It was supposed to be the warmest festival in Europe but it turned out looking more like a freezing, windy, Nordic event on the Atlantic ocean even though we were on a beach in the middle of the Mediterranean sea. The location was Parc del Fòrum in Barcelona, as usual, but this year a huge Coachella-style ferris wheel was added to the skyline, bestowing a dreamy, childlike spirit upon the venue. Pink cotton candy and candy apples, along with all the amazing shows on the 8 sponsored stages did the rest, making this year’s Primavera Sound a sort of fun fair with people dressing up accordingly despite the stormy weather.
Primavera Sound, in fact, is well known for its amazing line-up of course, but the fashion trends it heralds aren’t less important. This year, due to the bad weather, the audience provided a flash forward to fall 2014, sporting different fall trends mixed with summer ones, making the festival even more interesting for the press and for anyone who wants to be up to date.
It’s around 6 pm and Wild Nothing are almost ready to start the festival with a rather shy, delicate opening act, as pale as the shades of the flowers on the crowns of the girls in the audience. It’s the calm before the storm.
Tame Impala are up next on the Heineken main stage. Like a natural force they hit the crowd with their retro future psych rock playing tunes in front of an early evening full moon, standing behind a huge lysergic screensaver. Time almost stops while neon coloured circles keep turning behind the band, but you can’t stop for too long when you are at a music festival.
Before the end of their set I’m already at the Pitchfork stage, facing the sea, waiting for the new UK female sensation: Jessie Ware. I’ve got her debut album Devotion, and for some reason the single Running has ended up by being the soundtrack of my trip to Barcelona. So here I am quite excited. Reluctantly, I must admit straight away that the show is not as explosive as I’d imagined and that the colourful audience’s choreography and sing along are definitely more fun and passionate than Jessie’s performance. In any case, great vocals and total black styling.
After the show the weather gets worse and worse. I need a break. Having a hot meal while listening to a typical Myspace-circa-2006-profile song, Such Great Heights by The Postal Service playing live just behind me. It’s the best way to warm up for the next big show: Grizzly Bear.
It’s around midnight and the band from Brooklyn are about to play the Primavera stage – the most freezing and dispersive one. It’s hard to remain close to each other in that area. People constantly move, as though in search of something which, this time, is impossible to find on stage. The band are way too focused on their instruments and never make eye contact with the audience who look bored and chilled to the bone. Grizzly Bear’s psych folk is technically well played but isn’t that engaging.
People are thus pushed to prematurely migrate towards the main stage, looking for stronger emotions that are able to ignite their bodies and souls.
And so am I. Right before reaching the Heineken stage to see Phoenix, I stop-over at the ATP stage for Death Grips and it’s just like a haunted house before a ride on the next attraction. Mc Ride looking possessed shouts and jolts almost naked and this fact, plus the extremely powerful bass line pulsing into my stomach thrills me enough to make me forget about the freezing wind coming from the sea and from Primavera stage.
Now I finally feel ready for my ride on the main stage. Phoenix are about to start and I’m in the right child-like mood to look into Thomas Mars’s eyes, feeling on top of the world just like I would if I were on the ferris wheel behind us. The set list is like a circle opening with Entertainment and closing with a reprise of the same song after an unexpected delicate stage dive which distracts everyone from the apparition of J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr playing guitar on stage. Thomas Mars is a real frontman able to hypnotise the audience simply through the power of his unique voice and his deep glance, just like a snake charmer with his pungi. At the end of this show we are almost in a trance.
I am supposed to see Four Tet after Phoenix, but once I arrive at the Pitchfork stage people are already quite high and the live set is at its frenziest moment, so I quickly decide to leave and reach Animal Collective at the Primavera stage. I’m not ready to dance yet, I still need to dream like a child in front of a carousel before releasing my last bit of energy on the floor.
A huge, colourful sort of cave on stage welcomes me, bringing me back to that naive mood left at the Phoenix show, mixed with a lysergic rainbow of electronic nerdy sounds which gradually warm up the audience to the closing DJ set. When I recognize the starting notes of My Girls all the energy I assembled during the Phoenix show comes out easily, like an explosion, washing out any trace of hesitation. Now I’m ready to dance. I enjoy the rest of their energetic tribal show despite tiredness and cold temperatures until the beginning of a spellbinding dj set by Mr John Talabot.
The first day is gone and I’m way too tired to wait for the first rays of the Primavera sun.
My Friday at Primavera Sound starts quite late. It’s around 7:30pm and my early evening is split up between the Primavera and ATP stages.
Peace are playing at the former, with California Daze setting the mood and warming things up for the next show on the same stage, while on the latter Merchandise are playing their post-dark-punk hard, all the while winking at noise pop made in Florida. Unfortunately, here at ATP the songs all sound more or less the same, so much so that on day 2 of the festival the most popular trend among the girls in the audience seems to catch my attention more than the music does.
Cotton candy coloured hair plus a ‘90s grungy attitude which reminds me of the last Rodarte fashion show for the fall/winter 2014 collection dedicated to winter, the northern Californian seaside and surfers in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. The Breeders make for the perfect soundtrack to these visual suggestions as they play their 1993 masterpiece Last Splash on the Primavera stage. This is one of the best nostalgia moments of the whole festival: everything seems to be in the right place at the right moment and if you close your eyes, you really feel like riding the waves on a board in Santa Cruz.
These cool vibes stick with me all the way to front rows of the main stage, where I’ll be stuck for most of the evening, trying to hang on to this nostalgic sensation. In fact, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Blur, in order of appearance, are playing at the Heineken stage tonight and I want to see them as close up as possible. It’s almost 10 pm and the Reid brothers are already playing their infamous set list under a huge, lit cross in a not-so-memorable way. They’re ice-cold and this is fine, but they’re old now and you can’t help but notice that. This time all the magic goes away and not even the Just like Honey duet with Bilinda Butcher from My Bloody Valentine can bring it back. They’re good but I expected something way more subversive. Suddenly, I feel the urge to come back to the present with James Blake who’s playing at the Primavera stage, but I still want to believe in the force of the past, tonight. I thus wait for the Blur show to begin, stuck in the same corner, fighting tooth and nail for my front row spot on this time machine.
It’s 1:30am when Damon, Alex, Graham and Dave literally kick us back to 1994 starting up their show with Girls and Boys. Everybody jumps and shouts. I forget about everything else, even the temperature finally feels more like summer than winter and smiles are fixed on everybody’s faces. Tune after tune, the show reaches its climax with the encore: The Universal and Song 2. Damon eventually salutes the audience by screaming: “You’ve been MAGNIFICENT”. And that’s the same adjective I would use to describe their entire performance.
This explosion of easy-going hilarity makes me ready for The Knife’s controversial yet spectacular show. I’ve heard many contrasting opinions about their new live set but I immediately fall in love with the beauty of the choreography and the magical atmosphere delivered by them and with the help of Karin Dreijer Andersson’s (appearing on stage just for a couple of songs) enchanted voice and image.
With happiness fixed on my face I jump here and there between Daphni DJ set and Disclosure’s live set where I dance the remix of my personal soundtrack, Running, just like a teenager on her first club outing would.
That has been a glorious celebration of the old good days.
The last day at Parc del Fòrum is full of black leather and layered fall outfits despite the sun shining in the afternoon and the air which is still quite warm. Nevertheless the Primavera audience is becoming more and more aware of that kind of winter mood and knows that today’s going to be quite a cold dark wave festival day.
I start with the ethereal atmosphere of Mount Eerie at the ATP stage and after that I decide that Adam Green & Binki Shapiro is going to sound perfect as background music while I take advantage of the last rays of warm light before the gloomy blanket forecasted for today, comes down upon the festival.
At the Pitchfork stage there’s a succession of dreamy French shoegaze acts with Melody’s Echo Chamber and low-fi pop ballads by Mac De Marco, a down-to-earth talented guy able to nullify the space between the stage and the people. He manages to conquer his audience with his tunes and wins everyone over by closing his show with a unique version of Blackbird by the Beatles which introduces us Into the light of the dark black night.
Up next, the RayBan stage arena is full of people carefully listening to the twilight razzmatazz of Dead Can Dance. They majestically play under a sinister cloudy sky and it’s a perfect way to welcome that black night everybody is waiting for.
The blackness persists at the Primavera stage with New York hip hop icons Wu-Tang Clan, orphaned for that occasion by Method Man. They play classic tunes, in front of a wild crowd, yelling and starving for this kind of interactive show after having been spellbound by the previous gloomy performance at the stage close by.
Before the end of the show I go towards the main stage for the major iconic appearance of the evening: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This will prove to be one of the best live sets of the entire festival. King Ink is just perfect in his total black suit spitting up a string of amazing songs. His extraordinary verve streams out from underneath that gloomy blanket as if he were a demon. His performance of Stagger Lee clinging to his audience embodies the hot climax of a memorable show skilfully supported by his experienced band. When everything is over I feel like I’ve been swallowed up by a Victorian haunted house, less modern than the Death Grips one, but with an immortal touch of beauty in its structure.
After that kind of supernatural experience I know I need some rest before being able to catch the other greatly anticipated show of the whole Primavera line up: shoegaze legend My Bloody Valentine. I’m not in the front rows this time. I’m quite tired and I haven’t got earplugs, but nobody will really need them anyway. When the first notes of I Only Said start it’s obvious that the volumes aren’t as striking as announced, even though the band is able to create a parallel dimension with their profusion of distorted yet dreamy sounds. I do regret not having seen them at an indoor venue without the distracting high tech screens, somewhere more modest. I don’t think they need all that scenic design around them, the band itself with their unique, moving sound and their stage presence is enough.
This will be the last great performance I will remember of these 3 amazing multi-sensorial, full immersion days at Parc del Fòrum. After My Bloody Valentine, in fact, I decide to get warm for the last dance floor night with Hot Chip. Unfortunately they aren’t engaging on stage and the performance remains quite flat for the whole gig leaving us rather un-Ready for the Floor.
The closing act is entrusted, as by tradition, to local DJ Coco who plays a selection of indie electro-pop hits all night long, making the last moments of Primavera Sound 2013 a big party complete with confetti and lights and the event organization team dancing on stage. By the end, we’re all too messed up by this amazing array of attractions that we could not even enjoy another kind of demanding closing DJ set. We thus just wait together for the last rays of the Primavera sun looking forward to next edition.