In 2014, Primavera Sound had quite the case of the falling rain. This year, no such thing. The weather is the best kind you can imagine. It’s not too hot (as in, everyone is fanning their heads off for other reasons than style), but it doesn’t cool down that much in the evening (so why people are still carrying backpacks the size of a medium-sized whale is beyond me as jeans, a shirt, and a jacket will get you through). It’s the kind of thing you expect in Barcelona, though after last year I’m scared to get my hopes up too high.
On the third day, Julian Casablancas & The Voidz start it off at the big Primavera stage with a big bucket of noise. Actually, surprisingly, though there is a lot of sound, and it is rock (sometimes with a dash of gothic, sometimes with a dash of hard), all the different instruments are clearly distinguishable. The multiple guitars have their little riffs and solos going on, the drums drive it foreward, and there is a host of auxiliary sounds to add some variety to the rock on display. Also, it is fun to see all the characters on the stage, they do give you something to look at, and they are playing it up like those '70s bands of yore.
The only downside is that Julian Casablancas is pretty much inaudible. I don’t mind a bit of distortion on the vocals, but the distortion is screwed up as much as the volume on the mic is screwed down, causing the lyrics to be tough to decipher. As I’m not the biggest fan of loud rock, the moment the band slides into a rendition of ‘Little Girl’ I’m well chuffed. That song, that appeared on the Dangermouse & Sparklehorse album with Casablancas on vocals, is well ace, and one that I never had thought to hear live.
After Casablancas, Patti Smith is going to play through her entire Horses album on the Heineken main stage. And my goodness, she’s lighting it up. Her voice is super strong, the band is tight, and the songs on that iconic album are both brilliant as well as totally American. And though the format kind of fits that American counter culture movement of the time, the message still resonates as vibrant as ever. Not in the least because Patti Smith still seems to genuinely stand behind it. There are some absolutely fabulous moments in this set, like the reprise of ‘Gloria’, the epic rant against everyone controlling “us”, and when she, spoken word poetry style, runs through a list of names of talented people dear to her who have died (this song is for them). A brilliant set by someone still full of life and with plenty to say (and meaning it, too).
Now, for something fun, Belle & Sebastian play the ATP stage on the back of their lovely new album Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance. Certainly new songs like ‘Partyline’ and ‘Perfect Couples’ fit in superbly with the older material, including hits like ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ and closer ‘Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying’. The band does a great job oozing having a good time, and to highlight that, they even invite people on stage to do some dancing with them. The band is in fine form, the songs are catchy and lovely, and even live they manage to exhume that typical “twee” feel that this band has. The only downside is that on this stage, sometimes the sound cuts out. You know that thing where you are playing, and then part of the sound disappears because there’s a faulty cable there? That, a couple of times. Nothing against the band though, who play new and old material to the point of fun. When later walking the festival site, I hear two girls behind me singing the line "Get me away, I’m dying" on repeat, a sign that it was memorable for the right reasons.
The Church are playing their brand of post-punk/rock on the Ray-Ban stage. They do a great job setting the atmosphere, and frontman Steve Kilbey brings the theater and the emotion to the songs. There’s still a rawness there, which makes you don’t mind the fact that maybe not everything is equally pitch perfect. A performance like on ‘The Disillusionist’, which starts with raging guitars, but which ends with just Kilbey’s vocals, is so emotional and so raw that one cannot help but be mesmerized by it. Ariel Pink on the Pitchfork stage shortly after still doesn’t manage to engage me live. I love some of the album stuff, but live it just sounds like a bucket full of noisy rock where you can’t distinguish a dancing line from a fuzzy ball of hair. Fooled me twice, I’ll skip the third time I think.
On that same stage later The Juan Maclean gear up to tackle their New York city style of house music. Juan Maclean is donning a glittery blue sweater, whereas Nancy Whang looks as cool as ever at center stage. What comes next is dance heaven. Cold sounds are juxtaposed by the characteristics of house music, and they perform that so incredibly tight that there’s no other option than to dance. The sound is so clean, so pristine, and there’s so much tuneage there that the only possible result is an hour long house-a-thon that you just have to dance to. There’s a good mixture between older songs, including ‘Every Little Thing’ from way back when, and the newer tracks, like ‘Runaway’ and the incredibly catchy ‘A Simple Design’.
The band still ends with ‘Happy House’, but if you have a weapon like that in your arsenal it would almost be a crime not to hit the crowd with it. Not to mention that they don’t just play the album versions of the track, but tweak them, make them longer, and make them even more suited for a dancefloor with a live audience. The drums are different than when I last saw them, the beat sounds harsher, though whether that is the set-up, the new drummer, or an executive decision by the band thinking it might enhance the live dance feel I don’t know. As I’m still dancing as hard as the first two times I’ve seen them, quite frankly, I don’t care. About anything, at this point. Perfect dancing escapism, and one of my favorite live acts around, despite the infrequency of their live tours. A must see, must dance, must love act.