Following a night out in Barrio Alto, a bit groggy with sleep in our eyes, we packed up our things and enjoyed a free breakfast from the hostel on the outside terrace, showered and headed off. We’d been told that trains ran to the festival site so we walked to the train station, which apparently wasn’t far from the hostel. However, we got beyond lost, and decided to hail a cab. We loaded our bags and tents into the cab and the friendly driver talked us through all the sites of Lisbon as he drove us to the festival site. We arrived and unloaded our cab, and then waited for a guy I’d been in contact before the festival who wanted to buy the spare camping ticket we had. Unfortunately we weren’t able to sell the festival ticket as it was such short notice. We then walked down to collect our wristbands, only to find we were in the wrong place and therefore had to get another cab to the campsite to pitch our tents before we could go in to the festival. The cab drove us to the end of a queue. A very, very long queue. By now it was around 12, 1pm so the sun was high in the sky and beating down on us. You could tell the English from the Portuguese as people were covering up and digging through their bags for suncream!!
After about an hour we finally got to the front of the queue and got our cards for the campsite. The site is a lush green campsite with a swimming pool, small supermarket and restaurants. It also has various charging points, and flushing toilets! A shuttle bus system taking revellers from the festival site to the campsite operated throughout the duration of the festival. This was all included in the cost of the camping ticket which was about 15 Euros.
We walked up the hill to pitch our tent, but realised the lush green grass ended at the pitches, which were instead covered with prickly pine leaves which have fallen from the trees. You couldn’t feel them through the tent, but sitting outside the tent you’d definitely need a blanket or towel as they really dig into funny places! After having a few drinks at the campsite, a group of English lads came over and pitched up next to us, and we headed down to the festival buses to get a glance at Optimus Alive!!
The sky started to darken as we walked along the queue route. Getting to near the entrance, a large queue had formed but it was moving quite quickly and we got through it in about 10 minutes. At the gates you’re asked to dispose of any open bottles or alcohol you have on you, and your bags are checked. Your ticket is then scanned, and you’re in!
I was expecting to find a large green field with lots of tents, but Optimus Alive! is more like a playground or a carpark - concrete. As you walk in, the main stage is to your right, with some areas infront of the stage convered in a fake plastic grass-like material. To the left of the stage is a bar, and all around the perimeter are food stalls. Behind the main stage area are the toilets, and beyond there is the second (and only other) stage, with yet more food stalls. For the size of the festival, the site is quite small, but this didn’t detract from the sound quality (which was brilliant) or the crowd size at the stages.
As we walked in we were informed that as we’d booked tickets through the UK site we’d have to queue for wristbands. So we joined another queue. This was quite a disappointment as the other two had really wanted to see Snow Patrol, who were due on stage in about 10 minutes, so I told them I’d queue while they went to the bar and then to watch and would ring them from the front of the queue. (I’m not the hugest fan). I must’ve queued for about 45 minutes. The plus side to this was that it was at a good distance from the stage so I was able to see everything that was going on. I would say though, that if you are going, be prepared for this and get down there a bit earlier so you don’t miss a band you want to see!
Once we’d got our wrist bands, we got a few more drinks and then headed into the crowd to watch the Friday night headliner, The Stone Roses. It was then that we realised just how many British people had travelled over for the festival, particularly Mancunians! The Stone Roses played a good set, and had a good light display, but Ian Brown really can’t sing. At some points, it got a bit painful. But in general they’re a great band and played all their hits, which got the crowd hyped up for Justice playing afterwards. The stage area got even busier, so much so that you couldn’t really move to dance! A great live performance though, despite it being quite unusual for DJs to perform a headlining slot on the main stage.
The biggest problem I had with the Optimus Alive organisation was that the buses which brought you to and from the festival didn’t have a queuing system. Oh how English! You cry! Unlike other festivals there’s not really much going on after the bands finish and so it feels like the end of the night, so standing in a queue for a bus feeling knackered after a day of sun, booze and singing, getting pushed onto the bus isn’t very fun. Trying to keep with your crowd is pointless so just arrange to meet once you’re off the bus at the other end. To be honest, it’s not an experience I’d like to repeat.
Returning to the campsite in the pitch black we realised bringing a torch would probably have been a great idea. We managed to find our way back, hoping to find somewhere to continue the party, but the campsite was quiet upon our return and so we just headed to bed.
In the morning, we walked over to the food area where a hog roast was on offer for the duration of the festival. For 5 euros you could get a pork roll and a drink which was good value and really lovely. The campsite also had a swimming pool and supermarket which was handy for buying essentials (and beer).
Highlights of the festival included, (obviously) Mumford’s set, in the scorching heat. We stood on the ‘grass’ section and danced around - we sang along to every song at the top of our lungs and it was brilliant. The crowd around us didn’t seem to share the passion we had however, but we didn’t let that stop us.
The Cure played all their classics although their set was veryyy long! We arrived quite late to catch their set and so were stuck behind the sound system, but we had a good view of the screen and also lots of space to dance.
Radiohead’s set was incredible - the crowd were silenced as they played hit after hit and their haunting melodies enchanted everyone there.
The Maccabees played on the smaller stage but they got the crowds going (as usual) and I’d definitely recommend anyone seeing them at any chance they get!
Noah and the Whale surprised me with how good they were and how many good songs they have - they were great!
If you do go to Optimus Alive, go with an open mind. Expect the night to end once the bands do - although if you walk around the campsite you will find people up and still happy to sing and drink for a few hours. Expect gorgeous weather but long queues, and lots of pushing once you’re in them. But expect a great line up for a crazily cheap price and a great time!