Thursday, June 04, 2009

Primavera Sound ’09: Day One Review (May 28, 2009)

Without a doubt, Barcelona was the happiest city in the world for the last few days of May. On Wednesday there was the all-night celebration for the Champions League victory of the city’s most popular football team and for the next three days and nights there was Primavera Sound ’09, one of the best festivals in the indie-world. C.M.C. was there, sending you brief, postcard-sized reports and now it’s time to bring you the whole story - or, at least, the part of the story that we’ve actually witnessed, as it is humanly impossible to watch around 150 bands playing on 6 different stages in just three days.

Magik Markers' Elisa Ambrogio live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 28, 2009)

The first day of the festival started for us with Magik Markers who kicked off proceedings at the ATP stage early in the afternoon. The sun was still hot and the band seemed to be in sound check mode at first. They picked up the pace with new tracks “Psychosomatic” and “Don’t talk in your sleep” while the highlight for me was “Taste”, one of the best tracks from their previous, Lee Ranaldo produced, album “Boss”. A little before the end of their charmingly shambolic performance, we left in a hurry to catch a little bit of The Bats who were playing at the nearby Ray-Ban Vice stage. The recently reformed New Zealand legends gave us a taste of their heavenly pop hits (to borrow the title of a famous Chills track), produced down under in the '80s and early '90s. This was the first of several reunited bands from that era playing at Primavera, giving the festival the feel of an '80s-'90s class reunion. And I have to say that, in many instances, the old school gave a lesson or two to the young guns who were also present at the event.

Dashing to the main stage (the one sponsored by Estrella Damm), we got to see the end of Spectrum’s set, another representative of the '80s-'90s scene. Sonic Boom’s music was buzzing, making its usual lift off towards space and the final landing came with a track dedicated to Alan Vega.

The Vaselines live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 28, 2009)

Having seen three bands in less than 90 minutes, it was time to concentrate our attention to The Vaselines, one of Kurt Cobain’s favorite bands. Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee have joined forces once again, touring in support of the recently released compilation “Enter The Vaselines”(on Sub Pop), featuring remastered versions of all their recorded material, demos and live recordings. The band was in high spirits, taking requests from the enthusiastic audience with the prerequisite that you removed an article of clothing to have your favorite song played. There was really no need to do that as they played all their classic '80s pop tunes, including "Son of a gun", "Molly's lips", "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam", "You think you're a man" (their disco cover) and "Dum Dum". A fun lesson in indie-pop history from a highly influential band who gave us ample evidence that a bright future may still lie ahead for them.

After taking a brief noise hit courtesy of Lightning Bolt at the ATP stage, we went back to the main stage for 20 minutes of Yo La Tengo (during which they played one of their best songs ever, “Autumn sweater”) and then on to the Pitchfork stage to check out the folk melodies of Bowerbirds.

The Jesus Lizard live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 28, 2009)

But, as the time approached 10:30, I realized that this wasn’t really a good moment to be listening to folk. This was the time to run back at the ATP stage for the return of The Jesus Lizard. One of the most memorable gigs I’ve ever been to was by this band, sometime around 1993, at The Garage in London. David Yow spent more time close to the venue’s ceiling than on the stage, climbing speakers and stage-diving like a madman. Could he pull a performance like that now, after all these years? The answer was a resounding “Hell, yes”! Of course, what makes all this madness work, is one of the finest, most finely tuned punk rock machines ever - the super-tight trio of David Wm. Sims, Duane Denison and Mac McNeilly. The Jesus Lizard are back in action, as wild as ever and hungry for more mayhem.

My Bloody Valentine live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 28, 2009)

After all this excitement, it was time for some pop relaxation with Phoenix before the next shock to the system, which came a little after midnight. The extra earplugs provided to those close to the stage could not really do anything to stop the noise onslaught that My Bloody Valentine had in store for us. The music coming from the speakers seemed to aim more at our bones than our ears, being experienced more as a vibration of the body than a sound wave. What really stood out from this levelling wall of noise that hit us, were the final three tracks - three of the songs that have defined the legacy of My Bloody Valentine: "Soon", "Feed me with your kiss" and an extended version of "You made me realise" which turned into a feedback orgy.

The night ended with a little bit of the beat frenzy of Aphex Twin and a lot of the psychedelic freak-out of San Francisco’s The Wooden Shjips, who presented us their fine new album “Dos”, as well as highlights from their self-titled debut, including my favorite “We ask you to ride”.

The Wooden Shjips live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 28, 2009)

Live action from Primavera Sound '09 - Day One (May 28): Magik Markers ("Taste"), The Vaselines ("You Think You're A Man") and The Jesus Lizard ("Destroy Before Reading")

Our complete report from the second and third day of the festival coming soon..

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