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Review: Primavera Sound 2010

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One thankfully uneventful flight on Fisher Price airlines and a short coach journey and we are in Barcelona - an already 'happening' cosmopolitan Mecca that once a year also becomes home to possibly the best festival in the world.

The cream of the leftfield crop all by the sea in the scorching heat, has me beaming with joy before a note has even been played. The Primavera love-affair starts here.

Day one is kicked off by Spanish garage-rockers Biscuit, who according to the blurb have been around for a long while. Although, I assume, not as long as since 1966 where their music comes directly from. Biscuit don't so much take influences from the 60s but attempt a carbon-copy of it - one song starts off exactly the same as the Who's 'Can't Explain' but turns out not to be. Good for the local pub, Biscuit provide a fairly mundane and lifeless take on the garage rock sound.

Remember Bis? It's been a while since their split and they may look a little aged and weathered but their quirky indie-pop machine still packs a fun-filled punch. With a larger band the Teen C Revolutionaries' sugar-coated, synth-driven, indie-punk is beefed up and powerful. Irreverent, and funny Bis come from the mid-nineties period when indie was all smiles and tongue-in-cheek irony. The final two tracks of 'Kandy Pop' and 'Euro Disco' force possibly the campest dance-party in Primavera history.

Having seen Monotonix before, I kinda know what to expect? Largely...the unexpected! The Israeli garage-madmen fill the open expanse at the Vice stage with ease. Stages are for losers! Their in-crowd, travelling rock explosion leaves nothing but sweaty bodies and smiling mouths in its wake. Peddled by the men from the 118 118 ads if they were acid casualties, this is not complex music and it won't change the world. What it is, is pure rock n roll joy and for the time Monotonix play their simply isn't a better band in the world. Crowd-drumming, drum-riding, comedy talking, rifftastic 100% rock power!

The Fall are the eighth wonder of the world. Watching Mark E. Smith stumble and mumble his way around the stage makes you wonder how he is still functioning as a human-being, never mind managing to make relevant new music 30 years after his band's first forays into sound! The new album is as fresh as anything by a new band, and carries a performance that mainly seems to be going through the motions. But the Fall are the Fall and you can't help but feel the glow of admiration for them.

Famed for raucous live performances Titus Andronicus whip the place in to an air-punching frenzy with the anthemic indie-rock. Taking their name from a Shakespearian play, their music is suitably complex whilst still fitting nicely into the recognisable rock shapes and despite Patrick Stickles' stern demeanour put on a purely joyous performance.

The xx are antithesis to the summer heat sinister, chilling and sterile. Their moody atmospherics work better once the sun has gone down with their giant X petruding from the dark, smoky stage. Their performance is a minimal as their music, but the sounds from one of last year's most seductive records are enough to captivate and enthral.

It's a rare treat to sCrocodilesee Superchunk performing in Europe, the rareness of such events has only added to the cult status. Banging through a set of exemplary 90s indie-rock, there is much evidence to why they are one of the best loved underground US indie-bands. A festival highlight comes with Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington joining them for a rousing version of 'Precision Auto'.

Crocodiles ooze rock n roll cool on the Vice stage. Their JAMC fuzz and dark garage-noir ambience combines style with substance. Front man Brandon Welchz flails his way through the set of Spector-meets-Spacemen3 rock, as set of brilliantly restrained ferocity. Unquestionably retro, but in a way that captures the now, Crocodiles are a great rock band. They bookend their set with their two best tracks the seductive 'Neon Jesus' and crowd-favourite 'I Wanna Kill'.

10 Years on, having settled the scores, buried the hatchet (a load other cliches to explain they are getting on again) Pavement are still (im)perfect. For the first chords of 'Cut Your Hair' the slacker indie legends are effortlessly brilliant playing a career-spanning set that in no way disappoints. Stephen Malkmus may be the coolest thing on stage all weekend, at odds with his guitar throughout swinging it with abandon at times seemingly unsure as to what it is doing in his hands - but pulling of an amazing performance. Joined on stage by a supporting indie cast including Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene and the lead, hairy guy from Monotonix this is a total indie love-in and all the love is for Pavement.
Exceptionally tight, boundlessly inventive and unbelievably fun it's easy to see why people got so excited about this reunion. Listening to Spanish people attempt the complex, scatter-shot lyrics with enthusiasm and in broken English is heart-warming and hilarious beyond belief.

Pavement


Day 2

Owen Pallett is a bone-fide genius. In the intimate setting of the RockDelux (auditori) he is mesmerising on-lookers as his one-man-orchestra act fills the place with bedazzling sound. Loops of voice and an array of sounds from his violin, play against simple synth-lines to create something special. Having dropped his Final Fantasy moniker due to legal reasons, this is Owen Pallett laid bare for all to see and there is not a more brilliant sight all festival.

This must be Scout Niblett's biggest ever show! The raw, intensity of her grungey-blues-driven rock is instantly captivating and moving. Moving over to the Vice stage the fuzz-filled garage rock of Thee Oh Sees are make for a foot-taping fun time. John Dwyer's latest underground heroes blast through some distorted garage-sounds, as he drunkenly stumbles and yelps his way through the set. A rock n roll party!

Spoon do what Spoon do very well, but fail to massively excite. I watch Wire pretty much suck the life out of their legacy by providing a set that lacks spark or any of the tunes that made them a special band in the first place. Something special is needed to pump some adrenaline back into my soul....thank [whoever or whatever you worship] Les Savy Fav. For many front-man Tim Harrington is the festivals hero our overweight, balding, bearded hero whos energy and verve knows no bounds. Joining his brilliant post-hardcore comrades on stage he is dressed as a made yeti thing, borrowing some flashing red glasses from the crowd, the image of a fat yeti with glowing red glasses in the dusk is a bizarre image. His trips into the crowd get more and more audacious, before his pulling equipment off-stage gets him a stop order from angry organises.
The tunes rule as much as the performance, 'Patty Lee' and 'We Rock the Party' being particularly awesome. The set ends with the band playing for five minutes until they realise Harrington, off on one of his crowd jaunts, is not coming back the noise stops, the set stops dead. People look bewildered - there ain't no party like a Les Savy Fav party!

Anyone still moved by the joyous reaction to Pavement the night before could not be prepared for the sheer outpouring of love and devotion that meets the Pixies performance. It is strange that a band putting this little effort in to a show can be so massively entertaining. There is nothing better than the Pixies playing Pixies songs. The big hits provide some great sing-a-long fodder and they litter the set with great lesser known tracks and early material. Their Mary Chain cover is a delight and I've wanted to hear 'Broken Face' live for years. The 'Where is my Mind' sing-a-long is a moving end to a flawlessly brilliant set.

Joker shakes my bones with the deep and dark dubstep shenanigans at a stage when the booze has well and truly kicked in.

Day 3

Wondering how I am alive and awake for a third day of leftfield musical action starting the day with the cinematic collaboration from Danny Perez and Animal Collective, ODDSAC is an unnerving, thought-provoking and mind-melting multi-sensory experience that leaves me a little dazed walking back out into the sunshine.

The Psychic Paramount's aural antics don't quell my head-spinning bewilderment. Built on rhythm and noise their looping, crushing monotony splashes over the crowd in noise-filled waves, which is a nice precursor to one of the festivals most special events.

Billed simply as Neu! (not Michael Rother and friends perform Neu! music) this would be happening on a bigger stage and much later on. True there is only Michael Rother from the band performing, but surely his 'friends' being Steve Shelley from Sonic Youth on drums and Aaron Mullan from the New York band Tall Firs joining him to perform the mystical and groundbreaking sounds of Neu! warrants a later start than 7pm. Experimental music never sounded as good or as danceable as this.

For those watching the modern re-incarnation of The Slits the sentence 'Bass is good for da pom pom' and its accompanying image will be forever etched on their now damaged psyche. Their set is a car-wreck of punky-reggae that at times is wonderfully shambolic and at others unnervingly naff - the old classics still pack a punch, but very little can detract away from how disturbing a middle-aged Ari Up up on stage really is.

A double-header of indie-legends step to the fore in amazing sets from Built to Spill and Sunny Day Real Estate. Built to Spill are bloody miserable, but do eventually see fit to play some tunes! These are sublime of course - full of restrained noise and heartfelt melancholy.

The main draw is a rare performance from Sunny Day Real Estate, one of those rare bands who under the radar of most people changed everything. When they took the grunge template and sprinkled and forged a more melodic sound they changed the path of rock music for good. Tonight's set of emotive, complex rock proves why they are so important - those present really do witness one of the best and underrated rock bands of all-time

After music of such substance the Pet Shop Boys style over substance approach is a mixed-blessing. They are capable of some of the best pop tunes ever made, but this is punctuated by endless filler and camp disco mediocrity that makes for a patchy set. The stage show is fabulous (darling!) the box-headed dancers at the beginning are great, but after a few tracks of multi-coloured sensory overload the gimmicks wear a little thin and something more is needed.

A bit of skanking to Jamaican legend Lee Scratch Perry before heading back for an hours kip before the flight home ends the best festival I have ever attended in a wonderful whirlwind.

by Chris Marks

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