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Festival Review: Primavera Sound

Our sunkissed contributor reports from the frontlines of Spains biggest music festival, and discovers bands that drove her wild, the second coming of Kurt Cobain (maybe) and a few acts that should be put out to pasture.

Written by Laura Lotti

I have recently noticed that the more music festivals I attend, the less stressival I suffer from. Are summer festivals becoming less and less exciting or is it that my music tastes get fussier and fussier? Probably both.

It is with this mood that I approach the new adventure of Primavera Sound 2010. Few of the names on the bill actually make me wet my pants, but honestly I expected a more “dangerous”, braver line-up from the self-proclaimed “international reference of independent music” in Europe, that this year gets to its 10th edition. For instance, it surprisingly lacks of the exponents of the big dubstep and new underground electronic scene that has characterised large part of the musical year 2009-2010.
Plenty of the übercool chillwave American bands, darlings of the major international music blogs, grace the stages of the Parc Del Forum in Barcelona but what about the great producers we have here in the UK, and in France?
There are some great big comebacks (Pavement, Liquid Liquid, The Slits), some classics (Pixies, Shellac), established new acts (Panda and Grizzly Bears, Atlas Sound, Broken Social Scene, Diplo), the best hip new bands (Real Estate, Best Coast, Sleigh Bells, Surfer Blood) but it seems it lacks of the sparkle it had till last year.

Here are in chronological order of appearance some impressions of the acts I’ve had the pleasure (or the pain, depending on the circumstances) to see in the 3-day music marathon of Primavera Sound, collected in real time and (almost) uncensored.

The Fall: miserably missed due to queue at the accreditation stand point. It rains. The night kicks off in a quite delusional way.

Smith Westerns: the singer looks exactly like Nick Cave’s son! But he’s not, thank God, otherwise I would lose all the respect I have got for the Cave family.
Pitchfork’s indie darlings are not bad after all, they sound pretty garage-y and their catchy guitar riffs and the stage presence of his frontman are quite entertaining. But I don’t see much inventive or novelty.
On record they sound much much better – a raw, fuzzy, surf-y powerpop, that has nothing to do with the boring indie version of them I’m seeing tonight.

Superchunk: did we really need the comeback of the Nineties? Did we really miss it? They put up a good show, but they give me that mixed feeling of when you see your parents putting out the 20-year-old kid attitude. Sweet attempt.

Broken Social Scene: Kevin Drew is possibly the most talented male singer of the decade, at least. They are so good I want to cry. Seeing them is a real pleasure. Their airy, rich melodies fill the air in the Rayban stage, no one talks, everyone listens to them in ecstatic silence.
They are actually so good, so eclectic and effortlessly beautiful that I almost hate them.

Pavement: I saw them in Brixton in early May and I was not that convinced by this comeback. And the show on Thursday confirms my first impression. It seems that Mr Malkmus has lost his voice. He still looks unbelievably hot, though.
They actually seems they’ve got their energy back in ‘Fight This Generation’, but maybe I’m too drunk already not to notice their struggle in trying rock like in the good ol’ days.
I’m definitely too drunk.

Fuck Buttons: this is actually the show I’m unexpectedly enjoying the most on Thursday. Sitting on the “gradas” of the Rayban stage at 4 in the morning, knackered, sipping the nth “vodka y redbull light”, waiting for the metro to reopen so that I can finally pass out in bed.
They build up a psychedelic wall of sounds and lights, the rhythm gets faster and faster, orgasmic almost. ‘Sweet Love For Planet Heart’ is the song that will sing me to sleep in the wee hours.

A Sunny Day In Glasgow: first, they are not from Glasgow, they are from Philly. And I’ve been apparently not enough obsessed with them for the past few years to be surprised by how young they look. To be honest, I’ve never cared about giving a face to those haunting voices that build up as if they were coming from outer space – there’s still too much music out there to waste time in caring about looks. But the richness and maturity of their sound and elaborated melodies have always made me think of some more mature musician. Or maybe they’ve just got a healthy lifestyle and know how to keep themselves young. Or maybe they’ve done a pact with the devil.

Harlem: cool Texan dudes that sing of ‘Gay Human Bones and ‘Junkie Nurse’. Their power-surf-pop is well fun, everyone jumps around in the evening sun and salty breeze.

Scout Niblett: Holy shit! Where does this tiny mousy-faced woman in mismatched clads with the most powerful and heartbreaking voice come from? Well, I’ve done my research, it’s not Neptune or some obscure otherworldly space. It’s Nottingham. The depth and flexibility of her voice reminds me of Bjork and the rawness and brutality of her sound makes me strangely think of Kurt Cobain. Everybody listens in religious silence to the guitar roaring, the drums kicking and her timid but potent and violent voice. Goosebumps.

Ganglians: why are there so many good bands from California? Why London is lacking so much of young talented bands effortlessly cool, not afraid to experiment with both instruments and technology, other than with illegal substances? I think London is pretty dead on that front, it seems everyone is busy in “after-partying” or just “posing”, while on the West Coast there’s so much musical ferment.

*Amend: pardonnez-moi for this stream of consciousness, after all London has got its musical gems, too, like Django Django, Fiction, La Shark… And plenty of amazing electronic producers. Only, somehow they didn’t get to Primavera Sound.

Anyway, my love Ganglians’ ability to centrifuge together psych, surf, pop, goth, noise has
been lasting so far. I think they are officially my favourite new band around.

Cocorosie: great arty show for the Cassidy sisters, with psychedelic scenography and fairy costumes. I appreciate their ability to mix medieval fantasies, flutes, boom-boxes, pop and opera, but the final effect doesn’t convince me. I find their sound too pop, actually, almost trip-hop.

Beach House: Another great voice and delicious melodies. Less inventive than Cocorosie, that I’ve ditched in order to see them on Friday, they put up a show solely focused on their musical performance without visual embellishments, but their melodies are so haunting and enthralling that I can’t help and close my eyes to the notes of ‘Zebra’ and sing along.

Wire: They. Are. Impressive. They still rock, and rock hard. And Colin Newman has still got all his voice.

Panda Bear: sweet smell of weed fills the air in front of the Vice stage. And I feel like enjoying Panda Bear in a transcendental status, too. Unfortunately Noah Lennox will have to play without visuals – which sounds a bit of a joke for a “multimedia artist” like him.
I’ve always liked Panda Bear and Animal Collective but I think there’s not much point in seeing him live since the show is not very visually exciting.
Actually, who needs visuals, when you can sit down, close your eyes and surrender to the beats, the bass, those kicks and that infinite primordial echo.
Yes, I’m gladly stoned, too by the end of the gig.

Marc Almond: I feel sorry for him. This gig is quite embarrassing, He looks like an old cocotte wearing too much make up in order to still try to attract clients.

Pixies: yeah, Pixies are always superb. Still, it doesn’t feel “real”, if you know what I mean, considering all the rumors surrounding issues going on between the members of the band (the fact that Kim Deal’s face is never caught on the maxi screens might be a clue, or maybe I’m simply conspiracy freak?).
I’m in a peace-and-love vibe and don’t feel comfortable in that hard-rock situation. I run to see Yeasayer that will better suit my mood.

Yeasayer: I think All Our Cymbals has been the album I’ve most listened to in 2008 AND 2009. But this doesn’t change my personal opinion on Chris Keating, the singer, that tonight confirms my impressions with his biggest-twat-in-town attitude.

The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77: glad to hear that my Italian fella Bloody Beetroots, Steve Aoki’s protegés and tech-house kings, have evolved into a “real” instrumental electronic band that mixes techno, hip-hop, italo disco, punk and house in an explosive mix.

ODDSAC: if I saw Danny Perez and Animal Collective’s movie on LSD I would be traumatized forever. Watching it right after breakfast (as I did) is not highly recommended either.
Plotless succession of psychedelic images, primordial cries and surreal situation. I leave the theatre completely high on sensory stimuli.
My head feels emptied. My only certainty, as I re-acclimatize to reality in the warm Saturday afternoon sun, is that I will never eat marshmallows again.

Real Estate: fuzzy guitars: check. Reverb: check. New home in Brooklyn: check. Feature on the cool blog celebrating them as the-new-cool-band -to-check-out: check. Check shirt: check . (Too many “check”s, I’m getting a headache.)
I’m always a bit sceptical towards bands that meet all the requirements to automatically be regarded as “cool”, but I have to admit that their raw shoegaze-y pop is catchy and refreshing.

Michael Rother and Friends present Neu!music: Michael Rother playing Neu! tracks out of a sleek silver Mac? Is he taking the piss? I’m leaving.

Atlas Sound: magical. His creepy and unwillingly imposing presence, his acoustic guitar and a few effects create a wonderful atmosphere.

The Slits: Ari Up is still a hot mess, all clad in Jamaican colours, and the new tracks sound as good and fun as the old classics. But Ari should definitely smoke less dope.

Grizzly Bear: ok, I’ve got some issues with this band. I do like them, but I can’t understand why. Maybe this is the deepest secret of real love? I still can’t understand how they could fill up the second biggest stage this way. And I don’t know why they keep putting them and Animal Collective in the same music cluster. Tonight, they sound a bit blues-y for some reasons. But my heart of stone melts like ice lolly in the sun to the airy melodies of the Brooklyn-based 4-piece outfit.

Matt & Kim: I guess they can’t even believe it themselves but they gather a massive audience. Everyone is dancing like crazy! Their genuine enthusiasm and energy are contagious. And I’m down in the crowd, too.

Liquid Liquid: in the words of Sal Principato:

Real music
Played by real people
For real people

And he is right indeed. I crown them the best band I’ve had the honour to see performing live. It feels like their sound has never changed, they still bang those percussions like 30 years ago. I had lots of expectations for them, and they haven’t let me down once. This is the feeling I was expecting to experience in Primavera Sound.

*It has only happened once or twice, though (with Liquid Liquid and Ganglians, precisely).

Pet Shop Boys: I pass by the main stage to see Pet Shop Boy just because I feel I have to, being the main headliner of the whole festival. A technicolor show where special effect take the precedence over the music. Gaga would be proud of them. I’m not.

Lee “Scratch” Perry: wait a minute. Me? Not only listening to Lee “Scratch” Perry, but jumping and dancing by the stage to the irresistible tracks of the 74 year-old godfather of dub? Yes! And I’m loving it.

Orbital: they kick off brilliantly, with a mayhem of techno and house supported by great visual effects. But they lose me with a remix of Jon Bonjovi’s ‘Heaven on Heart‘.

The Field: I discover this Stockholm electronic musician tonight and I’m blown away by the deep beats that open up in a hectic crescendo. He performs live supported by nonetheless than John Stainer, drummer of the über-cool Battles (and other two dudes I don’t really know).
since I discovered Kopperberg cider I knew that Swedish were cool, and The Field definitely confirms my love and respect for that population.

The Field is the last act I see at Primavera Sound 2010. Fake Blood is next on the Pitchfork stage. But I start to feel drained by these three days of dwelling with queues at the accreditation points, queues at the bars, queues at the toilets (that were really only few), dealing with the lack of information and with the fact that apparently people in Barcelona are not gifted with the talent of giving directions to strangers (seriously, someone should do an ethnographic study about this). I feel I need a holiday to recover from this holiday.
But I leave Parc Del Forum with a smile and the echo of Ganglians’ ‘Crying’ Smoke’ in my head, sure that next year, in spite of the troubles and some disappointment, I’ll be here.

But before memories get blurred and emotions fade away, let me decree the winners of this 3-day music marathon.

Best of best: Liquid Liquid.
Best new act: Ganglians, Scout Niblett.
Acts I regret the most not having seen: The Fall, Sleigh Bells, The King Kahn & BBQ Show.
Acts I regret the most having seen: Marc Almond, Michael Rother and Friends.
Best overall line-up per stage: Pitchfork and ATP tie.
Best day: Saturday. I haven’t danced so much in ages.

All photos by Laura Lotti


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