Photo by Chus Sanchez (Courtesy of Primavera Sound)
Primavera Sound 2011 opened in a delicate climate this year, check full of antithetical feelings and tensions. On the one hand, healing bitterness, for sale for the current political situation of Spain that translated in protests in Plaza Catalunya (one of the main squares of the city) and culminated in a shameful event on Friday 27th ; on the other hand, excitement for the gran finale of the Champions League that saw the mighty Barça winning against our ManUn. Now, I’m definitely not a football fan, nor am I that politically engaged. However, that edgy atmosphere, so in contrast with the sunny weather and the slow-paced life of the Catalan coast, had a strong impact on me. And definitely on the festival, too, that this year felt more aware of and integrated into the current affairs happening outside its fences.
Photo by Laura Lotti
For this 11th edition, the festival counted 276 concerts spread out in a über-programme taking over the entire ciudad for a week of music, party and movida. And, figures speak, it hosted 140 thousand attendees, only for the 3-day music marathon at the Parc del Forum – no wonder the queues at the bar were the longest I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that on Wednesday night, Pobre Espanyol was so packed for the official opening night of Primavera Sound 2011 that I couldn’t even get in for Caribou’s performance!
Anyway, this is, starting from Thursday 26th May, how the most intense and tiring (but all in all, extremely enjoyable) three days of the year went.
My personal festival experience kicks off in style with Moon Duo, the San Fran real life couple formed by Wooden Shjips’ Ripley Johnson and partner Sanae Yamada. They deliver a stroboscopic performance that would be truly mind-blowing if it took place in a small dark room enlightened only by flashes of lights. Shame it is only 7 in the afternoon (I should say evening, I know, but, boy, the sun is still burning at this time in Barna!)
Moon Duo by Laura Lotti
Anyway, Moon Duo was my must-see band for the beginning of the night, and after that the Clash of the Titans start. Some more rock-psychedelia from The Fresh & Onlys or Ducktails’ dreampop? It’s hard to make decisions when you’ve got so many good bands on the bill. While lost into these options, I stop by the San Miguel stage, strategically positioned at the centre of the festival site to catch some of the colourful performance of queer-pop Of Montreal that, next to the new more electronic tracks, play some good ol’ hits like ‘Suffer for Fashion’ and ‘The Party is Crushing Us’.
Time to get a flat beer (ha, this taste! I’ve craved for this for the whole year!) and I realize I’ve missed both The Fresh & Onlys and Ducktails.
The thing is, this year Primavera Sound is so big, not only in terms of the lineup but also as in “geographically spread out” that not only the stage times of some of the most exciting bands of the moment are overlapping with each other, but also that some of the most exciting stages where the aforementioned bands are playing (namely, Llevant, Pitchfork and ATP) are miles away from each other. Therefore, one needs to plan properly every move. And RUN, if required. And always remember that even going to the toilet or stopping to refuel might mean missing an entire gig.
Screw that. Note to myself: next year arm yourself with a pair of Heelys (might not be as cute as a pair of Menorca sandals, but at least you’re sure not to miss one thing).
Photo by Laura Lotti
(Also, note to the organisators: DO NOT try to create an alternative festival currency, especially if you cannot provide an adequate number of tills actually able to take payments with it. Because, if queuing is already an annoying practice that makes people generally angry, queuing and having your money refused because the bar only takes Primavera Sound cards, or on the other hand, having all your pennies virtually enclosed in a piece of plastic and finding out that is worth nothing, makes people become potential killers.)
PiL by Laura Lotti
My handmade personal time table tells me that Public Image Ltd are playing now. Johnny Lydon is a controversial character indeed. Either you love him or you love to hate him. Though, you have to admit he is a freaky kind of genius. Despite last year’s reunion with Sex Pistols was something classifiable between lame and shameful, with PiL he’s giving the best of himself. His voice is the as grimly sharp as it was 30 years ago, and Lu Edmonds’s guitar is a distillate of pure syncopated virtuosism. Though übercool Connan Mockasin is on at the same time on the not far away Vice stage, I can’t help but be stuck (though dancing like crazy) under the stage. “Fuck’s sake, man, we are PiL. We’re the only friends you have in the music industry” – so Mr Lydon, clad in Burberry’s trench, salutes the ocean of enthusiasts under the stage. The sentence per se could be debatable. Though, quote: “fuck’s sake, man”, they ARE PiL indeed!
Johnny Lydon by Laura Lotti
Dripping sweat and beer, at the end of PiL performance, I move to the ATP stage for another of the highlights of the night: The Glenn Branca Ensemble. Watching this concert (calling it ‘gig’ diminishes the majesty of it) makes me understand what it means to be able to make music. Glenn Branca certainly knows well the most hidden secrets of this fascinating practice to be able to convey such a powerful performance. The stage and the whole area around is filled with delicate but strong harmonies, drones and basses. Again, at some point, most of the people in my position would have gone to check out Grinderman (who doesn’t love Nick Cave?!), but as the Guide To Summer Music Festival suggests, let’s not be too angsty when it comes to music. Better stick to what sounds good your ear at the moment than rushing around to try bits and pieces of everything, risking not to enjoy any of the choices and ending up with a massive feet-ache that may prevent you from dancing till the wee hours. Yeah, eventually I’m very glad I stay for the whole gig.
Glenn Branca by Laura Lotti
Now it’s time for Suicide. I’ve always been a massive fan of Alan Vega and Martin Rev, but their performance of their debut album leaves me puzzled. There’s something very perverse in loving old bands and listening to old music, because when the time comes to see them live, chances are that if they cannot keep up with the time passing (and with your personal expectations – and yours, and yours and yours, too), you’ll be doubly disappointed. In fact, it breaks my heart seeing a very worn out, almost voiceless, Alan Vega attempting sensual moves on the notes of ‘Ghost Rider’. Seeing such an influential band, that threw the foundations of most of today’s electronic music, acting like the poor apology for themselves is too much.
Suicide by Laura Lotti
But instead of breaking into tears, I decide to move towards the young and cool Jägermeister-Vice stage, where the sound of today is on. Time for Ty Segall, the Californian multi-instrumentalist, rock ‘n roll wonder-child that performs a tight set of supercharged rockabilly party tunes accompanied by a full band of cool dudes and rock chicks.
Ty Segall by Laura Lotti
After their show, I’m tired as if I have just run a marathon. So I happily leave the festival site, satisfied with having witnessed one of the greatest comeback of the year, PiL, and promising to myself I’ll go see Baths and Factory Floor, that are going to play later in this never ending night, next time they play in London (that is, certainly soon).
Ty Segall by Laura Lotti
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