Review: Primavera Sound 10, Parc Del Forum, Barcelona, Spain. May 27-29th

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By Giordana & Olivia Caputo

Summer arrives in Europe in spectacular fashion, all poppies, earthy heat and never-ending daylight.  With it comes the pilgrimage of music lovers crossing the continent alongside the band-of-the-moment to the latest seaside party. Whether it’s the beach in Brighton or the DIY punk fests of Budapest you can be sure bands you only ever dreamed of seeing in Brisbane will be playing there.

Deciding which festival to go to for an Australian travelling to Europe in the northern summer is simply a matter of throwing a dart at a map and locating the right phrase book.   Or find the one euro festival an Australian artist is performing at and beg for a golden ticket. 

My golden ticket was courtesy of Spain’s San Miguel Primavera Sound, a festival in the heart of Barcelona celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Primavera Sound is a festival born of globalization. Big brands sponsor every aspect, from the outdoor tobacco lounge (they advertise smoking like it’s going out of fashion!)  to the Primavera Pro sanctuary,  where music industry professionals and the worldwide press are invited to dine al fresco and take refreshing dips at a private beach between schmoozing and interviews.

The crowd is global, apolitical and serious about music.  They are also older and far too stylish to dream of camping in a muddy field. Hence the necessity for ticket-holders to rent apartments in trendy suburbs and travel en masse via metro to the festival each evening.   Our apartment was in the suburb of Gracia where they do boho Spanish-style; eco-boutiques and organic food co-ops surround large open plazas where students of the nearby university sit and drink cervesas on the church steps. 

Festival-goers were immediately recognizable by their wristbands,  with locals alongside foreigners hopping the metro to Parc del Forum, and incredibly large venue located on the beach past Barceloneta. Primavera Sound 10 kicked off on a brilliantly sunny Thursday afternoon with the shining sea in view from each of the massive stages set up all around The Forum.   People ambled in as the sun took its time setting, and despite the venue’s capacity to hold half a million it never once felt crowded. 

There was obviously a large contingent of tourists from the United Kingdom, with die-hard fans of Glaswegian band Bis coming out early to dance to songs written in the nineties.  There were Scots in the crowd wearing kilts and others with partially faded tattoos depicting the album cover from their 1999 release, Social Dancing. Despite constantly reminding the crowd they were ‘very old’ they displayed plenty of their famous atomic power and thrilled everyone with their pop riot girl anthem, I’m a Slut.  

With the eurodisco underway we wandered from one picturesque stage to the next, dropping in on West Florida’s Surfer Blood, the very antithesis of So-Cal surfer music and rediscovering our youthful enthusiasm for folk punk rock with Titus Andronicus, a violin-wielding group of kids from New Jersey feeding off the success of their latest album The Monitor.

We popped into Primavera Pro to hang with the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, which seemed to be made up of very cool sneaker-sporting Spaniards touting Sounds from Spain, an international effort to promote Spanish music.  Madrid’s  The Good Company were showcasing that evening and impressed us with their complete disregard for their government sponsors, smashing up their drum kit and singing in English, it was definitely rock n roll.

Things became a little overwhelming from there on in, with Broken Social Scene, Fuck Buttons and Pavement all on the lineup. So we opted for the epic theatre of The XX, south west London’s rendering of something in-between Chris Isaac and Fleetwood Mac , the band of the moment everyone half-way cool was there to experience.  Their music pulsated through the massive crowd drawing each of us into an intimate parlour where we were branded with a giant XX. As Oliver, Romy and Jamie faded into black, we were left to stumble in a daze towards the swelling sounds of Tortoise playing in the sand by the ocean.  

Friday dawned before we even left for the night but eager to re-enter the microcosm of cool we headed back to The Forum after an appropriate period of sleeping and sunbaking to see Scout Niblett. Having shed her safety orange of past performances Scout emerged confident, smiling into the Catalan sun to disarm the audience with Kiss. Ethereal beauty was in abundance that day at Primavera Sound, with Coco Rosie completely destroying a world of cynicism and scenesters with their costumed performance accompanied by psychedelic images of themselves as mushrooms. Their sincerity was apparent to all and their efforts to communicate in Spanish obviously appreciated.  

Where to after so much overwhelming beauty? We could have indulged ourselves with Low’s performance of The Great Destroyer, but the intimate setting meant there wasn’t room. So into the night we went with great hairy men! The jangly chords of Sacramento’s Ganglians rang out from the Pitchfork stage drawing us away from our delicious bocadillos to shake in time, but their incredibly long hair means their faces remain unknown to us. Following the laughter down to the ocean we found Les Savy Fav managing to make fat and bald cool among the fashionable Europeans and their well-pressed linen, they are from New York after all.  

We were bound by duty to see Japandriods by our Canadian friends living in Barcelona, and despite reservations found them to be every bit as fun as promised and twice as cool. But not as cool as Shellac’s Steve Albini who, true to form, had his guitar strapped round his waist, his lone-wolf t-shirt tucked into chinos and asked his customary question of the audience, to which they responded in Spanglish.  There was an overarching mood of ‘why not?’ as everyone formed a moshpit and shouted throughout Shellac’s spacious set, ‘Can you hear me now?’

 Our hearts were young and free, off we danced with some boys from Bath to see Yeasayer. It was as though all of Brooklyn had decamped to Barcelona for the summer, with Grizzly Bear and Matt & Kim scheduled to play on Saturday. The true meaning of eurodisco became apparent with Yeasayer forcing the crowd to move like one giant ridiculously happy organism from their performance all the way down to the amphitheatre for the Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77.  I had only heard rumours of this Italian dance punk act from Palmero and I immediately understood why. Who can describe the humour, the hardcore or the Sicilian circus of The Bloody Beetroots? Better yet who can remember it after you’ve tossed your neck so recklessly attempting to dance to the madness?  It was at once hilarious and serious and so incredibly fun. Such a high could not even be tempered by the slightly more sombre Wilco, and by dawn we were skipping along to the Pixies with the rest of Barcelona.

 I have to admit we stayed out all night and didn’t find our beds till some time round midday, the true beauty of Spanish summer means the sun never seems to truly set so time is completely insignificant. But we did have a date with the only Australian playing Primavera Sound this year, the Icelandic-based Ben Frost. Fortunately he wasn’t due to drone until 2am Sunday morning so we spent Saturday afternoon at the Spanish music stage enjoying Mujeres and Standstill before we were compelled to see hipster buzz-band, Grizzly Bear. It was emotional and not at all the pop frenzy we’d expected so we quickly departed for the Vice stage where Matt & Kim were throwing a party. They were absolutely charming, counting down their drum beats in NY-accented Spanish while sampling every tacky disco hit from the past decade including a delightful rendition of The Final Countdown by Matt while standing on his keyboard. Ah the wonder of bad music and its ability to unite cultures.  Italians, Irish, Catalans, British and Australians all singing along in the port-a-loo line is such a heart-warming sight. We da-da-da dummed all the way to the Dum Dum Girls, their incredibly pretty hair shining under warm lights, I couldn’t understand a word they sung and soon realized it was because they are from LA via the 1960s, molto fashion.   

Ask yourself could you be forgiven for not seeing the Pet Shop Boys? Our new friends from Bath were loathe to let us go, but as the strains of Heart rang out across The Forum we shimmied our way forward to bask in the spectacle that is a Pet Shop Boys stage show.  They might be an embarrassment to the English, but the Europeans can sing every word to every song, no matter how old or obscure.  It could be the ridiculous fashion, the giant sunglasses, the ten-storey high movable set or the cube-headed dancers but the crowd was in their throes from beginning to end as though nothing else mattered.  It was a highlight and all that was left of the night was our commitment to Australian music.  

As everyone else prepared for UK’s Orbital we shuffled down to the sand finding a group of dedicated noise connoisseurs standing stock still while Ben Frost assaulted them with chunky waves of ruined guitar chords. Frost attempted to build the atmosphere but kept everyone wanting more as the sound cut out periodically. His time spent in Iceland was obvious from the dark moods he created, but his roots in Australia’s ambinent electronic and noise scene were apparent in his experimental guitar humping and self deprecation.

Our Spanish fiesta was coming to an end and we spent the dying hours dancing to Stockholm’s The Field, hugging goodbye all the new friends we’d made by the Mediterranean and promising to return to this beautiful city.

Primavera is both the Spanish and Catalan word for springtime and we left the festival refreshed and revived, rather than jaded and exhausted. Three days, 480 bands, next to nada sleep, yet too much was barely enough for these West End girls. Same time next year amigos?

Watch Bis perform EuroDisco! Photobucket

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One Response to “Review: Primavera Sound 10, Parc Del Forum, Barcelona, Spain. May 27-29th”

  1. lucas Says:

    awesome review g ! my favourite “swelling sounds of Tortoise playing in the sand by the ocean” – pun-a-riffic !

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