Sunday, June 06, 2010

Primavera Sound ’10: Day One Review (May 27, 2010)

For a second time in a row Cool Music Central was in Barcelona for the Primavera Sound festival, undoubtedly one of the best festivals in the alternative music world. In previous posts we have already given you a brief taste of what went on during the four days we were there, now it’s time to go into details.

Launch Party: Wichita Records 10 Year Anniversary Show (Apolo, May 26, 2010)

Just a couple of hours after getting off the plane I was on my way to the Apolo club for the Wichita Records 10 Year Anniversary Show, Primavera’s launch party. Unfortunately I just missed Peggy Sue, one of the label’s latest signings, but I was there on time for First Aid Kit’s performance. The band consists of the very young and beautifully voiced sisters Klara & Johanna Söderberg from Sweden, who play country tinged folk music with strong melodies. The band performed as a trio with the addition of a drummer and presented their recently released debut album “The Big Black & The Blue”. First Aid Kit’s strong point is the way the two sisters, who play acoustic guitar and keyboards, combine their voices to create beautiful harmonies. This was demonstrated when they demanded and achieved the complete silence of the crowd to sing a song without the help of a microphone - one of the highlights of their performance, along with their excellent cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”.

Things got certainly louder and amplified when Los Campesinos! took over the stage of the Sala Apolo. The eight piece Cardiff indie-popsters played a hyper energetic set with plenty of tracks from this year’s “Romance Is Boring” album, with the same-titled single as well as “There Are Listed Buildings” and “Straight in at 101” being my favorites. They also included several of their older hits with perennial indie-disco smash “You! Me! Dancing!” being the crowd-pleaser of the evening, provoking all sorts of dancing across the club and even on the tables! Certainly an entertaining start to our Primavera Sound festival expedition (more photos and video here).

Day 1 (Parc Del Forum, May 27, 2010)

After a morning raid to Barcelona’s record shops (you’ll find out the results in our up-coming Listening Habits post), I was at Parc Del Forum, the festival’s site by the Mediterranean Sea, at exactly 6 in the afternoon for the start of the first day of Primavera Sound ’10 with a performance by Sic Alps at the Pitchfork Stage, one of the nine stages of the festival. For a band that was chosen to open gigs for the likes of Sonic Youth or Pavement recently, they weren’t particularly impressive on this occasion. Maybe it was just too early in the day, but their low speed and heavy garage and blues rock influenced sound just didn’t do it for me. On the plus side they do have unusually melodic vocals for a band with such a grungy sound creating an interesting antithesis, so I do feel that I have to give them another chance and have a listen to their records.

After catching a glimpse of Bis at the San Miguel Stage (the main stage of the festival) and wondering what they are still doing here, I made my way to the Vice Stage, at the opposite side of Parc Del Forum, to see a bit of the mad performance of Israeli garage rockers Monotonix. The band didn’t play on stage at all but performed all their set (at least the part that I saw) among the crowd with singer Ami Shalev spending most of the time crowd surfing. The first day of the festival certainly started to get more weird and interesting.


My next choice from Primavera’s rich line up was Florida’s up-and-coming Surfer Blood at the Pitchfork Stage. “Astro Coast”’s melodic guitar rock went down well with the audience and, as expected, the catchy “Swim” was the hit of their 40-minute set, a track which they presented as “our very own Poker Face”. And as the time approached 20:10 pm, it was time to make my way to the nearby San Miguel Stage for the highly anticipated (at least by me) performance of The Fall.

 Surfer Blood

The band’s musicians led by Eleni Poulou took to the stage as the sun was setting and started to play, preparing us for the royal entrance of Mark E. Smith. They kicked off their tight and powerful 50-minute set with “O.F.Y.C. Showcase”, a fitting choice as this performance was exactly that, a showcase for The Fall’s latest creation “Your Future Our Clutter”. Smith appeared to be in high spirits, perhaps pleased with the fact that so many people turned up to see his band at Primavera’s main stage. At some point he even showcased a few rare dance moves during “I’ve Been Duped”, a song that his wife Eleni sings lead vocals, while he rarely messed with his musicians’ amplifiers, a sign that he was pleased with what he was hearing. The set was dominated by the band’s more recent material and the only time they chose to acknowledge their rich history was when they revisited their classic cover of “Strychnine”. Undoubtedly one of the best performances of the festival.

The Fall

After watching the closing minutes of what appeared to be a highly energetic and loud set by Titus Andronicus at the Pitchfork Stage, I visited the amphitheatric Ray-Ban Stage where a large crowd had gathered for the Primavera Sound debut of The XX. The slow burning, atmospheric sounds of the London band are perhaps better suited for a more intimate indoor venue but the quality of their music and the imposing light show helped to keep the majority of the audience captivated.

The XX

The next great performance of the first day also took place at the San Miguel Stage, where Superchunk followed The Fall with an hour long super energetic set. The band is gearing up to release their first new album in more than a decade and they took this opportunity to present few of their new songs alongside old favorites like “Throwing Things”, “The First Part”, “Slack Motherfucker” and “Hyper Enough”. The highlight of their set was a killer rendition of “Precision Auto” with vocals from Tim Harrington from Les Savy Fav, a huge fan of the band.


With ears still buzzing from Superchunk’s amazing set and without any time to recover I somehow found the energy to rush back to the Ray-Ban Stage where Broken Social Scene were about to start. The Canadian collective played more than half of their excellent new album “Forgiveness Rock Record” with “All To All”, “Forced To Love”, “Texico Bitches” with Pavement’s Spiral Stairs and set closer “Meet Me In The Basement” being the most memorable. There was still room in their strong 75-minute set for some classics including “Cause = Time”, “7/4 (Shoreline)”and “Fire Eye'd Boy” while their guest list also included John McEntire from Tortoise and Owen Pallett. Unfortunately they didn’t have Emily Haines, Amy Millan or Feist with them, but Lisa Lobsinger, the sole female of the 11-strong crew (if I counted correctly), did a remarkable job with her vocal contributions.

Broken Social Scene

About half hour past midnight I was back to the Pitchfork Stage to catch a part of The Big Pink’s set. The band performing as a quartet (guitar, bass, drums and a huge synthesizer being their weapons of choice) did a good job presenting their superb debut “A Brief History Of Love” and closed with an ace rendition of their hit “Dominos”. And as The Big Pink were finishing up their show at 1:00 am, it was time for the performance that most festival goers were expecting, the triumphant return of Pavement. Indeed, the main stage and the surrounding area was packed as the indie-rock heroes started their headlining set with “Cut Your Hair” and proceeded to present a big chunk of their recent greatest hits compilation “Quarantine the Past”. Personally, having seen the band live several times during its heyday, I wasn’t motivated enough to fight for a good viewing spot near the stage and after watching a few tracks from afar, including my all-time favoriteIn The Mouth A Desert” and “Kennel District” with the participation of Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, I went back to the Pitchfork Stage for what turned out to be one of the revelations of the festival for me, Sleigh Bells.


I’ve recently listened to Sleigh Bells’ debut album “Treats” and although I was pretty impressed by it, I certainly didn’t expect such a mind-blowing performance by the duo. Although there’s only two people in the band, guitarist Derek Miller with a hardcore past (ex-Poison The Well) and vocalist Alexis Krauss with a teen-pop background (Ruby Blue), they do an excellent job filling the stage with their unstoppable energy, while their bass heavy sound pummels you into submission. Their dance-floor ready tunes combine aggressive punk guitars with hip hop and electro beats while Alexis singing and dancing is simply captivating. While most people were celebrating Pavement’s glorious past at Primavera, I think I was able to catch a glimpse of the future thanks to the glorious beats of Sleigh Bells!

Sleigh Bells

The amazing first night of Primavera Sound ’10 was concluded with Chrome Hoof at the Vice Stage with an imaginative set that mixed glam, psychedelic and space rock with death metal and with a brief taste of the noise and dance combination of Fuck Buttons at the Ray-Ban Stage, complete with a trippy light show. After more than nine hours filled with some of the finest music I could hope for, it was time to head back to the hotel and have some much needed rest before doing it all over again the next day.

Live action from Primavera Sound '10 - Day One (May 27): Broken Social Scene ("Meet Me In The Basement"), The Big Pink ("Dominos"), Sleigh Bells ("Rill Rill"), The Fall ("Strychnine"), Pavement ("Conduit For Sale!") and Superchunk ("Learned To Surf")

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

No comments: