It was colder, windier and walking back and forth between 7 stages on concrete was more punishing than expected. Sets started at 6pm and headliners went on in the darkspace of 3am. Clashes between beloved bands playing at the same time on different stages was often soul-destroying. But it was Barcelona, baby, and Primavera Sound Festival delivered a week of uniquely programmed alternative music that ranged from beloved 90s bands on the revival tour, new punks, acousticky guitar folk, indie pop, and a few token electro and rap artists.
Gaudi by day, music by the sea at night. Pretty awesome, right? Si!
Here’s just a few of the highlights of Primavera, as seen from the 60-person strong photo pit.
Day 1. 11am and it’s too early. I was out partying with NYC’’s indie rock band GUARDS the night before, and feeling a little peaky. But Dinosaur Jr’s soundcheck provides me a chance to wander the empty Primavera grounds and get a feel for the umpteen hours of music noise about to come. While I wander, men with magnificent hair fiddle with pedals, knobs and amp settings.
After soundcheck, J Mascis and I chat briefly, Lou and I catch up and stand-in drummer Kyle Spence (Murph couldn’t make it on this tour) pokes around the backstage portables. “All the geeky bands are on this stage!” proclaims Lou, referring to sharing a backstage area with Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. (He means it affectionately and is a fan of both.) Soon, Dino are off again to rehearse for the rest of the short Euro slog and I go to sit on the hotel’s rooftop patio.
By 6pm I find myself in the press area of Primavera – set on the sea, and staring down Deakin, The Geologist and Panda Bear – aka 3/4ths of Animal Collective, who have been strong-armed into a sunshiney press conference with international scribes. They sit, and Irish, Brazilian, American, Spanish and Canadian writers fires questions at them. I congratulate them on their efforts on the Centipede HZ Radio programming they put together at the launch of their last album, and Geologist smiles, happy that someone actually listened to it. Afterwards I shanghai them for this selfie, and start to make my way back “into town”…
….When I actually run into these handsome punks!
It’s my buddies from Toronto, METZ! How rad to find friends randomly at a music festival with approximately 100K people. We chat, they look for a journo they’re supposed to meet with and we plot to meet up later during Hot Snakes (who we all agree are pretty much the SHIT).
Wild Nothing kicked off the massive Heineken stage lineup with a thoroughly, you know, fine light indie pop set, in front of, quite frankly - thousands of Tame Impala fans waiting to watch the Australians play through much of their critically lauded album Lonerism. But I’ve seen TI before and had other plans on other stages. Seriously, festival stage double- or triple-bookings are the things that suck the most out of three days of shows. TOO MUCH AWESOME.
The real highlight of that stage came late into the night, with, surprisingly (for me, anyway) Phoenix.
Yeah, they pretty much only have four songs, but they deliver epic festival feel-goodery. Their pop-songs-in-the-night-sky set kicked off with “Entertainment”, “Lasso” and “Lizstomania” and a heaving, huge crowd bounced and beamed. Thomas Mars bounded about the stage, grinning, posing and eventually ended up surfing in the adoring late-night as the last strains of “Entertainment” played once again in Reprise fashion, this time joined by Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis (who has covered the band’s track previously). You cannot underestimate festival-feel-goodery.
Meanwhile, UK’s post-punk outfit Savages owned the Pitchfork stage, with singer Camille Berthomier (aka Jehnny Beth) aggressively shadow-boxing through most of an incendiary pack of tracks. Mostly looking intense a la giant-chip-on-shoulder , the band started with “Shut Up” from new album Silence Yourself . Their early-era Siouxsie gothpunk cut through the dusk and was welcome after a few milder effort. But the real pleasure was seeing the delight on JB’s face as they GAVE IT.
That was followed by aforementioned/photographed Toronto trio Metz who railed through an even-more-so bombastic and sweat-drenched 30 minutes in what seemed like only three.
In the photo pit, my home for three days, many photographers would later cite the Metz show among their faves of Day 1 and it was their electric punk freakout with “Negative Space”, “Get Off” and “Headache” that all caused necks to thrash. And indeed, I would find my friends again later in the night, miraculously Somehow, I felt the neck tattoos beaming from behind me and for a brief moment the four of us went near-deaf for Hot Snakes together at the ATP stage.
Throw in Pink Eyes’ Damian and Fucked Up also playing on the ATP – plus Damian’s cover of Last Rights’ “Chunks” on the Primavera stage during Dinosaur Jr’s also-deafening batch of tracks (if Rollins is the biggest Mascis fan, then Damian is a Lou-pie, and shared a perch with me sidestage), and Primavera offered just enough of a sludgefeast of noise rock.
And speaking of Sludgefeast and Dino, there’s nothing quite like a bunch of Marshall stacks blowing out Mascis’ and Barlow’s hair along with “Thumb”, “Raisans”, Deep Wound’s “Training Ground” and crowd-surfing crowd-pleasers “Just Like Heaven” and “Freak Scene” into the audience. Dinosaur: instant, well-worth it tinnitus.
Afterwards, Damian bounced off the walls following his set-ender cover with his pals, and brought Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom into the backstage portable. He promptly showed me how to make an Apple Bong, and I witnessed two expert pot smokers seriously discuss soft drugs whilst enjoying them.
But it wasn’t just the noiseys represented at Primavera. The folky, alt-chill dude(ttes) held up well, too. Woods impressed most and the lovely Neko Case’s pristine songs filled a night sky (weirdly, just before Dinosaur Jr on the Primavera Stage – not much cross-over in those two fan camps). Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox dressed up for the occasion – a festival he also called his “favourite time of year” – by donning a formless black and white muu-muu, white face paint, red lipstick and thick black hair.
Looking more like a pencil-thin Robert Smith’s grandma, Cox headed up the band’s first of THREE sets at Primavera (they sat in for Band of Horses on Day 3 who had to cancel, and also played a post-main-festival Sunday night gig in town). “Cover me (slowly)” “Agoraphobia” and “Desire Lines” rang clean.
Meanwhile, Grizzly Bear had a slight hiccupy false start with some tech difficulties but evened out with beautiful harmonies, jelly-fish-like lighting that rose from the stage and an absolutely note-perfect “Speak in Rounds”(a bit of a BSR themesong) among a setlist balanced between Shields and Veckatimest. Even at 1:30am when you’re cold and cranky, the Grizzlies are warming.
Backstage, I reminded Ed Droste of our meeting in Vancouver at (Canadian) Thanksgiving, met his husband and chatted about Barcelona’s fab food market La Boqueria, caught up with extra-Bear Aaron Arntz, and chatted to Chris Taylor as he lamented the fact that’d he’d written really complex parts for himself in the songs and how much he needs to concentrate on them live. Bear-hug for the Grizzlies! And from the Grizzlies!
At the RayBan stage, Simian Mobile Disco carried the not-as-well-represented-electro- banner and plugged into their what-looks-like-old-timey-telephone-switchboard equipment to lead a frenetic dance party with a pitch-changed “Hustler” and soaring “I Believe”. Both sounded enormous around 2am.
At 3:10am, Animal Collective (after a backstage visit from our friend Sonic Boom and equipping their stage with colourful inflated giant teeth) started with “I Think I Can” before Avey Tare blew apart the awesome “Today’s Supernatural” with his own seated piano freak-out. Festival staples like “My Girls” and “Monkey Riches” pinged out into the very early morning at the end of an exhausting first day.
Broken, dehydrated, flat-footed and slightly deaf, your heroine then limped across the street to her well-located hotel, to ensure she got some sleep…which never came. Stay tuned for Day 2, aka “Today’s Goal is to Not Run Around So Much”. \m/
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