Review: Primavera Festival, Barcelona by Gareth Ackerman @heliconx

Primavera Sound Festival
Day 1
29th May 2010

Romance at Primavera by Brid Rose

And so, we arrive. Your correspondent bravely venturing forth into Primavera, the air thick with beards, hash smoke and Pavement t-shirts. I make my way across the purpose built concrete, (and some might say, soulless), site and head downwards, towards the Vice Stage. My first band of the festival: the ever amazing Monotonix. In a bizarre way it’s almost boring how brilliant this band are and a small part of me wants to see them play a poor gig one day. But that day will not be today.

Monotonix by Brid Rose

Setting up in the middle of the crowd and dragging the drumkit around the place is the very least you expect at a Monotonix show and it works just as well on this massive outdoor scale (apart from bloodless protestations from a few hipsters not wanting to have their shoes stepped on) as it does in the confines of any other venue I’ve seen them demolish. For you, gentle reader, I insinuate my old weary body into the frontline of this assault, wearing my (figurative) Blue Whale hat, to supply you with the very best in gonzo reportage. And it’s awesome. But, like, deep fried awesome. Your correspondent has now *officially* played at Primavera, mindlessly thrashing the tom as I bound up the bleechers, following Ami Shelev, a drum in one hand, a microphone cord that snakes away into the crowd in the other.

Monotonix, again by Brid Rose

Finishing, he dangles over the edge, clearly contemplating the fifteen foot drop, then thinking better of it. Well, his leg is heavily bandaged, you can’t expect everything. As the crowd cheer and disperse a part of me expects to hear the following over the PA: “You might as well all fuck off now, that was the best band you’re going to see all weekend.”

But no, onwards. Mark E Smith and his merry band of pranksters that make up The Fall this week dance onto stage. Smith greets the crowd in fluent Spanish before switching to Catalan and plays hit after hit after hit, engaging in the cheeky between-song-banter that we’re all so familiar with…

Only joking! It’s good for morale.

What you get is the standard hour or so of a miserable man in his mid-fifties shamble about the stage, bellowing into two microphones and pissing around with people’s amps (whilst the owners of said amps worry silently to themselves as to whether or not they’ll have a job by the end of the show). Basically it’s as if you put a tramp, ripped to the tits on Windowlene and boot polish in front of a terrified post-punk-psycho-billy-dirge band… Amazing, obviously.

One *could* claim that The XX, the next band on your correspondent’s agenda are a touch one-dimensional. And one would be right. BUT, it’s one really good dimension. They seem to be a gigantic draw in Spain, and the vast amphitheater in which they play is packed to the very gills. The music is deeply, darkly sexy and makes me want to *things* with *people* (and back in the old days, when I could achieve and maintain an erection, I bloody well might have done. But I was listening to trip-hop back then. A genre to which The XX owe something of a debt,) but not with the band themselves who seem to consist of a plump Tracey Thorn, a twelve year old in a New Era cap and a man whose name, I would guess, is Slick.

Pausing only to catch a few songs by Superchunk, whom I’d forgotten I loved, your correspondent races (read: plods) towards Tortoise. I love Tortoise. I love Tortoise with a passion many would feel is unnatural, The album Millions Now Living Will Never Die didn’t leave my record player for over a year after I first bought it, and having seen them before, I kinda know what to expect. A magnificent display of technical playing, exciting deconstruction of time-signatures, angular, awkward and at once organic soundscapes (this is all getting a bit Wire Magazine, isn’t it? Adventures in high seriousness and whatnot), but they suffer what to my mind is the affliction of almost all instrumental bands. No focal point. If they had video screens, projections, lights or a performing kitten doing tricks, as a live experience they would improve immeasurably. (Note: I accept that I am probably lazier than you, and having weened myself on a steady diet of soap-operas and music videos, I have a very short attention span but come on, you know I’m right.)

Your correspondents first massive disappointment. I don’t think that Mission Of Burma wanted to be there. And after the third song, when they played ‘That’s When I Reach For My Revolver’, neither did most of the crowd.

And now, seconds out, the main event. Pavement. Those of you who have had the misfortune to read me before, or those of you who have read this far, will know that I tend to dabble with hyperbole.

But having said that, Pavement are, genuinely another of my very, very, veryveryvery favourite bands of all time ever, EVER! The clever, but never pretentious music. The elegantly oblique lyrics (why should the words to a song mean anything? Or why shouldn’t they mean everything?). With a few notable exceptions, Pavement lyrics could be the most beautifully complex poetry to rival the work of, say, Gertrude Stein, or utter drivel, garbage like the work of, say Gertrude Stein (yeah that’s right, I’m having a pop at dead, early twentieth-century lesbian avant-garde poets. Literally no one is safe from my poisoned pen[is]).

So yes, it is fair to say that Pavement are one of my favourite bands, and yes I’ve seen them live countless times, and yes, on each and every occasion I have been completely and utterly blown away by how utterly, immeasurably shite they are. The lackadaisical posturing, the poor playing and timekeeping and the total inability to structure a live set…

But would this time be any different?

Would they have freed themselves from these self imposed shackles and play perfectly to this adoring crowd of international admirers?




Not that anyone minded. It’s still Pavement, innit?

Sleigh Bells live is a daunting prospect. A little too “Kap Bambino” for me. A little too Let’s-just-make-a-racket-and-jump-around-until-my-tit-falls-out for me. A little too If-people-can’t-understand-this-then-they-will-think-it’s-edgy for me. What I like to refer to as “Rubbish.”

Followed by Delorean. A band who I thought I liked, but writing this a few scant hours later I can recall not a thing.

I’m meant to dislike Fuck Buttons. I forget why. It might be the pointlessly offensive name. It might be because they are good looking young fellas. It might be because they are obscenely talented and good. Who knows, let yourself get taken hostage by these sounds, this music, this dark snake of sound, these tendrils inside of you.

It was at about this point things got a bit blurry…

Gareth Ackerman

For more of this sort of thing, check out Chicks Dig Jerks’ blog where Gareth continues his reportage and threatens to take his clothes off…..


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