Now for years I have delighted in instructing younger music fan friends in the insurmountable fact that Mudhoney were better than Nirvana. This might sound like arsey music snobbery, but in this case it's not, it's just true.
Back to that best 15 minutes of the year, then. There's never much of a queue when you arrive early on Thursday, but we always plan for one; we're in before 5pm and having the very first beers from one of the bars. Which this year have dispensed with the various bizarre ways of buying beer they've tried over the past few years (nobody will ever trust a charge-card system again after 2011's debacle, which is a shame as for the few minutes before it all fell over it did look like the future) and are taking cash. This year the Pitchfork stage gets our early business due to being half under the solar panel (shade!) and to PEGASVS' book entry claiming they "rewrite krautrock whilst giving warning of a storm of retro-futurist pop". (Am I allowed to harrumph at such a claim!? - ed) And they do! Sergio Pérez Garcia and Luciana Della Villa have a table of lovely analogue equipment, some of which is probably older than they are, and their blissed-out Neu!-gone-summerpop sounds are the perfect start to three days of - we hope - musical mind expansion. A few people have said the line-up wasn't a patch on last year's star-studded extravaganza, and in terms of bands we've heard of it probably isn't, but that's not why we come here.
It's Primavera Bingo Time! I grab the first points for a Black Flag tattoo on the back of a shin. We've been here an hour and not seen a Sonic Youth Goo t-shirt yet, but my Twilight Sad spoof thereof is getting a few second glances... Fans of Primavera sandwich stall nomenclature may wish to note that the meat and veggie burgers this year are called Godflesh and Spiritualized respectively, with Wilco representing the cheese and pesto baguette. Just though I'd get that in now.
A STORM OF LIGHT's last album was called As The Valley Of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade. That's all you need to know, really, isn't it? Heavy crunching doom post-rock is, unsurprisingly, the order of the day down at the ATP stage where attempts to create an aura of satanic darkness via copious use of dry ice are up against lovely evening sunshine. Not that this bothers most of the majority-male crowd who are enjoying the heavily tattooed blonde female guitarist's, um, ear-splitting riffs...
Ooh look, a Goo T-shirt!
And a bloke doing the bend from the waist post-rock dip dance!
And a member of Plank!
A lot of the bands on the Adidas Originals emerging acts stage aren't even listed in the book, but one of our crew's checked out REIGNWOLF online and reckons they sound worth a go. They turn out to be a he, a Hendrix and Led Zep influenced Canadian purveyor of heavy blues who's apparently worked with Soundgarden, and plays a bass drum with his foot - except when he stands aloft on it for his more impressive distortion-fucked solos. He does a version of The Chain (yes, as in that thing that divides opinion among those who watch Formula One on telly - personally I'd have it put out of its misery and replaced with something by 65daysofstatic) on a Gibson electric mandolin which is nowhere near as terrifying as that sounds. Actually, no, it is. Our mate loves it though: it's a good mate for whom you'll risk death by geeetar solo (however immensely talented the musician clearly is). I survive. Just.
Bingo! A Leeds Brudenell Social Club T-shirt!
Getting to FIELD MUSIC on the Vice Stage means walking through Pitchfork, and GRIMES. Sorry, do NOT get this. There's too much self-consciously arty/weird try-hard pop going on at the moment. We escape to find the North-Easterners going down a storm - somehow from their early prog and jazz infused experimentalism they became pioneers of the real alternative pop They've gone a bit smooth lately though, haven't they? Or is it just me...?
Afternoon drifts into evening. A passing eight-person rowing boat stops for a listen. Definite bingo.
Where next? Mazzy Star or Mudhoney? We vote, unanimously, for rock. I last saw MUDHONEY in late summer 1991. They will take the crown for my "most time between seeing a band" - a little short of 21 years, although (a) The Stone Roses will probably take the award off them by another year and a bit quite soon, and (b) my dad always wins this one; Rolling Stones, 1966 and 2006 and never in between. Now for years I have delighted in instructing younger music fan friends in the insurmountable fact that Mudhoney were better than Nirvana. This might sound like arsey music snobbery, but in this case it's not, it's just true. And second song in, a beautifully sludged-out Sweet Young Thing Aint Sweet No More, they comprehensively prove it. OK, so it was halfway to Spacemen 3. Good.
That day in 1991 I did my first and last stage-dive. I was 19. Tonight we sit on the terrace - great view! - and shake our hair a bit and try not to think too much about the passage of time... and watch a moshpit spread like the ripple from a depth charge through the crowd in the opening seconds of Touch Me I'm Sick, and enjoy the three minutes of delirious rush that is still one of the greatest singles ever. The adrenaline rush of You Got It (Keep It Outta My Face); the drawn-out brilliance of When Tomorrow Hits seguing into the peerless (even by their standards) In 'N' Out of Grace and I am 19 again for a minute, back in some long lost basement club in a mass of flying hair.
Right, enough of this being old shite, we're off to the Adidas stage (with a bag of bread and vegan chorizo pate our mate's brought in! And some vodka and redbull, of course) for RATS ON RAFTS. Much beloved of most of Incendiary they should need no introduction here; sadly the lack of one in the guidebook (and, probably, being up against Beirut and Wilco) means it's not the biggest crowd but do we care? Do they? What do you think? No, they play like they're headlining, stretching Money Man into some incredible extended space-groove prog-out rave. David Fagan has become one of those great frontmen, whether he's howling like a wild animal or fiddling with the onstage settings like a cocky young Mark E Smith. Everyone's dancing by the end. I bet nobody's dancing to Wilco. Just saying.
Rats on Rafts
Mmmmm, doughnuts! Or specifically churros. After a much-needed reacquaintance with Spain/Catalunya's greatest snack, we're off to the Ray Ban amphitheatre stage for REFUSED. Our mate produces a tin of stuffed vine leaves from her bag. This is, basically, the best picnic ever. "Back when we were a touring band we loved Barcelona" explains the Swedish punk veterans' vocalist Dennis Lyxzén, "we used to play this little place the Garage, 400 people, and that was a really big deal for us. So to come back and see this..." There are literally thousands of people standing in front of them. I'll be honest: this really isn't for me. Punk, hardcore and metal not so much mixed up as neatly alloyed. The guitars are just too clean. The speed and precision is impressive but doesn't move me.
BOMBINO does. Bombino - real name Omara Moctar - is a Tuareg guitarist from Agadez, Niger who despite having lived through the sort of shit most of us will thankfully never come close to (his family fled to Algeria when he was just ten years old; later, having returned to Agadez, he lived through the Tuareg Rebellion whereby the Niger government banned guitars and executed two of his fellow musicians) plays bluesy rock inspired again by Hendrix and Page. He makes it a joyous experience, though, you can't help but dance to it.
We set off to see SPIRITUALIZED. This is quite an expedition; they're on the stage at the far end of the site which was used for the first time last year. This year it's called the Mini Stage, which confused me when I was first reading the listings - some very big bands for a small stage? - on arrival we realise they've got a new sponsor, and a couple of the perenially trendy cars sit atop posts. Moving the stage by 90 degrees has really improved the arena, though (this bit is, I appreciate, only relevant to people who went in 2011 but not 2012. Still, we know quite a few of those, so...), with the sea wall now all the way down one side and the cityscape down the other; it's got the feel of a beach party to it, lots of people sitting chilling. Some of them stand up when Jason Pierce leads his band on stage; quite a lot don't. Hey, let's party like it's 1992!
It's not just the floor-sitting, though. Right now Jason has the best live band he's had since those early immediate-post-Spacemen-3 days. Lord Let It Rain On Me for instance sounds, somehow, far more powerful with just the four-piece band and two backing singers than it ever did with all those choirs and orchestras. Sometimes less is more - something Pierce seemed to have forgotten (or perhaps wilfully fought against, given the minimalist works being created by Sonic Boom / Spectrum at the time) for far too long. Is it too much to hope that one day he will have a similar revelation in the studio and actually make a record as good as those first three albums again?
It's late; stagger past ATP stage, where Wolves In The Throne Room sound like the pit of hell (in a good way), can't remember why we didn't stop for a bit; then wind up the evening with a much-needed electronic fix courtesy of our second Swede of the day Axel Willner, better known as THE FIELD. Joined by a live drummer and one other person (our eyes have long since stopped focusing properly, and anyway, there's a lot of smoke machine) his bleeps, loops and beats are sublime in their simplicity.
Not a bad haul really for the first day of a festival that's supposedly not as good as last year...