Primavera Sound 2010 review

Another year, another stellar Spanish shindig!
The xx on stage at the Primavera Sound festival
Oh Primavera Sound, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Sun, sea, sangria, sex shows, a semi-naked Tim Harrington and of course, a deluge of awesome sounds. Hosting the cream of the leftfield crop, this year's line-up saw old and new acts collide in what could only be described as an indie kid's wet dream (with an exotic peep show of sweaty rave-led beats)...

But what is it about Primavera that makes it so damn attractive? The absence of camping makes for a more beautiful crowd of revellers, that's for sure. And everything looks better in the sunshine. Even Thursday night's unprecedented drizzle seemed all the more pleasant for it being in Spain. Like me, you may have left your purse, or your dignity, on some miscellaneous grassy knoll with a Spanish motorbike mechanic called 'Carlos', but chances are you were probably having too much fun at the time to give a fuck.

That's the thing about festivals. As any hardened reveller will tell you, pain and loss are sometimes unavoidable consequences of having a good time. And a very good time was had by all at Primavera Sound: from the moment we stepped inside that arena on the Thursday right up until the bitter end, waiting for our Sleazy Jet flight all broken, battered and bruised, we still managed to force a smile.

I could regale you with anecdotes aplenty about obnoxious waiters, donkey tattoos, and z-list celebrities, but I'll save that for a rainy day. Here are a few musical highlights from Primavera Sound 2010 instead...Ole!

Thursday
Complications with our apartment meant arriving late on the Thursday night, just in time to feel the sea breeze and hear The xx softly weeping from within the walls of a stony amphitheatre, to crowds of restless hipsters. A rather subdued way to kick off the party proceedings, it must be said. But as day gradually turned into night, bathed in an irridescent glow and shrouded in wisps of smoke,The xx and their gentle minor chords suddenly seemed like the perfect way to ease us into that woozy festival dream world.

After catching the tail-end of Broken Social Scene's baffling pep talk (“Everything is going to be OK, we promise”) it was the moment we had all been waiting for: Pavement 's time to shine.



Photo by Toni Rosado

And like a diamond in the rough, boy did they shine. Before you could say "take me back to the nineties when I was a massive geek in corduroy," Malkmus appeared on stage perilously brandishing his guitar, looking as nonchalant as ever, and totally unphased by the thousands of drooling fans at his feet. Pavement's decision to open with 'Cut Your Hair' was a very well informed one indeed, as swarms of denim clad revellers threw caution to the wind and dived straight in. Pulling all of the hits out of their Mary Poppins' sized bag, Pavement's reunion set quickly metamorphosed into something of wonderfully epic proportions, naturally. Now while the occasional cynic may have quaffed at the sentimentality of it all, nineties' kids like me found themselves genuinely overcome with emotion, screaming along to scorchers like 'Stereo' and 'Unfair'. And by the time they got to 'In the Mouth a Desert', I had somehow lost my shoe and my friends. Awesome. They found me some hours later, perched upon a dusty slope watching Fuck Buttons with my eyes shut, repetitiously pointing towards the heavens. Visceral. Noise. Violations. Body. Violently. Convulsing. Higher plane....Whoah. When I eventually came to, I looked down at the sea of thriving bodies and couldn't help but notice one particularly amorous, half-naked couple thrusting their pelvises in time to the beat. What a show. On both accounts. And just when I thought the night couldn't get any better, Moderat had to go and blow my mind, didn't they. When it comes to techno, the Germans always do it best. Heart-racing, head pounding, speedy bleeps and explosive bass lines, this was a full-on Euro rave and once my shoeless foot started to dance, it simply couldn't stop...

Friday
A quick dip in the disappointingly icy waters of The Med and I was ready to face the day. And Friday at Primavera Sound promised to be quite the day. After sidling down to the Vice stage to watch a decrepit post-punk band spit out a few classics ( Wire ), we were all in need of a virile shot of musical adrenalin. Thank fuck for Les Savy Fav then. And the hero of this year's Primavera Sound was, for many, a Mr. Tim Harrington. Our love for this overweight, bearded American and his unique brand of insane post-hardcore certainly knows no bounds. There's nothing like a bit of hubrism to send a crowd wild with desire. So as Time Harrington was passed through the crowd like a big, sweaty, tribal god of sorts, all flailing arms and screeching lungs, we marvelled at his showmanship and gorged ourselves silly on his musical prowess. Jeez, there's something strangely sexual about Harrington that makes you want to touch him, feel the heat of his big, fat, sweaty, friendly body. And then there was that bear suit. Hot. Harrington's hyperactive stage antics may possibly have surpassed all previous efforts and were arguably unmatched by anyone else on the bill this year. I moshed so hard during 'Patty Lee' that I nearly broke my jaw. But it was, like, totally worth it, man.



Photo by Monica Hidalgo

I had thought that watching the Pixies from the VIP area, with all that free flowing San Miguel, would maybe cushion the blow ever so slightly. Controversial I know, but, the Pixies kind of passed me by. But anyway, as it turned out, no cushioning was necessary:the Mary Chain cover was a delight and hats off to Francis and Deal, they've definitely still got 'it', whatever 'it' may be. The Pixies' set was far from being a cringeworthy attempt at regurgitating a load of stale 'hits' and the band kept that nostalgic fire burning deep into the night, playing a canon of songs which you could say defined a generation. Tracks like 'Debaser' and 'Where Is My Mind' proved to be excellent fodder for crowd sing-a-longs and were of course lapped up by the Catalan audience.



Photo by Laura Sanchez Perez

Later on that night I was taken to a whole new musical dimension watching Joker , but unfortunately, very few people came along for the ride. The turnout was poor, but his performance was dark, edgy, and brutal. Dubstep is here to stay and Joker is no laughing matter. Accept it. In the wee hours, the Pitchfork stage was then tranformed into a debauched platform for the drug addled masses to congregate in their thousands and simultaneously bop and shake a leg to the stadium sized rave beats of Diplo . His flashy r 'n' b mixes were wearing a little thin towards the end, but there's no disputing Diplo's continued reign as a production demi-god.

Saturday
Maybe the sound quality was a little lacking, but after getting all hyped up for No Age's show on the Saturday, we were cruelly let down by their flat, top-drawer indie rumblings. Disappointing. But the consolation prize was sweet... Pet Shop Boys! Supping on the free booze and drumming up conversations with Spanish 'photographers', the air in the VIP area was heavy with the smell of anticipation. But cynicism sadly prevailed. For a bittersweet taste of synth-pop irony, Primavera's main performance on the Saturday night was not born from the tumultuous world of angsty American indie but instead provided by two legendary Londoners, with a penchant for mind blowing stage visuals and exotic attire. So if anyone was going to cause controversy and so vehemently divide a festival populus it was going to be Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe. Whilst the hardened musos wept into their Jagermeisters, revellers like myself embraced the theatrical frivolity of it all and took great pleasure in dancing around like a goon on a makeshift wooden podium to the familiar sounds of 'West End Girls', 'It's a Sin' and 'Always On My Mind'. Pet Shop Boys' ensnared their audience with flashing neon backdrops, ballroom dancers and dazzling gowns, and their performance brought a welcome touch of colour to a festival dominated by beige loving indie bands. Although the duo make barely credible pop music—the kind of stuff that many Primavera pundits find hard to digest—you just can't deny the Pet Shop Boys' wide-ranging influence, iconic status and enviable longevity. And what a fucking performance: their stage visuals always put others to shame. So put that in your cynical pipe and smoke it.



Photo by Toni Rosado

The Field's decision to play with a full band seemed to bring Axel Willner out of his shell and although I may have ran out of steam to properly sink my teeth into Fake Blood , what I did witness was something quite spectacular. All hail the king of electro...

And the rest...
But it wasn't over just yet. The piece de resistance on the Sunday night came in the form of sets by Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard and the Black Lips . Jeffrey Lewis' boyish energy and his knack for spinning a good yarn was endearing and entertaining. But it was their cover of Yo La Tengo's 'Tom Courtenay' that really lit a fire in my groins, and made me feel slightly less annoyed at having missed Condo Fucks earlier on in the weekend. And seeing all of the many familiar faces from the weekend on stage during the Black Lips' standardly chaotic invasion, I suddenly felt all gooey inside. Primavera '10 4 eva. Although both performances were definitely worth the tube ride, the air in the Apollo was too stifling and oppressive to be conducive to an evening of fun: a stagnant sweat box of dripping bodies, after a weekend of refreshing al fresco entertainment, was just too much to handle. Sort it out, Primavera!



Photo by Berto Garcia

Monday was upon us and it was time to head home. After spending a much needed day languishing on the beach, we began our journey back to Blighty, weighed down by bags of sweaty chorizo, burgeoning laryngitis and that inevitable sense of guilt at having missed so many bands.

But we all agreed that Primavera Sound was, quite possibly, the best festival any of us had ever been to and that all other festivals now pale into muddy, sodden insignificance, with their stupidly controlled spirit measures and torrential rain. So if there's only one festival you go to next year, make it Primavera Sound...

Words by April Welsh

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