There is something about putting on a festival in Barcelona around the end of May that sounds like a good idea, isn’t there? You’re thinking sun, beaches, and one of the most famous cities in the world.
So I wake up (way too early), leave the house (a tad too late), and get on a train (lets just say that one didn’t run on time either); and all of that with rain pouring down. But, I’m going to Barcelona, so bye bye little wet country of mine and hello Primavera Sound!
The Wednesday isn’t part of the “real” festival, which runs from Thursday to Saturday. So I suppose we could’ve said, You know what, we’ll skip the whole thing. Music lovers ey, we don’t do that. So we get soaking wet instead.
Not before a scanner reads our ticket as “invalid”, by the way, and so we queue up with the rest of the alleged criminals. Though the girl with the scanner is really nice about it and says “you need to go over there, they will help”, reading the Spanish equivalent of “invalid ticket” does scare the heck out of you.
This is the time that it starts to rain, by the way.
The girl is right though, they are indeed there to help, and all are indeed really nice about it. And when we get our wristbands, the downpour begins. So we run out of the queue-- one of us was smart enough to bring a poncho and one wasn’t (guess who...)-- and we get acquainted with the coat room rather well, though not for any purpose they had ever imagined it would be used for.
By this time the organization is forced to push back everything about 30 minutes, because the rain is going all out. Stromae, the first act of the day, has to start a bit later, but at least he’s granted the only dry set of the night. This young man from Belgium, performing with backing band who are all dressed in the same attire, sings in French, and delivers an eclectic brand of electronic stadium music with big bass beats and the like. Sometimes he slows it down, sometimes he goes into straightforward party mode, and sometimes he throws in some more dubstep inspired sounds.
The variety is there, though the music is not the main appeal here. In my country Stromae already plays the big stadiums, and this live set sounds like it, with not much left in terms of nuance. However, one cannot help but be mesmerized by the young man himself, 29-year-old Paul van Haver. This wiry lad leaves it all out there, from dramatic looks to modern (and classical) dance moves, to sometimes just bouncing around to get the crowd fired up: he is a marvel to look at. He is always worth paying attention to, if not for those dance moves, then surely for just his charismatic presence. Some of the songs do have heart and are fabulously theatrical (or made theatrical by van Haver), and even if it’s not really your cup of tea overall, it’s the performance that makes the visit more than worthwhile.
Now that Stromae is over, the weather Gods have, in their infinite wisdom, decided to make some rain again. So we move over to get our bodies heated up a bit with some hot cocoa, skipping Sky Ferreira, and we go back to the ATP stage by the time Holy Ghost! are ready to play live. Last year they released the magnificent Dynamics, and it seems they haven’t only improved their studio output either. When I saw them a couple of years ago, when they were still pretty “green” in terms of being Holy Ghost!, they sounded a bit thin, a bit tepid. Not so much this time.
The boys really have stepped up their live performance, and they’ve got the tunes to match as well, making it a dance-a-thon for anyone who is interested (and the Americans next to me sure are). ‘Dumb Disco Ideas’ is the ultimate track to throw in there, as it is probably the thing most resembling an all-out dancefloor filler. However, the older work has been spruced up a bit as well, and they seem to now know how to play these live, making them not just cardboard copies of the album versions. Lots of cheerful faces amongst those that have persevered, because during this set it only stops raining for a brief moment.
There is one lucky bit about being in Barcelona though, and that is that when the evening is done and you’re all soaking wet, if you have at least spent a couple of pennies, you return to somewhere dry, indoors, with a mattress, and a shower to warm you up again. Sun and beach fun it ain’t, but it’s not a soggy tent either.