Monday, June 9, 2014

Primavera Porto (and the Albums I Bought-O)

If you're wondering why I didn't post any new blogs last week...well, firstly, thanks for noticing! It's because I've been enjoying an internet-free holiday in Portugal; I flew from Stansted to Porto on Monday and only came back yesterday.

And what did I do in between? Primavera Sound, baby! This was my second time at the festival's Portuguese edition (I first attended back in 2012, when The Flaming Lips and Rufus Wainwright played) and, happily, I've brought home plenty of blog material with which to end The Album Wall's short hiatus.

So how best to relay the joys of NOS Primavera Sound 2014 to you? I could simply write about all the great sets I saw - Spoon, John Grant, Neutral Milk Hotel - but it seems far more appropriate to let the albums tell the story. I bought four CDs while I was there (the festival site had a couple of music stands), so let's look at each one in turn...

N.B. Bear in mind that I've not had a chance to actually *listen* to any of these albums yet.

The Definitive Collection by Caetano Veloso
Caetano Veloso was right at the top of the bill for this festival - only the Pixies and The National were more prominently advertised on the posters. In spite of his apparent fame, though, I'd never heard of the man, and so it was with some curiosity that I went to watch his set on Thursday night.

Now, my post-festival research suggests that Veloso is kind of like a lusophone Bob Dylan, but he rocked surprisingly hard for an esteemed singer/songwriter/voice of the people who's been active since the '60s. His guitarist did some particularly impressive work - I felt at times like I was watching Santana - and the songs ranged from quiet dinner party numbers to samba workouts and evil-sounding blasts of noise.

Once the jumbo-sized setlist had run its course and the band had left the stage, I immediately went straight to the CDV tent and purchased this compilation, which a) seemed like it would be a good, rounded introduction to his mammoth discography, and b) cost less than the other Veloso CDs on that stand. I'd encourage you to check him out too, regardless of whether you speak Portuguese; I certainly don't, but that didn't stop me.

Indie Cindy by Pixies
The Pixies were one of the weekend's biggest draws as far as Sarah and I were concerned, and so you can imagine the excitement (and nervousness) that we felt as we stood in line for the band's autograph session at the Fnac tent on Friday. To say that we 'met' the Pixies may be overselling it slightly - Frank Black seemed to be lost in some sort of zen-like calm, and Joey Santiago was answering questions from an interviewer as he signed - but still, it was a pretty great moment.

The result of this pretty great moment is that I now have a signed copy of Indie Cindy, the band's first album in over two decades. How cool is that? I mean, Sarah got them to sign her Surfer Rosa vinyl, which is arguably even cooler, but still.

Here's yet another cool thing: as he signed it, drummer David Lovering told us that Surfer Rosa was his "favourite".

The actual Pixies live show was very cool, too. They played all the hits (with the conspicuous exception of Gigantic, which presumably won't make the setlist until Kim Deal rejoins the party), along with a smattering of less obvious numbers (the extended rendition of La La Love You was a goofy highlight) and, yes, some stuff from the new album. Which stood surprisingly well amongst the classics, actually; the title track is pretty awesome, flipping as it does between a spitting, jagged verse (which, as Sarah pointed out, sounds rather a lot like The Hold Steady) and a blissed-out chorus.

They also did I've Been Tired, and I managed to remember all of the words in spite of having completely forgotten about the song until they started playing it.

Torto by Torto
Not all of my Primavera purchases were circular. I also treated myself to a nifty red Mogwai T-shirt from the merch tent:

Here it is on me.

A confession, though: I didn't actually see Mogwai's set on Friday night. I don't feel too guilty - I've seen them thrice before and, according to, they didn't play anything from Come On Die Young - but still, I suspect that buying their T-shirt and then skipping their show in favour of catching the Metro makes me something of a phoney.

Fortunately, I did manage to catch Torto on the following afternoon, and they provided me with a satisfying post-rock fix that didn't necessitate a late bedtime. The Portuguese power trio looked like maths teachers but played like heroes, and trust me, my choice to lay down ten euros for their CD was not made in 'Gwai-guilt. Check 'em:

And that short burst of summin' is merely a taste - their longer compositions were even better.

Diffraction/Refraction by You Can't Win, Charlie Brown
Now, unlike fellow Portugalians Torto and Os da Cidade (they were fabulous too, by the way), YCWCB were not a new discovery. They were a band that I'd wanted to see for a while; I discovered them in the run-up to Primavera 2012, but I foolishly passed up the chance to see them at that year's festival and I've regretted it ever since. Their first album, Chromatic, is excellent - I still enjoy it now, and at one point it was literally the only album that my iPod would play (yes, I have bad luck with electronics).

Obviously, I was very pleased to get another chance on Saturday evening, and the band didn't disappoint. Their set was the perfect soundtrack for a sunny afternoon...they even did a cover of Heroin by The Velvet Underground. I realise that's hardly the most summery of songs, but it felt pretty summery on Saturday.

So, while John Grant and Neutral Milk Hotel were the ones who really dropped my jaw this past weekend, I'm actually fonder in many ways of the foreign acts I saw - the Tortos and the Velosos, who I would never have heard of if I hadn't left the country to find them. I'm actually a very reluctant globetrotter, but the hunt for new and awesome music may just be the thing that continues to get me on planes. Heck, I'll even endure brief stopovers in London if I have to.

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