football to return behind closed doors?
(Credit: Josh Rocklage)

Primavera Sound 2014

We have returned from Primavera Sound 2014 a bloated and broken cervaza sponge filled with awesome music and the finest calamares the fair city of Barcelona has to offer, suffice to say this year’s festival was a roaring success.

This year’s festival had all the usual nuances, the amazing site which is adorned with soaves of concrete playground (plus an actual playground), great food, a beautiful backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea and of course the vast abundance of incredible artists and performers. But first let’s take a look at the festival’s incredible host city; Barcelona.

Barcelona is many things, it is a cultural hub filled with incredible museums historic architecture and awe-inspiring diversity. It is a city of passionate food, seriously some of the best food we’ve had the pleasure inhaling – it had to be, Tapas hands are quick hands. We stayed just off Las Ramblas, which if you have never been is like Oxford Street on speed but with more knives and prostitutes, the party never stopped. It was a 24 hour fiesta filled with every vice humanly possible and all within easy touching distance as the streets were filled with infamous ‘Cervaza Men’.

These are guys who roam the streets and beaches offering beers at every queue, line or cash machine to refresh your weary legs and cloud you greedy head. Every night there was a plethora of poison on show “Cervaza, Coke, Smack, Girls, MD, Weed!” they shout along the roads like a perverted scene from Oliver! each man pedalling his own special mix. Sometimes after the aforementioned was offered to you a wry smile would appear across their face an eyebrow would raise and the infamous words of “… something else?” would be uttered with absolute courtesy, the mind boggles to think what that something else might be.

In spite of this smorgasbord of hedonism on offer, the real reason we travelled across the continent was for the music. The first does of which came in the form of Pond, a band from Australia who drip pysche stylings over classic rock riffs and rhymes. Their beefed up sound might smack of ACDC but there was nothing contrived on this performance as Pond tore across the Pitchfork stage with abandon and with the notes of ‘Xanman’ still ringing in our ears trying to ignore the threatening sky and made our way to California.

Well, not quite California but a group of extremely successful Cali girls by the name of Warpaint. Their set was full of sultry, shuffling sounds that creep behind it’s own atmospheric nuances, slowly building to crescendoing vocals and in turn leaving the audience swaying and bobbing like a medicated horse with black nail varnish. All of this was perfectly backdropped by the grey sky which consistently threatened the gravel field we found ourselves on.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMkqbY0oGKQ”]

Next on the Sony stage came one of the biggest surprises of the festival in the form of St. Vincent. An act which after her recent collaboration with David Byrne we’d deemed a poser rather than performer, oh how wrong can you be. Young Annie Clark splashed sound across the stage like a Jackson Pollock painting but with more guitar. Her efforts on this stage left the crowd craving to hear more of her as well as watch her charismatic performances which dabble with style of Debbie Harry with the ferocity of Patti Smith.

After a brief recovery we made our way to the royal rock double-header in the form of Queens Of The Stone Age, followed by those Canadian genre swappers Arcade Fire. QOTSA started this duel with a rip-roaring effort, doing their usual thing of slamming guitars and generally not giving a fuck. After sending the Spanish masses in to a moshing frenzy there was no time for a siesta as soon after the last demanding notes rang from the Heineken stage, Arcade Fire began walking on to the opposite Sony stage. With a quick turn in the gravel and puke that only Primavera provides we all focused our attention on the Montreal outfit, but sadly we were to be left relatively disappointed. Of course, as you would expect Arcade Fire were tighter than a nun’s purse, interacted with the crowd and they played every hit they had. This though was the problem, they played with a coldness that screamed professional rather than passion and left us bemoaning the fact we’d missed the illustrious Shellac.

The disappointment didn’t last long, we decided to try our hand with an act we have all heard a lot about but we have never had the pleasure of seeing. What a pleasure it was, Disclosure sauntered on to the Heineken stage with the swagger that recent years of success can give you. But luckily, they’re not all talk and by coupling some simplistically stylish visuals – although somewhat aided by the toxicity of the crowd – with an incredible energy they made hits like ‘White Noise’ stand out as festival anthems.

When our whirring brains and aching legs finally calmed down it was time for a crowd favourite at arguably the stand-out stage of the festival. The Ray Ban stage, which is built like a concrete auditorium, hosted Metronomy and their own brand of indie-electro-pop. They propelled the crowd into a loved up, hugging conglomerate of celestial beings, moving the festival in to a state of 60’s doo-wop euphoria by way of East London. Their effortless performance and classy charm left us smiling from ear to ear while our feet refused to stop dancing, the band encapsulated a feeling of absolute well-being and ended the first night of the festival with a beautiful bang.

Friday’s acts continued where Thursday left off with a big band providing a bigger sound, this day’s heroes though came from California and those three Fleetwood Mac loving sisters; Haim. Whilst again being threatened by thundery skies the trio made sure that the sun was shining across the crowd’s face with hit after hit played not only with precision but passion. This pop-tastic melody was often interspersed with raging drums and contorting gurning faces as the girls flexed their rock and roll muscles whilst maintaining a clear connection with the crowd, it proved to be a near perfect performance from a band with so much expectation on their shoulders and cynics at their feet ready for the fall.

[youtube_sc url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ljg6g7BAdQo”]

After the unexpected enjoyment of the previous nights foray into the urban scene we decided to test our luck and see if we could find another electro gem. The mine we began search for the diamond we desired was located at the Pitchfork stage and the desired act was a girl by the name of FKA Twigs. If you don’t know FKA Twigs there is really only one thing you need to know about her and that is: bass and a fuck-load of it. Her act was impressive and her vocals were at times majestic but the biggest thing about the set were the vibrations that continually rattled my brain to the point of aneurysm and left me feeling dazed, confused but extremely satisfied.

After this rattling hour we decided to take it a little bit easy, but with which favourite? War on Drugs and the incredible Pixies clashed sets, but with one eye on the future and the prospect of seeing a potential great we made my way to War On Drugs in the search of some soul repairing vibes. Sadly it felt as if the band had also wanted to see the Pixies as their slacker inspired classic rock was a quaint yet pallid affair, which left me cursing the decision to believe in the future, perhaps the past is the best? War On Drugs certainly think so, as their love affair with ‘The Boss’ was all too apparent and left them looking like a cover band than artists of their own merit.

Luckily only a short walk away one American band were proving that retro-stylings can still sound fresh. The Growlers creeped on to the stage with an unassuming toast to the crowd and then launched their boards in to the surf rock sound they are so akin to. This smiling and happy-go-lucky vibe lifted whatever brooding atmosphere there was and turned the crowd in to a beer-swilling, shuffling mess. A mess of smiling faces and contented ears and with it they become one of the best acts of the festival, with complete ease and utter joyful simplicity. After which, we retired our bruised feet and aching conscience to the comfort of the Barcelona beach bed and spent the rest of the night sipping mojitos by sunrise – seriously hard work, as you might imagine.

Saturday’s line up proved a mouthwatering prospect all started with one of this year’s stand out artists in the form of a meek and mild girl from Melbourne by the name of Courtney Barnett. Barnett has long been a favourite of the Far Out office and she didn’t disappoint on a sun-drenched Saturday. Pulling up to the mic with the shuffling expression of a scolded teen she proceeded to pump out tune after tune of her own brand of electric fuzz folk, something which felt so natural after the digitally enhanced debauchery of the previous night. A veracity of sound which permeated the audience’s air and left them drinking in every sound she squawked from her gilded guitar.

With ending of such a heartfelt set we felt compelled to make our way to see another female group, this time it was the turn of the Dum Dum Girls to woo and audience filled with an anticipation for destruction. Unfortunately their brand of 90’s Grrl Rock fell on deaf ears and left a baying crowd, welll, dumb. They concentrated far too much on the aesthetics of the band rather than the energy of the performance which in comparison to some of the other acts on show was as vibrant as the squid on a fishmonger’s chopping board, but at least they cut a nice silhouette, we guess.

During the disappoint of the Dum Dum Girls the decision was made to re-visit Far Out’s secret urban side and retreated to the back of the state in anticipation of Earl Sweatshirt. Obviously we where fairly unaware of the 19-year-old Gagsta rap artists from Compton was all about but after his set Barcelona nor we were left in any doubt as to his potential. Bubbling with vitriolic lyrics and a tenacity that screamed broken home his brand of bassy rap left us throwing shapes like an extra from 8-Mile and admittedly, probably as authentic. After his DJ Dakota set up the crowd with a mix of dub laden beats Earl Sweatshirt then proceeded to demolish every single one of us with quick-witted lines and explicit charisma. Our favourite line, which he demanded was sung back to him, read like a Wordsworth remark “I’MA FUCK THE FRECKLES OFF YOUR FACE, BITCH!” – It was beautiful.

After failing miserably to sneak into the ticketed Buzzcocks set and with the bouncing rhymes of Sweatshirt still ringing around the skull off we wandered to make our way to see one of the US’ biggest stars of the moment in Kendrick Lamar. With a little chemical persuasion we found ourself bobbing and weaving to some the star’s biggest anthems and were left dazed by the hazy smoke which bellowed from the adoring crowd. Sadly, after the hits had been hit the rest of the set fell flat and was screaming for a lift right up until the anti-climax of it’s ending. We weren’t downhearted as another old-time favourite was about to enter the stage.

Foals strode on to stage with an air of confidence in their art and proceeded to pounce on what life the crowd had and kill it, flat dead. Being such a fan of the band we weren’t anticipating the joyous highs of first album tracks like ‘Cassius’ being mixed with the more soundscaping songs like ‘Spanish Sahara’. Unfortunately though, Yannis and his band went on to mellow every song they had with the same speed that MIchael Jackson must’ve felt before his death. Even the fast paced dancing numbers were melted down to toxic mercury which although probably satisfied the tranquillised and unconscious did nothing to entertain a crowd in the heat of the last night of the festival.

Luckily though, there was one band who rode in to save the day. That band was Black Lips. With the realisation of the downturning Foals set a quick dash across the site to devour a performance of unrivalled energy and punk ethics was well worth it. Black Lips quickly sensed the atmosphere of the crowd and went on to not only slam out hit after hit but they did so with an unhinged joy the audience so desperately craved as they look to destroy the festival as well as their livers. As ‘Bad Kids’ turned the masses into a dancing bubbling soup of drunken debauchery and the sun threatened to rise on the holiest of days the realisation that this is what festival sets should be set in, not a platform to develop your artistic intent but a stage with which to connect with your fans on an unprecedented scale, a chance to create a feeling of unity amongst a crowd of strangers.

When the sun did eventually rise, as it often does, Primavera Sound 2014 came to an end with the kind of emphatic finale it deserves. A festival which is built in the cultural mecca of Barcelona, surrounded by the highs and lows of society and filled with the good, the bad and the ugly of performances and all for one moment of absolute perfection, whatever that may be.

At this point we’re supposed to say what we may have learnt from ‘the festival experience’ but in truth Primavera Sound 2014 has taught Far Out Magazine nothing except you’ll be seeing us next year, Primavera Sound 2015.

 

Jack Whatley

 

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