Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 3

Photo by Alan Moore & taken from

Before we get started I’d like to thank Johnny Feeney for taking the time to share his Primavera Sound ’11 musings with us. I for one have really enjoyed reading them and it’s made me wanna go to next years festival. Day three, take it away.

Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 3

Saturday and Champions League Final day in Barcelona and the place was buzzing. The site was awash with the colours of the Blaugrana and the odd, brave Man U fan and there was an undercurrent of anticipation in the air you couldn’t escape. But the show must go on.

Yuck opened the ATP stage in fine style in the sun and drew in a large crowd for such an early slot. Their catchy, hook-laden music harks back to the days of early ‘90s grunge with a splash of distortion thrown into the mix. Theirs was a rather short but super-tight set and I would expect bigger and better things from them in the future.

The all-girl group Warpaint (pictured above) weaved their mesmeric, psychedelic indie to dazzling effect. Tunes like ‘Undertow’ and ‘Composure’ sounded fantastic out in the open air of the Llevant stage with the Mediterranean breeze on your back and a beer in your hand. They’re a very good looking band too and held something of a spell over me as I watched. I wasn’t the only one.

tUnE-yArDs gave one of the performances of the festival for me. Utterly unique, tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) came onstage armed primarily with a ukulele whilst providing loops of percussion and tribal backing vocals for herself. Along with her booming voice and ably assisted by a bass player and 2-piece horn section, the results were devastating. Highlights here were ‘Gangsta’ and ‘Bizness’, my two favourite tracks off the excellent new album W H O K I L L. The music varied wildly between lo-fi folk and tribal African beats but was always captivating. She plays Whelan’s on June 17th and is well worth a visit.

With Fleet Foxes, you always know exactly what you’re going to get. Their pastoral folk and beautiful, soaring harmonies went down well on the main stage without setting the world alight. Main stages at festivals are a hard place to grab the attention of a large crowd and with the Champions League final about to take place, a lot of people’s minds were elsewhere.

After watching the mighty Barcelona crush Man Utd, I ran swiftly over to PJ Harvey who had the unenviable task of following the CL Final but she very quickly had the crowd at the main stage rapt. Playing for over an hour and a half, the setlist included almost everything off this year’s exceptional album ‘Let England Shake’ alongside classics such as ‘C’mon Billy’, ‘Down by the Water’ and the brilliant ‘Big Exit’. A remarkable performance by Harvey and a must-see for me at the Electric Picnic in September.

Swans are a new enough discovery for me so I plumped for them over Mogwai and I was not disappointed with my choice. They played intense, dark, multi-layered rock that sounded like music for the apocalypse. Alongside the guitars and drums were lots of rage, haunting bells and sinister strings. I liked this more than I thought I would. Will be digging deeper with these guys.

Putting my last choices into the hands of others, I went to see Darkstar who I didn’t care for much. Dub-heavy electronica, I just found it drone-y and dull. Animal Collective are a band I’ve never “got” on record but I decided to see if there was something live that might shed some new light for me. I now don’t “get” them live either. Not for me, thank you.

And so another successful edition of Primavera Sound ends for me. It’s been a lot of fun and I hope to return next year for what’s turned into something of an annual pilgrimage for me.

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Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 2

        Photo by Alan Moore & taken from Nialler9

Johnny Feeney picks up where he left off with day two from this years Primavera Sound.

Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 2

Day 2 of Primavera Sound began with the imperious Sufjan Stevens in the Rockdelux Auditoria large limited-capacity indoor gig used by Primavera to house some of their more intimate shows. Following a very similar tracklist to his widely-acclaimed shows in the Olympia in Dublin, the opening ‘Seven Swans’ kicked things off with a spectacular bang and the show never let off from then drawing in tracks from the new album, ‘The Age of Adz’, and the new EP, All Delighted People. Everything about this was impressive and relentless – Sufjan’s faultless live vocals while navigating various instruments, dazzling visuals and light show, attempted mass singalongs, fluorescent costumes, quirky choreography and energetic full backing band. There was constantly so much going on onstage and it was a real feast for the eyes as well as the ears.

Avi Buffalo released a beautiful self-titled album of uplifting indie-pop last year and I decided to leave Sufjan Stevens early to catch them. Disappointingly the band decided to use their early slot on the main stage to road test new songs which did not stand up with their earlier work. Only when the band played ‘What’s In It For’ and ‘Remember the Last Time’ from their album did they provoke any kind of reaction out of the crowd. Until then it had plodded along rather aimlessly and they will not have made many new fans.

Tennis followed over on the ATP stage but their brand of twee guitar-pop was a little sickly sweet for me so I ventured over to the Fiery Furnaces who had a far edgier, rockier sound. The band had a classic band make-up of drums, bass and guitar with the suitably fiery Eleanor Friedberger on vocals and played out some no-frills entertaining rock.

It feels like newcomer James Blake has been around for an age after finishing runner-up in the annual ‘buzz-band’ awards, the BBC Sound Of 2011. His dupstep-influenced, bass-heavy, minimal soul has lots of empty spaces but certainly packs a punch. I just felt he would have been better suited to an indoor arena where his sparse sounds would have less chance of escaping into the open air. However, the snapping electronic drums and sparse keyboards and piano really had the onlooking crowd, myself included, entranced. A very interesting prospect, this one.

The National are consistently brilliant and they didn’t fail to deliver another awe-inspiring show here. From the first notes of ‘Start a War’, the National owned the Llevant stage. Highlights included ‘Fake Empire’, ‘England’ and ‘Anyone’s Ghost’ but Sufjan Stevens coming onstage to join the band for ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and later again for ‘Terrible Love’ would have been enough for even the most hardened of hipster’s heart to skip a beat. Truly magical fare, although don’t expect Sufjan to be joining them onstage again for Oxegen in July!

The majestic Low completely filled the ATP stage later, a sight to behold when full as its all encompassing lay-out gives it a real communal feel like a weirdly designed amphitheatre. Low specialise in lush, beautifully arranged, soft rock and gave a spine-tingling performance to an appreciative crowd drawing mostly from their brilliant new album C’mon. It was easy listening at its best and a really beautiful experience.

Thus ended another frenetic evening of music where I somehow contrived to miss (audible sigh) Pulp, Battles, Simian Mobile Disco, Carte Blanche and Field Music amongst others.

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Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 1

The festival season kicks off here in Ireland with Forbidden Fruit this weekend. Elsewhere in Europe things are off and running, not least Primavera Sound which took place Last weekend.

My mate and gig-going accomplice Johnny Feeney, was lucky enough to attend this years festival. Here are his thoughts on day one.

Primavera Sound ’11 – Day 1

Primavera Sound is a lot of people’s idea of alternative music heaven. Set in the idyllic surrounds of Parc Del Forum with the imposing Mediterranean Sea dominating all around, avid festival punters scurry around frantically with barely a pause for breath between internationally renowned and up-and-coming alternative music acts of all styles. With little or no on-site distractions apart from eight music stages, some smaller tents for acoustic performances and one eating area, this place is all about the music.

Toundra kicked off proceedings with a bang on the Pitchfork stage with some fine, mazy, Mogwaiesque, instrumental post-rock and were a nice surprise. Sonny & the Sunsets were a much cheerier bunch, delivering good time rock’n’roll with hand-claps and smiles aplenty. Cults sounded promising on the ATP stage but I only caught a fleeting glance at them and they will have to be checked out at a later stage. Over on the main stage, Of Montreal played funky, glam-rock while putting on an enjoyably flamboyant show complete with bright colours, big wigs, tight-fitting spandex and some shoddy-at-best fake wrestling.

Glasser performed credibly with a stripped back band but, for me at least, fails to really command attention and is a bit more style than substance. The Walkmen were excellent with their brooding but beautiful indie rock. Suave frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s voice is every bit as distinctive live as it is on record and he had the large audience at the Pitchfork stage eating out of the palm of his hand.

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