While the music, atmosphere and variety of lovingly constructed attractions at British festivals is unparalleled, there’s always a downside.
Usually this involves spending roughly 50% of your time either crammed into a two-man tent containing more than two men, forlornly eating a falafel under a leaking burger van awning while gazing blankly at the drizzle, and/or attempting to put a pop-up tent back in its case, a feat virtually impossible even in a quiet room on a calm day with the windows shut, let alone in the middle of a gale in a Yorkshire dale. At British festivals you have to take the rough with the smooth, and, in terms of comfort levels, even the smooth can be pretty rough.
This is why festivals like Primavera have proved increasingly popular over the last decade or so. By trimming all the strenuously soggier parts of the festival experience but keeping the adventurous line-ups, Primavera has attracted more and more foreigners to Catalonia for a weekend of incredible music – complete with an actual bed at the end of it.
As a Primavera virgin, albeit accompanied by triple-time attendee Amadeep Chana, I was eager to find out whether it lived up to the hype; and moreover, justified the journey. So here’s how Primavera holds up to its British equivalents…
While Primavera-related events are held throughout Barcelona, the main festival takes place at the Parc del Forum on the northern outskirts of the city. Something of a white elephant since it was constructed for the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004 (one Catalan friend compared it, perhaps a touch unfairly, to the Millenium Dome), it has been home to Primavera since 2005 – and it’s not hard to see why.
A vast concrete playground with multiple levels and curvy design that makes it feel frolicsome rather than brutalist, the organisers have managed to pack in so many stages that getting between them can take as little as a couple of minutes – a far cry from the regular 40+ minute hikes between different areas of Glastonbury.
This is particularly important as there’s very little at Primavera between the stages. This isn’t your typical independent British festival with talks, films, readings, workshops and giant metal spiders shooting flames into the sky – you’re there to consume music, and music alone. (Well, that and food/drink/merch.)
Luckily, putting on music is what Primavera does best, and the thoughtful scheduling and excellent sound engineering means that there are relatively few clashes and minimal sound bleed between competing performances, with the notable exception of Sunn O))) at the ATP stage – their cacophonous drone is so loud that it makes conversation difficult even at the food court several hundred metres away. (This is even more impressive when you consider that the stage faces in the opposite direction.)
The sound is particularly good at the massive Heineken stage, which manages to project great audio quality and retain it for an astonishing distance. In fact the only stage which is a real let-down sound-wise is the Pitchfork stage, which all but ruins sets by the likes of Viet Cong with terrible balance and a real lack of clarity. Then again, it’s seems apt that a Pitchfork-branded stage would make a lot of noise but produce little worth paying attention to…
The jewel in the crown, however, is the Auditori Rockdelux. A 3,200 capacity venue, it provides a level of sound and comfort simply unheard of at a festival – it’s like someone’s plonked the Royal Festival Hall in the middle of Field Day. The joy of seeing acts there is only slightly tempered by the fact you have to pay an extra two euros for certain performances (a mite cheeky considering ticket holders have already shelled out just shy of €200), and a poorly maintained queueing system means it’s often only half full during sets even when there are loads of people still waiting to get in.
I’ve been to amazing urban festivals everywhere from Liverpool and Brighton to Katowice and Medellín, but while Barcelona in August can be unbearable, in the springtime it simply can’t be beat. The fact the music doesn’t start till the late afternoon not only means pasty Brits don’t have to worry too much about sunburn despite the almost constant sunshine, it also gives you the early afternoon to explore one of Europe’s finest cities (or just lie on the beach drinking mojitos). If you’ve never been to Barcelona before, Primavera provides the perfect excuse to visit one of Europe’s finest cities.
The first black mark on Primavera’s scorecard. Considering Catalonia fancies itself as pretty gastronomically advanced, it’s disappointing that the food stalls offer pretty much the same bland cack available at any other festival. Worse, you pay the same extortionate price for it. To be fair, judging by the occasional gurning grin, food isn’t a primary concern for some, but it sucks if you’re more sober.
As for booze… well, I hope you like Heineken – and paying roughly £5 a pint for it. In retrospect it might have been better to stick to spirits, but as it is we ended up using our press passes to periodically drop into the ‘Pro’ bar for slightly cheaper servings of timidly flavoured but refreshingly cold lager. However, it’s not hard to see why so many people sneak their own booze in (which proves fairly easy despite bag checks on the gate). Apparently there’s a good wine stall somewhere, but we didn’t see it.
The tastefully designed environment and constant bombardment with corporate logos doesn’t exactly foster the sort of triumph-over-adversity, can’t-remember-why-we-thought-this-was-a-good-idea-but-let’s-make-it-one community spirit you find at muddy British countryside festivals. Which seems to mean the crowd is a little less wasted.
Thus, while there are fewer opportunities to be entertained by people off their face falling on their face (apart from witnessing the occasional fool come a cropper trying to run up 80 degree walls while still holding their drinks), there are also barely any moments of pissed-up aggro. The general mood is one of measured pleasure.
This may be down to Primavera hosting a fairly mature audience. At 31, I don’t expect to be younger than the mean age at a music event any more, but I may just about have been so here. It also attracts probably the most hipster crowd I’ve ever encountered; by which I mean everyone there just seemed incredibly hip rather than any more negative interpretation. Being hosted in a chic city like Barcelona can’t help but encourage the perception that Primavera boasts the hottest crowd in every sense.
And if the benign and beautiful surroundings aren’t enough to tempt timid Brits worried about their lack of Spanish to look beyond the UK’s shores for a festival experience next year, you can be reassured there’ll be plenty of English-speakers around you. In fact, British compatriots are almost a little too prevalent, to the point that you start looking for pockets of Catalans and Spaniards to stand near just to remind yourself that you are actually in a different country (although most of them will speak English too, just in case you desperately need someone to direct you to las letrinas).
The substantial British presence is a double-edged sword to be honest. On the one hand British attendees tend to be a little friendlier than the locals, which could be due to ‘we’re on holiday!’ perkiness but probably also down to Catalans getting increasingly tired of their city being overrun with tourists (a native friend describes the overarching odour of their city as “tourist piss”). Nonetheless, shout outs to the plucky Jack, who travelled to the festival on his own and proved a fine companion on the first day, the Northern Irish bloke who plied us with a seemingly endless supply of whiskey miniatures on the last night, and the fellow from Falkirk who lost his shoe in the moshpit during the closing gig at Apolo. For the second year running.
On the other hand, sadly, standardly, the only moments of aggression we witness are between various groups of Brits stereotypically arguing about queue-jumping at the bus stop outside the festival at 3am. Although even this has its upsides: it both provides our catchphrase of the weekend (the words “fuck yeh!” yelled in a Northern Irish accent) and allows our own queue-jumping to go unnoticed in the kerfuffle. Cashback.
As an inveterate cheapskate I know a bargain when I see one – and even with a discount ticket, Primavera is not a bargain. However, there are various ways you can make your experience there easier on the old wallet. Firstly, start a music blog and apply for accreditation that allows you a discount on your ticket; at times it seemed like around 50% of attendees had a press wristband. If terrorists had targeted Primavera the indie blogosphere would’ve been wiped out with one hit.
Secondly, book your flights straight away and consider going a few days earlier or later to make a proper holiday of it, thus avoiding the extortionate fares immediately before and after the festival. If (like me) you have friends in Barcelona who are able to put you up during the event then you’ll also save a fortune in accommodation. Get in there early though, as if you leave it too late (like me), smarter visitors will have already forced themselves upon said hospitality, leaving you in a desperate hunt for hostels and Air BnBs. (We came very close to sharing a double bed in an apartment miles from the venue with a host who demanded silence after midnight, which wouldn’t have been exactly ideal. Luckily we found a last-minute room at Hostal la Palmera, a well located and competitively priced no frills hostel that did us just fine.)
As already mentioned, food and drink inside the venue is on the pricey side; and it isn’t particularly cheap in the rest of Barcelona either (although cava is almost as cheap as water). Yet there are bargains if you look. On the Sunday we were introduced to the concept of delicious ginger mojitos for just three euros each at Foni Africa Bar in Raval, and then stumbled upon Pizza Circus around the corner, which was a bit like an affordable version of Voodoo Ray’s in Dalston but with bigger and better pizzas.
An even better way to save money is not to lose what you bring, specifically by being extra vigilant about your possessions. Barcelona has changed a lot in the last twenty years, but its reputation as a haven for pickpockets has endured for a reason; as Ama found to his cost (an old iPod craftily half-inched out of his shorts) on our last night.
Finally, and this goes for any visit to Barcelona, make sure you buy T10 transport ticket as soon as you arrive, which snags you ten metro or bus trips for under a tenner. Just don’t get it too scrunched up in your pocket. Or let someone use it for roach, you bloody heathens.
OK, enough bleating about everything that goes on around the music – let’s talk about the music itself. While Primavera line-ups don’t always look earth-shattering, they’re so tightly-scheduled you can spend hours watching nothing but music and still miss something you’d like to have seen.
Indeed, one of the trickiest decisions can be working out when it’s safe to do a beer/toilet run or grab some food without, you know, missing the act that everyone else raves about for the rest of the weekend (in case you’re wondering, it was Run The Jewels and they were regrettably missed in favour of a lukewarm bowl of Thai noodles).
Luckily the weekend was more about old favourites and new discoveries rather than missed opportunities; and with that in mind, here is what we saw….
Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals directed by Peter Gordon
This proved to be a mixed affair. Although the performance had many highlights as it played out in front of images of flowers, streams, trees and other backdrops of natural lushness, it felt too stilted, too contrived. All the members were reading from sheet music which made it feel restricted, the antithesis of what Russell’s music represented and expressed. It lacked the freedom and room to breath. Nice touch at the end though where Tim Burgess joined in though. (Ama)
I’ve always struggled to connect to Arthur Russell’s music, and this set didn’t change my opinion. The band, looking like a group of cool dads getting together for a jam, hammer initially unremarkable musical phrases into your skull through sheer repetition – oddly, the trance-like state this started to induce meant the less I thought about the music, the more I enjoyed it.
The instrumental section was definitely preferable to the versions of ‘Is It All Over My Face’, etc. that followed it, although the disco numbers were warmly received despite the backing tracks jarring against the live musicians. I thought Tim Burgess’ dodgy guest vocal was just the latest stage of a continuing mid-life crisis to be honest… but then I’m more of an uncharitable bastard than Ama. (Kier)
There was a huge ticket fiasco thanks to the system where people had to buy extra tickets in advance to guarantee entry. The queue outside was chaos, containing both ticket holders and chancers who didn’t have a ticket but queued up anyway – and still got in! Nice. Anyway, we managed to get in and, boy oh boy, it was sure worth it.
It was like witnessing someone else’s acid trip (or what I would imagine that would be like) as the visuals flashed with grim reapers, disturbed naked dancers and vomiting ladies. ‘Crosswords’ had a greater reverberating immediacy (benefiting from added bass), ‘Tropic Of Cancer’ had an uncomplicated openness and serenity, and the closing ‘Acid Wash’ sounded euphoric in its aural climax. No Mr Noah though. Shame. (A)
Ama’s definitely right about the LSD vibe – I started getting shivers up my spine within minutes, and a strange, lysergic giddiness soon crept over me. The sound and visuals were so loud and captivating that the experience swiftly became all-encompassing, a swirling, synaesthetic whirlpool with Panda Bear and his tiny synth bank standing calmly in the centre of it. The most unexpectedly psychedelic experience of 2015, and possibly the highlight of the entire festival.
On a side note, I’m disappointed more people didn’t laugh at my ‘this is Panda-monium!’ observation in the queue outside. I can only imagine it was lost in translation. (K)
The sound got lost somewhat unfortunately, but ‘Continental Shelf’ still sounded majestic with its furious panic and angry riffs. (A)
I think our colleague Nicholas Burman described Viet Cong as easily the worst thing he saw all weekend, but I agree with Ama that the sound did them no favours whatsoever. Sound engineers, here’s a tip: if you can see two guitarists on the stage but you can’t hear any guitar, maybe turn the fucking guitars up!
Drummer Mike Wallace just about managed to drag them out of the mire towards the end of the set with some spirited limb-thrashing; for a second his bleached hair made me think maybe Tim Burgess was making another guest appearance, but thankfully not. (K)
The first undiscovered gem of the festival. Mdou Moctar’s Tuareg trio were full of rocking electricity and brought a welcome portion of party after the damp squib that was Viet Cong. Decked out in full desert robes, they smashed out track after track at high-tempo and gave the small crowd lucky enough to have chanced upon them their first excuse to dance. While their minimal set-up didn’t lend itself to sonic diversity, no one was complaining. (K)
Having stupidly missed Kelela’s recent trip to London, I was excited for this one. It wasn’t a disappointment. Kelela’s pin-point vocals and stage-prowling charisma had the crowd hypnotised as darkness descended, with carefully rationed portions of bass punctuating her stark sounds. The only complaint is that she got her set entirely the wrong way round, ending on a disappointingly downbeat number rather than the absolutely stonking version of ‘Bank Head’ that she started with. (K)
Tyler, The Creator
Call me a prude, but the lyric “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” isn’t what I’d call a feel-good party-starter. I guess that’s one of the many reasons I’m not Tyler, The Creator, a man whose music I still find almost impossible to listen to without a creeping feeling of conflicted embarrassment. I used all the arguments about irony and role-playing about Eminem when I was a teenager, but I’m not a teenager any more and these days both he and Tyler make me cringe more often than not.
Luckily the aforementioned terrible sound at the Primavera stage meant that Tyler’s lyrics were largely incomprehensible at Primavera, and allowed me to focus instead on the performance; which was admittedly fantastic. Having taken off his trousers within seconds of taking the stage, he’s soon bouncing about all over the place, larking about with the crowd and generally having an absolute ball. His enthusiasm is infectious, and even the crap PA can’t keep tracks like ‘Deathcamp’ and ‘Yonkers’ from sounding absolutely massive. Just a shame he’s such a sexist bellend really. (K)
I was eager to see Sunn O))) as they’re a band I couldn’t justify spending mass quids on usually, but unfortunately it meant dragging a handful of people who weren’t interested at all with me. Which ultimately meant I was only allowed to watch their hooded dronefest for five minutes before being dragged away again.
While it was as eye-meltingly loud as expected, I can’t say I had the sort of sonic epiphany I’ve heard others claim to have experienced, and as someone who already suffers from tinnitus maybe it wouldn’t have been worth it anyway. “That was a load of bollocks really, wasn’t it,” says one unconvinced companion, and to be honest I couldn’t think of a good counter-argument to his bluff assessment. (K)
While I abstained from narcotics at Primavera for the first time at a music festival since, well, ever, I did allow myself two tokes of a spliff before heading to see Electric Wizard. When in stoner Rome, right? Unfortunately said spliff turned out to be packed with the most ungodly strong weed I’ve smoked in years, and I spent a fair proportion of Electric Wizard’s set feeling paranoid about my uneasy swaying rather than surfing a wave of evil rock bliss.
Luckily, the band rock hard enough to briefly blast the cannabis anxiety away. There’s been some controversy about former drummer Mark Greening’s sudden return and equally sudden departure, but Simon Poole was solidness personified on the kit and frontman Jus Oborn had no cause to send any snotty looks in his direction (as he reportedly did frequently during Greening’s doomed second tenure).
Like Mdou Moctar on the same stage earlier, Electric Wizard rarely varied the tempo or dynamics during the set, but there was one quieter moment when a drone from the still-playing Sunn O))) drifted over on the breeze and made it seem like the two bands were combining to summon some sort of rock succubus… but that was probably the weed. Still, when riffs the size of the one on ‘Black Mass’ seem to rise out of the stage like juddering monoliths, who the hell cares? (K)
In January I reckoned Irreal by Disappears would end up one of the albums of the year. In February I decided they’d probably be one of the best live bands I’d see all year too. At Primavera they pretty much confirmed both of these opinions, not least during a gargantuan ‘Halcyon Days’. Noah Leger’s drumming is practically immaculate, while bassist Damon Carruesco lays down a series unsparing basslines. Basically, Disappears are ace and you should go see them. (K)
Local favourite Graham seemed to perform half a dozen times over the weekend, presumably to take advantage of the home crowd. The bit I caught was impressive enough to suggest she’ll have won over a few foreign visitors too. Great clarity of voice, solid song-writing and an unexpectedly enjoyable cover of Britney’s ‘Toxic’ provided an accessible mid-afternoon tonic. (K)
I only caught the very end of Fumaça Preta’s set, but judging by the riotous cacophony onstage, the riotous response from the crowd, and the riotous sky-blue jumpsuit sported by their excitable frontman, they’re probably a band worth getting to the front for early doors. Next time Fumaça Preta, next time… (K)
Julian Casablancas & The Voidz
Although looking forward to The Strokes (damn nostalgia), I thought a good warm-up would be to catch Julian Casablancas. After his solo debut Phrazes For The Young in 2009, a decidedly electronic album with synth-pop influences and a Daft Punk guest vocal spot, his The Voidz side-project seems to be a fairly brave move with its challenging 10-minute singles and dark ambient atmospheres. I have to say it proved a lot more interesting than The Strokes’ set itself; perhaps a little more self-indulgent, but you can see that Casablancas feels more comfortable surrounded by this new team and more at ease and relaxed with the songs. (A)
The queueing mismanagement at Auditori Rockdelux meant this set was half-finished by the time the venue started feeling full, and it was only then that the afro-beat legend’s set started to really come to life, with people abandoning their just-taken seats in order to jive. Allen’s twisting, vine-like grooves flourish through the impeccable sound-system, but it does feel like the sort of gig that should’ve taken place in the sunshine outside rather than hidden away in the darkness of the auditorium. Still, if Shaun Cronin reckons his London gig was one of the finest of the year, this can’t have been far behind.(K)
This seemed to be the most anticipated set of the entire weekend; I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Heineken stage so packed and excited. Patti Smith performed Horses. Need I say more? Well, I will. ‘Gloria’ sounded especially triumphant as everyone (tried) to sing along, arms raised in unison as she snarled her way through the set, spitting out lyrics (literally) and pumping her fists. Remind me never to cross her. (A)
Unfortunately I only caught the end of this due to the clash with Tony Allen, but those three tracks formed probably the strongest triptych of the entire festival. Patti Smith’s string-breaking, tear-spilling, cameraman-shoving antics could’ve come across as contrived in the wrong hands, but these weren’t the wrong hands. Her passion for performance remains absolutely undimmed after all these years, and feels refreshingly authentic in comparison to the vast majority of musicians who’ve followed in her wake. Make no mistake: Patti Smith is a fucking treasure. (K)
Belle & Sebastian
I’ve always felt pretty meh about B&S, and only went to their set because a friend had bought a day ticket specifically to see them, but I have to say it was far more enjoyable than I expected. Stuart Murdoch proves a confident and engaging frontman (even if, as one of his ex-girlfriends tells Ama later that weekend, ‘he spends too much time talking about his missus these days’), and it’s impossible not to crack a smile when you see the sheer delight on the faces of the fans he invites to dance onstage.
‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ is an obvious crowd-pleaser, but ‘Allie’ from divisive recent album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance turns out to be a surprising highlight. They also inspire the sweetest dancing indie couples of the festival, although I guess that’s less of a surprise. (K)
I decided to get to Sleater Kinney early and I’m incredibly happy I did. They were without doubt the highlight of the entire festival for me. They played all my favourites, including ‘All Hands On The Bad One’, ‘Words and Guitar’, ‘Dig Me Out’ and all the hits from The Woods (‘Jumpers’, ‘Entertain’, a tremendously raucous ‘The Fox’ and ‘Rollercoaster’), before ending with a soppy ‘Modern Girl’. I think I even got a bit emotional and shed a little tear. Sheer loveliness. (A)
The antithesis to Tyler, The Creator’s set, which took place on the same stage exactly 24 hours earlier, Shabazz Palaces negated the dodgy Pitchfork sound better than anyone else managed, producing a dark, bassy and hypnotic set. They may be fairly static on stage, but the psychedelic carpeting and live percussion add a deep, contemplative ambience to their set which seems to slowly draw passers-by into the initially sparse crowd like a magnet. Heady stuff. (K)
A typically cerebral yet feelgood set from Hopkins. He appears a lone, de-socialised dance music figure, programming tonight’s music with sharp hand-flicks and taps on his console while making the effort to connect with the crowd via appreciative and enthusiastic waves. The highlight is a euphoric rendition of ‘Open Eye Signal’ which seemed to build for an eternity before dropping an infectious beat, accompanied by the music video of a lone boy skateboarding. The set-up may have suggested isolation but the songs brought people together in a truly magical way. The last song was just a bombardment to the senses by an assault of beats, from which I am actually still recovering. (A)
Hopkins seems to have made several concessions to stagecraft since the last time I saw him, electronic hula hoop girls and all. Suffice to say this was probably the only moment during Primavera where I really, really wished I hadn’t decided to lay off the drugs. Which is more than can allegedly be said for Hopkins himself; Nicholas Burman reckons he saw him and his girlfriend gurning their faces off at Objekt shortly after this set finished… (K)
This was a weird one. I last saw Sleaford Mods while sheltering from the driving northern rain at Beacons festival, surrounded by hundreds of sweating, slightly agitated countrymen, which seemed in many ways to be the perfect environment for them – and yet their performance did nothing for me. Yet somehow, in the Mediterranean sunshine many miles away, surrounded by foreigners in a chilled, low-key atmosphere, they absolutely nailed it.
Jason Williamson seemed to literally fizz with anger on tracks like ‘Tiswas’ and ‘Jobseeker’, as the pair sprayed beer and beads of sweat over an adoring crowd. Sometimes you see people perform and just know that they’re totally in the zone. Sleaford Mods looked like they knew they were unstoppable. “Thank you, we’re Slaves,” Williamson mocks at one point, but no matter how many times Slaves get on Jools Holland, they’ll never produce a performance like this. (K)
Opening with ‘Say Hello to the Angels’, Interpol clearly meant business. You could tell they’re clearly veterans of the international festival scene; Paul Banks spoke Spanish throughout which I appreciated greatly. Isn’t it funny how many English-speaking bands travel abroad and don’t make the effort to learn a simple ‘Gracias’? Well, it’s a lot.
The set was peppered with songs ranging from early on in their back catalogue to their last record El Pintor. Next to songs such as ‘Anywhere’ and epic closer ‘All The Rage Back Home’ – both of which will surely become future classics – they gave the festival audience exactly what they wanted and I tip my hat to them. They dropped both ‘Hands Away’ and ‘Leif Erikson’ (probably my favourite of theirs), which I haven’t even heard them play at their own headline shows, a brave move that went down well. Every song rolled out effortlessly: ‘Evil’, ‘NYC’, ‘The New’, ‘Narc’, ‘Slow Hands’, ‘Untitled’, ‘Take You On A Cruise’, ‘Not Even Jail’ and… ‘Stella’! It was one of those festival moments you feel privileged to have witnessed. (A)
Who’d have thought Interpol would’ve been responsible for one of the most fun sets of the festival? We spent pretty much the entire time dancing and singing along, although our exuberance which might have had something to do with Arsenal winning the FA Cup earlier in the evening. Later Ama said he was surprised I knew so many of the words. To be honest, so was I. An exemplary festival set. (K)
See, this is the one I expected to be the shameless sing-a-long, but it was actually just pretty boring. Julian Casablancas dressed for the occasion at least, looking like he’d just stepped out of a Barcelona squat circa 2005, replete with dyed red mullet and garish Barca away shirt. However, the set dragged predictably whenever they played anything that wasn’t off Is This It, with the honourable exception of ‘Heart In A Cage’ and its quirky heavy metal solos. (K)
I half-expected to be sitting on the Ray Ban stage’s amphitheatre-esque steps for Dan Deacon, but as we got there a little early we managed to get to the front and didn’t regret it. If you’ve been to a Dan Deacon show, you know what to expect. The crowd split into two, with one cheerleader conducting dance moves and tagging in someone else to take over until chaos prevailed. The live drummer was a great addition and the amount of feelgood positivity was bliss. (A)
It’d been a few years since I last saw Dan Deacon play, but it was as fun as ever – even if the crowd were enjoying themselves too much to really follow his crowd control schtick. “This is why I prefer to play during the day…” he said wryly at one point. While I miss his weirder/stoopider early stuff, new tracks like ‘When I Was Done Dying’ worked brilliantly; and while Deacon’s always at his best when actually playing in the centre of the crowd, drummer Jeremy Hyman (I think?) fought off some fierce competition to take the coveted ‘best drumming of the festival’ prize. (K)
It’s been a joy to see how Dan Snaith’s Caribou have progressed over the past five years. Ever since Swim crossed over, the band have grown from strength to strength, and deservedly so. Latest album Our Love continues in the same vein, and although not as immediate as Swim, contains moments of real electronic joy.
But to see them live is a different beast altogether. As a live band, they manage to hit on both what is typically loved about rock bands and what pleases in the dance community. A sea of people let loose during ‘Odessa’ for perhaps the last time of the weekend, and I swear people were moshing as the band extended the outro for ‘Can’t Do Without You’ and brought the song back to life. Seeing how happy the faces around me were during final track ‘Sun’ (and how much people kept repeating ‘Sun!’ afterwards) reminded me what makes this festival so great: the chance for open-minded music lovers to see mainstream, alternative and obscure bands who entertain. The fact it’s located in one of the best cities in the world is just a big fat cherry on the cake. (A)
I literally didn’t have the energy to stand let alone dance by this point, but the uplifting energy seemed to ripple from the stage and up the steps regardless. I stand by my judgement that Our Love was one of the most disappointing albums of last year, but Caribou still can’t be touched when they play live. Just spectacular, and the perfect way to close Primavera… (K)
… Except they don’t close the festival. Instead, having been given a second wind by Caribou’s performance, we sought out someone to provide one last music hit before catching the morning metro home. I’d been enjoying the mysterious Der Panther’s new album Lux a lot leading up to Primavera, and live it turned out to be even better, a swirling, groovy musical mash performed behind a massive canvas that made it look like they were playing inside some sort of psychedelic diorama.
Their sound isn’t particularly polished but provides a pleasantly ramshackle contrast to Caribou’s highly-honed performance, with tracks like ‘Gecko’ sounding particularly gorgeous. Now that’s the perfect way to close Primavera… (K)
Thee Oh Sees
… Er, except even that wasn’t the end either. The next day we squeezed into the Apolo music venue in town for the final farewell, headlined by San Francisco favourites Thee Oh Sees. Or as it could’ve been billed, ‘The European Stage-Diving Championship Final’, as there wasn’t a second of their set that wasn’t accompanied by someone hurling themselves into the audience.
Special mentions for the girl who spent so long preparing the crowd for her leap that eventually a security guard, who had been desperately trying to avoid having to get involved with the onstage chaos, was forced to politely escort her off the stage (literally the only time he bothered all night), and the obnoxious bloke who gave everyone the finger before realising that he was swearing at people he was expecting to cushion his fall… and wisely shuffled off stage left instead.
The absolute highlight was ‘Sticky Hulks’ from recent album Mutilator Defeated At Last, which not only provided a mesmerising musical shift from the band’s hi-octane garage rock, but also completely threw off the three girls waiting to throw themselves into the crowd as it started. Their awkward descent to the night’s slowest track was a moment of glorious bathos, before Thee Oh Sees sped it back up for a sweat-drenched finish. Now THAT was the perfect way to close Primavera. Honest. (K)
Words: Kier Wiater Carnihan and Amadeep Chana
Main photo: Dani Canto