By Kristina Truong
I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal, ready to dive head-first into Optimus Alive 2009. Kids on the bus to the festival grounds were just going nuts: Jumping, banging on the exit doors, passing around bottles of who knows what and screaming “Metallica!” at the top of their lungs.
Getting through the entrance, I definitely missed the black outfit memo, as the dominant fashion trend was all black, heavy metal rock T-shirts and cyber goth gear. It made sense, as this was Optimus Alive’s metal day, with Mastodon, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Slipknot and Metallica all on the main stage. The lineup was fleshed out by less-hardcore groups like the Klaxons, Crystal Castles, Silversun Pickups and TV on the Radio.
Silversun Pickups caught my attention right away. The band’s live performance was very impressive and the sound quality was nearly identical to how they sound on their records. Crystal Castles, a band that I was excited to see again, got the crowd on their feet and on the edge with their intense energy and light show. However, their show was a bit derailed by technical difficulties with singer Alice Glass’ mic. Metallica, on the other hand, performed another phenomenal show. It seems impossible for these guys not to put on a heart-pounding, feet-stomping, hair-whippin’, body moshing, heavy metal show.
The second day of Optimus Alive was similarly exhilarating and blood-pumping. After a brief meeting with Sony Music Portugal International Label Manager Miguel Oliveira, I headed over to the festival site to plan my schedule. The day featured Eagles of Death Metal, Placebo, Prodigy, the Gaslight Anthem, Fischerspooner and the Ting Tings. I also discovered a popular local Portuguese called Blasted Mechanism. The group wore bizarre costumes (weird cage-like pieces and African-styled masks and body paintings) and used unconventional instruments.
For me, the most memorable act of they festival by far had to be Fischerspooner. There were catchy electronic beats, choreographed dancers and outrageous costume changes. The icing on the cake came later when I got to meet frontman Casey Spooner during the Ting Tings’ hot set.
The closing day of Optimus Alive was thankfully mellow, with the Black Eyed Peas, Dave Matthews Band and Chris Cornell leading the way on the main stage. Dave Matthews Band gave the audience a stellar musical experience and the Portuguese crowd simply adored their performance, especially when the group meanandered during their lengthy jams.
On the supporting stage, I was super excited to see Lykke Li, who delivered a great show. My favorite part had to be when Lykke Li and her band started busting out in a rocking version of Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli” before she broke out into her song “Breaking it Up” — not the smoothest of transitions, but one that worked regardless.
After catching a late set care of Deadmau5, I had to rush to make it my flight at the Lisbon International Airport. As I stood in line to return to my normal life, I noticed that the members of Ghostland Observatory were just in front of me checking in. Only three hours prior, I had seen them on stage, and now we were both headed back to the United States with the thrill of Optimus Alive still coursing through our veins.