Live Music + Gig Reviews

Primavera Sound 2011 @ Parc Del Fórum, Barcelona

28 May 2011

As Primavera Sound waltzes into its second decade of life, it’s clear the festival is the biggest its ever been. This year saw a 15,000 increase in weekend ticket sales, a large new stage being introduced and a massive UK contingent descending upon the Mediterranean setting. This made the initial organisation slip ups all the more troublesome, as the newly introduced drinks purchasing system – in which punters used an Oyster-style top up card to buy their beverages – collapsed before any bands had even graced the stage. The situation was amended when cash refunds were issued to any money paid upfront, but the few hours of perplexity left a bad taste in the mouth of some punters.

With that out of the way, Thursday was perhaps the strongest of the three days with a hit-packed Of Montreal set displaying the usual theatrics and David Bowie-lite posturing. Big Boi gets an incredible response with an Outkast-heavy set (perhaps too much; recent solo LP Sir Luscious Left Foot more than stands up on its own) while Grinderman are the best they’ve ever been as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis unleash almost demonic qualities over the Barcelona sunset.

Suicide terrify pretty much everyone, playing their seminal debut record in full and proving as intense and fearsome as they ever were. They generate demand for an encore in which the crowd are treated to a wonderful Dream Baby Dream. Interpol play a stunning set compiling their back catalogue, while Caribou get things dancey ahead of Gold Panda‘s fun set played to a small group of devotees who didn’t fancy seeing The Flaming Lips. El Guincho makes a homecoming stomp at 4am, delighting the locals and tourists alike, and Girl Talk wrap things up with a 5am closing party which, while juvenile and on the cheesy side, still manages to keep people dancing till dawn.

Whilst Friday was undoubtedly overshadowed by the reformation of a Sheffield six-piece (more on Pulp‘s triumphant set here), treats aplenty were to be found in Sufjan Stevens‘ sell-out set in the indoor Audtori stage where he recreated his recent opus The Age Of Adz in its entirety along with fanfare, balloons and make up. A pretty emotional experience for all involved and one of the most talked about sets of the weekend. The National play to one of the biggest crowds at the Llevant stage though poor sound restricts anyone beyond the first few rows hearing anything. A great shame. The same fate is dealt to Belle & Sebastian, who are painfully inaudible for a group with so many people on stage. A rare airing ofLe pastie de la Bourgeoise is therefore ruined.

The same cannot be said of Texan heroes Explosions In The Sky who are a huge force to be reckoned with on the Ray Ban stage. The Only Moment We Were Alone is as beautiful as it is apocalyptic and the group seem all the more heavier than their recent output suggested. Numbers dwindle to welcome to headliners across the venue but this was a wonderful 60 minutes. Lindstrom closes proceedings with some Italo disco dance action, which while pleasant maybe lacks a certain punch that the likes of Orbital and Moderat bought to closing proceedings a year earlier.

Saturday is a massive day in the city as Barcelona are playing in the Champions League final. But while football fans cram round screens erected in the Lleavant stage, it leaves more room to dance to Merrill Garbus, AKA tUnE-yArDs, who has really come into her own over the past year with the release of what is seemingly a breakthrough record w h o k i l l and whose live act has grown massively since she played solo to a half-full room at ATP 2 years ago. Now accompanied by trumpets and bass, her incredible voice on Hatari and Gangsta receives a rapturous response. Its proving more and more satisfying watching the reactions of those watching her for the first time and with several festival appearances and a full UK tour imminent, she’s likely to become a huge name in the second half of this year.

Einstrzende Neubauten take things to a strange and pretty fantastic level. Electric drills, German shouting and one of the most unique performances of the weekend. Bravo. Gang Gang Dance continue the dancing scenes, with vocalist Lizzi seemingly having the best job is music as she spends 70% of the set dancing. Current album opener Glass Jar, a superb 11 minute freak-out, encourages the audience to act accordingly. Matthew Dear follows and unfortunately falls flat with poor sound. As news of Barcelona’s victory circles the site, the party really starts so following an excellent James Blake DJ set, there is somewhat high expectations for Odd Future, arguably the most hyped act of the year so far. Sadly these expectations aren’t met, again down to poor sound, which proves frustrating given how much fun they appear to be having onstage. A somewhat contrived stage invasion still seems to satisfy most but this could have been one of the weekend’s highlights.

An Animal Collective set heavy on new material and a victorious Kode9 dubstep set close proceedings. As the sun sets on another Primavera it is clear that its popularity will continue to grow. Some problems with regards to sound and general organisation do need some ironing out but it’s still undoubtedly the best festival in Europe. We’ll be back next year.

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