Parc del Forum, Barcelona | May 31st – June 2nd
In its 11 year life Barcelona’s Primavera Sound has fast become regarded as one of the best music festivals in the world. Crack journeyed to Catalonia to find out why.
Where should we start? Primavera Sound’s choice of venue, Parc del Forum, is utter perfection. Designed by Herzog and de Meuron and home to the festival since 2004, this well laid out, angular-beamed heaven is mud free and on the sea. The next vital point is just how flawlessly organised this affair is – no queues anywhere, ever. The most important point of all, though, is the insane variation of musical genres. It beggars belief. Proceedings kicked off on Wednesday, the night before the festival proper, with bands playing around town at various clubs, parks and public spaces. Crack launched into the thick of it by catching the devilishly good Black Lips at the huge, free outdoor space Arc de Triomf. Bashing through tracks from last year’s Arabia Mountain, as well as old favourites, Atlanta’s finest were on best behavior and kept their usual antics to a minimum, as they rose to the huge-stage-festival-opening occasion.
We took the air-conditioned tube (yes, air-conditioned!) down to Parc del Forum on Thursday just in time for a stellar show from Grimes on the Pitchfork Stage, which quite frankly had the best acts of the weekend. Love or hate Pitchfork, they know what they’re doing over there. Much respect. Claire Boucher took the stage like the pro she’s become. No longer the shy girl hiding behind her hair and making technical keyboard errors (as Crack saw back at her Madame Jojo’s show in February), here is an artist at her peak and taking success in her stride. She delivered the usual set whilst bouncing around and grinning, her friends and brother onstage dancing and waving flags. Genesis, Oblivionand Be a Body are anthems by now, and whether you’ve reached saturation point with her yet or not, Grimes shone like a star. Crack decided to take the pace down a notch and pay homage to 90s indie gods Mazzy Star, who haven’t played a show in almost 20 years. Singer Hope Sandoval was as beautiful and evocative as ever as the band opened with Blue Flower from the great She Hangs Brightly album. The pedal steel guitar gave us goose bumps as favourites like Bells Ring and Fade Into You lulled us in to a state of serenity.
Good job next up was Kindness with quite possibly our festival highlight and certainly the most unexpected performance of the weekend, taking his live show to a separate world to his recorded material. Always a feast of electronica, Adam Bainbridge’s live set left the haunting lo-fi echoes back in the studio with a palpable and truly infectious energy, his amazing touring band giving tracks a new lift and a new life. Opening with the ace Cyan and dancing through numbers from his debut album (including the awesome cover of The Replacements classicSwinging Party) we left the arena converted to the church of Kindness. By the time ASAP Rocky pounced onstage, Team Crack were decidedly drunk and rowdy. We were not alone amongst a teeming crowd that yelled and whooped each time ASAP addressed his fans. Dropping Wassup and Purple Swag, with considerable assistance from his sizeable party, he finished the set with Peso, which saw a mosh pit break and crowd surfers flail, presumably losing their flip flops.
A Friday spent largely at a police station due to not being the first to experience a touch of robbing along La Rambla, meant we finally arrived on site in time for The Cure, which is just as well as we would have sulked if we’d missed them. Robert Smith’s voice is still pitch perfect and the band played most of their Disintergration album (and a fine album it is too) as well as their countless hits including A Forest, In Between Days and Love Cats and some obscure rarities, total performance time coming in at just under three hours. Next up, a short hike to the Ray Bans stage to check out The Drums who were buckets of Smiths-esque fun and exactly what ought to follow The Cure. Front man Jonathan Pierce’s sad lyrics alongside the band’s poppy backdrop (Best Friend being the key example of this) are simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. The Pitchfork Stage was once again packed for SBTRKT, who did not disappoint his crowd. Later we found ourselves in the presence of Benga, but apart from his classic Night, it all sounded rather shrill, so we headed over to Mr ATP Barry Hogan’s hip hop set at ATP Stage which was decidedly trill. We completed our Friday journey with the absolutely immaculate South American tag team Matias Aguayo and Rebolledo whose lush brand of vocal laden minimal techno had us dancing til sunrise. Totally Balearic.
By Saturday we were feeling a little bit fragile, and who better to nurse us better than Scandi-sweethearts Kings of Convenience? Erlend and Eric have been playing their dreamy folk for over ten years now and are so harmonious in music and in chat that Crack can’t help but imagine them as Bert and Ernie, sharing a room in a chalet by the Fjords. To the unfamiliar listener their Scandinavian folk might seem twee, but if you invest a little attention to their three gorgeous studio albums you find masterful, moving pop with an often cutting twist that is delivered with such joy, you can’t just file it alongside their local contemporaries. Plus Erlend Oye’s dancing to I’d Rather Dance With Youmakes us rather giddy. After composing ourselves, some trekking was required to reach Beach House’s beautiful performance, as they were unfortunately scheduled on the catastrophically huge and unrelentingly soulless Mini Stage (as in Mini Cooper), which was basically like being stood in a huge flat car park. It is the biggest space in the Parc del Forum though and only serves to prove how well Beach House are doing, with new album Bloom even making the Top 20 in the UK charts. The band give haunting, lovely renditions of tracks like Zebra, Lazuli andMyth with a glowing stage set and lighting of pinks and baby blues, managing to bring some atmosphere to this stark setting. No stage décor for Shellac though, who we bolted to see on the ATP Stage, fully willing to sacrifice Chromatics and Saint Etienne for the godfathers of angular punk who keep it simple, keep it pure and keep it bloody angry. Opening with tracks Canada, Copper and Steady as She Goes, we are reminded that this band take musical minimalism to the extreme, with their bright white lights that don’t flicker, don’t pan and don’t distract. It’s all about the music. Steve Albini’s voice is utterly powerful; effortless, pitch perfect and full of so much attitude. Is there a better guy on earth t? We think not. The stage is rammed to the edges and beyond. The hordes of devotees got no chat from the band, bar “Hola Cunts” from bassist Bob Weston. Looking over the crowd from our perch, Crack noted the mosh pit growing for each song. Prayer to God brought a tear to our eye and End of Radio was a festival high, drummer Todd Trainer’s dramatic beating of the stage rather than his kit thrilling. As their set drew to a close the band realised they had run over, so by means of apology Albini and Weston dismantle the drum kit as Trainer still plays them. You can’t help but laugh. They are sound engineers after all.
After such an impressive show it took us a while to gather ourselves. We drifted on to see Toronto’s The Weeknd who seduced many a punter but alas not Crack, as the show was a little too chilled out after our vital punk experience. Abel Tesfaye’s voice and his touring band were pretty impressive by all accounts, but we weren’t really in the mood for the crooning House of Balloons merchant. If only Shellac played three hour sets. Filling in for poorly Bjork were the Parisian powerhouse Justice who brought the noise, joy and a ridiculously flashy stage show of (probably) one million light bulbs to a monstrously loud crowd who sang We Are Your Friends, DVNO and D.A.N.C.E back in a plethora of international accents. We finished our night and indeed our festival with the brilliant dance party provided by Glaswegian labelNumbers. Their showcase featured Deadboy, Jackmaster and Oneman who played out garage, two-step, house and all sorts of other wavy tones that ended the festival with a bang and ensured we’ll be returning to Barcelona for many more Primavera Sound festivals to come. Crack recommends you do too.
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Words: Lucie Grace