Primavera Sound 2012

Venue: Barcelona, Parc del Forum
Website: Official Website
Writer: Honch, Tom Waddington

I step out the underground station beneath the very beautiful Sagrada Familia in the heart of Barcelona and head towards our pre-arranged meeting spot just across the road. I must have been there less than ten minutes and already I’m being abused from across the café by some crack-addled Spanish bloke with yellow eyes and a circa 1984 Ian Botham mullet cut. He starts wailing at me whilst I’m trying to enjoy my first Spanish beer, which didn’t go down very well. Jog on lad!

Several hours and a heap of beers later and in true 'I'll be late for my own facking funeral' style I arrive at Apollo late which means I miss Elephant and Dutch Uncles (yes, I'm shit, sorry guys). I did however manage to catch Hooray for Earth dropping their hits ‘No Love’ and‘True Loves’. If you pumped the music from a Back to the Future scene through a reverb unit and then a Sega Megadrive, you would be somewhere near what Hooray for Earth sound like. To be honest when I walked in I wasn't feeling all too good; I'm at the arse end of a day of executive lounge free food and drink which just made me want to hit the sack but these boys splayed the intrepid woes of a usual Tuesday evening by filling my psyche with a fuckload of dreamy kaleidoscope wonderment. Viva la musica.

Wednesday comes with a stinking hangover; a day of drinking on the beach soon sorts that out. Several street hotdogs and a few more San Mig's later we find ourselves at the free pre-festival gig at the Arc de Triomf. The Walkmen take the stage to a roar of excitement from the crowd. A picturesque setting and damn fine music: what more could a man want?  By this point I have to close one eye to focus on the text notes I'm making on my phone, but the night is young.

“Holy fuck, that's a lot of people!” It sure is. Black Lips are a band with plenty of banter to impart on the multicultural crowd. There are a few interim pauses between songs to return crowd-thrown missiles and adorn some of the cooler things tossed onstage: I think Cole Alexander went home with a brand new pair of genuine fake Ray-bans.

Thursday

I’m on the underground tubes of Barcelona in what seems like some kinda crazy hungover Jeff Noon story. I’m heading up the paella chute in the back of the van with Beetle, Bridget and The Thing from Outer Space and we’re all high on Skull Shit. With 'air o' t'dog and another day sweating on the beach I scrape all the sand from my gouch (which for anyone who doesn't know is the bit between your balls and your arsehole). I make my way to the festival ground, with a quick stop to discharge the day's indulgences into the chemical blue abyss. I head towards the ATP stage and I can hear A Storm of Light in the distance throwing djent missiles out up the valley. I drop over the brow of the Pac Man-shaped path and I'm greeted by a smoke-filled stage. It takes a little while to see what everyone is focused on. I soon realise as I sit in the shadow of a giant floating San Miguel balloon that the male-dominated crowd is hypnotised by female guitarist Andrea Black to the left of the stage. There must be something about a tattooed chick strumming the fuck out of a fender jag. Daaannng.

A change of pace for Friends as Samantha Urbani lies afront the stage whilst rubbing some overexcited crowd member's hand on her face. They drop their hits ‘Friend Crush’ and ‘I’m His Girl’ after she asks the crowd to take off their sunglasses because she wants to 'see our eyeballs'. Her enigmatic / energetic stage presence isn't at all hindered by what looks like a sprained ankle; go on lass (although the moment is briefly soured by the keyboard player's half-arsed joke about people 'not speaking Engrish'. Come on lad, you should know better).

A quick stop at the Ray Ban stage for some old school skater rock from Arches of loaf. 'I stuck a pin in your back bone' plucks memories from deep in my alcohol-drenched synapse pathways of the good’ol days when I used to skate everywhere, and life was free from responsibility. I also love a band that dedicates their last song to the sound guy. Hurrah for Bob the sound guy. I think the first thing I should mention before we go into describing the Afghan Whigs is that I held a piss the entire length if their set, however I tried to disguise my piss pain cramps by dancing like a spaz.  These guys know what they're doing and the sound carried by the three guitarists, bass player and cellist/organist/violinist is the perfect accompaniment to this Mediterranean sunset. ‘I'm Her Slave’, ‘When We Two Parted’, ‘My Enemy’ and my personal favourite and set closer ‘Into the Floor’ all make an appearance to help take my mind off how much I need a piss. On the way back from the loo I've just spotted the Jack Daniels bar; this is a good thing for me but pretty bad for my ability to recollect tonight's events. Stay tuned.

Next up we are soaking up the nostalgia held within the clasp of Death Cab for Cutie; never has a band managed to conjure so many memories from its heavily pregnant lyrics. A quick lapse in sound unbeknownst to the band draws an unexpected mid-song cheer from the crowd. Yeah, so I'm feeling like a twee little scene kid but Its 2003 and I'm loving it. 'So this is the new year' Ben Gibbard sings with effete charm. Yeah, man crush. Fractal memories churn out the odd singalong lyric but my memory is not what it used to be: 'Jimmy choo coming through my plastic ears.' I think my version is better than the original.

We hang around on the Mini stage to watch Beirut's Zachary Francis Condon blowing his horn with all his might. Joined by an accordion and the sultry drums they blast out some Americana style post-folk knee benders. As he strums his tenor ukulele to the beat of a drunken crowd he says he's nervous, but I'm not convinced.

After some food I manage catch a little Refused and get to the stage as they are explaining how the lyrics to the anti-system songs they wrote nearly fifteen years ago are still as poignant and apt today as they were all those years ago. Teenage angst splurging from a middle aged man; it’s almost emotional.

Now, the next stop stands to be my highlight of the festival: namely chanting ‘Drop out of life with bong in hand, Follow the Smoke toward the Riff filled Land’.  But wait; all this excitement is wasted, because after I find myself at the front of a quiet stage I learn that Sleep have had to pull out due to Matt Pike being hospitalized.  It almost ruins my day, the one band I was truly looking forward to and they aren’t playing. Get well soon Matt. So I'm wearing a face like thunder as I am dragged unwillingly by my better half from an empty ATP stage to see The XX,  possibly the most annoying hipster fucking lo-fi pop band the British pop charts has ever churned into your eardrums. I'm not impressed! After such a huge disappointment I'm starting to feel the curtains have drawn on the night so I grab another beer and a chilli dog for the journey back to the apartment.

Friday.

After an unexpectedly long siesta we rock up to the festival just in time to catch The Cure. The silhouette of Robert Smith takes to the stage to the loudest cheer I've heard here yet. Several uninspiring tunes into to the set I'm getting a little bored. Mind you, I only came to hear ‘Just Like Heaven’ and ‘Friday I’m In Love’.  There's no sign of them so I make my excuses and leave. It was time to get my face smashed in.

I'm stood on my own waiting for the clan to meet me in front of the sound desk of the Vice Stage. Napalm Death storm the stage with lead singer Mark "Barney" Greenway wielding his microphone like a huge fucking axe.  I've positioned myself in enough space to drop a few snare chops and I’m heading into a full on mosh by the time new song ‘Quarantined' kicks in. It's been a few years since I've cut shapes like that. The clan assembles, so its time to reign in the chops. Each member stands poised and ready behind their instruments like battle gunners in waiting for the ships to roll ashore before they unleash the fury of their sonic Gatling guns into the crowd. We don’t stand a chance. They take us back to the ‘Harmony Corruption’ days with 'Suffer the Children', my view blocked by the shower of beer and plastic cups. The crowd goes wild as they go to close their set with their Dead Kennedys cover of 'Nazi Punks Fuck Off'.  Barney taps his head and shouts "use that!" but to our delight they have more time. "I'd just like to say That Napalm Death are 31 years old this year.” And here's me thinking I was old and these boys have been destroying crowds since I was merely an idea. The last song is 'Human Garbage'; the smoke settles, ammo duly emptied into the crowd and they leave their gun tower feeling victorious. You did well, my friends.

I get to see the last few songs of Trash Talk. You can feel the energy levels growing as Lee Spielmanisbeing carried out into the crowd while the guitar and bass player scale the inside rigging of the stage. They make light work of it: it's like a fucking Jungle Jim's by the end. They leave the stage to the faint sound of The Cure still playing on the main stage. I wonder if they've played ‘Friday I’m In Love’ yet?

It's probably best to stay put due to the cancellations and rescheduling of several acts tonight. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to see enough of M83 to make it worthwhile for the long walk to the Mini stage, but I'm left perfectly positioned right up the front for SBTRKT. I'm also being highly entertained by the group of girls in front of me. Stop pulling that duck face love, you look like a 'tard. I've been waiting for this performance since his dodgy DJ set at a warehouse project which was ruined by intermittent sound problems.  This has more than made up for it, with the catchy vocal looping and adlibs of Sampha, and the live drums played by the man himself, it definitely does the trick. 'Hold On' and 'Something Goes Right' sound absolutely fucking glorious in the live setting, the whole crowd clapping along. The glitched-up mid section of 'Wildfire' make me glad of that extended siesta I had earlier on as I’m on a second wind of dancing. Or maybe it was the MWP.

Araabmuzik pulls in the next crowd to the Pitchfork stage.  Now this guy must have sores like a fucking coal miner on the end of his fingers because he is strumming at that MPC like he's trying to give a seasoned horse rider a multiple orgasm. I totally appreciate the skill and dedication that he must have put into creating a show like this but after a while it becomes slightly samey, so we shuffle over to catch Benga doing his thing with one of his first fully live performances. The Cure are probably still fucking playing.  I spend the next few hours throwing shapes like a mystical bearded wizard casting spells on innocent bystanders. The skull shit has started to wear off so we decide to head back up the paella chute and call it a night.

Saturday

I spend most of Saturday day playing spot the cliché retro band Tshirt. I think the clear winner throughout the festival was Joy Division.Anyone would think they were fucking playing or something.

The Kings of Convenience have always been placed in my music collection for end-of-night chilling sessions, so their place on Primavera's largest stage, as the sun sets over a hazy and hot Barcelona could have been questionable. But as they play the classics, like ‘Failure’ and ‘I Don't Know What I Can Save You From’, the crowd sing together like a group of old friends. The band multiplies, with the addition of 3 extras, and multiply their sound into squidgy-plucky-dance-into-the-night music. If that genre didn't already exist, it does now! They play ‘I'd Rather Dance With You’ to close, as the last of the sun bounces off a sea of smiles.

I'm heading down to the ATP stage as the eeriest sound check ever comes from the distance. I'm interested to see what setup Demdike Stare will be using tonight. The last few times I've seen them has been a totally different experience and sound each time. But tonight we are sans decks and rocking a double mac scenario. The best way I can describe tonight's sound is if Wolf Eyes and Autechre met in a cafe in Burnley and played at the same time through a single pair of headphones. For a good twenty minutes a drunken Spaniard keeps clapping like a retarded seal at the front of the crowd. We're not in Sparta now dickhead, this is the underbelly of modern dance and I'm trying to soak in the atmosphere! I'm not going to try and recollect the names of any songs because these guys fuck things up so much that there could have been about three songs playing at once and I'd look a bit stupid. I'm back in the haze and night is young.

I take to the grass bank and roll a doob so I'm poised and ready for Shellac. After an extended drum solo, Bob Weston utters his first words: "Hello cunts!" Shellac are back. Admittedly I've probably not listened with dedication or gusto to any Shellac in the past 5/6 years, but it's nice to see the showmanship of ‘Crow’, ‘Wingwalker’ and ‘End of Radio’ again. I think the entire festival is here to watch these guys do their thing. Steve Albini shouts “Just play the drums!” As they are told to finish, the crowd plead for just one more song. The pleas are answered. In proper rock and roll style Steve Albini and Bob Weston leave Todd Trainer pounding his kit while they frantically break the drums apart piece by piece, as he plays a different beat with each piece dismantled.

I follow the majority of the cattle on the fifteen mile hike out to the Mini stage for Yo la Tengo, the masters of seminal alt-rock. It's a cacophony of jangly guitars and mid-song discordant fret dance solos. ‘Deeper into Movies’ and ‘Sugarcube’ are a few I can pick out but I’m distracted by the reality of how many people are wearing a Joy Division T-shirt.  The Cure are no doubt still playing on the main stage.

The lights are down on Justice's live performance altar; a double six stack of Marshall cabs stand aside the booth that's been stolen from a Star Trek film set and had a cross plonked on it. It's all for aesthetics but that and the fully-loaded LED wall behind them has me reaching for the skies. It's quite a spectacle as the Marshall stack lights up like a huge white Rubik’s cube and the altar opens up to reveal a keyboard as yer man walks round front to play the intro to 'D.A.N.C.E'. That driving 4/4 kick makes full use of the sound system. They rally the crowd with teaser segments of the song everyone wants to hear; they then stop and point to the crowd to sing the opening lyrics, "Because we are, your friends / you'll never be alone again!" Everyone is bouncing together as they wind up the synths and slam everyone with propulsive kick drum.

After a little RNR (Beer and a Spliff) on the beanbags, I head over to catch the end of LFO.  I'm impressed enough to cut a rug or two. Then it happens 'L…F…O'; the bass is resonating through my chest cavity, at this point I wish I had my earplugs with me. It's fucking LOUD. It's an unexpectedly heavy artillery set with plumes of distorted basslines and gargantuan beats.  After that I'm not really sure what happened but all I know is Jagermeister was involved and I didn't get home until the sun was up.

Sunday

In what seems like an eternity spent on the underground taking three different trains to travel no more than a mile we arrive at the Arc de Triomf for Yann Tiersen.  A little light rain gives everything a transient glow, the passing lightning storm adding an extra element to the light show. The stage is full of various instruments, both traditional and electronic and the maelstrom of sounds is incredible. A crack of lightning raises a communal 'oooooOooOo' from the onlookers. It's a glorious setting with an electric atmosphere, both figuratively and literally. They play ‘Monochrome’ and ‘Sur le Fil’ to charm the crowd into utter submission, and the final crescendo builds with strobe lights in full action to a huge eruption of cheers from the slightly damp crowd. This is the perfect end to probably one of my most enjoyable festivals from the last few years.

#Barcelona, Parc del Forum #Honch #Banter #Tom Waddington

Posted: Wed 6 June 2012