Comendatio Music Fest was on. After the Covid hiatus Comendatio came back If the postponements were bad for all festivals, Comendatio was just forming and growing in it's second year of existence. The line-up I bought a ticket for was mouth watering to any progmetal fan with Haken, Vola, Godsticks and Poem on day 1 and Monuments, Voyager plus Rendezvous Point on day two. Now I might love those bands, but discovering Portuguese and Spanish bands to me at least is as interesting. So before the festival did happen this weekend I read people complaining that it is not the same line-up as when they bought the ticket. Now watching with Portuguese eyes this might be true as many of the above mentioned bands never played Portugal before. My stance on this is simple, we can not complain in 2022 with any festival line-up. It is not just the fact that they happen, but festivals need a long lead time for organizing same and half a year ago, many of us were convinced that the summer of festivals was again lost due to Covid. Things improved, but if you see the huge number of last minute cancellations of mainly bands from the USA do understand this is far from back to normal yet. So heads up to the organization in securing with Haken and Plini, two top class headliners. For me the nice side effect was that I now could discover more regional bands, completely unknown to me. Now there is me, but there is also the family. So it turned out that me picking my one favorite day, would suit best to all and Saturday 6 August it was.
Comendatio Music Fest is being held in the tiny aldeia of Paço da Comenda. While the whole township can enjoy the festival during two days, the places to stay are either the camping at the festival, or a bed somewhere in nearby Tomar. 35 years ago I would have perferred the campsite, nowadays I tend to prefer less dust and better sleep, so Tomar it was. Now that is a beautiful town, which holds their Templar history proudly alive.So after catching your Medieval Terrorist squad souvenirs you can head for the festival. Upon arrival first thumbs up must go to the organization. Entering Paço da Comenda you can't miss the free parking field. The entrance went smooth, the food options vary from Bifana's on bread to vegan quiche or plates, and drinks are offered against very fair pricing (1.50 a beer or coke sounds good enough?). As I was by car and needed to drive home through dark curvy hillroads, my intake was under regime and controlled. On the small square next to the foodcourt a central merch stand was put up, where you could find merch of bands plus a cool festival Tee for 12.50. I mention prices, as recently I heard a lot of complaints on Graspop food, beverage and festival merch prices. A big plus for Comendatio so to say. Most important of all, was that organization was great, having all bands starting at scheduled times and mostly the sound was fine to very good indeed. So how about the bands? These were the ones impressing me a lot (or not so much)
When the time-schedule was announced a week before the festival I did check out the first band and knew I wanted to arrive on time. Phase Transition are a young band from Porto, who play progmetal with female vocals. Now apart from accepting her voice, she also plays violin, which does bring an extra to their show. Unfortunately she did run off the stage at times, when the intrumental bits were dominating (not unlike Ross Jennings would do hours later). I think some more mileage on live shows can work here, since she has the violin to hide behind anyway. Musically with female voice at times I was reminded of District 97. So I picked my spot central and close to the stage, seeing they brought friends and fans along, as any young band should. Still burning hot at 16:30 they were a great opener, playing their EP Relatively Speaking in full, which I did pick up later on. A good local opener check.
The next band were from Leiria and played an angrier version of prog. The vocals were mostly of the shouting/screaming kind. The outstanding fact was that they had a saxophone player in the band, who when out of a job, just moved wildly, spreading energy from the stage. While both guitarist and bassist were stuck to their amps by a 5 meter cord, this turned out to be the most energetic show of the day to me. Musically I have some of these bands who can combine the angry shouts with jazzy interludes on CD. By experience I now this is music to be better heard live on stage and even more felt live from the stage. Interesting detail, how often did you watch a show hiding under an olive tree against the steaming hot burning sun? Unfortunately they forgot to bring any merch to the festival, but a highly enjoyable set it was.
The next band came from Spain, so Obrigado turned into Gracias. Bolu2Death play, well what do they play? A mix of many things, with for me a bit too much electonics blended in to love the sound. Hardcore, metal and again lots of energy. I started watching pretty close to the stage, but when the vocalist shouted Wall of Death, Wall of Death I though Cloud of Dust, Cloud of Dust. I was right and watched in time the remainder from a distance. I understand they can appeal to many live, caused by the energy, but musically not fully my thing. They did bring the nicest T-shirts to Comandatio, but for me not justified getting one.
Needle were the second Portuguese band with a femalevocalist of the day. Actually they had the same drummer as Phase Transition as he stepped in for the absent original drummer. Musically this might have been the best band so far of the day. Yet somehow something did not click with me. Not sure why or what, but probably the voice did not work all that well for me. At a certain moment I thought what if this band would have a male vocalist in the power/prog metal range. I think I would like it better. But then again, they had quite some success by watching the crowd's reaction to them. Just not so much for me, but these things do happen. Time to queue up and eat.
The first British band of the day were Godsticks from Wales. They played an away game, as they could not bring friends along and I think some 5 people knew of them before they started. I know little of them myself, apart from the fact that I will see them again later this year at ProgPower. At the start I went pretty much upfront and stayed there throughout their set. I found that their rolling train was thundering on and more and more I got drawn into their set, which culminated in two brilliant closing songs, where even the drums could not stand all the constant hammering. Starting with a fairly empty field, they did win over the crowd during their set as towards the end, many hands went up upon command and clapped along the heavy pulsing rhythm they played over us. A good thing they started at daylight and ended at niht, since the 35 degrees of the earlier afternoon, would not go down well on British skin. For me the winners of the day and I got their last CD afterwards, as I need to get to know them better. Looking out to their set at PPE already.
The third and final Portuguese female fronted band of the day. I do have their last CD Quaternay and liked that Frontiers release. The soundcheck showed that we were in for the best female voice of the day. It also showed that there was no bassist around. I don't know if they lost him in the meantime. Result that the band now was made up of guitars, drums and keyboards. At times the sound was very full, so I don't know what was coming of tape and samples and if the missing bassist had anything to do with it. Recognizing several of their songs did help, only the ballad could have been skipped for me. I don't know if Kandia are anything relatively big in Portugal, but it seemed to me to be their hit. Luckily we closed off with a much better song of their latest album, but don't ask me for song titles. Another good break, was when a male vocalist came to do some grunts for us and lightenen up the show. Aardschok compared them with Lacuna Coild based upon that, but overall more proggy to me. Good band.
And then it was time for the band most people were eager to see: Haken. Their first ever show in Portugal, so worthy of a break in new album recordings. Well for me it was not really their first show as I follow them since Aquarius. Meanwhile it was from the afternoon 35 degrees down to below twenty and I did miss bringing my Haken Aquarius hoodie indeed Perfectly poor prepared I did not see the end of Haken. Well I checked the setlist before and knew they would ignore their first two albums, which are my favorites (Drowning in the Flood belongs in every Haken show). We did get treated on new song Nightingale live, which makes me curious and worried at the same time. It is not as heavy (and thus good) as most on the Vektor/Virus double. So while I walked away I did see Haken are Progmetal Champions League and so at ease on stage, playing the toughest acrobatics. Pity Charles Griffitsh solo album was not on sale here, but I still went home satisfied with an interesting line-up helping me through the afternoon/night.
Well first I hope to be back and if possible both days. Most people I know will not be overly enthusiastic by the campsite idea, but I know several people would love to be here. This festival can be combined with a Portuguese holiday, where my tips are hiking in Geres natural park or discovering our beloved Alentejo. If you want to keep it metal the last weeks we had in Portugal Manowar at Familicao, Iron Maiden in Lisbon VOA in Vagos (which I missed as Testament, Exodus and Death Angel will play DMF as well) so some weeks of metal are an option. If making it back I hope to be with some friends sharing the driving duties and drinks. I count on Comendatio to stay strong as apart from the bands origginally scheduled for 2020, the line up of 2019 held with Tesseract, NoSound, Leprous, Uneven Structure and Sinsistro also quite some names of prog fame. Thanks to the organization and hopefully back for more in 2023.