tired of the glasto mud? try primavera
'I got in the elevator with Mark E Smith, Colin from Wire and two members of Mission of Burma," said Scott 'Spiral Stairs' of Pavement onstage during their opening night headline set at Primavera Sound 2010.
"It was a punk rock wet dream," he gushed. "But that's just another day at the office for Primavera Sound," quipped lead singer Stephen Malkmus.
This weekend, there will be an inordinate amount of hype and broadcast hours devoted to Glastonbury, as the legendary festival celebrates its 40th anniversary. Of course, U2 won't be joining in the celebrations thanks to Bono's back problems, and headline duties will be left to Gorillaz, Muse and Stevie Wonder.
But the European festival season really began at the end of May at Primavera Sound just outside Barcelona. Like Glastonbury, Primavera is also celebrating an anniversary of sorts, as this was its 10th run from its humble origins as a DJ-based one-day event in 2001.
I've been to both Glastonbury and Primavera twice, and I have to say without hesitation that the Catalan bash is a far superior experience.
Glastonbury has become bloated with self-importance, pompously declaring itself as, "the greatest show on earth". Granted, it is a great festival, which still forms the blueprint for the modern green-field outdoor multi-stage extravaganza.
Having said that, it can be ludicrously overrated. If you baulk at the thought of mud and smelly loos, then stay well away, as the sprawling Worthy Farm packed with 175,000 people makes the likes of Oxegen and Electric Picnic almost feel like five-star resorts. So there is something extremely inspiring about the singular programming and delivery of Primavera Sound.
In recent years, the oversaturated festival circuit has become tiresome. Let's face it, there's very little difference in watching the Killers or Kings of Leon at a festival in Punchestown or a field outside Paris. The usual suspects clog up every bill and sponsorship and advertising has infiltrated the experience to an irritating degree.
In contrast, Primavera Sound is a bona fide music lover's paradise, with the Mediterranean providing a stunning backdrop. This year, Pavement, Pet Shop Boys and Pixies all put in sterling performances.
Granted, not everything was amazing, as there'll be more than a fair share of tuneless indie drivel on such huge line-ups (100+ acts), but there were some truly golden moments. Titus Andronicus, responsible for a concept album about the American Civil War in an era of rampant downloading, were absolutely sensational.
The performance of the festival was by American minimalist power trio Shellac, a stunning live proposition who played their only show of 2010 at Primavera. Steve Albini is best known for recording classic albums by the Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey and Low, but in his spare time devotes his creative energies to his "hobby band" alongside Bob Weston and Todd Trainer.
"You should make music because you love it and don't expect the world to pay you for the privilege," is his uncompromising motto.
Exclusives, such as the first Pet Shop Boys performance of the year, are the stock and trade of Primavera Sound. Another remarkable phenomenon is the number of Irish music fans flocking to Parc del Fórum for the last weekend in May.
All flights departing Cork and Dublin that week were full and I probably bumped into more people I knew at Primavera than I would at Oxegen.
After a few years slogging it out on the festival trail, older punters would much rather incorporate their festival fix into a sunny holiday and city break by the beach. Primavera Sound and Barcelona spectacularly tick all these boxes. You don't have to resort to camping, as there's a plethora of accommodation options, from renting apartments to cheap and cheerful pensions to luxury hotels.
A tip for any aspiring Primavera goer is to book the Princess Hotel early before the rates sky rocket. Last year, I found myself sharing a lift with Steve Albini, Michael Nyman, Jarvis Cocker and Tim Burgess. As Stephen Malkmus would say, that was just another day at the office for Primavera Sound.