Primavera Sound Review: P.I.L, Glasser, Blank Dogs, Glenn Branca Ensemble, Suicide, May 26 Parc del Forum

Barcelona – On the second day (and first full day) of the Primavera Sound Festival, there seemed to be a recurring theme to the bands I was seeing, and that theme was old guys.  P.I.L, Suicide, Glenn Branca, even Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips – all in the 50 plus club.  Despite their age though, these old guys showed that they still had it, whatever “it” is, thus making a good case against a mandatory retirement age for rock.  Sure, I saw some younger acts too, but the old guys put on some of the more interesting sets of the day. 

If we’re talking old guys, nobody does angry old curmudgeon better than John Lydon of Public Image Ltd.  I had seen Lydon live once before in his guise as Johnny Rotten for the Sex Pistols Filthy Lucre tour, and I have to say I found this show to be a lot more impressive.  He may be getting up there, but Johnny’s just as caustic as ever and still a pretty commanding presence onstage.  Also, P.I.L. seem to be well aware that at a massive multi-stage music festival, people like to move around a bit and accommodated those of us who might have wanted to check out another band during their slot by playing their biggest hit, This Is Not A Love Song, about four or five songs into their set.  Satisfied that I got to hear that, off I went in search of other bands.

Of course, not all of the bands I saw on this night were old enough to be collecting pensions, and the next couple of slots would be filled by Glasser and Blank Dogs.  Glasser put on a fairly enjoyable set highlighted by Cameron Masirow’s strong voice and odd, jerky dance movements.  Also of note was her outfit, a weird pink number with a big poufy thing stuck on the front of it.  It kind of looked like a Value Village version of something Bjork might wear.  They even got a chance to do an encore,with Mesirow returning to the stage to sing a solo a capella song.  This is not something one would expect to see from one of the smaller bands on the bill at a North American festival, where timeslots are also generally shorter (almost every band at Primavera got at least a full hour onstage).  After Glasser, I caught a few songs by Blank Dogs on the intimate Ray Ban Unplugged stage.  Why it’s called unplugged I’ll never know, since Blank Dogs and every other band I saw at that stage played fully amplified sets.  Fronted by a hoodie clad Mike Sniper, they played some decent post-punk-ish tunes.   

Passing up the chance to see The Walkmen and Grinderman during the 11:00 slot,  I opted instead for The Glenn Branca Ensemble, who certainly put on one of the more unique sets of the entire festival.  The avant garde composer took to the stage with his seven piece ensemble and began to conduct them as one would a more traditional orchestra.  The band played a set of complex instrumental pieces that brought to mind Mogwai and Sonic Youth. Branca himself was a sight to behold as he moved his arms about wildly, gesticulating towards the members of his ensemble.  Branca was really getting into it, and rightfully so.  I mean, they are his own compositions after all.

If there were such a thing, the award for oldest performers on the bill would undoubtedly go to Suicide. Vocalist Alan Vega is 72 years old!  For only two guys, they put on one of the loudest sets of the festival.  That, combined with the fact that such luminaries as Nick Cave, Wayne Coyne and Jarvis Cocker would go on to sing their praises onstage proves that this was one of the must see shows of the festival.  Despite the dark heaviness of their sound, they inspired a fair bit of dancing and merriment from the crowd.  I witnessed a group of girls young enough to be their daughters, or let’s face it, granddaughters, really getting into it, dancing along to songs off their 1977 debut such as “Frankie Teardrop” and “Rocket USA.”  Perhaps MIA’s recent sampling of “Ghost Rider” piqued their interest.  Whatever the reason, it made for one of the best moments of the fest and set a good standard for the rest of the festival.

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Posted on by Paul in Primavera

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