This is where it becomes a challenge. With the festival opening from 4pm until 6am, a little pace is called for, lest you embarrass your fellow countrymen seeing as there is hundreds scattered around the festival. Speaking of the Irish, Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and The Swell Season band including Graham Hopkins and Colm Mac Con Iomaire of The Frames have been picked to play the massive Auditori – the only indoor venue at the festival. And what a venue. A fully seated arena with the most impeccable sound and lighting I’ve ever heard or seen. Phenomenal. So how do Glen et al fare? State is impressed by the audience numbers but musically it’s nice but a little boring. Glen starts the show: just him and his battered guitar, in the audience, without a microphone. He is joined by the band. Shortly afterwards, the Hansard complex is unavoidable. There’s something so earnest about his singing and demeanor that it’s a little off-putting. They play ‘Falling Slowly’ and State leaves after the song.
We have a couple of hours to kill so wandering between the festival stages is in order but the idea yields no exciting finds. We witness the 70s jam band style of MV and EE with The Golden Road and only stick around the stage as the sunshine is hitting. The Cribs are dreary British indie rock but have drawn a crowd. Pissed Jeans are ..confusing, all bass drum and frontman singing from the side of the stage. Bob Mould is rockin’ out though. Fair play Bob.
Back to the Auditori once again and the hour queue that precedes it. Bill Callahan is playing and the wait is worth it. The Texan is a sardonic and laconic human being but when he sings he says plenty in a fascinating low-toned growl. He dances rather hilariously too. At one point, he asks how the festival has been and after the expected cheers he replies “I’ve been in my hotel room with a shotgun.” People clap. It’s a little surreal.
Why?’s latest album Alopecia is one of State’s favourites so far this year. Their performance is not so. Seemingly lacking enthuasiasm and with a long soundcheck, they launch into songs from Alopecia but the performance is a little subdued. Yoni’s arm is in a cast and it looks like some of his fingers are broken. Not a good time so. We decide to cut our losses and check out Man Man.
On the way to Man Man, something wonderful happens. We realise Devo are on and are drawn in by ‘Whip it’ and of course, the silly red hats and fluorescent yellow jumpsuits. To reactions of surprise, delight and laughter, it becomes apparent that Devo are actually amazing. They look like they came from a ’50s car commercial but they rock out, jump around with precisioned routines, sing, shout. It’s an incredible show. Mark Mothersbaugh is the showman, running the length and breadth of the stage. He dresses as the infamous Devo character Booji Boy, which is both hilarious and frightening to small children (see photo below). He throws out bouncing balls into the audience. It’s such a small gesture but so effective when the balls start to fly everywhere. Devo are so far the absolute highlight of the festival. Are We Not Men? We are Devo.
Fuck Buttons have drawn a decent crowd to the ATP stage and as layers of impressive digital distortion and distorted vocals wash over us, State starts to long for a techno beat to come to the fore. It never happens but it’s an impressive intense performance none the less.
Afterwards, it’s a case of stamina and lasting until 6am with The Go! Team, El Guincho and Holy Fuck. The Go! Team are a great festival band as always. El Guincho’s set is packed with Catalonian friends of the hometown hero and everyone else too. A projector screen either side shows polychromatic eye candy but the set suffers a little from low vocals. Still, the atmosphere is worth taking a seat above the action to savour. It’s left to Holy Fuck to close the night but the band are either in poor form or not grabbing our attention so we decide it’s time to go home to our temporary city home. Wonderfully, the Metro system has re-opened and we join the throngs of Primavera heads home, a little bit drunk, a little bit tired but excited about tomorrow.
The Swell Season