This Azores Arts and Music Festival May Give You Dizzy Spells

Tremor, the music and arts festival in the remote Portuguese archipelago, is elevating the long-overlooked destination as a new benchmark for contemporary creativity.

Photography by Ines Subtil

Close your eyes and imagine a volcanic island—or a collection of nine—smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean marooned between North America and Portugal. What comes to mind? An ambitious music and art festival organized by friends from different parts of Portugal and Azores may likely rank at the tail’s end, but that precisely explains Tremor’s allure. 

Taking place in March each year, Tremor was born in 2013 by a collective of friends—Joaquim Durães and  Márcio Laranejeira, creators of the Lovers & Lollypops record label, Luis Banrezes of YUZIN and Marca Pistola, and art director António Pedro Lopes—who were inspired by the island’s psychedelic landscapes, underutilized venues, and culture-hungry residents to create a music festival that can transcend and elevate all who come to experience it.

In a world of contrived, mass-scale festivals, Tremor is rewriting the script of how music, art, and nature can amalgamate to draw new audiences to otherwise culturally uncharted terrain. 

For many young creatives living in Lisbon and Porto, the Azores was a long stretch of a place to visit, despite being a Portuguese territory. Flights to and from the archipelago’s main and largest island, São Miguel, were infrequent and expensive, thus restricting most of the domestic population from its serene lifestyle.

Fueled by investments in infrastructure, new flight routes, and economic growth measures enacted by the local government, the festival founders found all the right reasons to create a remarkable experience that they too would enjoy. 

Photography by Vera Marmelo

Surface contributor Ross Belfer first visited Azores in 2014, during Tremor’s early years, and was left in a dizzying spell ever since. Ahead of this year’s edition, which takes place March 19–23, he sat down with Durães to get a deeper sense of the festival and its importance as a cultural movement in the western hemisphere.

What was the impetus of Tremor, and how did it manifest?

The festival started as a need to propose new things to happen on the island, which due to its location and costs, was not an easy task. But as creatives from Porto, we became incredibly excited by a place that was “ours” although we had never been.

The vision of empowering local community and homegrown artists, whilst also bringing Portuguese and international artists and musicians to perform for Azoreans, creates a true cultural exchange in a random and peculiar meeting point. (Luis) Kitas was enjoying a small vacation on the island more than a decade ago and was immediately enamored with its powerful energy. Since then, he has been living in the Azores full-time and once a year we all band together to nurture and blossom our love child.

In past years, we’ve seen performances being held at atypical venues, such as the foot of a thermal pool on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, a pristine forest with secret waterfalls, a deli that sells salted fish, or in the subterranean level of the Arquipélago—Arts Center. Which performances should readers know about to pique their interest?

Each year, we host our beloved Tremor Todo-o-Terreno concept (“Tremor All-Terrain”), which invites artists to create a new soundtrack for the trail, from natural field recordings, manufactured soundscapes, recorded instruments, and other “noises.” Todo-o-Terreno takes place on a guided walk where guests become immersed in otherworldly landscapes, far removed from the constant buzz of digital devices, smartphones, and technology, and where they can truly enjoy a deep listening experience. This year, Todo-o-Terreno will be scored by Portuguese duo Lavoisier, and we’re incredibly excited about it.

Photography by Vera Marmelo

How does Tremor respond to today’s overly commercial music festival industry?

In a world of commercial entertainment and mass-scale festivals, Tremor feels more like a community and elevated experience than a week to simply consume music and party with friends. We are, in essence, the antithesis of those types of festivals. Tremor was built with our hands, a DIY ethos, and determination to bring something new to the island, where there had been a dearth of international culture and influences.

Tremor champions sustainability and a respect to the landscape, which our partners and supporters also identify with. Our musical inclinations span electronic, ambient, avant garde/noise, indie rock, dance, hip-hop, folk, and classical, and we do our best to ensure programming can pique the taste of all attendees.

Photography by Vera Marmelo
Photography by Ross Belfer.

To those who possess topographical knowledge, São Miguel Island has epic hot springs dotted across the island. What’s the best hot spring to recover in after a late night?

Poça da Dona Beija, located in a small village in the middle of the island, which is where our friends normally go to; or Terra Nostra, a botanical garden and natural hot spring of ionized geo-thermal water with a bronze, copper color. The pool is overlooked by a sprawling villa that was the former residence of the U.S. Consul to the Azores. It’s a must for all visitors. 

Food is always a highlight when festival-going, especially by the seaside. What’s the best dish and locale to consume it on the island?  

The lapas—local razor clams served on a hot skillet with olive oil and garlic—at A Tasca in the main town of Ponta Delgada.

Photography by Ross Belfer.

The next edition of Tremor will take place in the Azores from March 19–23.

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