PART THREE - PRIMAVERA SOUND - PARC DEL FORUM, BARCELONA - 31 MAY, 1-2 JUNE 2012
19 Jun 2012
The final part of our Iliad-sized review of Barcelona's Primavera Sound festival 2012. This one has added Shellac.
Smugly revelling in what’s already been witnessed, it’s not like we even need/deserve a third day of this. Thus far, across two gloriously sun-strewn days, we’ve witnessed Robert Smith’s heart-breaking voice sing some of the greatest pop songs in living memory, seen Laura Marling come of age, and dropped our jaws at the sensory overload attack of Liturgy. What else, really, could be left out there?
How gloriously, wonderfully naïve. The notoriously elusive and enigmatic JEFF MANGUM, who we missed yesterday due to inane queuing systems (the logic to which we’ll never understand), is playing again. And thank God we made it this time. Taking to the stage and immediately sitting down, next to a barrage of battered acoustics, Jeff utters a comment that will change the scope of the performance for its duration.
'If you want to sit around here,' Jeff murmurs, gesturing towards the stage steps before and around him. Suddenly, a ‘Jumanji’-style stampede of super-fans lets rip in the formal confines of the Auditori, taking Mangum by surprise, as a rush of security administer the situation to ensure Jeff’s not – basically – knocked flying.
Sat around in deft reverence, peering upwards towards this astonishing songwriter, several hundred people (Rockfeedback included) get the experience of a lifetime, as the rest of the seated theatre looks on in initial distain.
From this point, Mangum goes on to perform a tear-inducingly moving and intimate barrage of skitty folky compositions with belting delivery. He enchants for an hour, with lilting, weaving, elevating and mesmeric melodies. Take ‘Little Birds’ as prime reference material: arguably five incredible, wonderful songs in one, and that's the general vibe.
Fans give him presents, and the overall packed auditorium, with besotted appreciators sprinkled across the stage engulfing him, creating a serene setting. His strumming is hearty and his lyrics spitting (no wonder he reaches for the throat-spray midway through). And despite his awkward reputation, he clearly cannot help but crack a smile at the sheer adulation thrown back at him after every song and at the inevitable recognition of the next one about to be performed.
'So, you like to sing?'
Finally letting us in, Mangum delivers a note-perfect rendition of his masterpiece’s title-track, ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ and 1,000 whispers can be heard underneath the PA. Uproarious applause ensues, and another cracked, wry smile emerges. 'You didn't sing very loud...'
It’s a beautiful moment, where the shy indie underdog suddenly becomes the theatre-packing, festival highlight hero.
'Thank you so much for this moment, Jeff' exclaims a Spanish voice from the crowd.
'No, seriously,’ returns Jeff, ‘It's my pleasure.'
For someone that’s been away from the public eye for so long, it’s a thrill to be able to believe him when he says that. Walked off surrounded by security at the end, Mangum has successfully claimed the magic moment for Primavera 2012, a performance never to be forgotten.
[Kings Of Convenience]
KINGS OF CONVENIENCE soon ground us with their absolutely sumptuous acoustic balladry.
Playing a set of two genuine halves, the Norwegian Simon and Garfunkel serenade us as the original stripped-back duo we all fell in love with over a decade ago, before getting the band up to transform their intricately pretty and sincere ditties into funky, fully fledged party jams that get thousands moving.
Erland Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøeexchange the knowing looks of a band that’s conquered its environment, which in this case – a sun-setting Barcelona – must only be as wondrous for them as it is for us.
Clearly spending all of their touring profits on sumptuous light shows and ridiculous stage sets, so begins a star turn from BEACH HOUSE. Opening with recent album ‘Bloom’s fellow introductory ‘Myth’, searchlights loom into the crowd, and the car park-like arena of the Mini Stage swiftly fills up.
Wisely heading straight into ‘Teen Dream’-era material right away – a searing ‘Norway’ as song two – the tone is set for the remainder of the performance - a psychedelic and romantic one, the only shame proving a lack of illumination on the band: our makers of his uplifting and potent dream pop from a seemingly otherworldly, distant era.
It’s a greeting of champions. And it’s made by Bob Weston of SHELLAC, a man we can now clearly see is donning orange trousers. His band-mates – legendary recordist Steve Albini and sublime drummer Todd Trainer – avoid wincing and immediately power into sound.
If you don’t know, Shellac are the Primavera ‘house band’ of sorts, in that they are the only band to be invited back to play every year, on the same stage (ATP), in typically the same slot (i.e. around 10.30pm-ish).
And, as per every year, it’s bloody rammed, fellow sick-o music fans keen to gorge on malicious bile-ridden lyrics, terrifyingly jagged and sharp riffs, Trainer’s impeccable tom-heavy drum precision and the sense of hilarious onstage hijinks that make Shellac an unmissable live presence – i.e. a slow motion silence section, as the band poseur their way through clichéd rock gestures before combusting back into sound, and the now-staple close of set, where everything is stripped away around Trainer until he hasn’t got a single drum left to hit.
The songs are pretty fabulous too – we get a venomous back-to-back of ‘Prayer to God’ into ‘Squirrel Song’, not to mention a perfect rendition of their brooding and apocalyptic ‘End of Radio’. The best house band of all-time. See you again next year boys.
THE WEEKND initially doesn’t enjoy such fate, sadly. His soulful and passionate fan-boy mixtapes have been on repeat in the Rockfeedback office speakers for endless months now, but his ambitious live adaptation to a full-band, all-singing, all-dancing R’n’B extravaganza is thwarted by a power cut that lasts seemingly forever (in reality, only about ten or fifteen minutes).
In any event, it’s a bit of a vibe kill, although we do get rewarded with a captivatingly cheesy and faithful cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana’, proving Abel Tesfaye not to be just a phenomenal bedroom recording artist/producer, but also a sensational live vocalist and performer.
Here on in, I’m not going to lie. It gets blurry. Such is the potency of absorption from the weekend, it becomes a bit much. Alcohol + little sleep + a sublimely programmed electronic music programme (see Part One of this review to see how the organisers cunningly segue your 5pm until 5am without you really knowing how it happens) = getting messy at JAMIE XX, throwing limbs to NEON INDIAN, rolling around at the blowout, closing indie disco, getting kicked out at 7am, and landing on the beach for some 8am nightcap beers.
And that’s Primavera Sound 2012: all about the music, but then again, all about the experience. The evening becomes your anchor, new friends get made, sounds permeate from every direction, the sea steals your gaze. It’s a halcyon melting pot of sound and warmth. Leaving you with that resounding feeling: I never want to go home again.
All photos by Deborah Chang