Thursday, June 08, 2006
Primavera, Barcelona and Me
We finally hit the festival site around mid day Saturday, my fault really as it was me that decided to take the more scenic coastal road, the main problem being when we hit town we had no idea where we were! After a quick beer we discovered that the only hotels nearby were all 5* and as such well out of our reach, after parking up the car in the town centre we found ourselves a reasonable hotel on the Ramblas. All of this meant that we missed the very first acts, as I need to eat first. My first impressions of the site was that it was rather cold and impersonal, lacking in charm despite being right on the coast, maybe it was the lack of grass as I must say the concrete proved to be rather hard on the feet. Of the 6 stages one was a 3000 seater hall, another was dedicated to dance music and didn't start up until mid night and the smallest stage seemed to host only Spanish groups.
The first act we caught up with was Vashti Bunyan, who despite having been built up by Devendra Banhart as something special was actually very pedestrian I honestly can see no justification for her coming out of retirement, the 4 songs I heard were very flat and going nowhere in a pastoral kind of way , and as I did not feel like sleeping we moved on. next we saw some of LD and the New Critism's set, which was ok they got the feet tapping with their southern country roots, and me laughing at their stupid song titles. It was then that we made our way to another stage and I had one of those life changing experiences, well not really but I did see one hell of a good group, that actually got me dancing, and I'm not talking about foot tapping, an event so rare that my other half cannot even remember the last time she witnessed such an event. The band in question were the Akron/Family. On first sight they didn't look up to much, three hillbilly hippie college types sitting down and a drummer, the bands leader, I'm only saying this because he was stage centre, came over as an extra from the Dukes of hazard. Over the next Fifty minutes or so they had a good time and so did we. Musically they escape definition, their repertoire ranges from gentle acoustic ballads with tight and attractive harmonies such as 'Sorrow Boy' through to fully blown loud psychedelic mantra like feedback laden jams and heavy Led Zeppelin influenced numbers boasting infectious riffs such as 'Raising The Sparks'. I would say seeing the band live is rather like eating a large but good meal; a highly pleasurable experience that may be a little difficult to digest but gives everything you need and leaves you with a smile on your face, their two albums to date are both very good records but not a patch on the live experience, miss them at your peril. Their albums can be bought here or downloaded here. PS they did not stay sitting down for the whole set. By the time I had finished shouting myself stupid, it was time to run back to the inside hall to catch Shellac, to say I was disappointed would be an understatement, I don't think for one second that it was the bands fault but the sound was non-existent, so feeble that it was like listening to very poor quality bootleg, very un hardcore. Upon leaving the hall we heard a lot of noise coming fom the main stage so we wandered off there to see Big Star, when we got there they were playing 'Light My Fire' exactly why when Alex Chilton has so many good songs of his own I don't know. They were ok but did they lack in stage presence the highlight in visual terms was watching them toss a coin to see what song to play next, and Chilton's stage banter would indicate a very bitter man when you hear him saying how his latest album will be heralded as a classic in 30 years time. It was after this that we got to see our only Spanish band Cocconot, who were actually entertaing and pleasant on the ears with their theatrical take on post punk heavily influenced by free jazz.
There was now a little break as Television Personalities had pulled out at the last moment, this did mean however that were able to get ourselves a good place to see Lou Reed. Punctual, he took to the stage at 21h20 as programmed with a distorted guitar work our before plunging head first into his 90 minute set. Lou actually seemed in a good mood, though not very communative with the audience, I actually saw him smile on at least three occasions though he was none to pleased when some arsehole threw a plastic glass full of drink at his feet. Set highlights included 'Dirty Blvd' and two Velvets numbers 'Waiting For My Man'' and 'White Light White Heat' both remodeled in much the same way as Dylan does, so much so that many people did not even recognise the song until it's chorus kicked in, still I thought they were good and they are his songs to do as he wishes with aren't they? I did not dance but was to be found seriously tapping my feet.
It was rather bad luck for Deerhoof as they were programmed at exactly the same time as Lou Reed, and so I guess I was not the only person that missed them though I did get to see the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Three guitars, bass, drums and some idiot friend banging away on a tambourine stage centre with an extremely annoying stage presence and making stupid junior school jokes. Anton Newcome was in fine voice and when the band locked into a trance like groove they really did captivate you. Another band well worth catching especially when they get rid of Mr tambourine man. We got to see a good half hour of Lambchop, there were only six of them on stage and I had been hoping it would be the full works still the grand piano was a nice touch, and they were more than efficient, and as tiredness was beginning to get the better of us it was just what we needed. The last band we saw was Violent Femmes who annoyed more than anything else coming over as a overweight aging badly dressed crowd pleasing cabaret act, who I thought were rather untogether in musical terms.
So we left around 1h30 in doing so we missed three bands I wanted to see Stereolab, Mogwai and The Roger Sisters, but my feet were killing me and my other half was falling asleep on my arm and our hotel did seem to be a long way away.