Walking up the steep ramp from the Metro to the festival site, there is already a warm fuzzy feeling among us, and that’s not just the glorious Barcelona sunshine.
Yes, we’re back at Primavera, who’re celebrating their 10th festival by selecting some of their favourite acts from previous years, as well as dozens of acts playing here for the first time to the Catalan faithful – as well as the growing number of Brits.
Kicking off the festival at teatime, Bis come out of retirement to play a set that seems to inspire little in the audience, who are still wandering round the site and greeting friends. Wrong time perhaps. The fact that neither the band nor their music have aged particularly gracefully probably doesn’t help.
Californians Sic Alps plod along nicely with some stoner rock which eventually turns itself into bellowing shoegaze, but the nagging craving for more of a spectacle keeps us moving on. Thank goodness then, for Israel’s Monotonix. Infamous for their guerrilla gigs, they play in the midst of the audience and do one-up on fellow scamps Lightning Bolt by still managing to sound gloriously infectious despite not being fully plugged in. They end by crowd surfing to the Vice stage’s amphitheatre seating and playing two final tracks from there while the audience goes insane. It may not be a whole lot of fun to listen them on record, but live Monotonix are a delight, and it proves to be a set that people continue to talk about for the rest of the weekend.
Over to the Ray Ban stage after that for The xx and to by far the biggest crowd the stage sees all weekend. If there are any nerves, they certainly don’t show as the band plunder through the majority of the debut record xx with ease; even Romy raises a few smiles at the crowd’s warm reaction. A new track is unleashed too, suggesting an angrier, more sinister side for when they finally get round to recording record number two. But it’s the mass sing-along to Shelter that proves to be the set’s peak and, as night falls on Barcelona, there’s a sense of something very special having been witnessed.
Superchunk are a band that don’t play very regularly these days, but Primavera has dragged them out of the woodwork in fine style. With a surprising appearance on the main stage, the North Carolina four-piece say little, but their ’90s indie rock goes down a storm with the hardcore fans in the audience. Sadly not a great deal is played from their seminal record No Pocky For Kitty, but an appearance from a jubilant Tim Harrington from Les Savy Fav more than suffices. He also manages to look more enthusiastic than the entire band combined.
A quick look-see on the Ray Ban stage shows Broken Social Scene playing some pleasant but rather unexciting numbers (Owen Pallett also appears on violin duties for two tracks) while Wild Beasts suffer from too many sound difficulties on the Pitchfork stage to really make any impact.
So a retreat to the ATP stage proves to be the next move, and what an inspired one it is. Electro folk duo The Books, who broke people’s hearts with their stunning 2005 record Lost & Safe, play a gorgeous set to a tiny crowd (some reformed ’90s heroes called Pavement are playing the main stage) which only adds to the intimate surroundings. Those who are in attendance are rapturous in their approval and Be Good To Them Always proves to be one of the weekend’s most memorable tracks. An unexpected joy.