Once a year we’re happy to team up with Primavera Sound for a long weekend of live music on Barcelona’s coastline. You probably know the deal by now, even if you’ve not made it to the festival yet – an ever-growing line-up of superior alt. artists all meet up at Parc del Forum and play into the hot Catalan night, causing spontaneous fits of crying at the beauty of it all, sometimes enhanced by sunstroke and other substances.
Over the years we’ve noticed how a majority of the artists fit neatly into the following four categories. Four of us took on one each. Like X Factor.
No one’s quite sure why sloshy Cali band The Growlers have such a high billing on the second day, but on the giant main stage they look too louche – or too stoned – to care. Frontman Brooks Neilsen, who’s dressed like Che Guevara and swaggers like Ian Brown, is a star with croaky Julian Casablancas vocals. Some of it sounds like The Blockheads, other bits the Happy Mondays, all of it sublimely ridiculous, just like Mac DeMarco’s drummer Joe McMurray who, throughout his band’s performance, wears a bucket hat… and nothing else.
The ongoing joke is that during the set the rest of the band try to get him to stand up and uncover his modesty. The typically daft show ends with Mac stripped down to his boxers, smoking a cigarette and rubbing his crotch into his keyboardist’s head during ‘Together’. A beautiful moment. And yes, McMurray did stand up and we all saw his penis.
That same night, Sleaford Mods suffer from the biggest technical failure of the weekend despite only having a laptop between them. They have to restart opening song ‘Army Nights’ three times. Jason Williamson gives the sound guy a bollocking – which he later apologies for – but by the end tracks like ‘BHS’, ‘Jolly Fucker’ and ‘Jobseeker’ prove themselves the most unlikely of festival anthems, to the biggest crowd by two angry white men.
Arcade Fire pretty much wrap up things for the groups on the final night. New show, new album, new production, but somehow it gets off to a sluggish start. When it does get going, with ‘Reflektor’ and then ‘Afterlife’, it’s the Sagrada Familia-sized spectacle everyone’s used to seeing from the Canadians. All in all, the groups did some good work this year. Greg Cochrane
The Over 45s
The over 45s category at Primavera is usually well appointed, each year bolstered by a seasoned veteran or two, an exhumed ghost from the past, and Shellac, who, since the demise of ATP, now never actually leave Primavera’s little stage by the marina. This year it’s no different: Van Morrison (71) and Grace Jones (69) bring the star quality, the Belfast Cowboy obliging his public with a setlist full of hits, and Jones doing likewise with euphorically bombastic disco and heavy dub alongside costume changes and confetti cannons.
The ghosts are here too, both figurative, in the form of the alarmingly translucent Zombies (mid-70s), and literal, thanks to Seu Jorge (47) and his gentle invocations of David Bowie (dead), quietly beautiful on the Ray-Ban stage. And, yes, Shellac (mid-50s) played too.
But the surprise package of the weekend in any category were metal legends Slayer (also mid-50s), who tore the main stage a brand new pentagram-shaped hole with an intimidatingly tight and unapologetically histrionic set full of surprises, individuality and utter musical devotion – characteristics which should’ve been the preserve of Aphex Twin (45) had he not spent his first half-hour trying to convert 20,000 drunk people to the nuanced joys of musique concrete. When he eventually found his feet, the burbling acid and freaky projections provided a fine spectacle, but at 3am on the opening night of Primavera, the mantra of “fuck art, let’s dance” has never felt more appropriate.