Saturday, June 06, 2009

Primavera Sound ’09: Day Two Review (May 29, 2009)

The second day of the Primavera Sound ’09 festival turned out to be my favorite. There was no big name headliner (surely Bloc Party are big enough but they certainly don’t have the status of My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth) but there were plenty of great performances from both older, legendary acts like Throwing Muses or Shellac as well as from brand new names (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Vivian Girls etc) .

Some of the hottest bands of the current Brooklyn scene were playing together at the Pitchfork stage, starting with Crystal Stilts and their mix of ’60s garage and mid ’80s, C86-style, indie pop. The band gave props to the Barcelona festival for the perfect weather and its location by the Mediterranean seaside and proceeded with tracks from their fine debut album “Alight of Night”, including recent single and personal favorite “Departure”. It’s certainly not easy being psychedelic this early in the afternoon but the band made a good effort.

Crystal Stilts live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

The second performance we saw on Friday was certainly one of the highlights of the festival. Taking a break from the Brooklyn party at the Pitchfork stage, we headed to the nearby main stage where Bat For Lashes was the opening act. Natasha Khan and her band, featuring ex-Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley, were in top form, playing most of the brilliant “Two Suns” plus highlights from debut album “Fur and Gold” (“What’s a girl to do”, “Prescilla”, “Sarah”). Bat For Lashes were able to recreate beautifully the unique mix of ethereal and upbeat pop of the two albums and Natasha’s voice was simply amazing. Dressed in zebra colors, dancing round the stage or playing keys and other unusual instruments, she was certainly one of the stars of Primavera.

Bat For Lashes live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

The enchanting Bat For Lashes performance kept us at the main stage until its very last song (“Daniel”, one of the singles of the year), so we missed most of The Vivian Girls set back at the Pitchfork stage. From the 15 minutes that we did get to see, I have to say that I was duly impressed. The lo-fi production of their noisy Shop Assistants-meets-The Ramones self-titled debut mini LP didn’t prepare us for this dynamic performance which ended with the three girls swapping instruments as they were playing, taking photos of the audience and jamming in a Sonic Youth style. On this evidence, I’m looking forward for “Everything goes wrong”, their second album scheduled for a September release.

Vivian Girls live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

After a bit of relaxation at the stands of the sun-drenched Rockdelux stage watching Spiritualized, we returned to the Brooklyn party to catch the 30-minute fired-up performance of up and coming newcomers The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Their set may have been brief but they managed to play, in a breathless manner, all the highlights from their recent self-titled debut, bringing the indie pop sound of the mid ’80s-early ’90s back to the limelight.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

Back on the main stage, Art Brut were presenting their new material from “Art Brut vs. Satan” as well as the older hits in their usual, entertaining style, preaching the gospel according to Eddie Argos and urging their audience to form a band. Crystal Antlers raised the decibel levels at the Pitchfork stage with their psych-rock, but now it was time for us to move on to the Rockdelux stage for the performance of one of our all-time favorite bands, Throwing Muses. When Kristin Hersh reunited the band for the first time in this decade, for the 2003 self-titled album and the subsequent tour, I traveled all the way to the other side of Europe (from Athens to Dublin) to see them play. So, this was my second Throwing Muses close encounter but the experience was just as exciting as the first time. Why this band never got to be as popular as The Pixies, The Breeders or at least Tanya Donelly’s Belly is beyond me - songs like “Bright yellow gun” or set-opener “Shark” sound like massive hits to my ears but the world wouldn’t listen. Maybe they’ll get luckier this time around. Other highlights of the powerful hour-long set (which you can download by going here) included the astonishing “Vicky’s box” from the 1986 debut album, a fiery rendition of “Bea” and the set’s grand finale with “Mania”, both from 1989’s “Hunkpapa”.

Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

Midnight of Primavera’s Day Two found us sitting at the stands of the ATP stage, catching our breath after all the Throwing Muses excitement, and checking out Australia’s noisemakers The Drones before moving on to the Ray-Ban Vice stage for the hardcore punk explosion of Canada’s Fucked Up. Front man Pink Eyes spent most of the set among the audience or climbing the speakers while the band played super fast and super hard. Exactly what we needed to warm up for the next highlight of Day Two; Shellac’s performance back at the ATP stage. The trio of Steve Albini, Bob Weston and Todd Trainer is one of the tightest punk rock units in existence and the material they have recorded in the last 16 years includes some of the most incendiary, hard-hitting songs you’ll ever hear. Their amazing set included tracks from all their years together, from the classic “Crow” off 1994’s debut “At Action Park” to “Steady as she goes” and the spectacular “The end of radio” from 2007’s “Excellent Italian Greyhound”. The speed at which they dismantled their equipment while still playing the final notes of their last song was also impressive.

Shellac live@Primavera Sound '09 (May 29, 2009)

For the end of the festival’s second day we got to listen to a few tracks from Joy Division contemporaries A Certain Ratio (including the pioneering dance punk anthem “Shack up”) before moving on to the main stage for the finale of Bloc Party’s set. “Like eating glass” was the track that stood out for me in the twenty minutes of their set that we managed to attend, but hopefully we’ll have the chance to see them again soon as they are scheduled to play in Athens on July 1st.

Live action from Primavera Sound '09 - Day Two (May 29): Bat For Lashes ("What's A Girl To Do"), The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart ("Everything With You") and Crystal Stilts ("Departure")

Watch this space for our complete report from the third and final day of the festival.

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