Giras

San Miguel Primavera Sound, Saturday

PJ Harvey’s control and football happiness

smps

By Mónica Franco, Sian Haestier and Cristian Rodríguez

120.000 people: an absolute record. San Miguel Primavera Sound 2011 closed the Fórum based portion of the festival with incredible numbers (of course the real close is tonight - at the Poble Espanyol - we’ll tell you all about it tomorrow). Arguably, the festival has raised the bar yet again: consolidating its position as a crucial independent music event, a fundamental fixture in the global festival calendar. The road has been winding here for ten year, its future looks promising. Saturday was a memorable day, musically and socially. PJ Harvey played a wonderfully controlled set, the football fans got a Champions League final screening, there was music and more music. Ultimately - a huge celebration. This is what happened.

Yuck (ATP Stage)

The nineties-sounding Yuck seemed like the best option to begin the final day - one that always goes by soooo quickly. I arrived a bit late, but eager to see one of the big debutants of the year. As I approached the ATP stage, I heard the closing chords of “The Wall”. I was upset that I didn’t get there in time to see it, but as “Shook Down”- one of my favourites – began, all was forgotten. I saw hands in the air. It smelled like sunscreen and hangovers. Although they played “Suicide Policeman” with a pretty crepuscular tone, they seemed delighted to be playing in the sun. They did a good job, both with the melodic sounds of the record and their execution of it; from the fabulous “Get Away” to their new tune “Milkshake” and the closing track “Rubber”. No objections here: a promising band, mastering the tricks they learned from the big boys –Pavement, Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub. Their very sunny sounds came as a welcomed “Good afternoon”. Cristian Rodríguez

Warpaint (Llevant Stage)

The windswept desert of Warpaint. Playing to a huge crowd on the Llevant stage in the late afternoon, the girls crafted a heartbreaking set of yelps and dropped drumbeats – capturing the melancholic, late festival feeling. In the desert, things come to crux: like a Cormac McCarthy novel, there's no turning back. It was day three, but it felt like the beginning. Warpaint took the chance in hand - it may not be where the girls conceived their album going, but the gently brooding Fleetwood Mac-esque grooves - hit the road movie spot precisely. I want to be like Thelma and Louise with these girls: pass me the wild turkey. Sian Haestier

tUnE-yArDs (Pitchfork Stage)

Easily deserving their acclaim in the music press, Merrill Garbus’ set fused African rhythms, two saxophones, looped vocals and percussion- alongside the looping technique popularised by artists like Juana Molina. They did so with a magician’s ear and dancer’s hips. In tUnE yArDs, has American underground pop reached the pinnacle of its African music obsession? Perhaps: one of the most impressive gigs of the day. SH

Fleet Foxes (San Miguel Stage)

Under the sun, with the sea in front, the crowd waited for the band as if they were Kings. With the brilliant “Helplessness Blues”, Fleet Foxes have become a bit more intricate - but on stage, they were as friendly and open as ever. They delivered the goods. Starting out in a Love like vein, I quickly got goose bumps (with the outstanding “Grown Ocean”). The light was burning my eyes and I could hardly see the stage - the music seemed to come from a black hole - so I decided to listen with my eyes closed. I felt that the rest of the crowd, the American contingent in particular, were equally moved. Sheltering from the sun, my goose bumps returned with “Battery Kinzie”. A flock of seagulls flew by and the band looked back: sublime versions of “Mykonos”, “Your Protector”, “While Winter Himnal”, “Ragged Wood” and the huge “The Shrine / An Argument”. All of that, before the perfect close: “Helplessness Blues”. It was one of the most mercurial sweet-rock experiences of the festival. One of those gigs that leaves you thinking. CR

The Album Leaf (ATP stage)

Electronics met classical sensibilities in The Album Leaf - with more traditional song structures than bands like Bell Orchestra. Largely instrumental - with a tinge of IDM and some enviable base lines - their songs hit euphoric points that garnered whoops from the early evening crowd. The folktronica of "Always For You" was more satisfying, harmonic and bassy than on record. SH

Gonjasufi (Pitchfork Stage)

Please, let’s go see Gonjasufi! I want to dance to Las Grecas…” said a girl to her friends on their way to the Pitchfork Stage. The expectations of the local audience were high - coloured by the possibility of experiencing a rare moment of ecstasy, to the big hit of one of Spain’s stars. What hippie Gonjasufi would do before or after was inconsequential. I don’t know what the foreigners expected from the man, the unclassifiable beats of his album, I suppose. An image from the end of the gig summed it up perfectly: an angry faced bloke, wearing a Flying Lotus t-shirt – alongside smiles of satisfaction from a man in a t-shirt from the Spanish punks Lehendakaris Muertos. By the closing chords of “Cowboyz & Indians”, there was no gypsy frenzy. The drums, bass and guitar played thrash metal, while Gonja growled things into a microphone that sounded as dirty as his t-shirt. No psychedelia, no avant-garde rap, not even the charm of “A Sufi And A Killer”: just a few songs played in desperation, from a grubby laptop. Mónica Franco

Einstürzende Neubauten (Ray-Ban Stage)

Representing the industrial age and the post industrial spirit tonight, were Einstürzende Neubauten. The ex-Bad Seed - Blixa Bargeld - led the band from methodical, mechanical grooves - to archaic chimes. Through tonight’s performance, we could trace the precluding steps to bands like Portishead. They played a relaxed set, before a mixed audience of young newcomers and those more familiar with their music. SH

Gang Gang Dance (Pitchfork Stage)

Dressed in the rubber leggings of a super hero, Lizzie Boygatsos looked like a cartoon heroine. Playing out the finest retro-futurism we know of, Gang Gang Dance appeared at Primavera tonight with a bizarrely Bez-like dancer on stage tonight - perhaps in honor of Gill Scott Heron. It felt as though Gang Gang Dance knit the stars together, making you feel the power of the earth. Lizzie looked Amazonian, eclipsing the bleeps and grooves that lit us. SH

Kurt Vile & The Violators (Jägermeister-Vice Stage)

I sacrificed Gang Gang Dance and Money Mark to see Mr. Vile: and it was worth it. My only visit to the Jägermeister-Vice stage was one of ceremonial punk and constant applause. With their ears wide open, the audience cheered four long-haired dudes who should have been programmed on a better stage. Vile’s face was hidden by hair, but with a little concentration you could see what he was thinking. His stance reminded me of Julian Cope; his soul of Neil Young. “Society Is My Friend”, “Jesus Fever” – and all the songs he played from “Smoke Ring For My Halo”– sounded as disorienting as on record, but less poppy. Codeine-like and recondite: Kurt Vile is here to stay. CR

PJ Harvey (San Miguel Stage)

Continuing the trend for strong female characters on Saturday evening, PJ Harvey took to the stage. We anticipated a new album based set – which she delivered from the outset, opening with “The Words that Maketh Murder”. Like Boudicca in a white dress and feather headdress, PJ did a stunning version of “ England” - her new falsetto voice in full strength. I've want to see her play live since seeing her on TV at Glastonbury in the mid 90s. Then she was all skinny kid making provocative: amazing in a pink jumpsuit and tons of eyeliner. Now - imbued with the confidence of age - she mixes new tracks with old classics, such as “ C'mon Billy” and “ The Sky Lit Up”. SH

Matthew Dear (Live Band) (Pitchfork Stage)

Ms. Harvey cried victory over Matthew Dear for 30 minutes, in their battle at the prime slot of the festival. Consequently, the Pitchfork space looked a bit empty in the minutes before commencement – and Dear took to the stage, playing the role of a somewhat spiteful, but very elegant diva. Dressed as if he were an extra from Scarface and accompanied by a trumpet – we began the concert feeling we were watching the male star of a South American new age soap opera, rather than the sophisticate behind Audion and Jabberjaw. His band backed live show was camp and excessively overacted - but pleasingly entertaining, in spite of the tough start. By the concert’s close, Dear had tripled his audience. MF

Dean Wareham plays Galaxie 500 (ATP Stage)

It was hard to walk away from the magnetic (and very Brontë-like) PJ Harvey, but the schedule said it had to be done. At Primavera Sound you have to miss out on some of the classics in order to see others - but the end of one concert is as important as the start of another it clashes with. Although the immortal Galaxie 500 deserved all my attention – please forgive me – I arrived ten minutes late, right when “When Will You Come Home” started. I’m sure the members of Avi Buffalo were biting their nails somewhere in the stalls. Dean Wareham - with his wife Britta to his right, alongside two more musicians - had already begun recalling their story. The tale of a band who at a time had perhaps been the best in the world (with – of course – the influence of their forefathers, The Velvet Underground). All of his tracks are beautiful - and they chose they made popular: “Strange”, “Summertime”, “Blue Thunder”, “Fourth Of July” and “Tugboat” – alongside cover versions, such as Jonathan Richman’s “Up In The Sky Sometime”. They were the focus of an unforgettable moment, one that stood out on a night full of stars. Seasoned fans and newcomers (followers of The National perhaps?) alike, fell in love with their sophistication. CR

Mogwai (Llevant Stage)

It was half past midnight - F.C. Barcelona had won the Champions League – but I was yet to see any signs of football celebrations. Until I got to the Llevant stage that is - and Mogwai’s drummer emerged in a Barcelona shirt. Predictably, the Scots gathered a crowd of festival veterans: mainly male hardcore fans with a lot of tattoos. Their performance however, was not as I anticipated: they sounded off. Hypnotic and rhythmic, yes - that comes with the territory - but they lacked the contained nerves and drive that rips you open and excites. Some said tiredness was to blame - the band’s sound was starting to wear out. I however, think that we were the ones worn out, tired of three days of festival. MF

Swans (Ray-Ban Stage)

It was the perfect way to follow an exquisite gig - by the similarly post-industrial Einstürzende Neubauten - on the Ray-Ban stage. Swans were on top form. They levelled the festival, with songs as hard as the floor they trembled. Ear plugs weren’t a bad idea. Michael Gira left us in open-mouthed fear: moving his arms in circles, descending to his knees to play guitar, spitting at the air. He told one of the two drummers - the one with his shirt off - which cymbal to play. He seemed to have everything under his control - constantly making commands of the black-clad band members, with a phantasmal look in his eyes. My God, his disciples - Akron/Family - have learned a lot from him (his pupil Devendra Banhart, however, has learned little!). After the tremendous “Jim”, the other drummer took his shirt off too - and the temperature rose. Gira declared he wanted to have sex with each and every one of us. Swans are alive . CR

Darkstar (Jägermeister-Vice Stage)

Darkstar brought their churning and pulsating post-dub-step to one of the smaller stages of the festival, playing live as a three piece. The heaving bass made it impossible to think: it was late on the last night of the festival and Darkstar wanted to push us to the limit. An epic version of “ Gold” finished the set, testing different melodies whilst maintaining the original structure. We hope we'll see them again, next time on a larger stage. SH

Odd Future (Pitchfork Stage)

In my Mogwai-induced daze, it was tricky to mentally prepare for Odd Future. I plucked up my courage and decided to stand right in the middle of the crowd. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by trendsetters: effeminate hipsters who don’t know their Wacka Floka from their Gucci Mane (although they would perhaps recognise Lil Wayne from MTV). That’s the scene Odd Future stumbled upon - and a few songs in they realised their audience would not match the energy they offered. The destructive efficiency of “Transylvania” excited no-one beyond the fifth row. Tyler and band showed their cocks in protest. The crowd warmed up with “Yonkers”, the leader of the pack thanked them for knowing the track (from a country as “far away” as Spain!). Though they knew they were fighting a losing battle for hysteria, Odd Future never stopped trying - illustrating their true commitment to vandalism and inappropriateness. Their stage presence is huge; they’re irreverent till the end and incredibly talented lyrically. In short: I now believe the hype. But I curse the people who were there just for the photo op - you spoiled my rap catharsis, with my new favourite artists. MF

Animal Collective (San Miguel Stage )

Animal Collective don’t care about anything, even when they’re booed. Their concerts can go in any direction. We’ve seen them play superbly, incomprehensibly and even badly - but they never leave their audience indifferent. This time they were puzzling, yes, but also incorruptible - using the concert to make experimentations beyond their recordings. The difficult nature of the gig was a psychedelic feast for some, but a let-down for others. It was a tough one. Much of the crowd were confused as to which tracks they were playing – I could barely recognise three. The final track - “Summertime Clothes” – and the immense samba of “Brothersport” animated the audience a little. There were many new experiments, but it was unclear whether the follow-up to “Merriweather Post Pavilion” will break the barriers of pop. It was fractured, alien and draining - much like Panda Bear’s concert last year. In short: I left the concert confused - in that sense, it failed. CR

DJ Shadow (Llevant Stage)

Due to the changes in the schedule at the Llevant stage, I don’t know exactly how long DJ Shadow was in that ball on stage. It wasn’t like the one from the Flaming Lips, but it did go around. It was a visual trick – made by the spectacular mapping montage accompanying Josh Davis – which at times made us doubt the physical presence of the DJ on stage. The ball finally opened, revealing Davis, while an endless string of people mounted the stage. A scenic concept of Hollywood proportions: nonsensical, but entrancingly spectacular. In regards to the music, he played a medleyed structure of robust drum’n’bass. He was a boastful and mischievous chap. Although professional scratching and a healthy promotion of his new material were the main ingredients - DJ Shadow’s live show was the focus. It has evolved and it was appreciated. MF

Holy Ghost! (Ray-Ban Stage)

Despite releasing their DFA debut as LCD Soundsystem retired – they are not the continuation of Murphy’s band. In fact, I don’t think that Holy Ghost! have anything to gain from the comparison. False expectations merely stand in the way of audience enjoyment. The New York pair are pleasant, with a natural charm – but lack the charisma of the LCD leader. Don’t look for the electrifying exaltation of punk-funk on “Holy Ghost!”: it’s disco tinged electro-pop. The freshness and elegance of their record was realised on stage. Danceable enough to encourage the exhausted crowd to employ their final reserves of energy. Not for long however - the crowd slowly left the dance floor in favour of a seat in the stands. MF

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