Primavera Sound Review: The National, Belle & Sebastian

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Barcelona – Day two of Primavera Sound was obviously dedicated to Pulp but it also featured a host of other amazing bands on the bill including perennial festival headliners The National and another personal favorite in Belle and Sebastian.

Arriving shortly after 8:30 pm, I was able to make it to the Pitchfork stage in time to hear current sensation James Blake get drowned out in noise by M Ward, of all people. I wasn’t sure how his quiet as heck electronic soul music would work in an outdoor atmosphere and just as I suspected, it did not fare well. Those outside the fifty foot range of the completely packed stage got to hear both M ward and James Blake at once, much to the chagrin of most JB fans, I’m sure. Quickly realizing this mashup was going to be a disturbance, I left to join the mass migration of music fans to go see the National.

Walking towards the Llevant stage, it became apparent that almost everyone at the festival was going to see the Cincinnati, Ohio band. By the time the band took the stage shortly after nine, the field was at near capacity. Noting how pretty setting was, the group played 90 minutes of solid National music. While the tracks sounded amazing, it was tough to get into The National’s brooding brand of personal rock. We’re in Spain! At a festival! By the sea! Against a sunset! Why so serious? But despite my personal feelings, the band played a solid set of tracks new and old, highlighted by an appearance by the one and only Sufjan Stevens for the songs Afraid of Everyone and Terrible Love. “He walks among mortals” exclaims Matt as Sufjan walked off stage. I left the National before the last track to beat the crowd and grab a spot for the next act – Belle and Sebastian

It was shortly after 10:30 when Belle and Sebastian took the San Miguel stage. Starting off softly with the track I Didn’t See it Coming it took awhile for the band to find it’s groove with the crowd. As Frank noted, the band might of had some sound issues that made them seem quieter than they really were. However once the band started incorporating old time classics like Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, the crowd started dancing and the show went uphill from there. Having seen them about five times now, I’m noticing that Belle and Sebastian, like many others veteran bands, now have a few tricks up their sleeves including having a girl applying makeup to Stuart Murdoch during the track Lord Anthony and inviting dancers on stage for what is arguably their most popular song, The Boy With The Arab Strap. Its amazing to see how far Belle and Sebastian have come as a live band, originally adversed to touring, the band now has become a polished machine capable of playing large festival crowds armed only with twee-ish tracks. Stuart Murdoch has become an accomplished and confident front man who knows exactly when he has the crowd. Highlights for me included Judy and The Dream of Horses , The Stars of Track and Field and Legal Man. The band also did their part hyping up the next band as Steve broke out the chorus of Common People during —–. The set closed with Sleep The Clock Around as expected and seeing how it is my favorite Belle and Sebastian song, it felt quite appropriate.

Pulp was up next, read the review here. Battles was pretty good from what I remembered. Day 2 at Primavera Sound had an amazing set of bands and resulted in the most amazing concert nights of my life.

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

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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.

Primavera Sound Review: Pulp, May 27th, San Miguel Stage

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | 3 Comments

Barcelona – Where to even begin? This journey to see one of my favorite bands started on November 8th, 2010 when Pulp announced they were reforming to play a few select shows starting with Primavera Sound. A few frantic emails and a quick check on Expedia later, I had booked my trip to Barcelona to see them. Then there was the long six month wait which really wasn’t that long since I went to London to see my other favorite band – Suede as well as SXSW, which I consider to be the greatest music journey a music fan can make. But there I was on May 27th, listening to the National singing their baritone hearts out to pretty much everyone in Barcelona and I just kept on staring at my Iphone thinking “is it time yet?”

The anticipation for the Pulp reunion show was high throughout the festival, only elevated by the fact that Jarvis Cocker himself had taken the time to check out the festival, walking around from stage to stage just like any other common person, eliciting gasps everywhere “JAAAAAA VIS! COCK KA” the Spaniards would say as he casually strolled by. By the time Belle and Sebastian took the stage, it was pretty clear the countdown had started for everyone. How clear, you ask? Halfway through the track Legal Man, Steve from Belle and Sebastian broke into the chorus of Common People and Stuart Murdoch asked the crowd “Are you excited about who is on next? I sure am”

So there we were, at 1:45 am. Me and many diehards had just waited at the stage after Belle and Sebastian played their last song at 12:15 am. That’s an hour and a half wait. I could have gone and seen Explosions in the Sky, but just like many others, the thought of losing my close to the stage spot was unbearable so I waited it out amongst the others. People were here from all over the world. There were Brazillians there, Japanese, various European types and an army of English people. Didn’t they have a billion festivals on England to go to, I asked. Their reply was that Primavera was the best one, which warmed my heart.

At 1:45 am, the green lasers that had been hyping us up with phrases like “are you ready?” and “can you believe this is happening?” finally projected the words “Lets do this” ( or something similar ). The stage went dark and the words PULP was then spelled out on the lights in a dramatic fashion. The opening notes of Do you remember the first time was played and it was utterly one of the best moments ever. The lights slowly lit the stage to reveal Jarvis Cocker standing on two platforms looking larger than life behind a mesh curtain. He sang the opening verse before the curtain was lifted and the lights became blinding for the track’s inevitable sing-a-long explosion of a chorus. To say the energy level was high would be one of the greatest understatements of all time, it was insane. People were singing along, jumping as high as they possibly could, some people didn’t even know how to react. I was about 15-20 feet from the stage and it was just nuts. I had to take my earplugs off just so they would not accidentally get rammed into my head by the crowd. It might have been a different experience from someone who was standing a mile away, but they weren’t really here for the band anyway. This video does a pretty good job summing up the introduction:

Thus began our ninety minute of audio and visual bliss. Playing a set primarily from the two Britpop albums – His N Hers and Different Class, Pulp sounded as tight as ever and seemed well determine to re-establish themselves as one of the greatest bands from the Britpop generation. The wine sipping, glasses wearing Jarvis seemed as game as ever, still slim as a twig, still dancing only the way Jarvis can and still inspiring the crowd with carefully chosen words between sets. I’m just going to go through some of my personal highlights from the show

“Would you like to dance with me?” Jarvis asked, before the Gloria-riff of Disco 2000 sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. There’s something to be said about singing along to one of your favorite songs of all time and being joined in by oh, twenty thousand people. One of my life goals was realized at this moment.

The green laser light show that was all too fitting for the rave inspired track Sorted For E’s and Wizz. While the rave/Madchester culture of the late 80s early 90s seemed soooooooo long ago, much of the song still resonates today and it felt very appropriate when the lyrics “is this the way the future’s meant to feel? or is this 20,000 people standing in a field?” were spoken by the man himself.

FEELINGCALLEDLOVE was a hundred thousand times better live than on album, while the track just seemed like a stopgap point on Different Class (sandwiched between Common People and Disco 2000), the quiet/slow to loud/fast tempo change of this song sounded tremendously epic live.

Hearing the entire crowd sing out the entire lyrics for the track This is Hardcore was something else.

What can you say about experiencing Common People live? In a week where protesters in Barcelona were hospitalized at the hands of the police, the stage was set for the track Common People to once again, rise above the festival. Dedicating the track to those said protesters, Common People was just an eight minute block of music that will be forever frozen in my mind as the top eight minutes of live concert music that I will ever encounter. The jubilation in the crowd was mind blowing and it was one of those moments where you will always remember what it felt like. The crowd sang and dance along to the entire track. Common People is a song about us and for us. It’s a track that speaks to your heart and makes you look at strangers around you as friends and compatriots rather then someone you should step on to elevate your own career and status. This is why the song has a place in everyone’s heart and it’s why the people lose their minds for it. An amazing experience that will never be replicated, even if I saw Pulp again.

In conclusion, for me, it was a show for the ages. To have waited sixteen years to see one of your favorite bands and then having that band exceed all expectations is rare feat. The band was tight, the set list was great, Jarvis was an amazing front man and to experience the show among thousands of die hards completely made the experience unforgettable. Best show I’ve ever seen.

Do You Remember the First Time?
Pink Glove
Pencil Skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Sorted For E’s & Wizz
I Spy
This Is Hardcore
Bar Italia
Common People


What’s next? I don’t even know.

Primavera Sound: Of Montreal, Big Boi, Grinderman, Interpol, Girl Talk

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | Leave a comment

Barcelona – The official first day of Primavera Sound was Thursday, it was the first day we would see the official Primavera Grounds and also featured a host of stellar acts from all genres of music including Of Momtreal, Public Image Limited (PiL), Grinderman, Big Boi and Girl Talk. The headliner of the night was the always amazing Flaming Lips. Let’s take a look at the acts.

Of Montreal
Given the headliners propensity for props, costumes and gimmicks alike, Georgia’s Of Montreal was an extremely fitting opener as they too were known for their theatrics. Dressed in a beret, purple blazer and red pants, Kevin Barnes and his band took the stage just after eight and delivered a spectacular performance that features as much theatrics as quality songs. Featuring some of the stronger tracks from recent releases such as Coquet Coquette, She’s a Rejector and Suffer for Fashion Of Montreal played an all killer, no filler set that highlighted what Of Montreal is about when they are at their best – quirky, but extremely catchy pop. Two costumed performers that dressed in all kinds of costumes from Mexican wrestlers to odd pig headed dancers were brought in to add additional visuals to the show. I’m not sure what the theatrics, which included a luchadore wrestling match and interpretive dancing were about, but It was visual galore. The set ended with my favorite Of Montreal song – A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger . A great way to start off the night.

of Montreal – Coquet Coquette by Polyvinyl Records

Big Boi
At first, you would think that Big Boi would be an odd choice for Primavera given the other bands on stage, but you haven’t seen Europeans dance to hip hop. Atlanta’s Big Boi delivered an energetic show that brought some southern funk to the shores of Spain. The set consisted of both Outkast tracks and his solo material much to the delight of the crowd. Everyone was dancing as Big Boi and his group of MCs delivered energy track after track, all in tune with video projections. I don’t think anyone was crunking, but there was a definite sense of enthusiasm for the guy. For the encore, Big Boi brought on a bunch of ladies to dance to his hit single Tangerine. If getting some bodies moving was Big Boi’s goal for the night, then it was easily accomplished.

Big Boi- Tangerine by Big Boi

The next show on my plate was Grinderman and they were awesome. I don’t think Nick Cave is capable of anything but awesome. Perhaps the only hard rock headliner of the festival – Nick Cave, Warren Ellis and company Just hit it hard. Between Nick Cave’s sermon like deliveries and Warren Ellis’s intense one man string section, the group just brought an intensity that just permeated through the crowd. Definitely one of the highlights of the festival.

The Walkmen
The next two acts were two indie rock bands from the early 2000s era that I had throughly enjoyed. Playing to almost two thousand people at the Pitchfork stage, the Walkmen absolutely had the crowd in a frenzy – people were dancing and singing along. I was only there for one song though, and that song was The Rat which for my money is one of the top songs to come from that era. If that song was any indication of the crowds enthusiasm for the Walkmen, then I imagine it would have been a heck of a performance.

Taking the long 15 minute walk to the Llevant stage, I reacquainted myself with Interpol, the New York post punk band that exploded onto the scene with their incredible debut Turn On The Bright Lights and has since failed to recapture that momentum with each album producing diminishing returns. This was the first time I’ve seen the band since the departure of the infamous Carlos D but I was still excited to see them. The excitement soon disappeared as the band sounded flat and uninterested on stage. The newer material just felt like a retread on the older ones and even though Lights seemed to register as a high point with the crowd, it just doesn’t compare to their older material for me. Tracks from the first two albums were placed sporadically in the set list and while they were pleasant to hear again, the show just didn’t register well with me and I left early to grab a spot for the Flaming Lips show, which was already reviewed.

Interpol – Barricade by artsandcraftsmx

A post Flaming Lips crowd was already all riled up by the time Girl Talk made it to the Llevant stage at 4:30 am. Taking the stage with a gaggle of dancers, Girl Talk finished off the first night of Primavera with his staple of classic rock/indie rock music mashed up with hip hop sound bites. Those with the energy danced their tales off and those who didn’t have that energy just watched with envy. The set ended sharply at 5:30 am and then everyone made the mad dash to find a taxi and get back home before the sun went up.

All in all a fantastic way to start off Primavera, even if I didn’t get back to the apartment until 7:30 am.