The Primavera Sound festival, undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of the Spanish summer music calendar, is not for the faint hearted. Boasting nine stages of continuous music from 5pm – 6am over the course of three days, it’s enough to run even the most enthusiastic and hardened festival-goer ragged. But that’s not to say the experience isn’t worthwhile, far from it, you just need a decent pair of shoes.
Over the years, Primavera Sound has consistently provided a strong line up, and this year’s selection of acts was nothing short of stellar, dominated by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Pixies, Arcade Fire and Neutral Milk Hotel, and if that wasn’t enough, the festival is not just restricted to the Parc del Forum festival site. Numerous venues throughout the city also play host to bands, some of which aren’t on the regular line up and Wednesday night was one such evening as Barcelona’s Apolo venue hosted a one off show from San Franciscan psychedelic outfit The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The queues abounded outside the venue as what seemed like the entire 70,000 festival ticket holders waited in the spitting rain to get inside. But once in, the venue had a majestic, early 20th century music hall feel complete with red stage curtain and tasselled light fittings running throughout. By the time The Brian Jonestown Massacre took to the stage everyone was packed in as they ran through a set of elongated rock ‘n’ roll at their psychedelic best. Maybe it was the fact that everyone was still a bit damp from the weather, or maybe it was just the near 1am stage time, but the style of music didn’t seem to be what the crowd needed to kick start their festival experience and people began to shuffle out a little disheveled in spirit as well as clothing.
Thursday saw the sun shine over the Parc del Forum just in time for Midlake to take to the Sony stage (one of two main stages – the other was the Heineken stage). It seemed fitting that they ran through most of their new album Antiphon, awash with denim and aviators, the crowd singing along to the title track clapping in unison. The surprise highlight of the day, and probably the whole festival, was hosted at the Vice stage in the form of Irish all male four piece Girl Band. Despite having the most un-google friendly name since !!!, they pounded out a set of intensely abrasive and foot stompingly catchy noise pop. Frontman Dara Kiely stood unassumingly centre stage whilst intermittently blasting out sardonic lines like ‘I used to be good looking’ over the gloriously intense, distortion drenched racket, reminiscent of James Murphy and an (even more) danged Mark E. Smith.
Thursday’s indisputable band to watch had to be the recently reformed Neutral Milk Hotel. Before their set began, the space in front of the ATP stage quickly transformed into a sea of festival goers, admittedly, most of which were 30 something men with beards sporting obscure band t-shirts. But as Neutral Milk Hotel took to the stage, something of a religious experience began to take place. Jeff Mangum grasped the microphone, sounding as fresh and invigorated as was imaginable, like the intervening 20 years since the release of their seminal In The Aeroplane Over the Sea had been nothing but a trip to the local store for beer and cigarettes. The hour long set covered nearly the entirety of the band’s two albums, the horn section and off-kilter folk arrangements blending effortlessly during stand-outs ‘King of Carrot Flowers Pt.1’ and ‘Two Headed Boy’, leaving the crowd elated.
The big hitters of the night were Queens of the Stone Age who blasted out a slew of career spanning hits. The band’s self styled ‘ginger Elvis’ Josh Holme lip-curled his way through ‘No One Knows’ and ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ with obvious glee while the desert rock shenanigans of ‘I Only Want You’ served to insight the crowd into a beer soaked frenzy as the blue lights flashed ferociously over the audience. Elsewhere, the night was capped off at the Vice stage with London based Japanese outfit Bo Ningen, who showcased their third album in incendiary fashion, their heavy duty Kimonos matching the weight and texture of their riff-laiden performance.
Then, something unexpected happened. Strolling past the merch tents at around midnight a small crowd had gathered around three men all dressed head-to-toe in Lycra. Two of them were facing each other, drumming on full kits whist the third was twiddling knobs on a huge synthesizer. According to a hastily written sign, written in black marker pen on the back of a flyer stuck to a chair, they were called Barberos. It was all a little disconcerting, but when you’re spending all evening rushing between nine stages, to stumble across something as random and unique as this somehow felt pretty special.