Editor’s note: Earlier this month, Austin Vida contributor Winston Rivas was able to fulfill a long-time dream of traveling to Barcelona, Spain, for the international mega music festival Primavera Sound. The following is Rivas’ review of the festival.
Barcelona. Very few cities provoke such raw emotions. I’m not quite sure if it’s the Spanish wind or the fact that you know that all the vices—even the ones you just thought about for a split second—are just a fingertip away. A city which has been a nursery for the creative and social outcasts, always on the breaking point of the next trendy thing from gastronomy to photography. When it comes to the music scene Barcelona doesn’t play second fiddle to its European counterparts (London, Berlin). For the last decade, Primavera Sound has found a way to bring legions of music aficionados from all the European regions by combining bands of legendary status with your yearly buzz bands. A mind-boggling amount of people. Like a hipster Austin City Limits Fest times ten and next to the beach.
The list of bands in this year’s edition included more than 100 bands, among them the legendary The Cure and Pitchforkian faves Beach House. But as the festival took place in Spain there was no shortage of quality Spanish indie bands worth checking out.
On Thursday, the first band to take the stage was Pegasvs, the heralded synth connoisseurs composed of Luciana y Sergio recently debuted there first LP to high praise within the Ibero-american indie circles. With dueling Moog synths, the duo provided a set that was as visual appealing as their glossy brand of synth-pop. Every song had sweeping progression that never failed to move the crowd, the duo worked their Moog machines like mad scientists, adjusting every knob possible. Luciana’s voice is as tender live as on record, providing the early and unfortunately smallish crowd with a reason to dance and be optimistic for the rest of the festival. A smashing set that was reaffirmation that Pegasvs is Spain’s finest export and Iberoamericas breakout band of 2012.
Friday showcased three of Iberoamerica’s prominent indie artists. First it was Bigott, the indie-folk singer-songwriter with enough charisma to spare. Perhaps it is the long beard and awkward dancing but there is incredible charm to Bigott . Not to mention the lovely brand of indie-folk pop that is even more engaging and playful live. The most sincere moment was during his song “Cool Single eeding” which had spanish couples swaying and embracing each other. Accompanied by a talented group of musicians, the set left the crowd on high spirits and everyone dancing (even to a song titled “Cannibal Dinner”). Bigott, who sings in English, is an artist well capable of making a crossover to American audiences.
Later that evening it was Joe Crepúsculo in a Rayban Unplugged session, plagued with sound problems for a good 20 minutes the avant-pop artist struggled to find a groove early on, but once he began to settle the small tent came to life with brimming techno-pop that had his legion of Barcelona hipsters packing in close and closer to his keyboard. Usually when I think “unplugged,” I think “lazy dude in chair with guitar” but this was more of an intimate house party full of pretty Barcelona indie girls dancing away. At times his music is diffcult to devulge yourself into but once the cerebral part is taken out and you simply swim in the flourishing rythums its easy to fall for Joe’s Music, his lyrics put it best “Despierta el robot que llevas dentro.”
One of the more anticipated sets on a Latin American level was Rebolledo and Matias Aguayo, part of the mipster and European-approved Comeme Crew. Rebolledo, the Mexican from the Beaches of Cancun who plays a dark, menacing “Oh shit, this beat is so heavy” brand of dance music that can be heard in any industrial German nightclub or in Cancun, Matias Aguayo is the tropical guru who provides the psychedelic trip though the amazons. As Rebolledo made his way up with a couple beats of his mipster anthem “Guerreo” playing, the crowd was already screaming “Soy un guerrero” but of course it was just a tease (a one-and-a-half-hour tease). Rebolledo set was a tale of two halves. The first half was difficult to swallow, songs that played too long and lacked any real cohesion and dance-ability. After 40 minutes, Matias Aguayo came to provide a spark of tropical rhythms and tribal vocals (some awsome bird chirps). Matias Aguayo was more commanding on stage and his music was generally more well received. Rebolledo made a return to a better second half playing hits from his album Super Vato. Rebolledo looked more settled and finally played Guerrero at 5:20 am, but the crowd didn’t wane and screamed “Soy un guerrero, visto de cuero!” Even still, Rebolledo’s set left much to be desired.
Saturday had the recently signed Nacional Records artist Astro playing at the Adidas stage in an early set at 5 p.m. Part of the Chilean music renaissance, the group had its share of bright moments. Playing in front of a responsive crowd who knew their songs. The group’s set was bumpy at times but overall enjoyable. The transition from hearing them on CD to finally seeing them live was better than expected. The group ended their set on a high note with their Latin indie hit “Maestro Distrocion” which is even more epic live. It was easy to see why Nacional Records signed the group. Side Note: After the set, a girl asked me if I was Chilean. Yeah, I know.
Mujeres made there way to the Vice stage to a very large crowd. The fuzzy brand of garage rock was extremely impressive. It was great change of pace from the more subdued indie-rock outfits throughout the day. The band who is no stranger to big festivals in Spain and looked like the polished outfit that being said, they never shy to exude aggression and power. The band is a throwback to Spain’s history of aggressive rock bands.
It was finally Saturday or Sunday (time has no concept in Barcelona), 3 a.m. hovered and the moon still as potent as ever, hoards of fans scrambled to what became the default headliner for Saturday, Neon Indian. Alan Palomo the hometown hero of Austin Texas (sorry Denton, he’s ours). As Neon Indian prepared, there where whispers among the crowd as Alan Palomo spoke Castellano to his sound guy “Habla Castellano” fans asked rhetorically. As I stood front row I turned around and simply said “vale, es mexicano”. Which seemed to bamboozle them. This was no doubt Alan’s biggest moment, from filling up the Emo’s small stage with Vega to Mohawk, Fun Fun Fest to this closing Europe’s premier music fest. The lights dimmed and Alan slowly turned the nobs on his Moog and the first beats of local joke blasted, Alan swiveled back with his mipster dance move, there as no doubt he was ready. Sweeeping though a mix from his first to albums,occasionally stopping in-between songs to get a swig of tequilla (Jose Cuervo, of course). Alan Palomo commanded the stage with more vigour and sensuality then previously seen, Alan didn’t use vocal synthesizer rather used his more natural voice which brought even more heart to his set. After 45 minutes which seemed to pinch his set the fans were left salivating another song(terminally chill, a VEGA SONG?!?) which never came. If Neon Indian needed another “hey where a super legit indie band” stamp the fully received it in Barcelona. The crowd dispersed with a collective sigh and made there way out to the other stages where it was dubstep hour.
As the fans slowly made there way out of el Parc Del Forum, It was another sucessful edition of Primavera Sound. I made my way to metro stop (after declining coke and beer from street-peddlers)around 5:30 to the most packed subway you will ever see. The fatigue seemed to finally be setting in on these European hipsters. It was similar feeling you get at SXSW you know after that final final set at Mohawks and you walk your swollen feet down east 6th and turn right on chicon when you know your house is on ceaser chavez and you make a big ass circle. Yea well, it was just like that except i got off at Passeig de Gracia when my stop was Jaume I and Barcelona isn’t really that inviting at 6:30 am(Yet prostitutes still working did provide me with some comfort level). Needless to say i got to my hotel as the sun was starting to reach full blast. Regardless, Primavera Sound is bethomth of a festival a bucket List type of festival for any Music Junkie, perhaps not as big as SXSW but just as potent. The Beach, the Bands, the fact your thousands miles away from home just provides to the adrenaline rush that is this once in life experience. So if you plan to make any festival roadtrip. Skip the Coachella Polo club and head to Catalonia.