Amelia’s Magazine | Primavera Sound 2011 Review: Moon Duo, PiL, The Glenn Branca Ensemble, Suicide and more… (Day 1)

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.

San Miguel Stage by Laura Lotti
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
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’.

Music Video: Of Montreal – Suffer For Fashion
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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).

Running by Laura Lotti
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ty Segall by Laura Lotti

Categories ,Alan Vega, ,Amelia’s Magazine, ,Animal Collective, ,Avant Gard, ,barcelona, ,baths, ,beer, ,Connan Mockasin, ,Ducktails, ,electronic, ,Factory Floor, ,festivals, ,Glenn Branca, ,grinderman, ,Jarvis Cocker, ,laura lotti, ,Martin Rev, ,Moon Duo, ,Music Festivals, ,Nick Cave, ,Of Montreal, ,Parc del Forum, ,PiL, ,Post Punk, ,Primavera Sound, ,psychedelia, ,Public Image Ltd, ,pulp, ,Queuing, ,Rebecca Elves, ,Rock and Roll, ,spain, ,Suicide, ,summer, ,The Fresh & Onlys, ,The Glenn Branca Ensemble, ,Ty Segall

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Amelia’s Magazine | Primavera Sound 2011 Review: Warpaint, PJ Harvey, Animal Collective and more! (Day 3)

Warpaint by Rebecca Elves

The first band I aim to see today is Warpaint. Breathing salty seabreeze and sipping the first flat beer of the day I make my way to the stage where they’re playing, doctor that is already packed. I’ve been into this band since the times of Billie Holiday, pill and today they confirm the first impression I had of them. They play and sing perfectly, build up intricate layers of harmonies, and they look so cool on stage – having fun between themselves and engaging with the audience – that’s a pleasure to watch their show. With this performance I’m officially sold to their magic. They’re my new favourite girls band. Better, they’re my new favourite band, and the fact that they’re girls makes me empathise with them even more. “Love is the only way out”, Theresa Wayman sings with grave voice during their stunning performance of ‘Beetles’ (from their first EP Exquisite Corpse). And for a moment I believe her. What I learn from seeing this gig is that the future of music seem to be pink. Or better, it wears laddered stockings and smeared make up. And slides the guitar like a proper guitar hero(ine).

Video: Warpaint – Billie Holiday
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At the end of the gig the marathon starts. Gotta reach the other end of the festival site to catch tUnE-yArDs, the noise-pop princess that recently gained popularity with the release of W H O K I L L . The sweetness of her whimsical style, reminiscent of Coco Rosie, and her flashy attire gain my sympathies. However, the festival stage is not exactly what gives justice to her music. Plus, the sound here on the Pitchfork stage is just awful. We later decide to enjoy Fleet Foxes lying on the green knoll that surrounds the main stage. Given the heath and the tiredness accumulated in these days, this is a far better way to enjoy their lulling harmonies than sweating it out under the stage. Fleet Foxes’ bold sound suits very well the festival main stage and easily wins the challenge. We let ourselves be caressed by their arias and transported into pastoral landscapes and dreamy soundscapes, enjoying the sun setting on the festival site and doing some people watching (which is always an interesting activity especially in these circumstances).

tune-yards by Laura Lotti
tUnE-yArDs by Laura Lotti

On my way to restore my thirsty limbs, I pass by the ATP stage and I’m totally hypnotized by an supernatural sound of violins juxtaposed to throbbing drumbeats. Who is this, I wonder. I find out this is non the less than The Album Leaf, that, despite starting as a solo project by Californian artist Jimmy LaValle, tonight plays as a whole band – a small orchestra, I should say – formed by violins, keys, drums, guitar, trumpet and bass. Their set is simply beautiful. I must admit I didn’t know much about them before, but the conquer me with a key. If you’ve got the chance, go see them live. It’ll probably be the best concert of your life. And you will never regret it.

Einstürzende Neubauten by Rebecca Elves

Time has come to go to see Einstürzende Neubauten, the historic German band among the propulsors for the Neue Deutsche Welle movement, that revolutionised the idea of electronic music mixing industrial sounds with punk attitude in the divided Germany of the Cold War period. Equipped with various percussion kits and noise machines made out of different post-industrial paraphernalia, the stage looks more like a steam punk set than a 21st century festival stage. Blixa Bargeld sings and shrieks with his monotone charming voice, and is still as crazy and charismatic as he was 30 years ago. He’s The Gentleman of industrial music. The deep bass and tribal drum beat make it impossible to stand still. With references to Italian Futurists Marinetti and Russolo, they play a wild concert, experimenting with instruments made out of the most improbable machineries. Iron and steel are not only cold lifeless “things”. Technology (either new or old) has got a primitive, lively side. And Einstürzende Neubauten take it all out.

PJ Harvey by Elliott Quince

Rhetoric review for PJ Harvey. She’s amazing as expected. Dressed as an otherworldly fairy, her voice sounds as strong as her pixie figure looks frail. After the first track, taken from her last success ‘Let England Shake’, though, doubts arise in my mind: is this PJ Harvey? Comparisons are too easy with another ageless pixie fairy gifted with otherworldly voice: Björk. There’s nothing wrong with PJ’s performance, but she’s just not the heroine from ‘Rid Of Me’ or ‘Down By The Water’. And with this in mind, and some misfeelings towards her, I make my way away from the crowd in a quest for new and original sounds. Anyway, it’s easy to know what to expect next from this concert – an array of awesomely performed songs by one of the greatest artists alive and active now (description that could fit both PJ Harvey and Bjork, by the way).

PJ Harvey by Rebecca Elves

I feel adventurous and go for Davila 666, a Puertorican rock band that’s meant to give us some rock and roll fun time. Indeed, Davila 666 rock-fucking-roll!! And, quite surprisingly, they’ve got their wee following of PJHarveydontgiveafuckers. Their rock á la Beach Boys with a grunge touch is infectious. I can’t stop jumping. Their strength is that…they are FUN! They play totally unpretentious, wholesome rockabilly tracks, with a hint of sexiness (well, rock and roll IS sexy after all, as Elvis teaches). It is that kind of music made with the spirit of having a good time and making people have a good time too – genuine, spontaneous. During their set, all the worries fade away in the sweat and the laughter. There’s a life to worry about things anyway, but it’s going to start tomorrow. Now there’s only music. And though not knowing the lyrics (that, by the way, are sung in Spanish) I find myself singing along. With a smile on my face.

Davila 666 by Laura Lotti

And after Davila 666, total change of atmospheres with Scottish post-rock stars Mogwai. Mogwai’s melodies lull my mind into faraway places and untouchable lands. I want to get closer and melt with the sound, that is so thick and heavy I feel I’m drowning in it. But I’m soon back to Planet Earth, Barcelona and Parc del Forum, when The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion kicks off. Their sound, a contemporary version of what rockabilly might have been interpreted into in the 1990s, has been labelled anything from garage rock to punk blues and blues-rock. Whatever. To me they sound just brilliant! The stage is packed. Everybody jumps, waves to the band and even thank them for this great gift of pure energy. The atmosphere is wired, I’m lost in the crowd, it will be difficult to find my friends, but I don’t really care now that I’m securely wrapped into this literal Explosion of rock. It’s a never ending groove. It makes even difficult to stand still and take pictures (in a very positive way, I mean). This is definitely the rock ‘n roll night of Primavera Sound for me. I haven’t had so much fun like tonight!

Animal Collective by Rebecca Elves

Then it’s time for the band I was mostly striving to see since the beginning of the festival: might sound banal, but it’s Animal Collective.
I must start by saying that I’ve got a huge amount of respect for Animal Collective. They are The Band of the Noughties, blending noise and pop in a lysergic swirl to create a distinctive sound of their own that’s given birth to a whole new genre, universally recognised and still difficult to label. And for Primavera Sound they deliver an outstanding performance, completed by trippy visuals and an awesome quality of the sound. Though, it lacks of intimacy and it feels almost stuck up. There’s no interaction with the adoring audience whatsoever, and, to the greatest disappointment of the public, they leave the stage after an overwhelming performance of Summertime Clothes without a word, without an encore. It was too perfect to be totally real.

Animal Collective’s psychedelic visuals by Laura Lotti

With my heart half broken, I head to see The Black Angels. With the Austin band, you can’t really go wrong. In fact, they are as good as I remember them from their last gig in London in February. The sound is pounding and the beer is flowing. Dancing to the notes of ‘Telephone’ and ‘Haunting at 1300 McKinley’, the night flows towards the end of this couldn’t-be-any-better festival. While technicians and operators start to dismount the stages, the few venturers still remained within the gates of the Parc del Forum gathered by the Pitchfork stage for the dark set by brainy dubstep mastermind Kode9. Most of them, no wonder, are British. I don’t last too long, though. It’s already 7am by the time that I make it to La Rambla. I’m literally OD’d in live music, my ears fizzle, my feet hurt, my back aches (what a wreck) and my bank account is overdrawn. But I’ve never been so happy. It’s time to sleep and metabolise all the inputs received in these 3 days of music marathon.

The Black Angels by Laura Lotti

All in all, the balance of this festival has been extremely positive. I’ve got two new favourite girls bands: Warpaint and No Joy.
Two acts to be excited about as soon as they come to play in London: James Blake and Tennis. Some contemporaries to invest into for the future: Deerhunter (as if we didn’t know). Some oldies that confirm their credibility in time and that I might not have the chance to see again: Pere Ubu, Einstürzende Neubauten and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Plus, I made peace with one of my idols: Johnny Lydon. And I had extreme fun with Davila 666. Yes, this is like old story. We all knew these acts were amazing. PR companies tell us every day through features on magazines, blogs, billboards. But the truth is, no matter how many CDs we buy, album and tracks we download (legally and non), music blogs and magazines we follow… It’s only through live music that one can experience fully what a band has to offer and potentially put her/his trust in them. Fact. Music festivals are for this, after all.

And finally, the main message I got from this festival is that music is ALIVE, in its past, present and future forms. You only have to be open to it. And let yourself be overwhelmed by it.

Leaving the Festival Site for the last time by Laura Lotti

Categories ,Amelia’s Magazine, ,Animal Collective, ,Ariel Pink, ,Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, ,Atlas Sound, ,Avant Gard, ,barcelona, ,Beach House, ,beer, ,Beetles, ,Bradford Cox, ,Chores, ,Coco Rosie, ,Common People, ,Davila 666, ,deerhunter, ,Disco 2000, ,Einstürzende Neubauten, ,electronic, ,Elliott Quince, ,festivals, ,Fleet Foxes, ,James Blake, ,Jarvis Cocker, ,Kode 9, ,laura lotti, ,Let England Shake, ,mogwai, ,Music Festivals, ,No Joy, ,Parc del Forum, ,Pere Ubu, ,PiL, ,PJ Harvey, ,Post Punk, ,Primavera Sound, ,psychedelia, ,Public Image Ltd, ,Queuing, ,Rebecca Elves, ,rock, ,Rock and Roll, ,rockabilly, ,spain, ,summer, ,Tennis, ,The Album Leaf, ,The Black Angels, ,The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, ,Theresa Wayman, ,tune-yards, ,Warpaint

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