Friday started early again for us back at the Heiniken stage where we saw Kurt Vile and the Violators. Vile’s excellent new album ‘Walkin on a Pretty Daze’ has already matured into one of the most fulfilling and re-playable records released this year and I bored my companions prior to his set with my half-baked theory about the surprising depth of feeling and sensitive and wise reflection in his music and how a lot of the emotion in his songs gets overlooked in light of his stoner drawl and slacker appearance. The set drew mostly from the new LP and Vile’s electric guitar driven jams which was a good move considering he could have potentially looked pretty lost up there on such a big stage at such an early hour. ‘Tomboy’ from ‘Smoke Ring For My Halo’ was the only solo acoustic song aired and the band finished with a rip roaring psychedelic maelstrom that surprised me in its heaviness.
By far the quietest day at the festival for us Friday provided a welcome opportunity to relax, explore the festival site and merchandise stands and have the chance to have a couple of beers without having to dash of from stage to stage every hour. After wandering for a while next up were Django Django who played to one of the busiest crowds we witnessed outside of headline acts at the Heineken as the sun settled. I’ve seen them once before and felt that their live show came across a little weak and limp sounding compared to the ambition of the album. Thankfully they beefed up many of their songs with some extended intros and keyboard grooves which made for a more enjoyable show but still left me coming away with the feeling that they could really do with an extra member in order to have a more powerful live presence. ‘Hail Bop’ went down a treat with the locals in the crowd as did a few other songs which leads me to believe that Django Django must be as omnipresent on Spanish TV adverts as they are in the UK.
We had another lull in the programme after Django Django, mostly as a result of the unfortunate late cancellation by Rodriguez, before heading over to the Primavera stage to catch the first few tracks of The Breeders. We basically had the intention of just seeing ‘Cannonball’ (which was again a real treat) and then heading of which seemed to be the plans for many others in the crowd.
The next full set we saw was James Blake back at the Primavera stage. I’d heard good things about his new touring band and they didn’t disappoint. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever heard sub bass as deep and gut shaking as I did throughout his performance. Having not given his new album enough listens prior to seeing him so much of the material was fresh to my ears but came across well and suggested a more direct and inviting record than his debut. I was especially impressed by the rousing rendition of ‘CKCY’ which evidenced that Blake could pull off a more conventional dance sound wonderfully if only he wished. It was surreal, and kind of frightening, to hear a bunch of drunken English girls behind us singing along to ‘Limit to Your Love’, especially considering how intense the bass was in the middle section.
After a bit of deliberation about whether to see Swans and Goat I decided to go see Blur’s headline set instead. I’ve never been a big fan of the band or the entire Britpop movement but past Primavera’s have resulted in me seeing excellent gigs by Pulp and Suede both of which opened doors for a renewed sense of appreciation for them. I was also conscious of the fact that Blur would present the only opportunity of the weekend to see a big headline performance that would get the crowd worked up. Their set did that and more and I was pleased to see some of my favorite tracks from ‘13’ (the Blur album I’m fondest of) receiving emotional live performances. As a casual fan I was surprised to find that I knew almost everything they played and even if I didn’t dig much of it first time round I got swept up the euphoria of the crowd and had a great time. Also, everyone needs to experience ‘Song 2’ live at least once.
Last up were The Knife whose set began at the rather intimidating time of 3.20am. Prior to the festival they had been one of my most anticipated acts but I found my motivation to see them diluted by some of the quite hysterical reactions their London shows received earlier in the month. Being familiar with their live sets only through the bonus DVD on the special edition of ‘Silent Shout’ I’d initially hoped for the same stripped back show which highlighted the individual strengths of both members rather than the amateur creative dance ensemble mime performance that it was. Nonetheless I found myself enjoying it a lot more than I’d thought I would. We stood at the back where we could dance freely which had the added advantage of rendering the visual side of the performance redundant to us. It did sound to me like Karin was singing live on most of the tracks although I was skeptical about whether or not any actual instruments were being played on stage. Thankfully their new album ‘Shaking the Habitual’ is so great that I was able to enjoy the gig, even if it was just that album being played loud over the PA most of the time. Much as I felt the show wasn’t the spectacular failure some people had suggested after their London gig I do appreciate that it probably wouldn’t stand up and would look a bit ridiculous in the more scrutinizing environment of an indoor venue.