That's Entertainment - The Best of Primavera Sound '09 (May 28-30)

Primavera Sound 09

Barcelona was in high spirits for the last few days of May. Their team won the Champions League cup on Wednesday, achieving a rare triple crown and causing all night celebrations across the city. And for the next three days, from Thursday 28/5 to Saturday 30/5 , the festivities moved to Parc Del Forum, by the city's sea-front, where the celebrations did not involve only the locals but the whole international indie community that had gathered there for Primavera Sound '09, one of the top festivals of the genre worldwide.

In a previous That's Entertainment post we had given you all the details about how to get there and what to see. And now that we went, saw and conquered we can convey our impressions of the festival and talk about the performances that stood out for us among the 38 bands that we managed to see in the three days of the event.

RockedeluxFirst of all, we must say that the festival's venue as well as the entire organization were close to perfect. Parc Del Forum, with its six stages, is located not far from the city center, in an area by the  Mediterranean sea that is easy to reach by public transportation or bicycle. Traffic jams were nowhere to be seen as almost no one used a car to get there. Needless to say that there were no last-minute cancellations or the slightest deviation from the scheduled stage times of the approximately 150 bands that played the festival - exactly what we experience in the various live events here in Greece! Add to all this the fact that it is very easy to find places to sit and relax in Parc Del Forum (which is essential for a festival that lasts from dusk until dawn) and that almost all bands, no matter how "small", are playing for at least 40 or 45 minutes, and you can easily understand that the admission price you paid was well worth every last euro. What else could you ask for? Good weather? This year, we had that too!

Moving on to the music, here are my personal highlights from each day of the festival, in order of appearance:

May 28Magic Markers
  • Magik Markers - New York noise from children of Sonic Youth. The first band I got to see at the festival, early in the afternoon of the first day. Objectively, the appearance was a little shambolic, as if they were in sound-check mode, but the charmingly eccentric presence of Elisa Ambrogio and some strong songs like "Taste" and "Don't talk in your sleep" left good impressions.

  • Vaselines The Vaselines - Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee are back together again in one of the most interesting reunions of legendary names of the past that we saw in Primavera. Scottish indie pop from the mid '80s that became widely known when Nirvana covered three of their songs ("Son Of A Gun", "Molly's Lips" and "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam"). With so many new bands influenced by this sound, it was a good opportunity to see the original up close and personal.
  • The Jesus Lizard - Another reunion of a legendary band that's well worth its money. David Yow is approaching fifty, but remains a great front man and a champion of crowd surfing. One of the best punk bands ever is back with a vengeance.
  • MBV My Bloody Valentine - The headliners of the main stage on the first day. The noise levels were in the red from beginning to end of the set, burying the vocals and making mandatory the use of the earplugs that the organizers had provided. What I really enjoyed (albeit in a sadomasochistic way) from this deafening wall of noise that hit us, were the final three tracks - three of the songs that have defined the legacy of My Bloody Valentine: "Soon", "Feed me with your kiss" and an extended version of "You made me realise" - the apotheosis of white noise.
  • Wooden Shjips - Psychedelic garage sounds from San Francisco, with liberal doses of krautrock and minimalist repetition in the vein of Suicide. They played their new album "Dos" as well as highlights from their self-titled debut.

29 May
  • Vivian Girls Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Three of the hottest new bands of the Brooklyn scene played together on the stage sponsored by Pitchfork. Crystal Stilts are the most psychedelic of the bunch, Vivian Girls are closer to the punk of the Ramones while The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart favour British shoegaze pop. All three bands draw inspiration from the '80s, although most of their members were not even born back then. Something tells me that we'll be talking a lot about them in the near future, starting with the Pains who are schedulled to pay us a visit in Athens soon, while the next Vivian Girls album is expected in September.
  • Lashes Bat For Lashes - Natasha Khan was one of the stars of the festival. Her wonderful voice shone once again, leaving me with the impression that it'll certainly become a reference point for future female vocalists - instead of saying "her voice reminds me of Bjork or Kate Bush", we'll be saying "she reminds me of Natasha Khan"! Her  band, featuring ex-Ash Charlotte Hatherley, was also in top form, playing some of the best songs from debut album "Fur and Gold" ("What's a girl to do", "Prescilla", "Sarah") plus most of "Two Suns", closing with one of the singles of the year, "Daniel".
  • TMuses Throwing Muses - In my opinion, Kristin Hersh's band  deserves similar recognition and success with their 4AD companions in the '80s, the Pixies. The cruel fact that this never happened, does not stop Kristin, when she feels the need to remember her past, to reassemble the band and play for the hell of it. They played a great set with songs coming from their early days ("Vicky's box", "Bea") as well as the '90s ("Bright yellow gun", "Shark"). You can hear the whole performance here.
  • Shellac - The trio of Steve Albini (ex-Big Black and producer/sound engineer to everyone - from Nirvana and Pixies to Bokomolech and Jarvis Cocker), Bob Weston (ex-Volcano Suns) and Todd Trainer (ex-Breaking Circus) form one of the finest punk rock machines I've ever heard. Their amazing set included tracks from all their years together, including the epic "The end of radio" from 2007’s "Excellent Italian Greyhound", one of the highlights of the festival.

30 May
Faith Healers
  • Th 'Faith Healers - One of the favorite bands of John Peel in the '90s with a dynamic stage presence and powerful guitar from Tom Cullinan, who later formed Quickspace. Their reunion was one of the pleasant surprises of Primavera and "Reptile smile" one of the highlights of the festival.
  • Neil Young - He had more than 20 years to play in Barcelona and the organizers, I suppose to thank him for the honor of playing the festival, closed all other stages for the duration of his performance. The Godfather of Grunge played a rocking (in the free world) set filled with classics like "Hey hey, my my (into the black)" and "Cinnamon girl". Still, I thought it was odd not to have an alternative choice in the festival for almost 90 minutes.
  • Deerhunter - A rapidly emerging band that, given time, could be headlining festivals. They gathered a lot of people, but my feeling is that their experimental noise pop is better suited to the atmosphere of a club than that of an open air festival. "Nothing Ever Happened" was the exception that proves the rule.
  • Gang Gang Dance - It was the biggest dilemma I had to face in Primavera as G.G.D., responsible for one of the best albums of last year, were scheduled to play at the exact same time as Sonic Youth . However I got to see about twenty minutes of their performance and I was convinced that they are destined for great things.
  • Sonic Youth - I am leaving Gang Gang Dance and as I approach the main stage, where a large crowd is gathered, they start playing "Sprawl" from "Daydream Nation" - simply the best album of all time and objections cannot be accepted! And immediately after that comes "'Cross the Breeze"! I fall on my knackered knees and humbly apologize to the Youth for even considering the possibility of being unfaithful to them, even for just twenty minutes! What was I thinking? The party continued with brand new tracks and old favorites, like "Anti-orgasm" (from new album  "The Eternal"), "Bull In The Heather", "Tom Violence" and "Expressway To Yr. Skull" ("Evol" baby!). Eternally yours! As you can understand, Sonic Youth's performance was the absolute highlight of Primavera for me. New recruit, former Pavement Mark Ibold, performed his bass duties admirably.
  • El-P - Finale with a dose of hard-hitting underground hip-hop from El-P, aka El Producto, the head of the great independent label Def Jux. In the crowd we spotted Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew - his band also did well in Primavera, from the little that we did get to see.
For more details on all the 38 bands that we got to see in Primavera and even more photos and videos, you can visit Cool Music Central. Here's the video for "Bull In The Heather" - Ladies & Gentlemen, I give you Sonic Youth!

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