Incendiary go to Primavera - Part 3 - Saturday and Sunday 27-28/5/11

Cath experiences a Hipster Dunkirk in Barca! now read on! 

Saturday 28th May

The day starts on Primavera time with pizza for breakfast at 3pm before our first visit to the Auditorium where PERFUME GENIUS plus friend and two pianos play a stunning set that could not have worked outside. The minimalist short stories of his troubled lyrics and the peals of four hands on two keyboards (or sometimes just the one) are arresting here in the dark respectful silence; "Mr. Petersen" is genuinely chilling and as we blink into the sunshine it's going to take something pretty amazing to set us back into festival mode - luckily we get just that, courtesy of the ever-reliable DAMO SUZUKI. Two years ago we were rather impressed with a local band called CUZO, describing their "heavy, fluid, wigged-out Krauty instrumental space-prog like Wooden Shjips on really bad drugs" as being quite inappropriate for an early slot. This year I beg to differ - operating as Mr Suzuki's backing band they're absolutely perfect while the veteran traveller's hair flies around in the sea breeze as he rambles on about whatever it is he rambles on about. One of my friends has never heard of him before and appears to be having a full-on psychedelic experience, but then that's what you get for doing Jaegermeister at 5pm.

"In the queue for John Cale. It's like a hipster Dunkirk." - Belfast fanzine writer Shane Horan, via Twitter. I met Shane at an Interpol gig a few years ago and whilst I don't do Twitter myself his feed has been a constant source of joy this weekend - see also "Just realised that Palaces of Montezuma by Grinderman is essentially Vapour Trail by Ride"; "Had no idea the guy from the butter adverts had a band"; "Me and PJ Harvey are getting married. Who wants an invite? We're getting Nick Cave in to do the music"; and on the plane home "No, love the seats are not too small. You're too fond of cake". Cheers for all these Shane, sorry we didn't actually get to catch up...

Anyway we can't be arsed queuing for maybe getting to see Cale, and while YUCK effectively play an identical set to that which I saw six days ago in a cold damp field in Cheshire for some reason under a cloudless Barcelona sky it sounds several billion times better (and it was good then). Yes, so they are basically a bunch of teenagers doing Ride / Teenage Fanclub / Dinosaur Jnr impressions but the tunes are ace. WARPAINT meanwhile are a bit of a mixed bag: I love the great crashing wave guitar sounds, although her vocals get a little grating - and a bit Fleetwood Mac - after a while. Interesting to note though that the feted hit Undertow is actually their worst song (absolutely – ed). Back down on Pitchfork, GONJASUFI is rather more rock'n'roll-psychedelic than we imagined - as in: expected Flying Lotus, got Hawkwind. Well, that's a slight exaggeration, but still. The doom guitars are seriously filthy and the bass trembles our internal organs while Sufi AKA Sumach Ecks spills loose, reverbed proclamations. You know how rap-rock's the most shit genre ever? Only because most of it blends shit rap with shit rock. This is the total opposite.

A lot of the crowd have gone back to the Llevant arena where the Champions League final will be shown on a big screen - presumably to avoid total chaos later had those wishing to watch the match left and all arrived back at the same time. The band selected to play in this slot in the amphitheatre may have been chosen for their appeal to the freaks and geeks and people less interested in the match - and the next hour or so is as surreal as festivals get. EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN have set the stage up and it looks like no other stage on Planet Earth. There's some sort of factory chemical drum, marked with the band's logo in much the way that in its intended life it may have been marked with a department name; some sort of large spring or coil; various pieces of sheet metal and a minimal drum kit. Just as the band walk on stage, a ripple goes through the crowd that Barcelona have scored; Blixa Bargeld stands at the front and glowers for a minute before intoning slowly: "You will find me if you want me in the garden. Unless it's pouring down with rain." This being the sum (repeated) lyrics of The Garden, musically a funeral dirge played deadpan and mildly frightening. "Good evening all you non soccer fans." News comes through that Manchester United have equalised, but here all we have is the clash of metal on metal. And indeed an industrial-sized radiator brought on specifically for one track. This is genius and ridiculous and Bargeld comes across as clearly quite mad - demanding an encore (or a "clap of sympathy", as he called it) after just four songs before realising they had only played a third of their set and advising us we should do that later instead. We do. By the time they've finished Barcelona are minutes away from a comprehensive 3-1 victory...


SAF - here's some flowers

I have ranted at length about ex-members of legendary bands playing their old hits without other ex-members, and for the most part I'm not interested - but there's an exception to every rule and DEAN WAREHAM is it. Night has fallen over the ATP stage and, lit in pink and purple, Dean and his band's Galaxie 500 set is absolutely beautiful, end to end. I think it's just because (unlike, say, ChameleonsVox and god knows how many lesser efforts) this does genuinely sound just like the real thing - and at the end of the day elitism, arguments about authenticity and the valid counter-arguments about anyone's right to play songs they wrote are all irrelevant when you're actually watching it: the music is what matters. Britta and the boys play their parts perfectly, never adding anything that shouldn't be there, just providing a note perfect canvas for Dean's heartbreaking voice which still sounds exactly as it did all those years ago - and I'll argue fiercely with anyone who disagrees that there could be few greater sequences of music than that with which they end the set: Blue Thunder; Fourth Of July; Tugboat and a Ceremony which I still believe far surpasses New Order's original. Stunning.

I can't be bothered reviewing any more tonight. Needless to say MOGWAI are brilliant because they always are, with "Rano Pano" an early highlight (i.e. before I realise I'm so wasted I have no idea what they played, only that it was spectacular); ANIMAL COLLECTIVE sound great from our little grassy hill at the back, and by the time THE BLACK ANGELS come on sometime around four in the morning (and a good half hour late) we can hardly stand up but this doesn't stop us having a bit of a groove to their deep stoned rock'n'roll before remembering we have to check out of the hotel in about six hours' time...
(Perfume Genius)

Sunday 29th May

Late Sunday afternoon. We struggled out of the hotel, hungover and aching. A quick look back at the Forum Park - not too long, as the clock resets and it's now 362 days before we're crossing that road again. People have always said this about Glastonbury, but that never really appealed to me: the mud, the British weather, the lowest common denominator headline acts; the people for whom coming to a festival is more important than who's playing; the "finding yourself". I found myself years ago, just fifteen in a Stranglers moshpit as the volume and energy rushed through my veins for the first time. I am, I guess, something of a musical elitist who also likes sunshine and a friendly atmosphere, and in 2008 I found my festival. So it's back up to the Poble Espanyol; back to where it all started: Primavera itself in the early years of the century and Primavera Sound 2011 just four days and 32 live sets ago. We look up and down the queue (we had this daft idea the place might open more vaguely on time - we should have learnt, really, but at least we've pretty much guaranteed our places in this much smaller venue) and we know everyone else in it's just like us - those in Barcelona FC shirts (and presumably some of the English contingent no longer wearing team colours with pride) possibly even more hungover... One more night in this sunshine and live music paradise before the grey rain of home. The gates are open. Let's do this.

A sandwich stall is doing a swift trade in very authentic Mojitos... Local band ME AND THE BEES do some nice indiepop with a hint of 90s lo-fi, whilst mate reckons Cat Power... it strikes me that both these things might have had more of an effect if we hadn't consumed a month's worth of both alcohol and music in the past four days, which is not to say we don't enjoy them very much. MY TEENAGE STRIDE may well have the name of some really shit emo band but turn out to be purveyors of ace two-minute garagey lo-fi indie punk surf pop. One of which has a chorus that goes "ah ah ah ah ah oh oh oh oh oh" which amuses us possibly more than it should. They're ace though. What's with that shit name? More Sangria is ordered. The DJ plays Breather by Chapterhouse, which is pretty sublime amongst the glorious Catalan architecture.

None of us can remember a single BMX BANDITS tune, but we know from past experience (The Monochrome Set this year; The Vaselines last) that this doesn't mean we won't know any when they play them. Except this time that's not the case. Contemporaries of the Soup Dragons (the proper original indiepop ones) and the Pastels, precursors to Teenage Fanclub and Belle And Sebastian, a favourite band of Kurt Cobain; once supported on tour by the young unknown Oasis; their list of members past and present reads like a Pete Frame Rock Family Tree - but sadly they're nowhere near as good as any of those contemporaries or descendents, nor as good as they clearly think they are. And Duglas Stewart's between song rambles are even more tedious given that half the crowd don't understand and the other half don't care. Maybe we're just all too tired to take any more.

No, it's not that. Because within minutes - seconds even - of MERCURY REV coming on stage I feel one last surge of energy. They're playing Deserter's Songs in full and it sounds absolutely awe-inspiring. Their beautiful waves crash around the old square with Jonathan Donahue's voice rising above and out to the stars; he doesn't say much at all between songs apart from to note that this is the "best festival in the world right now". And when they come back for an encore cover of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill they'd have taken the roof off if it had one. I feel I could go on for another three days now, but thankfully for my body and bank account this is where it ends.


Revving up

Monday afternoon, the plane touches down in Manchester: it is nine degrees C and damp and grey. 361 days, counting down. 360 at the time of writing.  The dates will be confirmed round July time and the hotel reserved; the tickets in November; flights booked to lift the January gloom. Forza Primavera!


All pics by Cath Aubergine