MEO Kalorama, a newcomer to the European festival scene, is already staking a claim to one of the best end-of-season events. Taking place over three days (August 31-September 2, 2023), the Lisbon-based fest boasts a varied lineup with huge names like Florence + the Machine, Blur, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and dozens of others.
Once again, another summer festival season (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) is coming to a close. For this final weekend of warm weather, I’m heading to lively Lisbon to attend one of the bright spots of the Portuguese calendar. Two things that caught my attention about MEO Kalorama were the world-class lineup and a downtown fest in one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Let’s see how it all worked out!
Table Of Contents
1. Running the Numbers
Dates: August 31-September 2, 2023
Attendance: 35,000 est. per day
MFW Beer Index: €5.00/500ml
MFW French Fry Index: €5.00
Highest/Lowest Temperature: 29C/18C (84F/64F)
Reusable Cups? Yes
Free Water Stations? Yes
2. The Scene
MEO Kalorama’s home is Bela Vista Park (translated to “beautiful view”), one of the largest open areas in Lisbon city limits. The main stage is perched at the bottom of a massive natural amphitheater, so it’s really up to you if you want to get in close, perch up on the hillside, or enjoy the music from one of the many tree-shaded spots around the venue. At the top of the hill were two secondary stages with views of the park, while the smallest stage, dedicated to electronic music, was tucked away in a tiny forest.
Having been to a Portuguese park festival in the past, I expected more lush surroundings, but suspect the dead grass was because “the month of August 2023 was the fifth hottest in mainland Portugal since 1931.” It’s been a rough summer here in Europe with one of the unfortunate side effects being a lot more dust than usual at outdoor shows.
MEO Kalorama showcases a classic mega-festival lineup with superstars, up-and-comers, and new artists. With such a strong lineup, I worried a bit about clashes, but the organizers did a great job with the main stage acts having almost no overlap with other artists. The two secondary stages did happen at the same time, so it was more of a choose -your-own adventure when it came to selecting what to watch.
As a recent newcomer on the festival circuit, this is still a mainly Portuguese crowd with age ranges all across the board. There’s enough space in the park along with an easygoing festie vibe that I would call this a family-friendly event. Lisbon, for better or for worse, has become a major expat destination over the last few years, so there was a bit of international variety in the crowd. Overall, the chaos factor was almost non-existent – a great festival for people to just see loads of music.
3. Music Highlights
Acts I Caught and the Unofficial Order in Which I Enjoyed Them
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs
- The Hives
- Florence + The Machine
- Ethel Cain
- Belle & Sebastian
- Amyl and The Sniffers
- The Prodigy
- Selma Uamusse
- Dino D’Santiago
- Charlie Cunningham
- Hause Plants
Festival MVP: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O and company continue their successful summer tour of festivals around the world dropping into Lisbon for the first time since 2006. Appropriately kicking off the set with ‘Spitting Off The Edge of the World’, the first single from their latest album, Yeah Yeah Yeahs ripped through a short, 12-song set that was a stand-out of the weekend.
Most Energetic: The Hives
You can’t beat the showmanship of The Hives. They just don’t put on a set; they put on an event. There was jumping, yelling, bold proclamations, more yelling, and plenty of shenanigans when the identically clad Swedish fivesome took to the stage. Don’t skip their show if you get a chance to see it at a festival.
Best Cameo: Florence Welch
After recently canceling some August dates because she was rushed to the hospital for life-saving emergency surgery, it was heartening to see Florence Welch make her first appearance back in public with a surprise duet during Ethel Cain’s where they sang ‘Thoroughfare’ together.
Up and Coming: Ethel Cain
If you didn’t know anything about Hayden Silas Anhedönia (aka Ethel Cain), you would have quickly guessed from the fans singing all the words to all the songs that this is an artist on a meteoric rise. Sporting a Dale Earnhardt t-shirt and a stack of indie pop country tunes, Cain might as well have been on the main stage — which is exactly what happened later on in the evening with an appearance during Florence + the Machine.
4. Stray Observations
I See You
Midway through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set, the group launched out a pair of inflatable eyeballs into the crowd.
Up Close and Personal
From The Hives to Shame to Blur along with Ethel Cain and Foals, it felt like nearly every artist made an effort to come out and touch the crowd.
Sun-“Set” of the Weekend
The stripped-down minimalism of Belgian singer-songwriter Tamino is an ideal soundtrack for the day’s end.
The Secret Stage
The smallest of the four stages at MEO Kalorama was the Panoramic Stage, hidden in a tiny forest at the edge of the festival. Featuring a lineup of DJs throughout the weekend, this was a place to come chill, dance, and decompress.
Dancing Up Dust Storms
Florence Welch has a bit in her show where she encourages everybody to just let loose and dance, a noble and inspiring effort – unless you are in a sandy park at which point we created a dust storm so fierce that Florence had to take a moment to collect herself.
This was a promotion for an off-brand Kermit doll. Or something.
5. Practical Info
What’s the weather like? Summer is over! While it did get a little warm in the late afternoon, evenings were cool and refreshing. One thing to remember is that Lisbon is right on the ocean and weather can change in a snap. It’s always a good idea to think about a raincoat and cold weather. If there’s not rain like this past year, the wind can kick up quite a bit of dust so you may want to pack a mask in your bag.
What are the prime hours for music? Music started each day around 3:00 p.m. and ended about 1:30 in the morning. Headliners usually went on around 9:30-10:00 at night.
Where did you sleep? I stayed three metro stops away in a charming Airbnb room with a shared kitchen and bathroom (€58/night). I’ve also stayed in plenty of hostels around Lisbon and always recommend them for those festies looking to save some coin.
How do you get there? Like my other Iberian Peninsula adventures in Madrid and Barcelona, Lisbon has an excellent metro system (€1.65/OW) and has recently been upgraded so you can just tap your credit card for access. Like my other Iberian Peninsula adventures, the metro shuts down before the festival ends leaving you looking for a cab, bus, or long walk home along with 60,000 other festies.
6. Final Thoughts
At the top of the recap, I said MEO Kalorama caught my attention because of the lineup and Lisbon, and I have to say after attending, it exceeded expectations. I’m also happy to hear that not only will MEO Kalorama return for a third edition, they have already posted dates for August 29-31, 2024. If you are looking for an affordably priced festival with an awesome lineup, I can’t recommend enough checking this one out.