Aching and disoriented, your heroine wakes in Barcelona, alive from Day 1 at Primavera. She checks her phone and accepts an invite via Instagram from the lovely chaps in Django Django to head on site early to come to soundcheck and say hi.
It’s amazing the Heineken stage was still upright. Hardcore winds are blowing in from the sea and it’s frigid.
But the Djangos are not just checking, they’re rehearsing a bit so I find myself on an empty festival site getting a private concert from one of my favourite bands. Backstage I catch up with Vince, Jimmy and Tommy (Dave’s elsewhere) and we all have a laugh at the trajectory of where we keep meeting: first London for Field Day, then Pukkelpop in Belgium, then an interview (coming soon, still, I promise) in Toronto, and now Barcelona. I should really get on the band’s bus! The guys are in fine spirits; it’s the first date on the Euro tour (another one) and we discuss whether they even know what to do with themselves when they’re home. Vince talks about putting up shelves.
But the band need some nosh, and it’s time to bid adieu so I wander into the backstage portables and run into some other folks who happen to be playing the same stage and whom I know! It’s my Happy-Mondays-singing partner of just a few weeks’ ago, Kurt Vile (and lovely guitarist Jesse Trbovich). Wahey! We’re all freezing and the wind is annoying. ”Well, at least we might be able to see your face,” I quip at Kurt. “YEAH, IT SUUUUUUUCKS” he shoots back. So I leave them to check in front of….a giant cross on stage?Either Kaves is going for the full Jesus Christ thing, or…oh yeah, right… Jesus & Mary Chain are on later.
So Kurt kicks off the evening for us.. And today I’ve sworn to try and catch more full sets, instead of run around. He’s late in finishing check, fiddling with guitar sounds for yonks. Because of this, at the very back of the field, security has to keep fans back at the bottleneck with flimsy yellow tape. I’m standing alone in the field snd as the chaps wrap, suddenly hundreds of Spaniards are literally running towards the stage all Beatles-y and frantic. They’re coming for me, right? Oh. The guys look bemused at the onslaught before going backstage to get warm for 45 minutes pre-show. And what do I look bemusedly at? This picture I snapped in the wind. KV doing full Cousin Itt,
A handful of minutes later and KV and band come back on. He mumbles a snippet of Happy Mondays’ “Wrote for Luck” (which delights me greatly; it’s like an inside joke now) before heading into familiar, comforting, wonderful Vile territory – slow, lush guitar of “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day” and “Jesus Fever” , with “Shame Chamber” and “KV Crimes” in there before it all grew into “Hunchback” then went into massive fuzzbox feedbackland for a huge “Freak Train.” Delicious and unique to see him in front of such a big expanse.
After that, I stay put: it’s the Double Ds for real this time. The crowd for Django Django is large and curious (Django have never played Barcelona) but like all Django shows, it doesn’t take long for the brilliantly open, inviting and fun four-piece to get folks really, really moving to their percussive alt-pop. “Hail Bop”, a less frantic “Default”, a sea-shanty-like “Love’s Dart” are successful at warming both cockles and bodies that seriously need warming. Seriously love the Djangos.
Meanwhile on the Primavera stage, another UK band, Peace, did their over-hyped indie rock before ceding the stage to the sisters Deal – who announced themselves as “Los Breeders” with both Kim and Kelley grinning mightily throughout the entire performance of Last Splash. That album! Live! After all these years! YESSSSSS!
And oh to hear Wiggs’ bassline on “Cannonball” and the “AWOOOO-AH! AWOOOO-AH!” live again. The ladies and gent are in fine, reassuring form. “Do You Love Me Now?” sounds rad and floats overhead. Kelley talks about how their wind-chimes were imported from Ohio, Kim continues to beam, (perhaps she was thinking about her plans to quit the Pixies?) and just happily playing through the songs.
Gutted to miss Daughter at the Vice stage; friends confirm a less folky and more forthright set than normal, but the Vice stage seems as far away as France and the timing wouldn’t work out for photo, so I end up waiting with earplugs wedged in for Jesus & Mary Chain. It’s not my first time at the Scottish miserablist JAMC rodeo: seen ‘em twice in 1992. When I was, uh, 10. Yeah, let’s just go with 10. Those songs still have a special place is my slacker heart.
So I was curious to see the JAMC Seniors’ Edition. And out they came, the brothers Reid, with Jim looking probably more animated than you’d expect (though stillnearly comatose and a dead-ringer for Grumpy Cat) and William just curly-headed down and concentrating at the task at hand. They kick off with “Snakedriver”, then “Head On”. “Sidewalking”, “Cracking Up”, “Happy When it Rains” …all sounding perfectly good, actually – and lo! Is that My Bloody Valentine’s Billinda Butcher doing vocals with Jim on “Just Like Honey”? 1990s indie orgasm! If I wasn’t so fucking cold, that is.
Following that, the almighty Swans played to what must have been the biggest and most (surprisingly) rapt crowd of their lives. Hordes of fans crammed up against the Ray Ban stage, underscoring one of the great things about Primavera’s programming: it’s respectful of its elders, and particularly the really fucking great ones. Oxygen” and “The Seer” sounded so incredibly thick and enormous – with each song lasting approximately 14 years – it was a wonder the waterside stage didn’t slide off into the sea from the epicness.
But soon it’s back to the Heineken stage, stat, for it’s time for Blur! Or maybe not!
What? Where the hell is that music coming from? THE FERRIS WHEEL?
Literally 15 minutes before Blur are about to delight the full force of Englishmen Abroad, we hear a voice. “Hello, we are The Wedding Present!” What? Really? Playing from a VIP perch under the fucking ferris wheel? Okay! Why not? Hearing “Kennedy” again and a weird three-song set, was a treat. “This is as much of a surprise to us as it is to you,” proclaimed David Gedge. Surreal.
But now…Blur! For real!
Thousands of gleeful Spaniards shared space with even more thousands of pissed-up British visitors as Damon & Co took to the stage following a “Theme from Retro” intro, and just blew everything apart with “Girls & Boys”. May as well just dive in with one of the big hits, shan’t we? Why not. ARRRRROOOOOOOGHA!
Alex stood there looking all cool and cheesemongery, cig hanging from his mouth, Graham was a sharp-dressed man in a striped jacket, and Dave, well, Dave was Dave-like behind the drumkit. As I dodged Damon throwing water on us photog, I also shed a wee metaphorical tear: it was actually really, really exciting to see the four-piece on stage together again.
But the best part of Blur was that it actually seemed the lads wanted to be there, too. Damon ran around the stage, grinning, throwing water, tackling Graham, egging the fans on like at a footie match, telling people that “Sometimes it’s great doing this, and this is one of those moments” and one actually believed him. A monstrous set that spanned 17 tracks including “There’s No Other Way” “Tender” “Coffee & TV” and the obvious wrapper of “Song 2”, Blur really, really sounded great – and carried themselves pretty damn brilliantly too. It’s been a while since I’ve seen Blur (twice in ‘91 when I interviewd them and *cough* got – sort of incorrectly – mentioned in Alex James’ book, then again in ‘95), but seen Gorillaz a few times and am reminded about what a great showman Damon is and always will be.
So, hopped up on adrenaline (she’s so high!) I had to beat the crowd crush and get back over to the Primavera stage in time for…the Knife! It’s 3:20am, what better time to watch…uh, a whole bunch of dancers lip-synching and faux-playing instruments in iridescent monk robes?
WHAT THE ALMIGHTY F*CK, Knife?
It shouldn’t be a surprise, really. The öööber-mysterious Swedish duo haven’t exactly done anything conventionally since they first dribbled into hipster ears with their enigmatic, experimental, electro. But this? This confused the hell out of a pit of international photographers, who, like me, were trying their damndest to figure out which one of the Lord of the Flies/Rings/Dance troupe were actually the band. But I spotted Karin! Whee. On the right, just there…
Dressed in either space-aged (read: 80s) neon or hologram vinyl hoodies, the Knife – including Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer cleverly hidden among the dancers – basically put forth a night-ending performance art piece so enjoyable/confusing/irritating/ridiculous/not bad actually that it was hard to know what to think. Common consensus? Nope. Half seemed confused, the rest of us just shrugged as if to say “yeah, what else’d you expect”? Then we danced, mouths agape.
Non-stop high-energy with dancers faking Karin’s vocals and air drumming? It was like an ad for American Apparel and Glitter Glue barfed all over the stage. Guess we shoulda seen that coming. But were the Knife interesting to watch and listen to even if it wasn’t really “live”? Yep.
“A Cherry On Top” sounded creepy and eerie to start but “Raging Lung” slowly got feet dancing. Photographers were only let into the pen on the third song, but by the time “Bird” and “Without You My Life Would Be Boring” were well in play, we forgot Olof was in a red wig and it was 4am. But how great did “Silent Shout” sound at that ungodsly hour? Unbelievable. But how did we feel at 4am? Shite. Time for bed. And though I’d seen fewer bands than Day 1, would you look at that lineup? Man.
And there’s a whole ‘nother day of Barca to try and survive tomorrow…\m/
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