Entertainment Music

Saturday 19 October 2019

Postcard from Primavera

Blur live at Primavera.
Blur live at Primavera.
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

Primavera means the festival season is open for business. Eamon Sweeney checks out 2013’s line-up and the musical delights coming to a field near you

As well as being the first major music festival of the summer, Primavera Sound is the kind of delightfully quirky event where you can rub shoulders with Kevin Rowland of Dexys and Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine holding court, as Stranger Than Paradise director Jim Jarmusch and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox appear to be plotting something.

As Stephen Malkmus of Pavement notes, such an encounter appears to be just another day in the Spanish office at Primavera Sound.

A record attendence at a completely sold-out event last weekend further confirms Primavera’s stature as the first major festival of the season in Europe, hot on the heels of the increasingly hyped Coachella in California.

Irish music fans flocked in their droves to Parc del Forum, a few short miles from Barcelona near the Llevant beach.

Festival Director Alberto Guijarro reveals that overseas ticket sales account for 42pc of total ticket sales, with the Irish up there alongside the French, Italians, English and the Americans as the leading attendees.

For an Irish-based music fan, Primavera provides a perfect opportunity to have a short holiday and catch some of the heavy-hitting gigs of the summer before anybody else.

For example, the bill featured this weekend’s Forbidden Fruit bound James Blake, Body & Soul headliners Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Electric Picnic attractions My Bloody Valentine and The Wu-Tang Clan, and of course Blur — who play their only show in the UK and Ireland this year at IMMA on August 12.

It’s not just punters who’ve fallen for Primavera, but the acts themselves.

Noah ‘Panda Bear’ Lennox of Animal Collective is fast becoming an alt-pop superstar after his collaboration with Daft Punk, but he’s

thrilled to be back playing Primavera.

“The first time we played here, somebody spent the whole show dancing with a plant,” Lennox drawls from behind his sunglasses.

“It was really, really big. They kept waving it around like a flag. I can safely say that was the first and the last time people have brought plants to our shows.”

Blur won hearts and minds last Friday night with Damon Albarn’s band of merry men delivering a hit-strewn set that begun with Girls and Boys and climaxed with an emotional version of The Universal.

Albarn genuinely looked close to tears when the crowd sang Tender back at them repeatedly after the song ended.

Blur joins an ever growing roll call of illustrious names that have played out of their skins at the event.

“There are several bands that we have gone after for so many years, so it was a big thrill to finally book them,” Guijarro explains.

“Neil Young is another good example. But perhaps one of the most emotional ones was Pulp’s comeback that Jarvis Cocker dedicated to the “indignados” of the 15M movement that were occupying one of the main squares of Barcelona whilst the police charged at them. It was a very emotional concert.”

Well, you can now file The Jesus & Mary Chain and Blur alongside such classic Primavera performances.

But the 2013 festival didn’t go entirely without a hitch, especially the new location for the the All Tomorrow’s Parties stage, which was beyond a joke.

Swedish duo Roll The Dice truly brought self-indulgence to insufferable, tuneless new heights, the late Kurt Cobain’s heroes Meat Puppets certainly weren’t up to much and Steve Albini’s Shellac didn’t have the shock and awe impact of yore with wind wreaking havoc on their set. You certanly don’t expect such conditions in Barcelona, and night time tempertures were unseasonably cool.

Band of Horses were forced to cancel their show due to adverse weather and the tragic events in Oklahoma. Bradford Cox’s Deerhunter filled their slot on the main stage, further confirming both their burgeoning popularity and status as Primavera’s house band, as they played two fesival slots and Sunday night’s post-festival closing party.

On the plus side, the heavy-hitters really did come out all guns blazing. Nick Cave has grown into an artist who can perform intimate all-seated shows with audiences in the palm of his hand one minute and then step into the main stage festival rock god role with aplomb and completely kick out the jams in style.

Blur were the big-name draw and crowd pleasers extraodinaire. But, on a personal note, it was very heartening and deeply moving to witness The Jesus & Mary Chain so spectacularly squash any memories of their appalling live shows over the years.

The Mary Chain bordered on a religious experience. A neon crucifix kept changing colour, the moonlit Meditarranean provided a stunning backdrop, and the bickering brothers from East Kilbride banged out the hits.

In days of yore, their gigs farcically descended into riots and chaos after the Reids would stubbornly turn up an hour late and play for a paltry, audience-insulting 20 minutes.

Now, they turn in seventeen classics in a row and serve a timely reminder of just how many great songs they have.

The likes of Scarlett Johansson have been showing up at their shows to duet on their signature song, the Lost in Translation soundtracking Just Like Honey.

At Primavera, this cameo role fell to My Bloody Valentine’s Bilanda Butcher, in a touching tip of the hat to the band who inspired MBV to be the thrilling force of nature that they are. At moments like these, the hipster poseur bands cluttering up the lesser stages didn’t matter a jot.

I thought to myself that there’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be right now.

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