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Primavera Sound 2009: Day 1

6 Comments 05 June 2009

“How many Irish are here? That’s insane” – Dan Deacon.

The New Yorker’s observation on Friday night summed up what Barcelona’s Primavera Sound has become to the Irish – a musical Mecca away from the weather and prices of the Emerald Isle. Word of mouth has seen a growing return year on year of Irish fans and another enjoyable week, where even a Manchester United fan can have a ball in Barca, will undoubtedly see another increase in Irish attendees in 2010.

Nursing a broken heart; the result of our host city’s triumph the night before, I made my way to the Parc del Fòrum to catch my first act of Primavera – Women, who kicked things off on the Pitchfork stage with some off-kilter jagged noise pop. Some songs justify the praise that was heaped on their debut album, while others fall flat on their collectively hairy faces. Their set was well-received if a little underwhelming, almost as if the cooler than thou audience were more forgiving to the Pitchfork-approved band. Hit and miss stuff.  [Joe]

On ATP, Magik Markers start softly with long sinister ballads. Their droney pieces loose a lot of the crowd, more than half of whom abandon the stage during the set, which slowly starts to lean towards their louder; squalling material like Don’t Talk in Your Sleep and Taste. A furious duo when in full flight, they finish with a marvelously ragged din. Enjoyable, but they might have been better suited to a darker nighttime slot. [Ronan]

Back at the Pitchfork Stage, Girls somewhat contradictorily follow on from Women with a mass-appealing collection of indie pop songs that quickly wins everyone over. They manage to make good use of the sort of lyrics that would induce cringes from most artists, and go down well (pun intended). [Joe]

The third show on the Pitchfork stage was an absolutely amazing performance by The Tallest Man On Earth. We were somewhat blown away by ‘The Scandinavian Bob Dylan’ – such throw away tags doesn’t do Kristian Matsson justice. His fleeting guitar strings and howling alt-folk is combined with a stage presence that leaves the crowd transfixed, and Matsson, who toured with Bon Ivor in the US last year, deserves to be every bit as successful as his American counterpart. [Joe]

A visit to Vice/Ray Ban proves a short one when Marnie Stern delivers a pretty uninspiring performance. Without the slick production of her last album and the talents of drummer Zack Hill, it all sounds a bit flat and lifeless so we turn tail towards Lightning Bolt. Some initial disappointment that they’re playing onstage rather than in the crowd (as they normally do) is quickly erased once they begin; it’s just insane. Brian Gippendale is sensational to watch live, his drum assault almost inhuman – definitely one of the festival highlights for me. [Ronan]

Over at the Estrella Damm stage, indie demi-gods Yo La Tengo open with a massive jam, toying with some huge electric guitar sounds for almost 20 minutes before taking a hugely enjoyable stroll through their substancial back catalogue. Autumn Sweater and Sugarcube sound marvelous, as do the airings of new songs they offer up from their forthcoming album.  [Ronan]

Pheonix draw huge numbers to the Rockdeluxe stage, and rightly so – the French indie/electro act prove the perfect band for the late evening sunshine, with the likes of 1901 and Listomania drawing great cheers from the crowd as the festival party atmosphere starts to take shape. [Joe]

The ATP stage is an entirely different kettle of fish for The Jesus Lizard. From the get go, it’s very much a balls-to-the-wall-affair, with human cannonball David Yow shedding his shirt and diving headlong into the crowd to kick things off. It’s entirely Yow’s show – as the band crank out riffs and noise aplenty, he returns time and time again to the moshing fray where he is carried aloft by a sweaty, adoring mass.  [Ronan]

Next stop is The Bug aka Kevin Martin, whose dubby basslines sound nothing short of enormous when pumped out via the sizeable Pitchfork stage soundsystem. The rumblings are topped off by the excellent skills of his MC, who keeps the crowd from getting too distracted by hypnotic electronic grooves.

It was then onto the grassy knoll for the aural assault of My Bloody Valentine. The sheer wall of sound from Kevin Shields and Co didn’t quite carry all the way back from the Estrella Damm stage. Lost in translation? No, it seems to be the sweeping influence of the sea breeze. Upon relocating to the front everything sounds and feels as it should – Colm Ó Cíosóig’s drums hitting you in the chest, Debbie Googe’s bass thumping at your ankles and the dual guitars of Kevin Shields and Belinda Butcher devouring the entire world around you in a snarly swirl. It’s a gorgeous, ferocious, mindfuck of a thing. The crowd ‘sing’ ecstatically along to When You Sleep and Soon; songs that a year ago seemed unlikely to ever again be performed before their very eyes and ears. As the set comes to an end, we flee before the band commence their infamous white noise finale.  [R&J]

Arriving mid-set to Ponytail, it seems the Baltimore bunch are literally in flying form – Molly Siegel seems to be permanently mid air during another fantastic performance. One of the most exciting and energetic bands of the festival, their final song saw cameos from Dan Deacon and Him Harrington (I think) who came onstage to carry the diminutive singer around like some sort of human trophy . [Ronan]

It’s around this stage of the evening that things start to get pretty hazy. Literally – Wooden Shjips are playing a seriously tripped out psych show down on ATP. There’s so much dry ice it’s almost impossible to see anything, and similarly the songs are almost buried in echo and organ; to a point where the Stoogesque guitar grooves of their recordings are almost lost completely. [Ronan]

By now Wavve’s Primavera Sound performance has become famous for all the wrong reasons, personally it was the biggest disappointment of the festival by far. Unfocused, sloppy and muddled, my disappointment was only compounded on discovering that by leaving early in disgust I missed that flip-out.  [Joe]

The end of the first night morphs into a bit of a blur around this point. I catch the end of Aphex Twin on the Rockdeluxe stage, playing a far less cryptic set than I’d anticipated. The crowd are treated to cuts from most stages of his career; from the ambient stylings of Richard D James through to the warped visions of Drukqs. The music is complimented by typically derranged visuals, splicing synced loops of blobs and waves with stomach churning autopsy clips when you least expect it. Aphex must get a good chuckle from seeing  thousands of people wince simultaneously! By the time Squarepusher starts, I’m too exhausted to continue and I head for some rest before round two. [Ronan]

Day #2 Review | Day #3 Review >


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6 Comments so far

  1. adam says:

    Good stuff. Sorry I missed Ponytail now. Still haven’t managed to catch them!

  2. flynnduism says:

    Yeah I’ve gotten sort of obsessed with Ponytail of late – I’ve seen them 4 times now since September and they’re a great live band. I’d run to see them again tomorrow if they were in Dublin again!

  3. Jamie says:

    hey guys nice review, quick correction though; Chris Corsano doesnt drum with lightning bolt, it’s Brian Chippendale

  4. Ronan says:

    Thanks Jamie. Their names aren’t at all similar, but I always confuse them – I have no idea why…

    You ATP folks had a great load of stuff down in that corner as usual, congrats on another fantastic festival.

  5. Anthony says:

    Will 3e’s Nightshift NEVER be back on?

  6. Ronan says:

    Doesn’t look too likely Anthony, we’ll have to wait and see. RTÉ Two have been started the Raw Sessions to try and fill the void for Irish music on TV, but it’s a bit all over the shop in terms of what it’s been trying to do…

    See the debate over here:

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