Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Primavera Sound 2015: The Good & The Bad

I'm back! My first Primavera Sound festival is over, and I've got plenty to say about my stay in Barcelona. On Friday, I'll be sharing five of my favourite new bands from the festival; firstly, though, I thought I'd just list some of the best (and worst) things about my Primavera experience.

What was good?

  • The music, obviously. I discovered plenty of new bands - again, come back on Friday for more on that front - but Primavera Sound 2015 also helped me to rediscover several old favourites, namely Brand New (with The Crimea disbanded and Davey MacManus working as a nurse in Africa, it occurs to me that Jesse Lacey is probably the closest thing music currently has to a Davey substitute), Interpol ("This is my favourite!" - me, at the start of practically every song Interpol played on Saturday night), and especially Damien Rice, who - armed with only a guitar, a loop pedal, and his own voice - still managed to make me feel all of the emotions I felt when I saw him with a full band back in 2007.

  • The location. The Parc del Fòrum is a slightly unusual venue - with nary a blade of grass in sight, it looks more like a skate park than a festival site - but it's perfect for its purpose. Oh, and since it's right next to the water, you get a great view of the Balearic Sea while you listen to the bands (especially if the band in question is playing on the H&M Pro stage). 

  • The stalls. The Rough Trade tent (a staple of the Green Man Festival, which I will also be attending this summer) was a very welcome presence on the festival site last week - being the album addict I am, I loved being able to watch an awesome new band and then purchase their CD immediately afterwards without even leaving the Fòrum. Several Spanish record labels also had their own stalls on-site, which was very cool - I purchased a Helen Love CD from the Elefant Records stand, which is ironic because Helen Love are actually from South Wales.

  • The app. I've only had a smartphone for about a year, and so Primavera 2015 was my first app-assisted festival experience. The Primavera Sound app - a sort of digital festival programme that told you all about each act and notified you when one of your favourites was about to start - was free to download and a pleasure to use; it'd be great to see more festivals doing this sort of thing in future (that means you, Green Man organisers!)

What was bad?

  • The bleed. On several occasions over the course of this festival, I found myself watching an artist struggle to compete with the noise that was coming from the next stage over. There was a particularly facepalmy moment on Thursday, when The Shalalalas' set on the Ray-Ban Unplugged stage was almost totally drowned out by whoever was playing on the next stage over. Come on, Primavera organisers - you've been doing this for fifteen years now, and if you're going to put a small unplugged stage directly opposite a large, non-unplugged stage, you should at least have the good sense to stagger the acts on those two stages to avoid clashes.

  • The corporations. Yes, I realise that these things need money to happen, and no, I don't think that my overall experience was particularly dampened by the fact that most of the stages were named after big businesses, but hearing Patti Smith - the Godmother of Punk - proclaim "We are all being fucked by corporations!" from a stage covered in Heineken logos did leave a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Worse even than the sponsorship, however, was...

  • The bloody VIP section. So you trooped over from the food court 20 minutes early to get a good spot for your favourite band? Sorry, kid - the golden circle is for VIPs only. In spite of arriving in plenty of time, I was denied a close-up view of Damien Rice, Patti Smith and Interpol during their sets on the Primavera and Heineken stages simply because I didn't have the right wristband on. As Laura Snapes pointed out on Twitter - it seems that she was similarly turned away from the golden circle for Sleater-Kinney - it was not at all in the spirit of things, and it did mean that the front rows were curiously empty for several of these big-name draws.

  • The clashes. Obviously, it's a sad fact of any multi-stage festival that you won't be able to see everything, but still, I'd like to apologise to the following great acts for going to see other bands instead of them: Belle & Sebastian, The Juan MacLean, American Football, Antony and the Johnsons, Sleater-Kinney, Mikal Cronin, Tori Amos, The Strokes, Battles, The New Pornographers, Perfume Genius, The Pastels, Foxygen, Babes In Toyland, Thee Oh Sees, tUnE-yArDs, and NOT Sun Kil Moon because Mark Kozelek is a dickhead.
Come back on Friday for more Primaveranalysis!

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