Buster Sledge at the debut Trafaria Bluegrass Festival by the River in Portugal
This report is a contribution from Portuguese banjoist Andre Dal, who both attended and performed at Portugal’s very first bluegrass festival.
Trafaria Bluegrass – Festival by the River happened between September 9 and 11 in the small fishing village of Trafaria, Portugal, located on the south bank of the Tagus River, very close to its mouth, and also close to city of Lisbon. This was a FREE event and the FIRST EVER bluegrass festival to be held in Portugal.
Five bands comprised the line up that played twice on the weekend. Once on the main stage on Friday and Saturday nights, and a second time on one of the five side stages, on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Besides that, five instrument workshops were held on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Jams were encouraged as a lively and vibrant part of the festival.
Apart from the official musical schedule, a side program was developed to show the village of Trafaria and its surroundings, and also its people, to the foreigners and outsiders. Storytelling for children, walks around the village, archeological tours, active intergenerational interaction encounters, and recycling workshops were some of the other activities available during Trafaria Bluegrass.
The festival started on Friday at 7:00 p.m. with a small presentation at the Presídio Stage from the president of the organization’s team, Recreios desportivos da Trafaria, João Horta, the artistic director, André Dal, and from the mayor of the city council of Almada, Inês de Medeiros, followed by a concert of one of the best and oldest bluegrass bands in Europe, the Belgian band, Rawhide.
Friday night, the main stage, located on the main square of Trafaria, had also a small presentation where the mayor of the village parish council, Sandra Chaíça, spoke about the importance of this event to the village. The Portuguese band, Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti, and the English band, The Often Herd, performed after to the astonishment of the locals.
After the guitar and mandolin workshops held at the Casino, the meeting point and the location of the organization team, on Saturday morning, three bands played at three different side stages during the afternoon. At 3:00 p.m., The Often Herd performed at the SRMT stage, a local musical association. At 5:00 pm, Stonebones & Bad Spaghetti played at the Casino stage and at 7:00 pm, the Swedish band, The Original Five, played a non-amplified concert at the Church stage, inside the Trafaria church, located on the main square.
Saturday night was the highlight of the festival with three bands playing on the main stage. The night began with the Norwegian bang, Buster Sledge, followed by The Original Five. The last band to perform on the main stage was Rawhide that even played fadograss with Portuguese singer Ana Margarida.
Sunday started again with the dobro, banjo, and fiddle workshops at the casino, followed by Buster Sledge’s performance at the small Poço Novo stage. Sunday afternoon was free for jamming.
Even though public transportation is sparse and needs to be improved, the festival was a huge success. The small village of Trafaria was crowded during the whole weekend, and all stages were packed. The audience felt the vibrant performance of the bands and responded accordingly. Because this was the first ever bluegrass festival to be held in Portugal, the organization’s team did not have an idea of the number of people who could join the event. Nevertheless, local people from the village of Trafaria came in great numbers, as well as from other parts of Portugal, and also from abroad. More than 3,000 people attended enthusiastically at all the concerts. Portuguese and foreign musicians took part in the jams with the bands’ musicians, and locals felt the village had a great atmosphere. The side activities were also well attended with people trying to discover more about the village. Children and adults were eager to learn more about bluegrass music as well.
It is safe to say that due to the success of this first event, the city council of Almada and the parish council of Trafaria will extend their support for next year’s edition and, hopefully, with the help of local companies, associations, institutions, EBMA, and individuals as was the case this year.
It is with pride I say that it seems that Portugal will have a yearly bluegrass event held in the small fishing village of Trafaria, thanks to the organization team, Recreios Desportivos da Trafaria, and all the volunteers that did a tremendous job. Let’s hope all goes well.