What do you mean I look like someone in my Thirties! Sure, I just asked the American woman next to me if she was retired (travelling a month through Europe like that), so it might have been a not-so-veiled shade, but still, where’s the love man? I’m going to Barcelona, for a festival, that’s where the love is supposed to be at! Nah, just kidding, it was lovely talking to her on the plane on the way to my festival of choice, Primavera Sound in Barcelona.
The Wednesday already sees some treats, completely free of charge to boot! There’s a bit of rock, with Albert Hammond Jr. (yes, he of The Strokes) doing his thing with his band. A few minutes in, we know where the rock-yet-cleanliness of that famous band comes from, with Albert Hammond Jr. doing the punk/rock thing layered and noiseless. As in, I can hear the multiple instruments and their riffs, and it doesn’t all collide into this wall of noise where you don’t even know what’s going on (and the festival will have a few of those, let me tell you). Naturally, he plays some of his work, though he throws a nice little cover in there as well, to keep things fresh. It’s always good to be dancing to some of that clean punk while asking yourself If you have ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn’t have fallen in love with.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark is the band to end the Wednesday on the ATP stage, and boy, these geezers still know how to get the party on. Sure, if you don’t like your '80s synth pop cheese you might have a hard time enjoying yourself. But I always have a hard time keeping the fun in, and the Spaniards in front of me don’t even have a clue on how to do that. Which, I reckon, is a good thing. This is all out fun, or “electro-pop” as they call it, admitting that it’s not going to be pretentious or artful, and they’re proud to be wearing that badge. So in the audience we’re dancing, on stage they’re dancing HARD, and everyone is smiling because it is just this slice of catchy fun. They end with ‘Electricity’, bookending a string of hits and the fun that goes with them. They even play a new song! Madness.
On the first real festival day it is time for the “little guys”. The two main stages I leave alone for now, instead focussing on some newer names I haven’t had a chance to see live yet. One of them being Viet Cong, whom I now don't really regret having missed prior. Where Albert Hammond Jr. played his rock/punk cleanly, here everything sounds like the same fuzzy ball of noise with vocals I’m not quite sure I need to hear again. The band on the stage nextdoor has way more distinguishable instruments. I have seen Mdou Moctar before, a band from Africa whose sound is more Western blues than you’d expect at first glance. They sure know a thing or two about rhythm and playing that blues guitar, with a smittering of funk in there too. But when I saw them first time around I remember that, at one point, they gathered so much momentum that the crowd, during one particularly funky blues track with ace rhythm guitar, started to dance collectively. This time around, whilst still a good listen, that didn’t really happen.
Kelela is next up on the same stage, and she is quite the presence. Not only that, but she has quite the voice as well, and over beats and space she uses that to great effect. The instrumentation is an Apple computer producing trap-like beats that I never really particularly care for, nor do I think this is going to be the end of her musical progression. Not because I don’t like it, but because I do think there is some room to get more out of that (though a complete change in the kinds of beats she uses I’d totally be in favour of, but that’s personal of course). Her voice, certainly, isn’t the thing that is keeping her from anything, and her stage presence isn’t either. The music does lay down the atmosphere though, giving it a sense of cool. Certainly she is one to keep an eye on, whether it is going to be for the next big thing or that cult act that is exactly right for that particular niche.
At the small H&M Pro stage Rebeka is up next, and their brand of synth-pop is the kind I like. The female vocals are nice and deep, and they fit the kind of atmosphere (slightly melancholic) they want to exhume. The beats and synths, in the mean time, are smooth and clear, and they give you every opportunity to be dancing. Which, luckily for me and unfortunately for them, is not really a problem as there’s quite a bit of room on the floor left to get down to. Other people’s loss I reckon, as the band has songs. Nicely structured, catchy dance songs. A track like ‘Melancholia’, for instance, or the relatively new ‘Breath’. The two are getting busy behind their hardware, with the female part of the duo doing some dancing mixed with some karate kicks to get some energy going for the crowd to play off of. I’ve seen them before once, and I do fancy their sound quite a bit, and live they don’t disappoint here in Barcelona.
Moving to the way bigger Ray-Ban stage, you immediately know you are in the presence of some acts that are enjoying some mainstream success. Which is a good thing for them, as they produce some mainstream sounds as well, so where else will they get their success from? Chet Faker is up just before midnight, and when he launches into a solo edit of a track the girl behind me casually drops a Just the best song everrr. Chet Faker does know how to play, mixing jazzy sounds and lines with a more mainstream core sound to keep everyone hooked. His vocals, too, are nice, reminding me a little bit of Jamie Lidell (in terms of sound, not in terms of all the other stuff Lidell manages to do with his vocals). A track like ‘Gold’ is a good example of the mass appeal, with the way the beat works, which is very nu, I find. Though I won’t be refreshing my browsers when tix for his next gig go on sale anytime soon, I do see the quality here, and it is nice to see how all these jazz sensibilities creep into his set.
Jungle closes out my day on that same Ray-Ban stage, and here, too, you have this mainstream slick all over it. Attracting a rather terrible mainstream crowd, I might add, who care more for having fun despite the music, and at the cost of people who might actually want to have fun to the disco Jungle is putting out there. That disco is the pop radio version of disco. Super slick, super smooth, and really easy on the ear. Which on one hand is a good thing, on the other hand it doesn’t really add oomph, cheekiness, rawness, or plain fun to the sound. And live, moreso than on album, it felt as if the pace stayed within a rather narrow range. There’s also not really any on stage craziness, even though disco does tend to lend itself to a bit of showtime. For disco (though the omission of the word “pop” is troublesome to me I find), this is a rather vanilla show. Though, as evidenced by the mass amount of people out here, no one says no to vanilla.