Since there aren’t any Swedish vowels on this keyboard I’ll just do this in English, otherwise I would have to tell you about “Navel”.
The festival started with a free gig for all at Arc de Triomf. It’s a very nice idea to have free gigs since a lot of the young in Barcelona can’t afford coming to the festival any more. When I was here for the first time, in 2006, Swedes were so rare that when I ran into José González he thought I was in one of the other Swedish bands, I’m from Barcelona. These days, 40% of the festival-goers are from abroad and you can hear Swedish everywhere.
The first act was Jeremy Jay at the packed park, he went by without striking any chords with me, after that The Wedding Present played their beautiful album Seamonsters, it was alright, but pretty much just another reunion show. The Walkmen were ok, but they seem to have had their hay day. Black Lips, who closed the park are always fun, but I prefer them on album. We took a taxi but still had to queue for an hour or so to get into the “secret gig” at Apolo with very good Chairlift, so-so Beach Fossils and boring Kindness.
Thursday means the first day at the beautiful Parc del Forum, last year it started with a wonderful gig with Spanish postrockers Toundra, it’s the best slot for Spanish bands since nothing else is playing. This year it was an electronic duo called Pegasvs, it was decent, but an hour later another Spanish band, Unicornibot, played the stage right next to it, they had tinfoil around their heads and played wonderfully bizarre music that made me think about Lightning Bolt, but they had a full band, this year’s Toundra, for sure! I went over to the stage right next to it, to check out one of the most hyped bands at the moment, Purity Ring, who were a girl in an old-school dress and a guy playing these strange lights, it was a strange but rather beautiful thing, I liked it, but went back to see another dose of Unicornibot and then onto boring Baxter Dury, whom I left to burn away in the sun. Way over at the Mini stage Friends were playing. No, no, not the Bert Karlsson bullshit, this was group of friends from Brooklyn who played a very nice ESG-influenced indie-disco, the singer Samantha Urbani sat on a security guard’s shoulders and sang a song moving around the audience. Fun with friends. After that the boring Danish kids in Iceage performed, I couldn’t really care less. I was mostly just waiting for one of my highlights, Grimes, who were to perform at the same Pitchfork stage. She had some sound problems but we had had just the right amount of beer to get to dancing. My friend Éric took the lead and took us up front and he was waving his flag in support of the Montréal protests, the flag wandered to the hands of Grimes’s brother who were dancing on stage with some other friends, it was a lot of fun.
When I saw this year’s lineup I was intrigued to see Death Cab for Cutie again, it’s been eight years since I saw them last, but then I made a podcast where Lars recommended White Denim, this rock trio from Texas. I ended up choosing them over Death Cab, who’s last album is quite dull anyways. The Texans had an extra guitarist along and the four of them jammed forever, it was great to see, really marvellous musicians! Then I saw the last song by Mazzy Star which was a lot louder than I thought it would be. Good stuff, then onto well-known and well-seen Wilco, who I was about to leave for Thee Oh Sees, but then Jesus Etc came on. You just can’t go then… The night continued with a dash of nicely done hardcore from Refused, a little of boring The XX, then some desert rock from lovely Bombino, dull rap from A$AP Rocky, a lovely set from Spiritualized with it’s mix of shoe-gaze and gospel. Then we closed the night with a little dance with Spanish electro-man John Talabot.
We were early to get our hands on Jeff Mangum tickets and hung out in Auditori with Nick Garrie doing his nice singer-songwriter album The Nightmare of J.B. Stanislas. I almost fell asleep. I kinda tried to be honest. Laura Marling was more interesting and “Alas I cannot swim” gave me goose-bumps. After the gig the queues for Jeff Mangum were huge and I got really annoyed with people jumping it. After a while I had to realize this isn’t Sweden and the world (Sweden included) is becoming a really terribly egoistic place. Jeff Mangum was all by himself, just a few guitars, a chair and a mic. Todos. With this he performed most of his masterpiece with Neutral Milk Hotel, In an Aeroplane over the Sea. More goosebumps! Best grade you can get! After that there was one of the biggest clashes; I Break Horses and Lower Dens. I started with the Swedes, they were good but I went over to Lower Dens and came in the middle of the lovely “Brains” and thoroughly enjoy them. Then a little African Cubanese music with Afrocubism, loads of guys on stage. A nice rhythmic detour from the indie scene. Then straight into straight rock with The War on Drugs. It was very straight, not gay at all. The Cure were kinda boring, but we might not have giving them our ears’s full attention. We mostly attended our mouths with beer in the VIP section. The beer weren’t free anymore and I will probably not buy the VIP next year since the first “normal” tickets go for a lot less and I prefer to drink my beer where I can see the bands. I left a while in to go see Sleigh Bells who I really enjoyed, I was a bit intrigued to see if there was gonna be a live insane drummer or not, it was just a bunch of Marshall stacks instead but I loved it anyways, danced like a mad man. Went over to the clashing Dirty Three, had a beer and I totally loved the brilliantly alarm that was Some Summers They Drop Like Flies which closed their set. A friend had told me that I had to see M83, who I think has a good song here and there but live was kinda dull so I left after a few songs. Codeine were a lot better, sounded like Slint. Good stuff. SBTRKT were boring and I fell asleep to The Men. When I woke up Éric had texted me four times and he had been kicked out because of the flag, you see it’s a red square without any text so naturally people here in Spain won’t know that it represents a solidarity to the kids in Quebec, I can totally see it rings differently here. But he got in again when they found my booking in the computer. I’m glad he could come in and enjoy this festival’s best gig; The Rapture, they were totally amazing, I really love the bass player and highlights included “House of Jealous Lovers” and the track that stood out from last year’s album In the Grace of your love; “How deep is your love?” To answer that question is easy; very.
We hung out in the park for Dirty Beaches, who Éric did an interview with. It was a little slow and minimal, but hanging out in a park is always nice. I met a girl I made friends with when I gave her my Sufjan Stevens ticket to last year’s amazing gig in the Auditori. A little more sedative Nick Garrie again and some nice rock tunes from Obits. Bleached were the shittiest band I’ve seen in quite some time. Straight outta their mother’s basement where they spent an hour or two.
We went over to the Forum area and had the same kebab as the day before, we’re Swedish after all. Being Swedish I went to see Jeff Mangum play another, different, set. This time with more b-sides and rarities than before. Before that I passed by the dull Sharon van Etten and the equally boring Tall Firs. After Mangum I checked out Buffy Sainte-Marie, the indian singer most well-known for the classic track “Universal Soldier”. Her new approach was a lot more rock, but when she did her stuff from the sixties it was a lot more satisfying. All in all quite boring, though. Saw The Olivia Tremor Control perform “Jumping Fences” and then went over to Mini where almost everyone seemed to be watching Beach House. They’ve gotten too big, I liked them a lot on smaller stages and you know what you’re going to get so I went over to another gig where you know what you’re going to get; Shellac.
Their annual gig seems to always clash with something, I saw most of it where they performed two new tracks and it was the usual bliss that Steve Albini, Todd Trainer and Bob Weston gives us. When they did “The End of Radio” I jumped the fence and ran over to Chromatics and saw them do their last three songs. It was insanely packed. For the first time in Primavera history (at Parc del Forum at least) they sold out, 42 000 people were around this day, normally it’s around 30 000. Chromatics were good and closed their set with “Into the Black”, their beautiful cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My”. I finally understood where the VIP section at Mini was and I felt a bit awkward having a secluded area right by the stage. Yo La Tengo started a bit boring but came to and did great versions of “Mr Tough”, “Autumn Sweater” and the wonderful noise of “Pass The Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”. The last went on for more than the normal 11 minutes I believe. Just lovely noise. On the way back I saw some of the old dudes doing the punk that is The Pop Group. So-so. Had two chocolate pancakes and hung out in the food court, checked out boring Neon Indian and bought a poster from a nice German before heading back.
Milk Music were a rocky bunch that didn’t catch my ears at all, Zacharias filmed the gig, though, so I guess he liked it. Girls Names were pretty nice and I liked the twee that is Veronica Falls. Then we wrestled in the park and I won over Zacharias in a sprint. Good park fun. We continued with orange fights instead of the packed gigs at Arc de Triumf. Finally there was truce and we saw a little of boring Yann Tiersen and the Morrissey-esque Richard Hawley. Took a perfect break for the rain with sangria. I still suffer from that, or maybe it’s the six days drinking that I’m suffering from. All in all, this was the less interesting Primavera I’ve been to, especially Saturday was quite uninteresting, I want to be blown away a few times more. Better luck next year.