by / June 2nd, 2009 /

State @ Primavera Sound ’09 – Day Three

By the time day three of Primavera rolls around, even the most battle hardened punters are feeling worn out. The mood around the festival is one of weary contentment. People are lobster-faced, dehydrated and running on empty but drawing on their last reserves for a final night of good times in sunny Spain.

Our night begins in a packed auditorium for the minimal classical composer Michael Nyman. He is performing a selection from his extensive back catalogue with his miniature orchestra, the Michael Nyman band. Looking plump and stately, and sitting at his grand piano he cuts an unusual figure at a festival dominated by bearded twenty-somethings from the States. The set flits across his career, taking in music from Drowning by Numbers, The Piano, and the recent Man on Wire soundtrack. It’s a wonderfully different experience, made all the more unusual by the entire ensemble standing up and taking a bow between each track. The music is lush and sweeping and the sound in the auditorium is utterly pristine.

After Michael Nyman we head to the main stage to catch the end of Neil Young’s set. The first thing I notice about him is how very old he looks, with straggly grey hair hanging around a craggy face. In fact he looks so old, I fancy little clouds of dust rising off his head every time he busts out some creaky move. His music sounds anything but old though. It’s vital and fresh. We come expecting a set loaded with greatest hits and he doesn’t disappoint. Classics such as ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’, ‘Keep on Rocking in the Free World’ and ‘Heart of Gold’ ring clear through the Spanish night, and the crowd reward him with the most rapturous reception of the festival. By the time he encores with a countrified rendition of The Beatle’s ‘A Day in the Life’, the crowd are well slayed. A blinding success.

Deerhunter, a band not used to playing such big venues, take to the stage with a weight of expectation hanging over them. They are notable for being unpredictable and the fear is that they’ll make a mess of things. Thankfully, everything goes amazingly right for them. Perhaps they are spurred on by the presence of My Bloody Valentine – a band they are stylistically indebted too – being at the festival because their cathartic, feedbac-drenched songs sound blisteringly energised and thrilling. I secretly hope Kevin Shields is in the audience somewhere, smiling benignly at Bradford like a noise rock uncle. The four-piece make such a driving confident sound that they come on like a chugging articulated lorry made out of drones and drums. ‘Hazel Street’, ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ and ‘Cryptograms’ are phenomenal, with Lockett Pundt’s guitar work filling up the night and more than matching the large stage and crowd. The lighting is amazing too, so luminously overwhelming that the stage looks like the mother-ship which descends from the sky at the end of E.T. The gig reaches its apex with the twelve minute odyssey that is ‘Calvary Scars pt. II’, and during that song’s molten end section I wonder if uncle Kevin might not feel just a little jealous.

On a day crammed with more noisy guitars than you could shake a stick at, Sonic Youth are the icing on the cake. They are in uncompromising, snarling, full-on noise mode. Kim Gordon spits out lyrics with such venom I wonder if she hires someone just to piss her off before she gets on stage. She’s wild. The band match her delivery with wicked, thrashy aplomb. It is something of a connoisseur’s set-list, relying as it does on album tracks such as ‘Hey Joni’ and ‘Bull and the Heather’ rather than more obvious choices such as ‘Teenage Riot’ and ‘100%’. The only thing that mars an otherwise great set was that the sound quality doesn’t quite work towards the back of the crowd. Apart from My Bloody Valentine, this problem appears to affect every band playing the main stage.

Well and truly shattered by the end of the night, a few of us bravely troop over to Simian Mobile Disco on Rock Delux. Their drab visuals and rudimentary blog-house beats provide an uninspiring end to an otherwise stellar night at the festival. By the time they finish flogging their dead horse music, I wish I still had those ear plugs given to me on day one. We leave the venue exhausted but smiling, and catch one last tram into the Catalan dawn.

Photos by Loreana Rushe – click to enlarge.

  • Paul Mc

    Is that Regina Spector in the Kiss jacket?

  • Hah I wish i could tell you. Loreana snapped her because she thought the jacket either looked class or ridiculous.

  • Hi Darragh. Yeah, I had a good Primavera too, seeing a lot of the acts you saw (only partially spoiled by the godawful blisters on my feet from walking around Barcelona for three days before the fest began). Spiritualized were my highlight. I saw them three times last year, and would go and see them play anytime, anywhere. ‘I Think I’m In Love’, indeed. Drone rock? To me Jason Pierce is more of a country singer, even a gospel singer.
    The Vaselines, Neil Young and Sonic Youth were also very cool. There’s something spine-chilling about hearing Young doing ‘Cortez the Killer’ in the Spanish city Columbus sailed from, and in the land of the Conquistadors. SY are really pushing Kim Gordon as front woman now, aren’t they? What’s with this two bass players? The Jesus Lizard want so badly to be The Stooges, and David Yew wants so badly to be Iggy Pop (three stage dives!!!).
    I went to both MBV shows. Seems to me it’s very hard for them to reproduce live what they did on record. You couldn’t really hear the vocals, either in doors or outdoors, which although highly ethereal, are nevertheless an undeniable part of the soundscape.
    BTW, did you think there wasn’t exactly a lot of concession to the gentlepeople of the press? Three day concert ticket = very nice. But after that you were just another punter. I mean, that press area at the back of the field of the main stage wasn’t exactly a viewing gallery, now was it? Or am I just getting too old for this kind of thing?



  • thanks for your feedback Des 🙂 It was my first year covering the concert from a press perspective so I did not have many expectations relating to the press area. However, I (and I’m sure others too) could really have done with at least one stand alone computer there, seeing as I was wary of carrying my laptop around barca until 6 in the morning for obvious reasons.

  • Phil

    Hate to be picky but its Catalunya not Spain. Spose I’m being a bit pedantic but It’d prob annoy you if someone reviewed Electric Picnic and constantly referred to the ‘British night’ and ‘sunny Britain’.

  • Agghem, Phil (large throat clearing exercise before beginning): Catalunya (Cataluña?) may be a distinct region of the Iberian peninsula, and it certainly does have a strong sense of its separate and unique identity, with its own language and customs. However, unlike Portugal, it remains no more autonomous or self-governing than the Basque country, for example, which resolutely remains part of the geopolitical entity known as Spain – despite having a rather more active independence movement than the venerable Catalans do.

    Therefore, your analogy with Britain and Ireland does not hold.

    So, give Darragh (and the rest of us) a break.

  • Ernie

    Dear Des, ‘Catalunya’ is Catalan for ‘Cataluña’

  • Ernie

    also, Loreana must’ve been snapping just in front of me! my photos are from the same spot!

  • Thanks Ernie. I knew that. I was merely reacting to Phil’s comment, albeit somewhat cryptically.