Blur Damon Albarn brags about the fish he’d caught earlier

Round-Up: Primavera Sound 2013, Friday

Published on May 25th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams

Mulatu Astatke, Guardian Alien, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Django Django, Matthew E. White, Local Natives, Swans: as far as Rocksucker is concerned, that lot would make for a pretty darn splendid day’s worth of festivalling right there. As it happened, we saw none of these acts. JDs and lentil men, that’s how great Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is.

First off, 17:15 proved too early a starting time to bask in the luxurious Ethio-jazz of Mulatu Astatke; heck, so addled had we been by the previous night’s exertions that we hadn’t even left the flat by then.

Such sluggishness also appeared to have cost us the chance of seeing Daniel Johnston in the plush environs of the Auditori Rockdelux just outside the main festival site – you had to turn up early to claim a ticket, you see, for the princely sum of two euros – but fortunately a couple of friends made it in time and nabbed one on Rocksucker’s behalf.

This did mean that we had to pass on the P.P.P. (phenomenal percussive psychedelia) of Guardian Alien on the Ray-Ban Unplugged stage, but then they’ll be playing at the Old Blue Last in east London on June 3rd so we’ll get to be exposed to their awesomeness soon enough.

So, Johnston…

It was, you know – the mother of all queues, that is – and we looked to have jeopardised our chances of making it in having been delayed getting slightly lost on the train over. Well, we say ‘lost’: we actually managed to miss our connecting stop while distracting ourselves with the surprisingly rewarding game of translating Blur lyrics into Spanish.

“Oooooh, fin de siglo, oooooh, no es nada especial!”

Et cetera.

After at least five or ten minutes of doing our Little Boy Lost routine, we found our friends in the enormous, serpentine queue and shuffled/were shuffled into the auditorium. There onstage was a Superman T-shirt-clad Johnston, wringing his microphone towards his face as if cradling a dying loved one, and band; what a set they turned in, too, his by-turns-rocking-and-jaw-droppingly-fragile songs about motorcycles, vampires and cartoon ghosts eliciting a quite rapturous response from the thousands of comfortably seated audience members.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of patronising the music and performance of Daniel Johnston, so close to all falling apart does it feel at all times, but its combination of sweet melodies and unyieldingly heartfelt emotional honesty is truly uplifting to behold. He’s one of pop music’s great underdogs, a total one-off, and it feels like a privilege to be granted temporary access to the inner mechanics of his beautiful mind.

The show overran so we had to miss Django Django, who friends tell us started well but ultimately weren’t up to much. Let’s hope their career doesn’t play out similarly because their debut album of last year is a bit of a cracker.

At this point, Rocksucker’s Daniel Johnston buddies went off in search of food, so we hung around by the grassy area in front of the Primavera stage to wait for a) those friends who’d been Djangoed and b) the Breeders to appear and play their classic 1993 album Last Splash in its entirety. Over on the nearby Ray-Ban stage, PAUS sounded like they were whipping up quite the storm.

Breeders time! Tell you what: Kim and Kelley Deal are the coolest, rockingest monotone-bass-line-playing twin sisters in rock music history. It was an air-drumming, energised sludge-fest of beaming power pop melody from start to finish of its impeccable course, just an excellent performance that had us well and truly pumped for…wait for it…

The Jesus and Mary Chain! Booya! What a job the good folk at Primavera Sound did of mixing in greats of yesteryear in amongst today’s leading lights, and what a job JAMC did of rocking our collective balls not just off but into orbit like some cosmic, testicular home run. Even kicking off with a cover of Pixies’ “Head On”, the air was not so much one of ’90s revivalism as it was one of celebration at the ever-enduring relevance – or ‘timelessness’, as they say – of great music from any decade.

The Jesus and Mary Chain

On the way to JAMC we’d stopped by the Ray-Ban stage to see, out of sheer curiosity, whether Solange was still on. The place was deserted.

(Sob) We asked* (sniff) when she was coming back. They said they didn’t know.

They didn’t know.

(*We didn’t really ask. That was just our obligatory Simpsons reference.)

With phone battery running low, it was time for what proved to be our last tweet of the night…

We hope that was worth it.

Next up, James Blake, and with it the realisation that we really ought to stir up a Twitter spat with Jake Bugg on the off chance we’d get to use the headline “James Blake Blames Jake”.

Clears throat

Adjusts bowtie and shuffles cue cards

Taps microphone and says, “Is this thing on?”

Blake’s otherworldly mongedness sounded wonderful and was ideally suited to soundtracking a nice sit down on the aforementioned grassy hill, where we grabbed ourselves a breather in anticipation of…

BLUR! ON THE HEINEKEN STAGE!

Damon Albarn of Blur

Barcelona loves Blur so much they might as well rename the city Blurcelona. It was gleeful to hear locals singing along to every word, even/especially when they were inaccurate, although the frenzied moshing that greeted their every hit wound up separating yours truly from his friends pretty much by the end of opening salvo “Girls & Boys”, aka “the song with the best bass line ever” (Rocksucker, from time to time).

Alex James of Blur

Now, with almost any other band, you might reasonably ask, “Why start with such a black-belt-level crowd-pleaser when they can keep the ace up their sleeve for later?” If you happen to be Blur, you could merely point out – as they did, implicitly, through performing them – that they can bring a crowd to boiling point with more classics than you’ve had cenas calientes:

“Parklife”, “Tender”, “End of a Century”, “For Tomorrow”, “There’s No Other Way”, “Country House”, “Song 2”, “Beetlebum”, “The Universal”, “Coffee & TV”…need we go on? Perhaps our own personal highlight was 13 album track “Trimm Trabb”, as it may also have been when we saw them at Hyde Park both last year and in 2009. It’s just a severely brilliant tune. What’s more, they still play with the energy of a band half their age.

Graham Coxon of Blur

Oh aye, we almost forgot to mention that Blur’s arrival was immediately preceded by a screened broadcast of The Wedding Present tearing through a few numbers. It wasn’t quite clear where it was being broadcast from since we hadn’t spotted them on the lineup – and it was quite disorienting to see a band playing on the screen with nothing going on onstage – but it was ace. Very nice, Primavera Sound.

Very nice.

Blur came pretty close to ruining us for any other band but we mustered just enough strength to traipse over to The Knife and stare agog at the live dancers illuminating their menacing electronics. Constituent siblings Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer were not to be seen until a camera panned offstage for just a split second, conceivably accidentally, to reveal them directing the whole musical caboodle over a big bank of equipment.

It must have been quite confusing to the uninitiated, who might have wondered if they’d stumbled upon some kind of Bizarro Glee, and as compelling a spectacle as it was/is we were so wiped out from Blur that we once again retreated to gaze upon the Primavera stage from a distance. The clock was now creeping up towards 4.30am, and with it came thoughts of the beds in our rented apartment just off Las Ramblas; however, there was still the matter of a Daphni (aka Caribou) DJ set at the Ray-Ban stage.

Again we watched on from afar as a huge crowd somehow found the energy to dance like loons, which we daresay we’d have joined in with had we not been one wiggle away from collapse. Yer man Dan Snaith was a constant whir of activity on the decks, bopping along enthusiastically all the while, safe in the knowledge that the sounds he was blaring out at us were fabulous feeds for body, mind and soul. It’s a good thing he didn’t do a full-blown live set as that might have killed us off entirely.

Daphni DJ set

What a day. Again. What a festival. Let’s go every year. We bloody mean it; where else can you take in ten solid hours of solid music and run into a headline-worthy act at pretty much every turn?

Incidentally, we were watched over with loving grace all night long by a beautiful full moon, one which had begun to set as we left the festival set and had segued into morning by the time we got to our front door around the 6am mark. Very nice, moon.

Very nice.

Primavera Sound full moon

What’s that, Saturday? You’ve got My Bloody Valentine, Wu-Tang Clan, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dexys, The Sea and Cake, Liars, Mount Eerie and The Suicide of Western Culture?

Bring!

It!

ON!

For more photos from Friday night at Primavera Sound 2013, check out this gallery from Rocksucker’s resident photographer Lucas Sinclair.

Artists: , , , , , , ,

About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.


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  • James Jefferys

    Hey there, Nice overview!

    just wondering if you saw the whole Daniel Johnstone set. I was also stuck in said queue and got in around the time of Speeding Motorcycle, and it felt like near the end (and it WAS near the end, because he finished a few songs later.)

    Setlistfm says the set began with Speeding Motorcycle… did you see the whole thing? Because seven songs is a bit poo for a guy with more than 20 full albums under his belt!

    • Jonny Abrams

      Hi James, thanks for reading. I’m pretty sure “Speeding Motorcycle” was a few songs into what we managed to catch of the set, so definitely wasn’t the opener unless he played it twice!