everybody dancing and surfing to hits such as You are Next, from their last album The Call, or Blast Off, from the 2010 album, Clockwork. Just to show the dedication of the musicians, the lead guitarist, David G. Álvarez, had broken his leg so was confined to a stool for the duration of the set. But this didn’t stop him and by the end of the performance he was on his feet as best as he could, giving the songs his utmost. So thanks, David, for your sacrifice. It was worth it.

Set list: Violent Dawn, Of Men and Tyrants, Vomitive, Give’Em War, You Are Next, Blast Off, Legally Brainwashed.

Angelus Apatrida

The Swedish metal band, The Haunted, was perhaps one of the most anticipated bands of the day. Originally formed in Gothenberg, Sweden, the band is fronted by the manic Marco Aro, who is actually from Finland. True to form, The Haunted dominated the first half of the second day, with a collection of powerful songs, including a treat for the crowd of a couple of tracks from their new album Exit Wounds. At one point I noticed that Marco Aro’s forehead was bleeding, and I wondered how that had happened. During a pause between one of the songs I found out as he repeatedly pounded the microphone against his forehead. Seemingly unperturbed, and at one point jumping off the stage to sing right into the faces of the crowd, Marco and The Haunted brought a hint of madness to Vagos Open Air.

The Haunted

For some, the most anticipated band of the day was the Polish black/death metal band, Behemoth. For a band that has been around since 1991 and has battled illness, expulsion from Russia and accusations of Satanism in their native Poland, they were certainly the most theatrical. The paintings, the robes, the backdrop, and the torches of fire, in conjunction with a display of intense black metal music, contributed to one of the best shows of the festival. Kicking off with with Blow Your Trumpets, followed by a rousing performance of Gabriel Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, the band dazzled the crowd with songs from their last album, The Satanist. The band continued at full throttle for the whole set, ending with a powerful rendition of O Father O Satan O Sun.

Set list: Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, Conquer All, As Above So Below, Slaves Shall Serve, Christians to the Lions, The Satanist, Ov Fire and the Void, Alas, Lord Is Upon Me, At the Left Hand ov God, Chant for Eschaton 2000, O Father O Satan O Sun!


See review of Day One of Vagos Open Air 2014 here

See review of Day Three of Vagos Open Air 2014 here

Vagos Open Air 2014 – Day One

While fans of Dance, Electro, and Hip-Hop were heading down south for the MEO Sudoeste Festival, metalheads from Portugal and beyond were heading north, to Quinta do Ega in Vagos. Since the festival officially became known as Vagos Open Air in 2009, a trip to the Quinta do Ega has become an annual pilgrimage for metal fans. This year, for the first time, Vagos Open Air became a three day festival, from Friday 08 August to Sunday 10 August, when this little park became a Meco* for metaldom as Vagos Open Air welcomed a host of Portuguese and European metal bands.

The great thing about Vagos Open Air is the sheer friendliness of the crowd and of the bands. Everyone is there for the music and for the fun, no matter how much beer gets consumed. Although sometimes it seems like the opening scenes of The Terminator are being reenacted, except with plastic beer glasses underfoot instead of human skulls, there was never any trouble that I saw, and the four (yes, four) policemen on duty over the weekend had little or nothing to do. There were all kinds of people at Vagos, from old crusties like me to kids no more than six or seven on their parents’ shoulders and waving their arms in the air. Offstage the bands were also great, whether sitting patiently during autograph sessions, having their photo taken with anyone that wanted it, or amiably wandering among the crowd chatting with fans.

It’s always difficult to be the first band to perform, especially when half of the crowd is still queuing up to get their wristbands, but the festival opened with a rip-roaring set from Gates of Hell, a Portuguese band from Porto that were really well received, stirring the crowd into a frenzy of circle pits and walls of death. Fresh and exciting, Gates of Hell played songs from their last album, Critical Obsession, with verve and enthusiasm. The lead singer, Raça, made a commanding figure, strutting around the stage like he owned it and firing up the crowd until by the end of a set that was really too short, Gates of Hell were greeted with cheers and a sea of hands raised in the air.

Set list: Phenomenal Syndrome, Into My Destruction, Constructive Misery, Face Your Fears, Embracing The Reality, Critical Obsession.

Gates of Hell

After the energy of Gates of Hell, the next band to hit the stage was the Portuguese band Kandia. Fronted by the smouldering Nya Cruz, and with a new album and a new line-up, Kandia gave a reserved performance compared to Gates of Hell, but with a completely different style, influenced by bands as diverse as from Pink Floyd to Opeth, or A Perfect Circle, Tool and Metallica. Despite being full of energy, and playing a number of songs from their last album, All is Gone, Kandia never seemed to fully capture the spirit of the crowd, although the performance of their single Scars raised a few more arms. Partly I think this was because of the delay in setting up the stage from one band to another, so the crowd wanders off to do their own thing until the next band turns up, all unannounced. This was a shame, because the performance of the band was good and the new line-up left no room for doubt as Kandia being filled with quality musicians.

Set list: Caution, New Breed, Done With You, Our Final Day, Scars, Deviant, Blow, Karma.


The first international band of the day was Sylosis, from England, in fact both of the English bands to perform at Vagos Open Air this year, Sylosis and Paradise Lost on the last day, acquitted themselves admirably. This thrash metal band from Reading gave a performance of the highest quality, buoying up the audience with a mixture of songs from each of their three albums. Mixed with a self-deprecating commentary from founder and lead singer Josh Middleton, Sylosis gave a performance that was filled with speed and aggression. The concert marked the last performance with the band of drummer Rob Callard, who according to Josh was abandoning the band to follow a solo career covering the songs of Mariah Carey. Bursts of humour like this really enamoured the audience to Sylosis, and for their first visit to Portugal, and of course to Vagos Open Air, they were made to feel really welcome. Before they left, to give Rob what was surely a rousing send-off, there was still time to excite the audience withAltered States of Consciousness and Empyreal, from their Edge of the Earth album.

Set list: Fear the World, The Blackest Skyline, Conclusion of an Age, All Is Not Well, Teras, Altered States of Consciousness, Empyreal, Part 1.


Following the energy of Sylosis, the festival was treated to the Swedish melodic death metal band,Soilwork. This band hadn’t been to Portugal for about 10 years, according to the lead singer Björn Strid, and for that they were made really welcome by the crowd, who always appreciate the bands that come to Vagos. With their own peculiar brand of melodic death metal, Soilwork soothed the audience with a range of songs from albums old and new. One of the highlights of the concert was the Spectrum of Eternity, from the album The Living Infinite, and the energy of the live band, and especially of Björn Strid was infectious.

Set list: This Momentary Bliss, Like the Average Stalker, Overload, Nerve, Spectrum of Eternity, Parasite Blues, Bastard Chain, Let This River Flow, Tongue, Follow the Hollow, Stabbing the Drama.


See review of Day Two of Vagos Open Air 2014 here
See review of Day Three of Vagos Open Air 2014 here

*I know what you’re thinking, this is just a self-indulgent reference to the best beach in Portugal.

Vagos Open Air 2013 – Iced Earth

The first band of the evening was the American power metal band, Iced Earth. This was their first visit to Portugal for a long time, and they seemed to be enjoying their visit to Vagos Open Air immensely. With a hugely enjoyable set, Iced Earth performed two encores and left the crowd wanting even more.


Setlist: Dystopia, Dark Saga, Pure Evil, Burning Times, I Died for You, V, A Question of Heaven, Anthem. Encore: In Sacred Flames, Boiling Point, Watching Over Me, Iced Earth. Encore 2: The Hunter.

Vagos Open Air 2013 – Rotting Christ

The rather unusually named Rotting Christ, an extreme black metal band from Greece, took to the stage at Vagos. Fronted by Sakis Tolis, on guitar and vocals, Rotting Christ were magnificent, delivering a frenetic set which the crowd enjoyed immensely, setting up the festival for the evening performances.


Setlist: The Forest of N’Gai, Athanati Este, Kata ton Demona Eautou, King of a Stellar War, The Sign of Evil Existence, Transform All Suffering Into Plagues, Societas Satanas (Thou Art Lord cover), In Yumen-Xibalba, Chaos Geneto (The Sign of Prime Creation), Non Serviam, Noctis Era.

Vagos Open Air 2013 – Gamma Ray

The last band we saw at Vagos Open Air was the German Power Metal band, Gamma Ray. The band was actually here as a replacement for the British band, Saxon, one of whose members had an accident, but Gamma Ray delivered a fabulous performance which delighted the audience.


Setlist: (Welcome): Anywhere in the Galaxy, Men, Martians and Machines, The Spirit, New World Order. (Introduction): Dethrone Tyranny, Master of Confusion, Empire of the Undead, Empathy, Rise, Rebellion in Dreamland, (Guitar Solo ), Future World (Helloween cover), I Want Out, (Helloween cover), To the Metal, Send Me a Sign .