Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Primavera Sound 2010 - The Review

So Primavera came and went for anther year and, as ever, it was a wonderful mixture of old and new with a couple of surprises and few disappointments. We don't really like to dash about between stages just catching a few songs here and there but nevertheless we managed to catch a quite impressive 28 bands in the 3 days (and that's despite the fact that we're a pair of oldies who didn't manage to stay up beyond 03h00).

Here's the full list of who we saw and my grade for each act.

Day 1:

Bis - B
Reuniting after some time away these indie dance Glaswegians caused a bit of a stir, if only because they returned so evidently 'balder, fatter, older'. It was all the more amusing when you compare them now with the picture in the official catalogue which was from their heyday. They still know how to rock out though even if they did appear to be having more fun than the majority of an apparently nonplussed crowd. Thankfully they did play Eurodisco as a finale and so I left happy.

The Wave Pictures - B
Stuck, as they were, on one of the larger festival stages and pretty early on in the festival I thought the Wave Pictures were pretty successful in getting their witty charm across to the largely Spanish audience. Good stage banter and a surprisingly strong sound, especially considering what was to happen later. Set highlight was Love You Like a Madman.

Surfer Blood - A
First band of the festival to really blow me away and really an omen of things to come from the Pitchfork Stage which was by far the most consistent of the festival stages. They're a band who really suited the sunny and uptempo feel of the festival.

The Fall - B
The Fall is The Fall. You have to love them or leave them. I have a lot of time for the fall on record and their recent output has been some of the best in the past decade but I have to say live they're really not my cup of tea. You see the band looking like automatons whilst Mark goes round fiddling with their kit for no apparent reason other than it's now expected of him. Highlight of the set - Mark's full pockets.

Titus Andronicus - A+
Second highlight of the day and one of the highlights of the festival. The band really brought it with them and I love a strong woman guitarist. They sent the crown wild with their strange mix of punk with its hints of folk. The whole band, and the crowd, looked like they were loving every second of it.

The xx - A-
The xx is a tricky one because we both wanted such a good set from them and to be honest it started out terribly. We got the only bit of rain of the whole period just as they were starting, they looked terribly nervous of playing a huge crowd, and the sound was awful. It's like the sound tech had never hear them before and just put the bass right up. They did however settle into their set but, embarrassingly, my highlight was their mix of F&TM's You Got The Love which came on just after they left the stage.

Tortoise - B+
One of those bands who you have to try and see just once and they played an excellent, intimate, stage (although they would've been good in the Auditorium). We sat down throughout and enjoyed their move into the jazzier reaches of post-rock.

The Big Pink - A
I was looking forward to this so much and I'm really glad they didn't disappoint. One of the themes of the festival was the big big sound that the new bands got out and this was one of the biggest. Plus they played Too Young To Love which was one of my tracks of 2009.

Pavement - B+
The first BIG band of the festival which was, as you can imagine, totally packed out. As a result we stood quite far back. I was never the biggest Pavement fan in the world but I was interested to see how they'd do on this big reunion and they certainly know their stuff. The problem of course with these big reunion concerts is that they're almost too perfect, it's just how you imagine a Pavement set to be and therefore it's pretty hard to be overwhelmed. Highlight was getting Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene up for a song. That was a good way to mix it up.

Sleigh Bells - A+
We didn't stay to the end of Pavement because we were so desperate to see Sleigh Bells and this was probably the best decision of the festival because they were amazing. That girl has so much energy and if this very strongly hyped band are to be just a flash in the pan then they're probably the loudest flash we'll see in a long time. A great mix of noise, punk, hip-hop and RnB. Also one of the very rare occasions I've seen an encore at a (non-headliner) festival.
(I really wanted to show a vid here but i think everyone with decent cameras was at Pavement)

Delorean - B-
By the time Delorean rolled onto stage at 03h00 we were knackered and had the prospect of a long walk back to the hotel so we stuck around for a bit but I have to say they were the first disappointment of the festival. I loved the last EP but the album not so much and I think I let this cloud my judgement of the live show.

Day 2:

Harlem - B+
After getting lost on the way home the night before and doing plenty of walking we were looking for a chilled out start to Day 2. S suggested Harlem whose recent album had got very high scores in the Portuguese press. They were a pretty decent indie-pop/surf band for those who couldn't see the Drums later in the festival.

Scout Niblett - A-
Scout is pretty much a staple now. In 2008 she blew us away in the Auditorium and this year the performance was a bit more restrained but it's never anything less than utterly charming. It's now the 7th or 8th time I've seen her live and so I'm getting to the point where I'm really starting to notice the rarities and thankfully she played one of my favourites - 'It's All For You'. This went down very well with the crowd and it was good to see most people leaving with huge grins on their faces (All except The xx who we saw - those guys never smile).

Spoon - B
Of all the bands we probably got the closest to Spoon, simply through luck, and it was a pretty good place to be. They're not the most controversial of bands and whilst they've been consistently good throughout their career this isn't always a good thing. It was summed up by their set which pressed all the right buttons but there was never really the appearance of passion or fun. They did however play Turn My Camera On which is a damn good track.

Beach House - B
I was expecting a little better from Beach House whose latest album has probably been the one I've listened most to over the past few weeks. Sadly for them they seemed to be a little distracted, as we all were, by the freaky props they'd put up which consisted of what looked like 4 large, white, furry, mushrooms. That plus I'm always a little suspicious of a guitarist who sits down.

Here We Go Magic - B+
Just caught the end of Here We Go Magic who were appropriately noisy and chaotic in a controlled way. We caught Collector which is one of my tracks of the year so far and which made me very happy. I had thought the track quite undancable but apparently its not.

Wilco - B
Day two was the day of the 'big bands'. First Spoon and then Wilco. Again another very competent set from and indie legend but nothing that really blew my socks off. They did play War on War which I very much enjoyed but I have to say I had one eye on the clock because I was just waiting for the Japandroids to start.

Japandroids - A+
Along with Sleigh Bells this was my highlight of the whole festival. Amazing music, amazing energy, amazing chemistry. They had it all. As soon as the first chords came out I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up. I'm always pleasantly surprised by the force of noise that just two guys can make. They don't have much stuff released but seemed to play it all and it was one of those great gigs that really messes with time, they seemed to play forever but you didn't want them to stop. Sadly there are no good videos for this concert so I'm just going to put one of my favourite tracks on.

Pixies - B
The Pixies are quite possibly the archetypal reunion band of my generation. That classic band you grew up thinking you'd never see and now you have them. They're note perfect on everything and every Pixies set is like being 15 and in my bedroom again. That said this is the 3rd time I've seen them since they reformed in 2004. They have been reformed for almost as long now as they were active and there's still nothing new. There's a rumour of a fifth album but nothing played live and to be perfectly honest unless there was something new to catch I think this might be last time seeing the Pixies.

(We took a map that night and found our way home easily)

Day 3:

Real Estate - B+
One of S's favourite bands this year and a great, chilled out start to the last day of the festival. I admit that I don't know them very well but they were very catchy (even if some of the songs did start to blur into one another at the end).

Atlas Sound - C+
After quite a few attempts this was my first time actually seeing Bradford Cox in any of his many guises and it was really a bit of a let down. The music was OK even if it was just him and a guitar but he just came across like a complete idiot. We didn't stick around too long for this and I think next time we'll hold out for Deerhunter.

Nana Grizol - C
Bit of a cheat here as we were having a sit down in the main bowl and this was the band that was playing. I didn't know them at all but as I remarked to S they were kind of like a ska version of the Wave Pictures.

The Slits - C+
One of the big (for me anyway) reunions of the festival and we just had enough time to catch a few tracks before F&TM. And what a few tracks they were. It was like watching a car crash, terrible but you just couldn't take your eyes away. Firstly Ari came on stage alone and then claimed she had lost the Slits. She tried to engage everyone in a chant but most people weren't having it. That didn't deter Ari though and she proceeded to give a performance I can only compare to watching your grandma playing rude party games at Christmas. I can however now claim to have seen the Slits play Typical Girls and Shoplifting so I can die happy.

Florence & The Machine - B+
I had expected that this would be one of the performances of the festival. Knowing what an amazing performer and singer Florence is but again this was a bit underwhelming. She put a lot into it but as often happens with these things she just seemed completely detached from her backing band. I really enjoyed You Got The Love and Kiss With a Fist but I think we were stood a bit too far back to get much of the atmosphere. We were also distracted because the cameraman appeared to really fancy a girl in the audience and her face was on the screen almost as much as Florence's.

The Antlers - A+
I bloody love The Antlers and this was definitely the highlight of the 3rd day. Very different from the other highlights of the festival because they managed to fill the space with atmospherics rather than sound. The ghostly dance music was perfect for the last day and I was just sad that S couldn't enjoy more of it but she wanted to get a good spot at Grizzly Bear. Kettering was the haunting highlight but I was also a little disappointed not to catch them again in the 'unplugged' tent.

Grizzly Bear - B+
After the Antlers I did manage to catch the end of the Grizzly Bear set which looked amazing. S tells me that they played a really nice mixture of old and new stuff which I think it important at these festivals - you don't really want someone just banging out the hits, that would lower the tone of Primavera Sound when one of the best attributes it has is that it expects quite a high level of musical knowledge from its audience.

Matt & Kim - A-
Just caught a small bit of Matt & Kim due to my own incredible stupidity but they are now firmly high on my list of bands to watch out for. Absolutely crazy performance from the pair which contained much drumming and keyboarding whilst stood on top of their instruments and also some of the fastest playing I think I have ever seen.

Liquid Liquid - A
The festival closed for us on a really high not for me because Liquid Liquid are just one of those bands you never really expect to see. Perhaps I'm looking into it too much but their set really summed up what was great about this years festival. They managed to do so much with so little. Time and time again we were seeing bands with two or three members making such a noise and really filling the space they had with music and rhythm. Liquid Liquid are percussion and bass yet they make such interesting and funky music that you can feel it flowing through you. It was such a great sight to see the whole crowd really feeling the rhythm and this stage turned into the biggest dance party I saw this time.

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