The Sabotage Club in Lisboa has all the trappings of the typical toilet circuit venue, if you were to disregard a decade or two. Stepping inside you are immediately bearhugged by that old familiar stench of cigarettes and sweat, and it will take you a few seconds to re-adjust to the hushed lighting that makes a trip to the bathroom rather treacherous (please note - despite the potential for a sprained ankle or a broken foot arising from a single step that must be navigated to reach the toilets in near pitch-black, the toilets themselves are in a much better condition than many of those hosted in comparable British locations, which seem to use the gimmick of 'character' to excuse unpainted breeding grounds for E. coli and staphylococcus).
The Cais De Sodre once had the reputation of being one of Lisboa's seediest neighbourhoods before gentrification made it one of its most hip. Though, there's still echoes of its former standing as the city's red light district with workers milling outside the bars that have yet to be completely neutralised by affluent students and tourists (take, for example, Bar Liverpool on Rua Nova do Carvalho which serves a lethal, and generous, shot of Absinthe & Prosecco for only 2 euros and has an enormous selection of awful sixties-eighties pop from around the Western hemisphere). Situated in the middle of this neighbourhood is the 160-capacity venue; typically a haunt for local rock bands, but also the perfect host for a night of Atlantic Ocean-straddling psych-rock, one that was set up as a 'warm-up' show for the Reverence festival held in Valada, if a warm-up was needed in such a climate.
The Telescopes; who are now made up of founding member Stephen Lawrie and London space-rockers One Unique Signal (joined for the tour by occasional 'Scopes drummer John Lynch); unleash a fearsome maelstrom of fuzz that is almost entirely organic, whilst having none of the smugness and studiousness that one may typically associate with 'improv'. Those of the fifty-strong crowd who know the band from their earlier full-lengths may be taken aback by the lack of a focal point to their set, but the intensity and sheer volume of their performance is what carries it.
Following, Brooklyn's NAAM inject a heavy dose of bluesy rock n' roll into the psych blueprint, with an end result that is very similar to The Black Angels' earlier material. Their performance is assured and their songs spiral out, but venues of this size are definitely the right stage for NAAM.
Headliners Ringo Deathstarr are seemingly in the midst of a transformation from reverential shoegazers who show a little too much respect to the genre's mise-en-scene to a band who are etching out their own, with new songs giving more time to eclectic pop hooks. But, for the moment, they seem much more comfortable when ploughing through material from their three albums to date. One hopes, however, that this is the direction that they continue to go in.
One could argue that the running order for the night should have been flipped upside-down. The intensity of The Telescopes' performance made the two following it feel a little restrained, but, as it was, the night remained a much-welcome nod back to a fabled time, in terms of both sound and setting.
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