Marés Vivas — which is a phrase that refers to the “springing forth” of the tide during a new and full moon — isn’t the typical music festival. It’s a gathering of pure Portuguese music royalty, and it’s a great chance for newcomers and/or visitors to immerse themselves in the Luso sounds of the last few decades. The lineup covers a few genres; rock, primarily, rap, some brilliant female singer-songwriters, and of course, in the grand tradition of everything everywhere, some old white men.
The festival takes place July 19-21 in Vila Nova de Gaia, a small, beautiful city in the Porto District of northern Portugal, situated along the Douro River. The festival itself is pretty compact, with only 28 musical acts in total (plus 12 stand-up comedians, if you’re interested in that sort of thing), but the roster is diverse. Also, if seeing Sting live is on your bucket list, you can get that done this weekend, too. Tickets for Marés Vivas are on sale here — a three-day pass will only cost you €61, or you can head out for a single day at €33. Just a tip: the train trip from Lisbon to Porto is a lovely, efficient ride.
Here are the acts that stood out to us.
THURSDAY, 19 JULY
Mishlawi, MEO Stage
Mishlawi is a American hip-hop artist who moved to Cascais as a teenager and began releasing music on YouTube. He was discovered in 2014 by Bridgetown Records, a Portuguese label, and has been dropping hits ever since. His sound blends latin, trap, jazz, and r&b with super-smooth vocals that are positively dripping.
Here’s one of his breakout hits, “All Night.”
Os Quatro e Meia, MEO Stage
This Coimbra-born jam band feels as local as it gets. Remember Rusted Root? They kinda sound like that, but Portuguese. The vibe is vintage, earnest, jazzy, upbeat, and impossible not to dance to. There’s an accordian involved! Honestly, I fuckin’ love these guys.
Please enjoy the dramatic turn this song takes at exactly 3 minutes in!
Beatriz Pessoa, Santa Casa Stage
Twenty-three year-old singer-songwriter Beatriz Pessoa has an amazing voice and a jazzy-meets-indie-rock vibe that is impossible not to fall in love with. She’s frequently compared to Bjork and Lily Allen, writes in both English and Portuguese, and owns a pop sound that feels like it was created in a summertime hit factory.
Joana Espadinha, Santa Casa Stage
Joana’s got an early-aughts indie pop feel — it’s vintage and folky and ethereal and danceable, yet still a bit melancholic. Her style is somewhat reminiscent of Jenny Lewis, with a little less edge, and might make you want to drop what you’re doing, head to the beach, and have some feelings. Joana’s background is in jazz, and though she’s migrated to pop, classical elements woven in give her sound a unique richness.
Plutónio, Moche Bloche
This Portuguese-Mozambican rapper from Cascais is a mainstay in the rap tuga family — he was even part of Branko’s ensemble crew on the 2018 Eurovision stage. Plutónio’s lyrics often shed light on issues like police, poverty, and racism that plague the neighborhood he grew up in and others like it, making for an impassioned, impactful performance.
On a lighter note, though, consider substituting this bona-fide banger for your morning café.
FRIDAY, 20 JULY
Ornatos Violeta, MEO Stage
This Portuguese rock group disbanded in 2002 after making waves in the late ’90s, but they’re returning to the stage briefly this summer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their second, last, and best album, O Monstro Precisa de Amigos. Originally influenced by bands like Radiohead and Soundgarden, their sound feels intrinsic to the era in which it was born — so if you’re feeling a little nostalgic, catch them while you can.
Carlão, MEO Stage
If you know anything about anything, you probably know about Da Weasel, the Portuguese hip-hop tuga pioneers of the early ’90s who drew on influences like Cypress Hill and Public Enemy and took home Best Portuguese Act at the 2007 MTV Europe Awards (fun fact!). Carlão, formerly known as Pacman, was one-half of the legendary duo — he’s since been hustling solo, is still banging out bops at 43 years old, and doesn’t seem to have lost his groove.
Pay your respects to one of the daddies of tuga hip-hop!
The Lazy Faithful, Santa Casa Stage
Portuguese rock band The Lazy Faithful are pure energy, building on a foundation of American-style uptempo guitar with pop vibes and polished melodies that urge you to roll the windows down and/or turn the volume up.
Please enjoy this footage of me dancing to The Lazy Faithful while writing this article. JK, that’s not me. She’s all of us.
Eva Rapdiva, Moche Bloche
Feminist, activist, radio host, and criminally underrated Angolan rapper Eva Rapdiva is a literal prodigy: she started freestyling at age 12, and hasn’t stopped since. Eva has built massive audiences in Sao Tome, Mozambique, and Angola, where she is recognized as one of the best rappers in the country, and is now dominating the Portuguese scene with her incomparable flow.
Here’s her latest, Favela.
SATURDAY, 21 JULY
HMB, MEO Stage
HMB is a funk and soul band that incorporates sounds from jazz, hip-hop, and r&b to produce an upbeat, groovy sound that generates a full-body feel-good vibe — it’s a little like taking molly through the ears, I imagine. Vocalist Heber Marques, after whom the band is named (HMB = Heber Marques Band) is tremendous, in the vein of Bruno Mars, so expect to dance.
Biya, Santa Casa Stage
It’s a hot girl summer, as we know, and Biya is doing her part to turn up the heat. The Lisbon-based rapper is on the come-up, so this is your chance to secure some street cred by catching her before she’s super-famous. Biya spits boss-level raps over masterful beats, written in English to make herself accessible to a wide audience, and it works. This is a woman who isn’t afraid to take up space.
Maria Bradshaw, Santa Casa Stage
Maria Bradshaw was the 2017 voice behind Coca-Cola’s global Taste the Feeling ad campaign, so if that paints a picture of her vibe for you, well, I guess that means the advertising’s working? Her latest single, “Quiero Mais,” is a catchy, aggressively upbeat single that channels OG alt-pop kween Marina and the Diamonds, and some of her previous work bears striking similarities to Madonna. If you’re in the mood for some high-powered commercial pop, Maria’s your gal.
Get out there and get to know the Portuguese!