Primavera 2010 – Part 2

Well, you know, they’re Pixies, they do what they do, they’re nothing much to look at, they just bang out hit after hit.

Well, you know, they’re Pixies, they do what they do, they’re nothing much to look at, they just bang out hit after hit.

Friday starts in a department store cafe. It’s 4pm and the local bands at the Scanner FM showcase looked more interesting than the early acts at the main festival, although it seems to be running ridiculously late (you know that slightly embarrassing thing where you walk in on a soundcheck but don’t realise it’s the soundcheck til the band stop mid-song?) and nobody speaks much English so it’s anybody’s guess what’s actually going on. Eventually the first band go on over an hour behind schedule, a sharp little reminder that outside the super-well-organised Forum Park we are still in a country where nobody is ever in much of a hurry to do anything, and lovely as Barcelona is, actually living here would drive me round the bend…

Luckily my hunch that FORZUDO might be quite good is correct. Joseba Etxeberria and Juan Palacios have an inordinately large number of instruments between them including drums, guitar, synth, two laptops and what looks like a stick with nutshells stuck on it, and sound loosely like Fuck Buttons trying to be Arcade Fire with a bit of Phil Spector. Both have oddly high voices with which they have prepared swelling choral backing tracks, and the drumming one stands up to the job which always appeals to me. Meanwhile, L’HAUTACAM‘s website largely consists of pictures of meerkats, so we have no idea what to expect. And the strange crescendo of psychedelic electronics that starts their set equally gives little away about the electrogaze, krautfuzzpop and eclectic twisting math-baroque to follow – sometimes all within the same song. I appreciate that at least some of these are not, in fact, real genres: L’Hautacam don’t really do easy classification. These early sets and fringe events at foreign festivals are always a fertile hunting ground for amazing bands you’ve never heard before but it’s also kind of sad when you realise you’ll never hear of them again, either – although I still get occasional emails from Rotofobia (OFF Festival, Poland, 2008). Good stuff from both bands here, anyway, although a little less faffing about would have been appreciated. Phew, I’m still English.

Inside at the festival it’s my third encounter with philadelphia boy-girl sextet A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW in as many weeks, and none of them exactly on purpose. You know when you start to feel like a band’s stalking you? (On this occasion they happen to be playing in the Pitchfork area which is also where the quickest beer-tokens queue is located, last year’s amazing Booze ATMs having sadly failed to make a repeat appearance). Their shoegazey yet twee indie-pop actually sounds a whole lot better on a big stage than you’d expect such things to. We get the hell out of there before they have chance to cover Fleetwood Mac, though, as they have done on both previous occasions: I have no desire to find out if they’re going to tonight.

Round the corner, THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS have drawn a huge crowd to the big San Miguel Stage – usual beer-sponsors Estrella having been ousted this year by their big rival! – although our resident fan is initially disappointed that Neko Case also seems to have been replaced. People have been telling me for a decade or more that I’d probably like this band but I just never got round to them – and whilst there’s no road-to-Damascus revelation they are pretty good – feelgood big-sound indie rock pop being a surefire festival hit. "This song’s in the style of Black Sabbath" says singer Carl Newman "…for Dio." (If you’re reading this sometime in the distant future, Ronnie James Dio passed away a few days ago). "I bet it isn’t" says my companion, only to be proved wrong by Your Hands (Together)‘s dirty bluesy riffing, albeit in a rather indie way.

Chilean electro-indie time, next. (But of course!…) JAVIERA MENA isn’t actually that electro, or indeed that indie; she does however have a beautiful voice, a rich organ sound, a quiet boy accompanying her on guitar and a feel for a classic 60s-inspired perfect pop tune. Yep, it’s the Latin American Rose Elinor Dougall. And we’ll forgive her the faintly dodgy Europop one on the grounds that her male accompaniment’s  dancing at this point is indescribably entertaining.

"What’s this, ‘Hit The North’ on Mogadon!?" – my companion’s view of GANGLIANS‘ second track, and he’s not wrong; two alternating chords, indecipherable vocals and heavy drums. The band have three microphones, and very few recognisable words come through any of them. There’s a bit of indiepop in there, a bit of Neil Young Americana, but all of it fed through Wooden Shjips’ rather heavily encrusted bong and 75 layers of reverb. They’re a little more energetic than your average bunch of stoners, mind: the stringy singer hopping around like his feet are on fire. Needless to say, I love them.

One of the great things about Primavera is the way you get complete legends just scattered between the new bands and stuff you’ve never heard of, and we’re all pretty excited about seeing WIRE, but sadly they fail to ignite at all. The sound is muddy where if ever a band should be sharp it’s this one; Colin Newman sounds like he really can’t be arsed, and in their grand tradition (back in the post-punk days the band refused to play anything live that had been released) the set largely comprises new stuff, obscure stuff and older tunes mangled into completely different shapes so you don’t actually realise they’re doing their borderline pop hit Eardrum Buzz until it’s nearly finished. "It’s no good shouting for the classics…" growls one of them. They pick up when the sound does, and there are outbreaks of pogoing largely from gentlemen who won’t see 45 again, but it’s only really the final (some might say crowd-appeasing, but at the end of the day this is a festival not a small gathering of obscurity-obsessing fanboys) 12XU that really hits the spot. JAPANDROIDS, however, make an absolute fucking racket for two people: it’s like garage-punk on a lot of drugs, which is arguably how garage-punk should be. SHELLAC are effectively the Primavera house band, so we have to go see them. They don’t disappoint. They never do. Problem is, they render most of the other ATP-spec noise bands pretty pointless.

And then it’s time for the next of the big hitters: PIXIES are the main stage headliners tonight and it seems the entire festival’s crammed in here – by choice, that is, unlike last year’s primadonna showing from Neil Young whereby the other stages were paused while he went on (and on and on). MAJOR LAZER and KING KHAN AND THE BBQ SHOW who are on the other stages right now must have been gutted when they got their timeslots. What to say about them? Well, you know, they’re Pixies, they do what they do, they’re nothing much to look at, they just bang out hit after hit. You don’t just know the singles (two decades on most of us would be hard pushed to remember which tunes were singles anyway), you know the lot. Monkey Gone To Heaven. Wave of Mutilation. Bonemachine. Velouria. Allison. Debaser. Planet Of Sound. Little Eiffel with that glorious circular riff that comes in halfway through and has to be one of the most euphoric things ever recorded. Winterlong – an unexpected delight. River Euphrates – if a band made this record now, today, 22 years on, it would still be hailed as incredible and unlike anything else. And yeah, these days every third band is using The Jesus And Mary Chain as source material but Pixies were ahead of their time there, too, their Head On coming out (what felt like) mere seconds after the Reids’ own. Gigantic. Where Is My Mind. You don’t have to be a fan – every song’s just a fucking classic! And yeah, it’s a total nostalgia trip, but hey, for a while there I’m 18 again in the Venue or DeVilles, dancing just because it’s Friday night. (Sounds amazing! – ed)

We were going to turn in after Pixies, really we were – but one for the road? Ah, go on. There are about five and a half billion people trying to get in to see Yeasayer. Screw that, I mean they’re not that good are they? So we end up back down in the amphitheatre, raving our arses off to Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77, who are Italian and a glorious mesh of Chemical Brothers beats, daft trance and hard industrial retro with a live drummer. All are wearing masks. There are bits that are halfway to Rammstein. They are probably extremely uncool. Who cares? It’s 3am, and techno always beats indie at 3am. Fact.