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Optimus Alive Festival

Wednesday 28 July 2010
Words Spindle

A sudden panic of no holiday or festival booked this summer – shit, get online and sort it out! LCD Soundsystem need to be playing in order to help convince my boyfriend a festival abroad will be well worth it. Oh, and how it was! No one I knew had even heard of  Lisbon’s Optimus Alive festival, but we calculated that it would cost less than half the over all price of Exit. So away we were on a flight to Lisbon with a tent, swimmers and flip flops.

The first thing I notice when I arrive is that is it small. Tiny in fact. With one main stage and  one rather small limp dance tent and one larger solid ‘Super Bock’ tent, plenty of food stalls, tables and chairs (no grass to sit on) and even more ‘Super Bock’ bars across the whole, tiny, festival. Headliners – Faith No More, Deftones and Pearl Jam. Yes, the Portuguese love their rock. In fact, if you hate Lindsay Lohan poser festival-goers who think they are on a catwalk rather than in a field and prefer the Pearl Jam t-shirt look, this festival will please you instantly.

My first ‘wow’ moment is during Kasabian, when for the first time ever I can see the stage, meaning either it is very strategically positioned or the Portuguese are all roughly my height. The second ‘wow’ moment is when someone hands me a free program. (Yes, FREE!)

When I hear bands complain about British crowds, especially in London, I used to take slight offence. However after my first night at this festival I completely understood, as the audience were going insane to every band, even if they were unknown. I’ve never seen so many bands so overwhelmed with the warmth and excitement they were being received with.

We saw Florence and The XX, who were awesome, although we were only amongst the crowd who couldn’t get into the tent. Kasabian on the main stage completed my night.

The next day we got there early and sat in the Super Bock tent where we watched Hurts, who were entertaining, Jet, who apparently have released two albums since ‘Get Born’ (who knew?) and Holy Ghost, who looked very bored and fed up (their equipment had all been lost by the airline, but still…). However, we were then pleasantly surprised by The Maccabees, who in turn seemed pleasantly surprised by their ecstatic reception.

New Young Pony Club were the perfect band to build up excitement for Gossip, and Gossip were simply incredible. The tent was packed and overflowing. It’s been so long since I’ve been literally jumping up and down along with everyone else in the tent through the whole set. Beth Ditto knows how to put on a show and the Alive crowd knows how to give one back. With their die hard fans all ending up on stage with them I have to say Gossip turned out to be my personal favourite performance of the festival.

We later returned to check out Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77, an Italian electronica duo whose music is clearly heavily influenced by heavy metal and image heavily influenced by bondage. At this point, I had the suspicion that I was the only one in the huge, euphoric crowd not on acid.

The last day: Miike Snow, very cool, and The Big Pink, even cooler. Peaches did not disappoint.  She changed costumes several times, walked directly into the crowd and played with lasers and flashing keytars.

Later on at the main stage, Pearl Jam (who unsurprisingly had by far the biggest crowd of the weekend) came on to play an epic 90-minute set, which due to a line-up change was then followed by an hour from LCD Soundsystem, meaning we walked easily through a sea of exhausted Pearl Jam fans to find ourselves near the front.  LCD Soundsystem were incredible, but the experience was heightened by the hundreds of happy dancing people who surrounded us.

The dance tent was crap most of the time, although we walked past on the Sunday and listened to Becky Lee and the Drunkfoot, a one lady band and she was very very good. If you like the simplicity of Meg White’s drum beats combined with the voice of Juliette Lewis and the looks of Katy Perry, this lady is definitely for you. If you like any of those or none of those check her out anyway, she’s good.

Ultimately, if you’re looking for a cheap festival abroad with sunshine and beaches nearby, and the opportunity to check out Lisbon this festival is for you. However, if you like much bigger festivals with plenty more going on then maybe wait a few more years for this one to grow.


Camping is organised at the local Lisbon Campsite for only fifteen euro for three nights. It’s got great facilities including showers and swimming pool.

When you arrive on Thursday you may have to queue for nearly 2 hours amongst hundreds of very patient Portuguese people and several very impatient British people. Keep hydrated!

The supposed ‘art and craft’ exhibition is a couple of people doing a few bits of graffiti on four small walls, so if you like your art at festivals, don’t go here!

When jumping up and down with the crowd be careful you are not standing above a large stone.

And if you drink 5 pints of Sangria and eat a dodgy hot dog you will throw up.

Alexandra Wain