By Saturday the routine of not going to bed until after 5am every day had started to catch up with me but that didn’t hamper my enthusiasm for seeing Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory playing in the beautiful auditorium building at 4pm. Having enjoyed Pantha Du Prince’s previous albums I had been a bit disappointed by ‘Elements of Light’, his recent album in collaboration with The Bell Laboratory, which I found impressive in concept but fatiguing to listen to in its entirety. Live however it came alive and was one of the most powerful performances of the week receiving a well deserved standing ovation from the crowd on finishing. For the encore we were treated to a few songs from Pantha’s 2008 LP ‘Black Noise’ and seeing them performed live, with their emphasis on acoustic percussion as much as the electronics, helped set Pantha apart from some of his peers and made for a more interesting live experience than the dull laptop gazing usually associated with many live electronic artists.
Emerging back into the heat after an hour plus in the comfy air conditioned auditorium we headed over to the All Tomorrows Parties stage to catch Mount Eerie, whom I’d been keen to see again since watching him do a solo set last year supporting Earth. I was happy to see him emerge onto the stage with a drummer and two bass players in tow suggesting a much more filled out sound. Unfortunately the performance became a surreal and uncomfortable mess after a band started playing on the adjacent Heineken stage midway through the set. Although his music does have some intense black metal inspired dirges scattered throughout the most powerful aspect of his music are the quieter and more reflective moments and they were intolerable to listen to over the racket of another band playing so loud nearby. Sadly the show has to go down as one of my most disappointing experiences at the festival which is doubly depressing considering the high esteem in which I hold Mount Eerie’s music.
A late cancellation by Band of Horses resulted in Deerhunter playing another set in their place on the Heineken stage. Although the replacement had been announced online and via posters dotted around the site I think many people mustn’t have heard about it because they played to one of the smallest and most comfortable crowds experienced at that stage throughout the festival allowing me and my friends to get right up front. The band raised expectations for a different set by opening with a ‘Cryptograms’ but soon deviated back into roughly the same sequence songs they played on Thursday night. I was a bit underwhelmed as I’d figured that their playing 3 albums in their entirety at All Tomorrows Parties the following month would suggest they should have a bit more of a current repertoire to chose from. Nonetheless the conviction with which the ‘Monomania’ songs that dominated their performance were played made for a more punked up and visceral Deerhunter live experience.
In a bizarre contrast of styles next up were Wu-Tang Clan and their classic brand of East Coast Hip-Hop. Their set drew heavily from classic debut album ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and it was a welcome pleasure to see a group trying to work the crowd. We were treated to a few songs from GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’ and a lesson on the virtues of turntableism throughout the gig but it was a bit sad to witness a crowd sing along of The Beatles ‘Come Together’ generating more hysteria from the audience that any of the original material they played. I’d seen the group once before, with Ol Dirty Bastard, at T in the Park years ago and thought their Primavera set far eclipsed the ramshackle mess I’d witnessed then and provided a much more refined and direct performance which resulted in generating some of the best of crowd interaction I saw over the week.
Leaving Wu-Tang as they played out the last 15 minutes of their slot we made our way over to the Heineken stage once again to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. It’s been a few years since I have seen Cave live and despite owning everything else he’s done I didn’t pay any attention to his 2 last albums with the Bad Seeds. His set opened with two songs from new album ‘Pushing the Sky Away’ which, while sounding great, left me a little underwhelmed and yearning for the familiarity of old material. Thankfully my wishes were granted in the form of a ripping version of ‘Red Right Hand’, with the Bad Seeds at their most grand and cinematic sounding, and snarling and vicious versions of Elvis in hell exorcism Tupelo’ and the sick twisted homicidal blues tale ‘Stagger Lee’. At barely an over an hour in length though Cave’s set felt too slight and short, especially for an artist with such a huge amount of classic material.
Next up was a rare trip to the smaller confines of a packed Pitchfork stage to see Liars who, in the form of ‘WIXIW’ released one of my favorite albums of last year. Their set consisted mostly of new material which suggested an altogether more electronic and danced based new direction that despite being mostly unfamiliar did a great job of getting the crowd, many of whom were at that point in the night just wandering about from stage to stage in search of a beat, dancing along. Despite being a long term fan of the band it was the first time I’d seen them live and they put on one of the most exciting performances I saw all week further raising expectations for their new material.
The last headliner of the main 3 days was My Bloody Valentine whom I found myself more eagerly anticipating after the surprise release of ‘MBV’ earlier this year. I’d seen the band in 2008 and came away from the gig being glad to have seen them but a bit shellshocked by the intensity of the volume. I found seeing them in a festival setting a much more enjoyable, despite the vocals being a tad too low, and it was good to be able to identify their songs more clearly. Their performance proved to be frustrating to the locals who left in droves a few songs into the set. From further back I found the impressive scale of the noise coming from the stage prettier and more comprehensible that I’d expected and it was a joy to be treated to a few tracks from the new album which came across as poppier and more accessible than their older material. The infamous and inappropriate titled holocaust section of ‘You Made Me Realise’ was as remarkable than ever and even with the sea wind blowing behind it proved to be a uniquely intense and incomparably loud experience.
Our Park Del Forum Primavera time came to a close with Hot Chip’s 4am set which proved a fitting finale in being the only point of the festival that felt like a proper dance concert, an important part of the Primavera experience usually confined to those with the herculean (or drug fueled) energy to stick around until after 5am when the DJ sets begin. The crowd was as packed as it seemed to me all weekend and Hot Chip put on a stellar performance demonstrating their burgeoning strength as a singles band. Once thought of as a UK LCD Soundsystem the breakup of that decade defining New York band leaves Hot Chip as one of the few groups around capable of delivering live shows which satisfy the dance and indie crowds equally and their Primavera set was by far the most euphoric and crowd pleasing I witnessed all week.
One of the most satisfying aspects of the Primavera Sound festival is the wide variety of concerts and performances that go on in different locations throughout the city during the week. From the use of the excellent, if sometimes too small, Sala Apolo indoor venue and the Ray Ban stage on festival site on the Wednesday and Sunday for additional concerts to the more boutique shows put on in metro stops and parks dotted around Barcelona it’s possible to see a lot more music at Primavera than the already ridiculous amount of acts on display at the proper 3 day main festival. On a Sunday afternoon we trekked it down to the idylic surrounds of the Parc de la Ciutadella to see a free show by Mac Demarco which turned out to be one of the most enjoyable gigs of the week. Blessed with a hyperactive positivity Demarco played one of the most appropriately located shows I’ve ever seen and his music seemed custom made for standing in the sun whilst sipping cheap mojitos. In between tokes from a joint he kept in his capo during songs and later giving cigarettes out to members of the audience we were treated to a set bustling with simple yet effective surf rock tunes. The playfulness of Demarco’s performance reminded me of the childlike aura of Jonathan Richman live and after some quite heavy and intense music over the week it was a welcome release to listen to something more optimistic and uni-formally upbeat. Impromptu covers of ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ and ‘Enter Sandman’ mixed together in a set dominated by debut album ‘2’ resulting in probably the most impressive and enjoyable surprise of the week.
Our final live show of the week was back at the Sala Apolo where Deerhunter were playing their 3rd show of the festival. It was a great contrast to see them play an indoor venue and although the set was still festival length and lacking the feel of a stand alone gig it was another solid performance from one of the best live bands out there at the moment. Any reservations I had about the quality of new album ‘Monomania’ had been quashed by this stage and I felt that they gave their best, and definitely their loudest, show of Primavera. ‘The Missing’, ‘Sleepwalking’ and, in particular, the title track from the new album are some of Deerhunter’s most powerful and direct live songs and despite being saddened by the fact they seem to have all but disowned ‘Microcastle’ as a source of material their replacements are equally as competent and satisfying. The band have a different feel live now and the additional guitarist allows Bradford Cox to stand up and assume the free frontman role he’s been talking in the bands recent interviews. Prior to the festival they were probably the act I was most excited to see and being lucky enough to catch them 3 times in 4 days was probably my highlight of Primavera.