Organizer Q&A

Gustavo Pereira (Neopop Festival)

Oct 28, 2020

11 min read

Welcome to Festival Insider's Organizer Q&A series! Here, we have intimate conversations with some of the festival market's most exciting and influential innovators. We want to get to know our favorite festivals better, and today, we meet Gustavo Pereira of Neopop.

House and techno fans in Portugal know Neopop. Since 2006, the annual event has fed educated fans a steady diet of alternative offerings, focusing more on the quality and diversity of acts than sticking to a genre-specific formula. Gustavo Pereira is Neopop’s loving founder. It’s his pleasure to present the summer festival each year in the first half of August. Situated in the sea-side city Viana do Castelo, Neopop draws a vibrant Portuguese and Spanish clientele while welcoming fans from around the world. Dancers get lost in the music surrounded by a magnificent view of the Lima river, a towering lighthouse and a beautiful hill-top sanctuary. Pereira says the experience is one so “unique and memorable,” you have to feel it to truly understand. We caught up with him to hear more about Neopop, it’s history and inspirations, and the mission at the heart of all their bookings.

Gustavo PereiraGustavo Pereira

What is your name and what is the name of your festival?

Hello everyone, my name is Gustavo Pereira, I’m from Porto, Portugal. And I have my own brand festival Neopop. I also lead the Made Of You group which represents and produces events like Brunch Electronik Lisbon, BPM Portugal and Elrow Portugal.

When did the festival start and what inspired it?

So Neopop started in 2006, initially as Anti Pop because partners and vision and concept were slightly different. And as a demonstration of respect and also ethics and this new chapter, we decided to after three years change the name to Neopop.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

And uh, going back to 2006, like in the time I was also managing a club in Porto, Industria where I had international guests every weekend, and the idea of doing the best of each year, and also adding some fresh cool and new names came up between some friends.

Of course festivals like Sonar and others, but mainly Sonar, were a big inspiration to us, but they all came from our head and basically and based on what we had at the time to make it possible.

Raoul, one of my partners had good connections in the Tourism Board from Viana do Castelo that made it easier to get the venue and also some permits and very good conditions for the permits as we had no restrictions or like capacity restrictions or running hour restriction.

So this also was pretty exciting and motivating us to go ahead and to do our thing at Viana do Castelo.

When and where does it happen?

Normally we do the festival in the first or second weekend of August, it depends on our summer agenda, or also in the calendar where the, depending on the weekend dates.

It happens at Viano do Castelo, which is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal. It's involvement with the Portuguese discoverers and later on, on cod fishing and fishing shows its traditional and important connection to the sea.

Viana do Castelo is easily accessed from Porto or Vigo, Spain where that allows us to have different crowds from Portuguese from Portugal or Spain. And in terms of geographical situation, it's a very good one for the festival because it allows us to have crowd from all these two, two countries. 

Tell us about the site and how it influences the festival?

Well the site is for me it's a bit suspicious to talk about it but it's a unique and stunning one. And it's a real one, we don't need much more than the natural surroundings and the surroundings of the festival to create a special atmosphere and scenario.

We have the river, the sea, the lighthouse, the cranes, the shipyard, the Castle, the mountain, the sanctuary on the top of the hill. Well, it's mind blowing in my opinion, but come and see it with your own eyes. And it's not, I don't see, only see it and feel it because I think it's more than always see it you know like you have to feel it because it's really unique and memorable.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

What kind of musical artists play at your festival?

Well I believe we are pretty demanding and sometimes picky with some artists with the, in the bookings and selecting artists and acts that come to our festival but at the same time we are pretty wide and open to different styles of music and performance, because we think our vision and we think our mission, sorry, is to educate also and to show and present different and new stuff to our crowd.

And we believe, like our main site is already well how can I say it's, it's really it's packed already and it has a really, a good demonstration of what's going on in terms of techno and house music. But outside the main venue, we believe we can do and we are doing it, different kinds of programmation like the theater where we have more ambient and electronic acts also with a strong visual component.

We also have like the camping where you also, we normally choose and book artists like from grimey to soul, disco, funk and it's not it's not, we don't want to see, to be seen as, as a just a techno or house festival.

I know like we have all kinds of artists, we welcome every all kinds of artists and crowds, we also of course, look for this aspect and this important detail, which is quality and we believe into every category there are talented and really interesting artists.

So, we try to present also in different atmospheres and different concepts and different types of events. This variety and this quality and educate people with that. So we have mainly techno, house, electro, downtempo, breakbeat, ambient, electronic acts, DJs and live shows are taking place at our festival nowadays. 

Who was the first act you ever booked?

Probably Michael Mayer was one of the first ones to get to confirm, I'm not sure if it was him or Alexander Kowalski with Khan from Captain Comatose at the time.

But it's funny because I'm not really sure. I don't remember pretty well, who was the first act to be confirmed, but I remember who was the last one to be confirmed from the first year and it was Tiga it was a big fight with already like he was growing up and exploding at the time and, and we had all the big festivals competition and we were doing our best because this made sense at that time for him to come and it was also important to us.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

And, as for me my first booking ever was Charles Webster from Peacefrog and it was done with Alex Lindblad from Backroom Entertainment, which is still a good friend and for me one of the best professionals I've ever met.

What’s the most memorable set or sets for you?

From the festival the first time Richie Hawtin played was without any doubt memorable and it will stay in my head forever because of a lot of different situations. And one of them Richie was not performing in Portugal for a while already like I don't know four or five years and yet he had a big connection with Portugal in the 90s and he was playing regularly in the 90s. He had a huge crowd that always welcomed him and it was special for these people.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Richie Hawtin

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

Also for me from all his background as with his alias of Plastikman, Circuit Breaker or F.U.S.E, Richie was and he still is like a big inspiration and one of the artists I most admire and of course this was his comeback to Portugal to my festival through me was for sure something I will never forget.

And then I don't like to select special sets or memorable sets because I don't think I'm being fair to all the artists that perform because some of them, I booked them and then I'm not physically and mentally available to listen to them, or even I don't have, I don't spend the proper time to understand or to interpret what they wanted to do but I kept, I keep in my mind some performance from like, as for as for example like Arthur from Robert Johnson closing, Wighnomy Brothers closing, Cobblestone Jazz LIVE, Supermayer, James Ruskin, DJ Deep back to back Zadig, Solar, Ivan Smagghe, John Digweed, I don't know I could name loads of them. And also of course the live shows from St Germain, Moderat, Kraftwerk and Underworld that have been super special to me.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

Last year, it was a tough year and we had, because we had a big storm and we had to improvise tents and all the layout from the venue to be prepared for this storm and to these rainy days. And so we could welcome and give conditions, the proper conditions and good conditions for the crowd and for the artists to enjoy and to deliver their performance. 

So the last day in the closing was done by Laurent Garnier, which was supposed to play three hours, he played five hours and a half because we really had to close but it was really nice for me, for for all the staff for all the crowd, because we already had some sun, everything was ending, everyone was happy and super relieved that our efforts made it, made it worth. And he was without any doubt one of the sets that will keep in my mind and my memory forever.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Laurent Garnier

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

Who is the target audience for your festival?

So at our festival we have, we like to have all kinds of people. And like at this moment we have people from all around the world. We have around 45 to 50 different nationalities at the moment in terms of the kind of people, we have the most passionate ravers to the most alternative ones who just come to listen to one or two artists that they really want to listen to and they really appreciate and then they go home.

But yeah, I really am really proud of the crowd we have because from the most rich to the most simple people, I don't see any discrimination. And I see everyone acting like they're all one you know, like a pure rave and feeling, you know?

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

What is unique about your festival? What sets it apart?

It’s a tough one to answer but I think it's about authenticity. The love we put into every single detail, our team that is a big family, the venue, the mix of artists and people, our background as ravers also allows us to put a different, special touch on it and I'm completely sure about it and also the way we communicate with our crowd and artists, it's very special and unique.

Our annual marketing campaigns are always so creative and distinct from all the others. That um, yes, I think basically it's that I don't, I'm not more than others we’re just different in some details and that's what makes us more unique and also distinguishes us from the others. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced to date in organizing your festival?

Well, apart from all of the other challenges everyone is having and facing every day and every year. Not talking about this weird year for everyone. But our main challenge is with every year like we do a festival in August, but still the weather conditions and the weather forecast is one of our main issues. If we can say.

Neopop FestivalNeopop Festival

Photo courtesy of Neopop Festival

Anything else you want to tell us about?

Hmm, what do I want to tell you more? Well yes, I want to tell you one more thing that's really important and, and that, it’s that I'm really tired of all this bullshit. And this really weird and strange year we're living, and I miss you all.

And when I say all, like I say, crowd, of course especially, and artists, journalists, promoters, competition everyone you know. I want my events and everyone's events back and to keep, to go back to work even if I don't stop, I've never stopped working properly but I want to go back to work fulltime, full mode and in a serious and honest and professional way as we've been doing till now.

Thank you for everything and I hope to see you soon and on a dancefloor somewhere.

Thank you. Bye bye.

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