It’s a more manageable and later start to the day, and your heroine is thankful for this. Following Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear’s advice on Day 1, we go to check out Barcelona’s amazing food market, La Boqueria and have a dreadful tourist paella. Soon it’s time to head to the site, along with the rest of the bedraggled for a unique start to the day: I’m heading indoors to the only sheltered venue that was part of Primavera, Auditori Rockdelux.
There, away from the still-nippy-wind, Sascha Ring’s Apparat (joined by a full cabal of musicians) were playing off the final minutes of the wonderful Krieg und Frieden and earned a standing O, as I nearly killed myself in the dark down a long, high flight of stairs in the pitch black. And soon enough I was literally on the front-stage steps lying down on purpose with a handful of old-guy Spanish photographers. Por qué?
A guy called Kevin Rowland. You might remember him, he used to dress in overalls and urged a young woman to “Come On Eileen”. Yep, Primavera comes through with another eclectic programming card, and brought Dexys (no longer Midnight Runners) to town. Starting with a full band, Rowland and Co came on to the slick, wide, stage to run through a theatrical, almost narrative performance of soulful songs like “Now” “Me” “Lost” and “She Got Wiggle”.
Chief loon Rowland was all jazzed up, playfighting or mock-talking to the other performers – horns, keys, drums, violin etc – when they weren’t playing as part of the theatre. “Geno” was in there, of course, and sounded lovely, but no sign of Eileen. Not surprising.
But soon it’s time to leave the posh warm for what else would follow 80s English soul revivalists?
ENTER THE WU.
Yep, it’s Wu-Tang Clan at the Primavera stage. Which was, quite frankly, thrilling, and not just because RZA doused us in champagne. Chanting “WU-TANGGGG!” before the set, the fans were rabid and the guys brought the ruckus, moved into the 4th Chamber, skulked the stage leading a huge singalong for “C.R.E.A.M” and fit in “Liquid Swords” among others. Wooooooooo! Errr, WUUUUUUU!
But! No time! No time. Off on the other side of the grounds was a festival essential: San Francisco psych-punks Thee Oh Sees were absolutely bashing and tearing apart the ATP stage with energy so fun and furious that even the drunkest at the back of the (pleasingly) large crowd was dancing or headbanging.
“Carrion Crawler” of course sounded as momentous as it is, as did pretty much everything else like “The Dream” and “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster” off of new album Floating Coffin. And the band played on, even after John Dwyer threatened to stop the show when a bouncer got too handsy with a bodysurfer. You. Simply. Cannot. Beat. Thee. Oh. Sees. Live.
And while we’re in the Dexys-Wu-Tang-Thee-Oh-Sees thematic vibe, how about Dead Can Dance? An incredible and attentive crowd gathered around Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry on the surf-side RayBan stage as Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and new wave sounds swelled united and formed an almost foreign film soundtrack by the sea. “Kiko” and “Ime Prezakias” became magical. I stood on the precipice watching, a bit gobsmacked, really. But again, no time! No time!
“So, what was the highlight, Mikala?” you ask. I’ll tell you.
He’s about five feet high and was birthed from fire and brimstone. He’s Australia’s gothic dark lord and he’s a fucking legend: Nick Cave.
Starting slow with “We No Who U R” Cave gave photogs just enough time to snap the grudging look of disgust at us on his face, before he shoe’d us off , gave us an Aussie salute (the punk peace sign) and started the show, proper. Now, now I could truly take this in.
Careening across the stage, stepping down into the audience, singing with his hands on the heads of adoring fans or pushing his face (or crotch) and mic into theirs, Cave, Warren Ellis and other malevolent Seeds made “Red Right Hand” and an (From Her to) eternity-long “Mr Stagger Lee” and “Jack the Ripper” sound so incredibly menacing that we all sort of bowed down submissively. Hail Nick Cave forever.
Once the throbbing enormous crowd thinned out after Cave, it was time to make a decision: schlep across the grounds for…errr…nothing that interesting if I recall, or sit in the frozen wasteland of 2am for hours in eager wait to get a front row space for My Bloody Valentine. The latter option won out. I waited 22 years for the new album and it’d been 21 years since I’d last seen them (in an old army airplane hangar in Copenhagen’s Christania), so what was another two and a half hours?
And soon it was time! Time for My Bloody…bloody hell, why can’t we hear the vocals? After camping out and literally subsisting on a bottle of fake lemon water and half a power bar, readying our earplugs in front of a front-row wall of speakers so enormous that we worried the wall of amps (more plentiful than J Mascis’ we may add) would literally blow us back a foot, My Bloody Valentine still deafened – but then fell kinda flat. Yeah, I know. GUTTING.
As excitable as we were, as remarkable as it was to see MBV launch into “I Only Said”, then “When You Sleep” and “New You” and hear THOSE GUITAR LAYERS being in some way rendered live and see Kevin Shields again JUST THERE! In the flesh!…gah, it was also frustrating.
Whilst bassist Debbie Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig powered maniacally in the background, Billinda Butcher, when not playing or singing, stood stone-faced her guitar hanging limply around her neck and she looked like she’d rather be anywhere but there. Shields to no avail kept trying to get his monitor frequency changed and finally, switching guitars between songs, actually walked off stage for a moment to have what we can only assume was “a word.” Which was pretty much more words than he uttered to the audience, ie “Hi” and something to do with not being able to play a new song because they didn’t have time.
So with all that not chatting between songs – we didn’t expect this of course, nor jazzhands or snazzy moves, I’ve seen them before – hundreds of people actually yelled from the crowd “Turn up your vocals!” “We can’t hear you!”. This was incredible, really, because you could hear absolutely every string pluck of guitar and every other singer on every other stage throughout the weekend. But okay, the vocals are buried anyway – so let’s just listen to “Only Shallow” and bask a bit, shall we? We did. Gleefully. Alas, MBV, while it was brilliant to see you after all these years – we just wished you were more present and just…MORE.
Totally present were festival closers Hot Chip. As reliable as rain at Glastonbury, Hot Chip spread the sunshine in the pitch black of 3:50am on a Sunday morning by bouncing straight into “How Do You Do?”, setting off the last stragglers who’d made it through the week’s festivities. Looking back at my photos, it’s hard to find any in focus. Why? BECAUSE I CAN NEVER NOT DANCE TO HOT CHIP. And for that I adore and honour them. It’s almost as if it’s not a festival unless Hot Chip are there.
In fact, it wasn’t just me who wanted to dance. That’s bandmate Owen Clarke above typically givin’ it on stage, away from his keys. “Boy from School” and “One Life Stand”, of course, were floor pleasers for the rest of us, but “Ready for the Floor” and “Over and Over” had even the last rows at the back in the cold, dancing, smiling, high-fiving strangers and hugging. And while there were other bands, at smaller stages, powering through their 4:30am sets, it was Hot Chip’s uplifting closer of “I Feel Better” that ended the festival for most.
So off we trekked, calves aching, noses running, safe in the knowledge that finally, finally we could sleep. Watching Dinosaur Jr side-stage, getting schooled in Apple Bongs from Damian from Fucked Up, laughing with Django Django, meeting new Grizzly Bear girlfriends (and husbands), talking to Animal Collective about their weird radio thing, running into METZ by the beach, hearing the lovely Kurt Vile bend his strings, relive 1991 with Blur and point my camera up the nose of the great Nick Cave? Man, Primavera, you outdid yourself. Muchas, muchas gracias! \m/
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