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Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 3

  • Published in Live

The sun is still blistering as Dam-Funk brings in da funk, brings in da noise. There’s a two tier set-up, one with the decks, another one with a small synth and a set of mics, and he alternately plays some records and plays some music. A constant there, they all are funky as heck, some on the disco side, others going all out house music. So we get the Detroit, the Chicago, the NY (Dam-Funk helpfully guides us through all that), and he’s sure not to forget to honour the late Prince, doing a couple of his songs.

So, in the sweltering heat, we are dancing. It’s real disco and real house, so it might be too slow for some who like dance music, but it’s my sweet spot, and evidently that of the people behind me as well. So at the front the people are swinging, singing, movin’ and grooving to the house beats and the disco divas. And to Dam-Funk, who, when he takes the reins, shows us the prowess of his own vocals, and who brings the wobbly with his synthesizer as well. A little bit of that Warehouse and Studio 54 in bright sunlight, but in the end, it’s the music that makes the dancing, and this set/show certainly delivers right there.

On that very same Pitchfork stage, just a little bit later, it’s Jenny Hval who does right what Holly Herndon, in my opinion, didn’t succeed at. Yes, it’s experimental, and it is perhaps closer to performance art than it is to music, until you hear the singing and the music, and then it’s a combination between both that downright works. She and her two companions all don wigs with long, blonde hair, and throughout the show they cut in it, use some of it as pubic hair, and rub it all over their arms before finally, for the last two songs, discarding them completely to unveil, for the first time, Hval without mask. Just to, for the last song, quickly throw on a cape for some dancing in unison with one of her partners on stage.

It’s not only that, clearly, she has something to say and, clearly, she isn’t afraid to get in there and get messy in order to convey her message. It’s also that her voice is absolutely beautiful, both in spoken word and singing, and that near the end she even goes for all out party with a nice, catchy beat and the aforementioned prolonged dance routine. And, when she takes off the grotesque mask that she’s been wearing all day, what she unveils is the beauty of womanhood underneath. Which, surely, can be decoded as some sort of symbolism in a performance that’s full of it.

Chairlift gives it the good ol’ dancing try with their set, mixing some of the older, more dreamier work with some of the new, more punchier singles. Personally, the dreamier work does it for me, and you can do a little dancing with your eyes closed on those ones (though at the risk of missing the entertaining and energetic lead singer). The audience, though, goes berserk especially for their single ‘Ch-ching’, which they save as last and which, for most out there, seems to be the right choice.

To end the festival we take a seat at the Ray Bans stage to see Julia Holter and band doing their thing. Her voice sounds good, and you can see these are the pros at work there, with the whole performance oozing with professionalism. Holter is just the latest strong female performer that performed at the festival this year, and she, too, gives the gathered crowd a reason for why they might join her in her European tour later on this summer.

After this seated show we take one more look at all of it all from the top end of the festival site. One more time, the city lights, one more time the throng of people, even though at that point we are seemingly by ourselves in the room upstairs. As the city is prone to do, we become voyeurs, witnesses to life or some sordid thing like it, disconnected yet surrounded by those that at least come close to being similar. Combine this mood with the perfectly eclectic soundtrack throughout all the three days, and it’s just the right darn place to be.

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Swans, Warehouse 34, Newcastle

  • Published in Live

There is an air of excitement filling this cavernous warehouse on the outskirts of Newcastle this evening as it presents us with a rare yet intriguing prospect - the thought of one of the world’s loudest bands in such an underused space fills us with glee. Swans are currently taking their new album To Be Kind on a world tour; fortunately for us we have front row seats as these behemoths hit Newcastle.

We arrive as Jenny Hval takes to the stage, hunched over a plethora of electronic goodies yelping and wailing. Her performance is somewhere between electronic brilliance and eclectic weirdness at its best. However, this all seems supplementary, as we watch the dancing lights and the visuals being projected on to the exposed beams above us.

Jenny’s set passes over us though, the excitement too much, as we prepare for a sonic assault of epic proportions. Swans take to the stage very early, just after 8:30. They open with ‘Frankie M’, and the sound is unbelievable as we stand at the front, the sheer force of these monolithic beasts physically moves us as we cannot help but escape from the front for fear of our ears.

Michael Gira and his band serenade us with tracks from To Be Kind, the awesome ‘Just A Little Boy’ sounds absolutely unbelievable. Built on a solitary horn into something humongous, it’s like a wall of sound that no matter where you are it hits you full in the face. With signs up all over the venue directing the audience to the bar for earplugs, these make absolutely no difference as the incredible low frequencies still tear into you.

‘The Apostate’ from album The Seer, provokes a similar reaction, this time built on a solitary slide guitar to begin with. It builds as members of the band add their individual parts, until this cacophonous sound reaches its full force, shaking the building with its machine gun-like power. By this point we’re pinned to back of the venue soaking up the sonic delights on offer.

They close fittingly with the awesome ‘Bring The Sun’, a track that takes almost no time at all to build to an instant hit of sheer power, before slowing and allowing Michael’s vocals to serenade us. ‘Bring The Sun’ closes out again with another hit of sheer power, once more shaking us to our cores before the band disappear.

They leave us filled with awe and amazement as to what has just happened, it's safe to say Swans truly took our breath away this evening, in more ways than one. An amazing experience; the heat, the sound and the excitement, nothing can beat this feeling and it's an experience we’re unlikely to see repeated until Swans' inevitable return.

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