Imagine All Tomorrow’s Parties transferred to Barcelona and you have a good idea of what Primavera Sound is all about.
There’s all the classic bands, new young hipsters, and limp-wristed indie that keeps the check-shirted ATP geek brigade happy.
Then the Primavera programmers add in techno and Spanish rock to keep the home fans smiling, and you have a perfect combination.
The festival site at Parc del Fórum, also used for the Sonar, Summercase and Daydream festivals, is an old exhibition area festooned with sweeping bridges and walkways, wonky modern edifices and concrete. Lots of concrete. It’s like the South Bank Centre, but plonked right up against the sea. To our eyes there was a certain functional beauty to it. Plus it’s eays to get around and easy to meet people, and just a few Metro stops from the Ramblas. A geographical winner, and with five stages, it was a festival – in it’s eight year – with a coherently alternative feel.
Our arrival on site was immediately spoiled however by MGMT, who looked like a bunch of high school dropouts and sounded like they just couldn’t be bothered. Why they got a four album deal we’ll never know. At least on record they shine for a few songs but tonight we’d have preferred to have our toes broken than watch their entire set. But at least the setting was fitting – looking down from the top of the hill onto the RockDelux stage, with the clear blue sea in the background, it was a beautiful sight.
Next we caught a bit of The Notwist, whose Death Cab For Cutie-apeing schtick went down as smoothly as the free Estrella beer we’d just been tipped off about in the backstage area. Giving journalists free beer all weekend? They mustn’t have quite thought that one through.
Wanting some bigger thrills we take in HEALTH next. And what a pleasent surprise they are. Everything we’d heard about them before sounded suspiciously like the style press getting into a lather about yet another band that couldn’t deliver. But HEALTH really do, trust us. Coming across as a meatier, mathier, messier Klaxons, the LA foursome mix metal and disco, creating a rather lovely yet abrasive end result.
As the sun set, it was time for the big hitters to come out and Public Enemy got a positive reaction from a big crowd as they ploughed through their entire It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back album. Not quite as sprightly as they once were, they still hit the high notes, and bizarrely had a trio of backing dancers dressed like US soldiers back from Iraq. After conducting some research we also found that Spaniards haven’t had the chance to watch MTV’s Flava of Love, hence they still see Flava Flav as a rapper rather than a dirty old man off the telly, as we know him now. As ever, good clock though.
Portishead headlined the first night in stunning style. Looking and sounding as fresh as they did in the ’90s, they wowed the crowd with all the hits (Glorybox, Nobody Loves Me), but also got a good reaction for new single The Rip.
After catching a couple of top quality Caribou songs we called it an (early) night.