Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is one of the best indie music festivals that Europe has to offer (if not the best). They’re able to gather some of the most interesting and talented international acts out there, as well as showcase lesser-known bands, particularly Spanish ones. It takes place in the Parc del Forum, a breathtaking stone park that is right on the Mediterranean Sea and is studded with trees (that you can even pick berries from) and modernist architecture. Bands play with the backdrop of sailboats and Barcelona’s signature cinderblock cubes (or cindercubes) that jut out of the water in every direction.
I went to Primavera Sound last year and crossed a bunch of names off my list of bands to see before I die. Among them were Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, The National, M. Ward and Belle & Sebastian. The festival unofficially started yesterday, and officially starts tomorrow (May 30). This year has just as many heavy hitters, including Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, but I’ll get to that.
Watch a teaser below.
M83 (Friday, 0:45 – Mini Stage)
M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming was an epic adventure and really, really easy to get lost in. Hopefully, the concert will serve to do the same. Although for most of the set I’ll be waiting to hear “Midnight City,” which was the anthem of my small-town summer last year. I hate identifying one band with one song, but their other material doesn’t grab you the same and this tune is sure to be intense live.
Washed Out (Saturday, 2:00 – Pitchfork Stage)
I’ll be seeing far more chill bands this year than last year and it’s a good year to get washed out and relax. I have no idea what Ernest Greene’s live show will be like and from the record, Within and Without, I have a lot of bedroom synth preconceptions that will be interesting to see played out on a big stage. Regardless, this set will be great to get washed away as the waves of the sea behind me wash me right back.
The XX (Thursday, 00:45 – Mini Stage)
The XX has the sexiest sound and none of the tackiness of Barry White. Their debut record evocatively captures yellow-lamp-lit New York streets and brick lofts with messy mattresses right on the floor with a couple that can’t keep off each other. It’ll be the perfect moment to make out with the Spanish dream I meet while waiting in line for Jeff Mangum earlier in the day.
Grimes (Thursday, 20:30 – Pitchfork Stage)
I really wish Clair Boucher would just play her set in the sea from her Huck Finn raft. There’s really not much else to say except that if I ever dance during the festival (which is highly unlikely) it will be during this set.
Wavves (Friday, 23:15 – Mini Stage)
I don’t care that the lead man for Wavves and the lead girl for Best Coast were “indie’s” starlet couple. I don’t even care that all they post on their Tumblrs and Twitters are things about weed or cats, respectively. Wavves’ King of the Beach perfected stupid pop. It came out right when I needed a feel-good album, because I listen to so few of those. Likewise, their set will be just the right amount of going nuts.
The Men (Friday, 1:45 – VICE Stage)
You can read my experimental narrative review of The Men’s Open Your Heart here. I’m more familiar with the good-times-havin’ weird art-house-party vibe from that album. Their first one was much more darker and they screamed a lot more, so I’m curious to see how the two visions of the band fit together.
Atlas Sound (Saturday, 20:45 – Pitchfork Stage)
I pray to God that I can be there to witness when Bradford Cox has a complete mental breakdown on stage and forces an audience member to strip on stage…again. The music for Deerhunter’s set last year was unbelievably more intense than their records (but the vocals were still on the same monotone flat line). It was a great set and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that you never know what to expect out of Cox, but it’s sure to be something good.
Girls (Friday, 20:15 – Mini Stage)
Girls’ wacky vocals have me questioning singer Christopher Owens’ sanity from time to time, but it’s acceptable from someone who grew up in a cult. One of my closest friends also spent a few years under the reign of the Children of God and her and Owens’ parents even had friends in common. So, it’ll be good to see them if only to talk to the band by chance and help my friend get closer to her marriage proposal. I’ll also be able to make a more well informed psychological diagnosis from his stage presence. Oh, and groove to some thankfully spiritually channeled rock ‘n’ roll. “Lust for Life” and “Hellhole Rat Race” are amazing songs.
There comes a sad, dark, turbulent time in every festival when two bands that you want to see are playing at the same time. And you have to choose. Beach House, albeit a buzz band, is exactly what I want to listen to on the beaches of Barcelona. Yet, The Olivia Tremor Control has given me more than a few records worth of perfectly blended art and pop that I have always listened while I was walking through museums. Maybe I’ll finally get up the courage to buy weed from the sketchy guys who whisper the names of drugs to you as you walk past them on the Ramblas. Plus, the band was a part of the Elephant 6 collective which also houses Neutral Milk Hotel and The Music Tapes, all bands that I respect greatly. They just got back together since their hiatus in the ‘90s and I can’t miss the chance to hear new material. I’m probably going to choose The Olivia Tremor Control, which should make my editor happy.
Beirut (Thursday, 23:15 – Mini Stage)
Nothing has captured the spirit of being in Europe better than Beirut. The operatic vocals, mandolins, accordions, and horns seem to paint even down to the smallest details of the canal-side buildings in Venice or the snowmen lining the stone Seine in Paris or the bicycles lining every fence in Amsterdam or a country road in Germany dotted with wild flowers, or maybe even a drunken haze by the beach in Barcelona. It seems fitting that part of the end of my year in Europe should be seeing Beirut.
Jeff Mangum (Friday, 18:30 and Saturday, 19:00 – Rock Deluxe Auditorium)
I will be arriving at the Rock Deluxe Auditorium two…wait, maybe three hours before Jeff Mangum will play. I don’t care what band I miss. Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over the Sea is my favorite album of all time. As a beautiful and strangely sexual piece of stream of consciousness that has something to do with a two headed boy going back in time to save Anne Frank from being killed, it tickles my fancy for magical realism just right and is a huge creative inspiration, as it is for many, many musicians and artists. And it never gets old. Like Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel stopped playing publicly in the late ‘90s. A lot of it had to do with the immediate success of the album and Mangum’s mental breakdown. It’s only been a couple of years that there have been rumors of house shows popping up here and there. One of them was even at a house in Providence that I narrowly missed seeing. It was only this year that Mangum started touring again (if you’re counting, that’s 12 years to build anticipation and expectations). Mangum released a box set last year that included a lot of unreleased recordings that I only just got my hands on and I am desperate to see if he plays anything new. The prospect of another Neutral Milk Hotel album…well, I’d better not jinx it.
And of course, I’ll be extremely excited to see the Spanish bands that are playing the festival and who are now friends of THE BOMBER JACKET. We did an interview with Beach Beach, Picore and Mujeres and you can read them by clicking the links. Other Spanish bands of interest are Lorena Álvarez y Su Banda Municipal (who sources say will have an amazing debut album coming out soon), Internet2 (who plays childlike electronica), Fred i Son (acoustic pop also on Mujeres’ label Sones), Ocellot (lovely, yet grim psychedelic and chill electronica), and the Famèlic D.I.Y. Vic collective members Ohios, Mates Mates, and L’Hereu Escampa.
Other bands I’ll probably try to catch (in no particular order):
Dirty Beaches, Chromatics, The Drums, Big Star’s Third, Laura Marling, Wilco, Spiritualized, Archers of Loaf, Yo La Tengo, Beach Fossils, The Walkmen, Death Cab for Cutie, Mudhoney, Thee Oh Sees, Refused, John Talabot, The Field, and Justice.