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Tuesday, February 27, 2018, my life split into two parts: Before I saw Portugal. The Man, and after.
Portugal. The Man is an Alaska-based group that has been around for nine indie albums, but only recently have caught themselves adrift in the mainstream. The group went from supporting tours and performing the fine-print of festivals to selling out headlining tours in just over a year. The cause of this instant fame was none other than the release of the ubiquitous song, "Feel it Still." In just a matter of months, the catchy lyrics from "Feel it Still" have meshed the existence of indie-alternative and pop. The song ultimately won a grammy for the band and gave the world a little more hope in modern music.
As a long-time fan of John Gourley and his entourage, I jumped at the chance to see the band at the Georgia Theatre in Athens, Georgia. After giving myself months of mental preparation for the show, I feared that it would not live up to the hype I that had inexorably self-imposed. No need to fear however; the concert was everything I had hoped and more.
The boys opened with their take on the Metallica song, "For Whom Bell Tolls," which became "Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2" which then finally led to "Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue." By the time "Purple, Yellow, Red and Blue" came on, I was already tearing up. The bassist, Zach Carothers, saw me crying and threw me a guitar pick, perhaps as consolation. That only made me cry further.
My bias aside, it truly was one of the best concerts I had ever seen. The band played with a fluidity I had never seen before. They were comfortable and happy in their respective roles. Occasionally, they went out of their comfort zone with some improvisations, but not so much so that it was overdone and flashy. Along with that, they had smooth transitions between songs. Already mindful of the medley-filled setlist, I was a bit wary of how all of the changes would be done. I kept an ear out and listened to how the band fluctuated from "Sleep Forever" to "Smile" to "Hey Jude" and back to "Sleep Forever" with ease.
The best part about this show was the fact that Portugal. The Man was unapologetically themselves. I've found that statement always holds true with this group. You can see it in everything from their 2017 AMA outfits, to the fact that they tribute the sitcom It's Always Sunny to Philadelphia way too frequently. They even played the song "Dayman," and any Always Sunny fan will understand how exciting it is be to be in a crowd and suddenly hear the lyrics "Dayman, fighter of the nightman, champion of the sun." Not only that, but they had intricate and colorful visuals in the background with cheeky one-liners (that aren't appropriate to be quoted in an article, sorry).
The only complaint I heard from anyone in the audience was that some of the songs on the newer album weren't quite up to par. I suppose I have to agree in that respect. The band boasted of a 'computer free performance,' but played songs that had been heavily synthesized in the recording studio. The result of this was that a few songs didn't quite translate well (I'm looking at you "Noise Pollution"). Any true music lover will tell you firsthand though that they will gladly make that sacrifice if it means they can listen to real instruments. Plus, Portugal. The Man's rendition of their older songs made up for this slight shortcoming in leaps and bounds.
Not only did my friend and I enjoy the show, but we were lucky enough to be able to tell some of the members just how much we enjoyed it. John Gourley and Zach Carothers love meeting fans, and we happened to bump into the pair right outside of the tour bus. We took a few too many pictures and got to see the Bart Simpson tattoo that John had acquired 15 minutes prior. They could only chat with us for about ten minutes before they were whisked away to the next responsibility. Having met other famous people in the past, I can honestly say that I've never seen anyone treat their crazed fans as well as Zach and John. Rather than snapping a few pictures and leaving, the two stuck around for as long as possible to talk about Athens and draw funny pictures on ticket stubs.
In summary, if you ever have the chance to go see some grammy-winning Alaskans, do not turn it down. You will never be able to find a more hip, more chill group of rockstars than Portugal. The Man. I guarantee it.
(Ps. I have decided that John Gourley is in fact a champion of the sun AND a master of karate and friendship for everyone.)