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  • Writer's pictureMayur Mistry

NOS Alive ’16 and City of Lisbon

The NOS Alive festival is becoming one of Europe’s most popular music festivals. And it is attracting music lovers from all over the world.

And this year, I was lucky enough to get to go to NOS Alive’s 10th annual festival. (Woop!)

In this blog post, I want to talk about both the festival and the city. The first part of this post will talk about the festival itself. And then the second bit will talk about the city.

The NOS Alive Festival 2016

The festival is located in Algaes, Lisbon. And it is only a 10-to-15 minute walk from Algaes train station. We were based in Rossio, Lisbon, which is more centrally located.

Thanks to Lisbon’s really good metro and railway network, the commute to the festival site from Rossio metro station roughly takes up to an hour (that’s including the walk).

Obviously the commute back to Rossio took a little longer because of the large number of people leaving the festival. In fact, that is one of main set backs – the journey back.

After the last act on the main stage, the Portuguese police closed off the nearest entrance to the railway station so we had to walk the long way round, via an overpass, to another entrance that is further away from the festival site. I could understand why they did it, they probably didn’t want a bottleneck situation occurring in the station — safety first.

But anyway, back to the festival…

On our way towards the entrance of the festival, we were greeted with a large circular entrance which looks like the NOS logo. (Just so you know, NOS is a Portuguese media and communications company).

Towards the top of the entrance, there was a mezzanine where a DJ was blasting out a wide variety upbeat tunes, which definitely got in me in the mood to rave.

The actual festival site itself was set in a beautiful location. As you go towards the main stage, you can see the hills and the setting sun creating a beautiful backdrop as we raved into the night.

Since I have never been to a music festival before, this was a whole new experience for me. It was crowded. It was buzzing. And beer was freely flowing.

In terms music, there were some big names performing at the festival. We were treated to the Pixies, Robert Plant (from Led Zepplin), Radiohead, Tame Impala, Houses of Fire, Arcade Fire, Chemical Brothers and M83. I couldn’t see all of the bands since I wanted to explore the city of Lisbon as well (see next section).

Besides the main stage (which was called the NOS stage), there were two secondary music stages called NOS clubbing (that provided some amazing Portuguese hip-hop music and electronic music from Europe’s hottest acts like Boyz Noise) and the NOS Palcoa Heineken Stage which hosted little gems like Jose Gonzalez and John Misty.

I spent most of my time at the main stage but I also mooched around both the Palcao and Clubbing stage too.

The Entrance to NOS Alive

The Best Act

The best act of the entire festival was Arcade Fire. I was never a big fan Arcade Fire, but they definitely know how to put on a phenomenal performance. They certainly made me more invested in their music.

Every song they played was amazing and the crowd was singing along to mostly every word. And my vocals chords were certainly feeling sore after singing along to Wake Up and Rebellion (Lies).

It definitely felt like I was experiencing true showmanship. They had glamour. They had confetti. They had it all (except for pyrotechnics).

The Worst Act

It pains me to say this but the worst act of the entire festival was Radiohead. I love Radiohead but they were so disappointing at NOS. And there were a number of factors that led me to this decision.

Firstly, the sound quality was very poor. Whoever did the soundcheck did a really bad job – they were so quiet. There wasn’t any oomph. When they played Street Spirit (one of my favourite songs) it felt like there was a riff missing.

Secondly, the screen never showed the band properly. It was all distorted. I think it was band’s idea to have the screen show the band like that but still, people couldn’t see the band properly from a far — you know, where I was.

And thirdly, the set list was so uninspiring. The songs they played were good, but I felt it was more suitable for an intimate gig, not a festival. Festivals have a much wider demographic so not everyone would have been a hardcore Radiohead fan. The casual fans would have appreciated the songs they will have heard of like Just, Fake Plastic Trees, No Surprises, Air Bag — all of which have not been played. (Hmmm, what if I am a casual fan?)

I really could go on and on. And it wasn’t just me, a fair few people at the festival didn’t enjoy their performance too — and they were big Radiohead fans.

The City of Lisbon

So besides raving it up into the early hours at the festival, during the civilised hours of day I explored the city.

And Lisbon is a little gem of a city which I fell in love with. Okay it wasn’t love at first sight; when me and my friend arrived at Rossio, Lisbon to look for our apartment, my friend was greeted by a shady character who was trying to sell us weed. At that moment, I sarcastically told myself “Welcome to Portugal!”

I was able to quickly brush that aside as we finally found our street where our apartment was. The street was beautiful. It was decorated with flags of several European countries and it was picturesque. It was why I took this photo:

With Portugal reaching the final of Euro 2016 when I arrived in Lisbon, I could feel the festive football atmosphere as the Portuguese flag was adorned and scattered on cars, buildings, squares and clothesline. It was a shame I left on the day of the Euro 2016 final (in which the Portuguese won), I can’t even imagine how wild the celebrations were.

We stayed in the old part of Lisbon, which was riddled with small side streets and walk paths. It was within these amazing streets where we saw some unusual graffiti artwork, like the one below.

During our little exploration of Lisbon, we decided to take a trip to Belem which is enroute to the festival. Omg, I loved Belem. There, we went to the Jeronimos Monastery which is mesmerising.

Jeronimos Monastery

When I saw the Jeronimos Monastery, I couldn’t help but to wander how these monuments of architectural perfection were built. I began to think about all those builders and workers who dedicated their lives to build these magnificent spectacles for an entity (God) that we in today’s society both question and debate his existence.

The monastery also had a lovely court yard too.

Afterwards, we headed towards to Torre de Belem. It is a beautiful tower castle that is built on a riverbed, close to the riverbank. The tower was built as a defence fort. We didn’t go inside the tower as we were headed to the festival. (Torre de Belem is 30 min walk to the festival site.)

Another thing that I highly recommend that you check out is the Lisbon Oceanarium. The aquarium was a pleasant surprise. I have never been to an aquarium before so this was my first one. It is pretty relaxing to see all the fishes peacefully swimming. Though some of the tanks were a bit small and I felt some of the sea creatures were in a really cramped environment.

Additional Info

  • Food and drink are both very reasonably priced. The best place to eat is Espaco Espelho d’Agua in Belem — very delicious food.

  • Inside the festival grounds, there are loads of food and drink stalls. The prices are very reasonable too (4 euros for a pint).

  • I actually felt very safe in Lisbon — You will get the odd guy selling you drugs, but I ignored them.

  • 3-day festival ticket price – £99.

Overall Reflections

Is NOS Alive Festival worth a visit?

Yes, definitely. I would definitely advise every music lover to check this festival out. Compared to festivals in the UK, NOS Alive almost guarantees beautiful weather, great food and scenic views. And whilst you’re there, you also have a very beautiful city to explore too.

Thanks for reading! If you loved this article, please share or leave your comment below.

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