San Miguel Primavera Sound, Thursday

An extensive overview of a fistful of memorable concerts

San Miguel Primavera Sound, jueves By Sergio del Amo, Mónica Franco, Sian Haestier, Cristian Rodríguez and Mario G. Sinde

What happened with the PS credit card for drinks and food at the San Miguel Primavera Sound 2011 wasn’t nice for anyone. Not for the clients, of course - who couldn’t get a drink for hours - and not for the organisation. Damn computers. Sometimes they make your life better, sometimes they don’t. In the end, the public got their money back –a good gesture from Primavera Sound– cash was accepted in exchange for liquids and today is another day.

Aside from the aforementioned, this year festival looks set to be another massive hit. The Fòrum area is huge. Yes, you’re forced to walk tremendous distances between stages (an example end of day tweet: “the flaming feet”) - but always to great satisfaction. The quality of music is extremely high: wherever you go, it’s worth it.

This is what we experienced yesterday.

Emeralds (Pitchfork stage)

Hieratic, focussed and – strangely - supported by the audience. With the sun still burning hot, Emeralds found themselves in front of a crowd that was only slightly smaller than that of Triángulo de Amor Bizarro (and their updated C-86) on the main stage. They managed the gig in phases: at points it was ambient, finding the tone, at others more Tangerine Dream, as if at any moment “Rubycon” could sound, before closing with a noisy finale. The Ohioans reached a quality, neo-kosmische sound. Exact, unfolding synths alongside Mark McGuire’s expressive guitar: it was well worth the early arrival. Mario G. Sinde

Moon Duo (Ray-Ban stage)

He looks like Larry Charles, only thinner – and she, well - it seems impossible to do so much with a keyboard, with so much hair hanging in your face. In short: at first, it’s somewhat unbelievable. But, as they patiently built their space-rock, Moon Duo proved convincing. You can spot their influences a mile off – at times, monolithic and reminiscent of Spacemen 3 - at others circular, like a tribute to Neu! and early seventies German rock. Never the less, as a warm-up, they were a satisfying appetiser. Particularly if one’s preparing for an experimental route through the festival. MGS

Cults (ATP stage)

Cults’ match was pretty much decided. Half the indie contingent are talking about them, they are adorably charming - they’ve practically been carrying a sign announcing “The Great Promise of 2011”. Now - in the release week of their much-awaited debut album - they could finally shed the stigma. They didn’t disappoint their fans, who packed out the front of the stage. In regards to the rest of the audience: they did a good job. Sounding a tad more abrasive than on record, yet always maintaining their cool, they seemed ready and able to defend the little they have. Their songs, obsessively focussed on sixties melodies, gained brilliance on stage and provoked sincere smiles in the stalls. They have at least three huge songs: “Abducted”, “Go Outside” and “You Know What I Mean”. The three singles that found them their fame, the three opening tracks of the album and the three songs that sounded best during the gig. It was all over in a jiffy. They played for just 30 minutes - but they were friendly and very refreshing - a welcomed contrast to the problems at the bar. An hour after, at the Pitchfork stage, they were being interviewed by a hipster TV station … Cristian Rodríguez

Sufjan Stevens (Rockdelux stage – Auditori) Sufjan Stevens (escenario Rockdelux-Auditori) “My name is Sufjan Stevens. Normally I play folk music, but tonight, what you’re going to see is cosmic pop”. Purposefully excessive and theatrical was how Sufjan introduced himself, at the Auditori during the first of two gigs within the festival. For two hours we watched the “Seven Swans” folk singer, mutate into a pop entertainer -playing his latest release, “The Age Of Adz”, almost in its entirety. Consequentially Sufjan - supported by a fluorescent band and B-movie visuals - clashed with the purists in the audience. But it was pure genius. Fun, chatty and happily challenging his identity, Sufjan leapt in status - becoming one of the most important artists of the century. During “Impossible Soul”, the symphotronic operetta, the audience couldn’t hold back: rising from their seats, approaching the stage and dancing frantically. “Chicago” closed a magic show, one that will be talked about for years to come. A highlight of 2011? You’d better believe it. Sergio del Amo The Fresh & Onlys (Pitchfork stage)

The Pitchfork Stage seems to be the favourite amongst the public this year. Though the sound of the stage (under the big photovoltaic panel) mixes a bit with that of the main stage, we’ve seen some good gigs there. Between yachts and sailboats, the lovers of old rock flocked for The Fresh & Onlys - one of the best-kept secrets of the moment. The San Francisco band has the potential to be special. On stage they sound golden, proving they are one of the few pop-rock bands that don’t follow trends. They are timeless and authentic: great songs, splashed with surf garage and seeped in psychobilly. The singer’s voice was saturated in reverb and delay, providing atmospheric density. In almost every song, they achieved the desired effect – from the poppier tracks such as “Waterfall”, to the more Crystal Stilts like opaque ones. At the end of the gig – with the arrival of our compensatory beer - I felt the night take shape. CR

Seefeel (ATP stage)

For years we’d been hoping for a comeback - a comeback that would translate into a live show - ideally a live show as good as their records. Finally: Seefeel returned. Admittedly not the original Seefeel, but at least Sarah Peacock (who else could do the vocals?) and Mark Clifford (the leader of the live sets) were there. Finally we could watch them live, with their wall of liquid sound. At times however, we regretted hoping. The whole backline crackled, often sounding more like a rehearsal than a concert. Patience was required. At times they won us over - their primitive post-rock adopting a more concise and emotional form, albeit without the best moments of “Quique”. It was regular as a whole, but ultimately a let-down. MGS

Big Boi (Ray-Ban stage) Big Boi (Escenario Ray-Ban) Although “Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty” was one of the most acclaimed albums of 2010, the appearance of Big Boi on the line-up seemed risky. Could an American rap artist, an MTV hit, fill a major slot at the Fórum? In short: yes. Whilst it wasn’t rammed, the Ray-Ban stage was crowded, increasingly so as the show went on. Whether that means rap is well-received amongst Primavera Sound patrons is less certain. Regardless, it was clear that Patton’s show sat well with both old school Outkast fans and new admirers - alongside those new (but opens) to the genre. The formula consisted of combining his latest work – the epic “General Patton”, the opener of the first batch of songs from “Sir Lucious…”, or the final part combining “Tangerine” with “You Ain’t No DJ”– with a concise but exhaustive overview of the Outkast discography. The enthusiasm with which “Ms. Jackson” and the nineties nostalgia of “ATLiens” was received, said a lot. Somewhat paradoxically, the most southern-style tracks produced the moments of unanimous feeling within the audience: “Kryptonite” and “Fo Yo Sorrows” brought out the hustler in us all. Mónica Franco

Public Image Ltd. (Llevant stage)

This year post-punk - a favoured genre of the festival - delivers a couple of its big hitters. Whilst Pere Ubu instigated the arty, oblique moments of the day - John Lydon’s PiL twisted and turned like bowels poisoned by dub. Although I’d heard rumours - they’re old, they sound as good as the Sex Pistols three years ago, their guitars are ugly, they always were a bit boring, yada yada yada – I realised on my way to the Llevant stage, that I didn’t know what to expect. It’s one of those reunions that could triumph, or be a total fiasco. Happily, like Suicide, the makers of “Metal Box” were really very good – giving it their all to a largely adult-male audience. “This Is Not A Love Song”, was darker than usual and expanded to maximum effect. However, following a cut-open intro to “Albatross”, I found a yawning Bradford Cox standing next to me. Taking that as my cue, I looked at my watch and realised I had to run; it was time for Glasser. Afterwards, people told me there was still a lot left in the barrel - punk icon Lydon was great, particularly when demonstrating how to blow your nose on stage. CR

Oneohtrix Point Never (ATP stage)

Sadly, Daniel Lopation suffered from the same problems as Seefeel: a stage set for a pop sound. Cracks and split-second cuts disrupted his flow of heavy ambient – although they were short, it didn’t sit well. In spite of this, Oneohtrix Point Never was one of yesterday’s highlights. His approach to noisy backed new age is as seductive live as on his albums – creating an atmospheric layer of protection and isolation from the world - using “Returnal” as the main ingredient. He needs to come back: but it has to be in a smaller venue, one that’s as womb-like as his music. MGS

Glasser (Pitchfork stage)

We were eager to see Glasser. She started out extremely Björkian - I could see that coming - a similarity which is going to be an obstacle. I ran into John Talabot and he agreed: Cameron Mesirow’s show was not the best he’d ever seen. She didn’t come with a band, just her and her boyfriend from Van Rivers & The Subliminal Kid (Fever Ray, Massive Attack, Blonde Redhead). I’m convinced that the girl has better songs than those of her reflection in the Bat For Lashes mirror - but what came to mind when I saw her live was the sound of her fantastic album. And that’s not a good sign. “Home” withstanding, almost all the tracks sounded stripped of the tribal rhythms of “Ring”. They’re left in a strange place - as if she couldn’t produce the complex production of the album live, as if her hyper-modern approach to pop has escaped her. Whilst she acted like a princess, it felt overdone and I couldn’t help but feel annoyed. Now, let’s see what Merrill Garbus will do on Saturday. CR

Grinderman (San Miguel stage) Grinderman (Escenario San Miguel) As the first gig of my first Primavera Sound began, Nick Cave stalked back and forth across the massive San Miguel stage like a slithering, predatory male snake, with slicked back hair, dressed in a white shirt and black suit. The wizard-like Warren Ellis, sporting a beard Robbie Coltrane would be proud of, was ever the supportive strong man to Cave’s left. They thrashed just enough, kicked out with power, and during “Get It On”, Cave went down among the audience before the song drew to a stark, abrupt end. From there, tracks like audience favourite “Heathen Child” kept the set building forcefully. It was only when the slower grinding grooves took over that I began to remember all the great Bad Seeds songs I knew there wasn’t a hope of hearing tonight. Sian Haestier

The Walkmen (Pitchfork stage)

Aside from Caribou’s majestic offering, this was my favourite gig of Thursday night. It was tremendous proof of The Walkmen’s success. They are huge - one of those bands that never end - and they’re living their finest hour now. They sound brilliant: very stylised and a far cry from that last time I saw them (in Benicàssim, playing R.E.M. songs). Little by little, they’ve become less violent - whilst maintaining their gallantry. They’ve focused and distilled - ingesting genres like exotica - to impressive and elegant effect. It’s evident in both their old hits - supreme performances of “Angela Surf City” and “Juveniles” for example – and in the glorious new tracks they played. From the outset the atmosphere was jovial, with generous applause from the Pitchfork crowd and here’s why: their silver-plated rock, though puzzling and slippery, is drenched in the enthusiasm of Hamilton Leithauser. He looked happy and secure in his beige suit, like a frontman from a bygone age (Rod Stewart, suggested someone standing next to me). He thanked us for choosing them over Nick Cave (who was simultaneously playing another stage) – but no-one seemed to miss him. “What do you do around here when there’s no festival?” he asked: we’re missing you, Hamilton, missing you. CR

Glenn Branca (ATP stage)

Sitting high up in the lovely amphitheatre of the ATP stage, for a satisfyingly discordant orchestra of six conducted by Glen Branca (Thurston Moore’s former guitar teacher), the insistent riffs recalled Fugazi at their most laconic and introspective, or Sonic Youth in the mid 90s. With his back to us, hips swaying, Glen plucked minimalist performances from his band which increased in speed and heightened in pitch and pace as the set went on, like “Glee” if ATP had commissioned the show. Like us, more of the crowd drifted over from Grinderman's set for the far superior, more lucid sound system of the ATP stage. Accessible because of what we know, and what we've grown up with, this was an important piece of programming and a box ticked for the Primavera organisation, contextualising the bands we love, and much of the line up that appeared tonight and will do over the rest of the weekend. A few (back to us) rock star moves later, and the avant garde made far more sense than the rest of the world. SH

Interpol (Llevant stage)

As the festival progressed, better-dressed bands graced our stage. First The Walkmen in their suits and ties - next Interpol, typically dressed in their rigorous eighties black. Playing a “festival-like” set, they focused on their most popular work - charming their fans from the get-go (“Say Hello To The Angels” came very early, a winning card that secured the game). The sound was good - adequate for their goth-infused post-punk. Although they’re a bit dramatic, we were touched for a few minutes. MGS

Das Racist (Pitchfork stage)

The parallels drawn with the Beastie Boys are unavoidable of course, and not only because of the fact the group comprises mainly of three rappers. And like the beloved Beasties, Das Racist are unabashed boys’ boys, though there was a strong sense of female, and more general, empowerment, at their show. It’s full of bravado, yes, but also embodies cunning symmetries, the knee-kwibbling basses and elements of dancehall and RnB comp working alongside a cappella covers and onstage yogic postures. It was great to hear the beats and move, but a tragic shame not to hear the rhymes and freestyling more over the PA. Their music tonight was a defiant party, epic but tiny, like playing air guitar on a wireless microphone, and it really reminded me of UK hip hop gigs I used to go to in Manchester in the mid 2000s, because they’re trying to do something, quite earnestly and honestly, actually. Fingers in the air, facing both back and front in a “V” sign. SH

Suicide performing First LP (Ray-Ban stage)

A gig which sees one of your favourite records revisited by a couple of old geezers – particularly old geezers who’ve proved to be a handful in the past - could be unforgettable or terrible. Luckily: Suicide was unforgettable. Their concert was tough - like a purged My Bloody Valentine, or one of those doom bands whom none of your friends like. They were competing with Interpol and Caribou – provoking a mass exodus from the ill-prepared - but they shut everybody who remained up. Alan Vega emerged dressed in a black jacket and fire cap - stalking the stage and lighting cigarettes. He’s a scary man: it gave me the creeps to hear his old lips whisper “Cherie”. Martin Rev played the synths with his fists, while images of skulls were projected behind him. Favouring the radical and bloody, they abandoned their dreamy side. It was Suicide naked. “Rocket U.S.A.” sounded unrecognisable whilst “Frankie Teardrop” was less virulent than the original. Whilst these decisions sat well in the set, I missed the absence of “I Remember”. The crowd asked for more pain and were rewarded with an encore of poisoned candy: “Keep Your Dreams”. An honourable mention for the camera director must also be give - his images of the entranced audience said it all. CR

Salem (ATP stage)

It was a good opportunity to see Salem - the curiosity about how they would execute “King Night” live was palpable, in the crowd at the ATP stage. The preparations for the set delayed the gig a little – by the time the Michigan trio arrived, some of the more intoxicated fans of darkness were pulling their hair out. I anticipated Salem’s live show would be an atmospheric affair: cloaked in darkness and backed by heavy, chest vibrating beats. What a surprise it was then, when Jack Donoghue took the microphone - an MC high on codeine. The volume was disappointingly low to begin with (perhaps a consequence of Heather’s pregnancy?), but it rose as the gig progressed. Heather also took to the mic at times, although her voice was buried deep in layers of sustained notes. The crowd looked on –half astonished, half with a lost gaze– as the three emerged from a cloud of artificial smoke. But just as everything started to roll - in part thanks to a version of “Better Off Alone” with Holland on the microphone, a version very similar to the one Lonewolf did a few years ago - the trio walked off stage as if nothing had happened. As puzzling as a witches story – but I imagine that’s the point, if you are looking for one. MF

Gold Panda (Pitchfork stage)

Higher up physically than I last saw him, three months ago at East London’s new big venue XOYO, I have the feeling that Gold Panda played something of a crowing set at Primavera this year. Rhythms superseded to percussion and back again, as the raving took over, and a neat indie hipster disco propelled the night into fifth gear. Massively recalling Boards of Canada live (circa the full force of their hypnotic live shows of almost a decade ago), Gold Panda showed his glitchy, twinkling electro side to the audience, adding in surprising offbeat drops. The cut up sections can still be a bit Mr Scruff for my liking, but he definitely gave us the best sounds I’ve heard thus far at the festival, and if he’s not on a mountain top, then he is at least on a trajectory towards one. SH

The Flaming Lips (San Miguel stage) The Flaming Lips There are two kinds of concerts by The Flaming Lips: the ones that go well and the ones that don’t. In the first version, they excel as the most entertaining live band in the world. In the second version, they come pretty darn close. Yesterday, we had a mix of the two. Yes there were balloons - and the feeling of a birthday celebration – but it was off set with heavier material. There was the sensation of wanting to be a miniature Pink Floyd – but there was also a transportable bubble (Peter Gabriel-style) with Wayne Coyne inside. In short: they transmitted happiness, but also proved themselves to be a symphonic rock band, albeit with iffy tics. MGS

El Guincho (Llevant stage)

For yours truly, El Guincho’s gig was one of the biggest surprises of the night. The last time I saw them, Pablo Díaz-Reixa was yet to translate the energy of his music to a live setting – furthermore, he was unable to present the differing styles of “Alegranza” and “Pop Negro” without dividing the audience. However last night, El Guincho sounded convincing: at times it felt like a UK funky set on a London pirate radio station. He appeared on stage in the company of four girls - armed with hula hoops - and two backing singers. He added kick drums and drum machines to the studio versions, resulting in the euphoria normally confined to a club. The first two minutes of the gig - with “Kalise” galloping to its climax - were enough to drive the audience into a frenzy of dance. The intensity never dropped, not even in the more relaxed tracks such as “ Pop Negro”. “Guetto Fácil” became a clash of two-step and Latin folklore, whist “Soca Del Eclipse” shined like an Addison Groove remix. The set closed with “ Antillas” - expanded with repeated climaxes - hands in the air, it was pure madness. MF

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