Spain | 09 June 2010
Denise Tench headed to Spain's Primavera Sound to review the Friday of the festival. Here's how she got on...
As March, the deadline for a summer festival ticket decision, came around this year, I'd already settled on the safe homegrown option of two days at Oxford-based Truck, which is reliable for digging out obscure gems of bands, getting close to the stage without a good lung-crushing and having as good a time as you would at a major festival, only on a more manageable scale. Although the line-up jigsaw is not usually completed until late in the summer, the prospect of Mew dominating the bill was good enough for me.
However, shortly afterwards I began to hear some seriously tempting talk blowing in from the continent in the form of Primavera Sound: Pixies, Spoon… Wilco. After not a lot of thinking and some major apologies to my bank balance, I decided that the opportunity of seeing the latter band for the first time against the backdrop of a Barcelona waterfront was irresistible.
The late-ish booking meant the only reasonably priced flights were in and out of Girona Airport - a good hour and a half coach trip from Barcelona. However, Primavera Sound was just too good to ignore in 2010 and in the popular capital city a decent-quality bed can be dug out for less than £20 a night. Those who equate a festival on foreign shores with hefty financial consequences need not blindly slap down €180 (£150) for a weekend ticket. Choosing just one day that most appeals is more affordable at €75 (£60) and lends a helping hand to those with limited holiday allowance.
So, after following a brilliant, if not unpatriotic, channel-hopping instinct, here I am at Primavera Sound 2010. And if I'm not mistaken, I just saw Joaquin Phoenix. Or maybe not.
Regrettably, I miss ex-Mazzy Star chanteuse Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions due to a packed Metro and a much-needed rest adjusting to the draining heat. In a double bummer, the necessity to queue for a wristband before being allowed into the Rockdelux Auditorium also makes me miss Low performing 'The Great Destroyer'. So far, not so good. However, with the bag-checking and human-tagging out of the way, the rallying sounds of the New Pornographers on the dominating San Miguel stage makes it impossible to stay disappointed for long.
Another admin essential worth noting for those who plan to drink is to stock up on alcohol tokens early in the day. Yes, you heard right: tokens. These easy-to-lose, flimsy bits of paper are presumably designed to abolish queues at the festival's many bars. And the verdict is, they work and will save you a lot of fumbling, defeat the language barriers and banish mistaken orders at the bar. San Miguel is €4 a pint, while a shot of Jaeger comes in at €2. Spirits and mixers, as ever, are a slightly more complicated and expensive affair.
At the furthest end of the festival site, although not too far a walk, from the main thoroughfare, the Vice stage plays host to Thee Oh Sees, a name lately much-whispered on the UK's gig-going circuit. Watching the band is well worth braving the wrath of the full-on sun, as the punk-esque outfit are worthy of the positive rumours. Despite their slightly clichéd nerdy-chic, skinny jeans look, this band are heavyweights when it comes to working their way around instruments. Aggressive strums, high-pitched vocals and their off-the-cuff sound gains Thee Oh Sees a big chunk of crowd.
Back at the main drag, the urge to explore the festival site takes hold against the bubbly piano riffs of Spoon's 'The Way We Get By' and their well-received, energetic afternoon set. As attendees thicken from a trickle to a torrent, the roofed food court, which has a lot more to offer than Britain's obligatory grey slab of beef in a half-frozen bun, somehow never seems to be too overwhelmed. Pizza slices go for a reasonable €4, a box of Thai noodles for around €7 and other interesting bits, such as samosas, kebabs and Mexican food are there for the taking. However, it is virtually impossible to resist the brand new concept in on-the-move dining presented at Primavera Sound this year - the almighty pizza cone. Didn't think of that, did you, Delia?
Up on Ray Ban stage next are US siblings CocoRosie, a strategically ambient choice for the sunset slot. Bathed in purple lights, the band puts in a good hour and a half, equipped with billowing sleeves and mind-bending big screen graphics, ensuring that those who don't do drugs have some natural hallucinations to work with. CocoRosie's ethereal stretch also presents the chance to relax on the handy stone steps opposite the panoramic stage before the headliners are due to kick in.
Energy levels restored, a quick hop over to the San Miguel Stage presents Wilco, with a shaggy-haired Jeff Tweedy obviously thriving on the overwhelming respect afforded him from the ground. Despite a few technical hitches, the band's seduction skills are on top form as they break into tracks from 2007's 'Sky Blue Sky' - 'Impossible Germany, Unlikely Japan', 'Walken', etc. Staple but well-played numbers 'Handshake Drugs' and 'Jesus etc.' announce that Wilco's crowd-pleasing abilities are still intact.
Next up, a dance-inducingly long wait for a plastic toilet, a shorter and happier pause for a beer, a ponder over another pizza cone, then a date with epic heroes Pixies. The band warm up with tame tracks 'Wave of Mutilation' and 'Monkey Gone to Heaven' before gathering pace towards rowdier favourites 'Debaser' and 'Here Comes Your Man'. Their multi-national audience jump, scream and happily swig beer to stunning renditions of surefire classics, such as 'Letter to Memphis' and, in a nod to their hosts, Come On Pilgrim songs 'Isla de Encanta' and 'Vamos'. Yep, Pixies may be physically altered since their early-90s zenith, but the all-important end product has not been diluted by time. Frank Black's androgynous screams, Kim Deal's instantly recognisable basslines and the so-oddball-that-they-are-cool vibe of the band will always find a home among even the most blasé of new generations and listeners.
Except, that is, those inconsiderate buggers who elbow their way to the front only to spend the set yapping away, which has happened far too much tonight, unfortunately. These people are firmly convinced that the rest of us paid £60 to come and hear them rattle. Yeah, of course we did. It's a privilege.
The high that the Pixies leave the crowd on would normally spell the end of the night in old Blighty, but here in Spain the main stage's 2:30am finish is only the beginning. Although Black Math Horseman occupy the ATP stage and the Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 are set to rip it up on Ray Ban, 99% of the crowd heads to the Vice stage where Yeasayer are set to perform. It's so packed that the best place to get a glimpse of the band is from a bridge overlooking the pen of shoulder-to-shoulder partygoers. At this point the only thing to do is dance away indiscriminately at the impressively long set, including the tracks everyone really wants to hear – ‘Ambling Alp’ and ‘O.N.E’ - which prop the party up for as long as humanly possible.
Finally, the folks who paid €20 for access to the Pitchfork stage's night session, featuring Diplo, Major Laser and Cold Cave, start to pile in as the site transforms itself from a festival into an open-air club.
Primavera's casualties have a good few choices: wander around until kicking-out time, crack out the Jaeger shots and join the movers, collapse on the grass or stand outside in the bus/taxi queues. It's worth noting that the Metro will be long closed by this point. Whatever they do, proud attendees will no doubt brandish their wristbands for days to come, boasting about how they matched the formidable pace of one of Europe's most anticipated, respected, well-laid-out and musically varied summer festivals.
And, of course, they can always name-drop the pizza cone.
By Denise Tench.
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