Saturday neglects to get going until the later afternoon, when the centrally located Parc de la Ciutadella plays host to a couple unmissable bits and bobs. Here congregated is a gathering of again perpetually inebriated reveller and perplexed tourist, plus Sean Nicholas Savage who, this afternoon armed with a guitar of all things, stands out an immediate savour of the entire day. “I was always heartless” he fesses on an unfeasibly heartfelt, and as yet unknown number concerning frolics about some similarly unidentifiable jungle, a gently creaking and trebly refrain jangling on in the backdrop. Though it’s his vocal – a thing of astonishingly striking quality – which holds us unwaveringly rapt and as such, his audience swells as the set wears on. “Summer come back, I need a tan” he soothes on a Come Back To Me audaciously delivered a cappella, as we’re afforded a glimpse of further subtle intricacy by this explicit shift in aesthetic from tawdry keyboard dabblery to shaky guitar mastery, such is his dizzyingly ramshackle stylisation. He’s thus plucky in the every sense of the word, and a singular proposition – one which quite rightly might appear petrifying to the vagabonding uninstructed. But She Looks Like You truly benefits from the new garb in which it’s dressed, as it gradually approaches a kind of About a Boy denouement during which you half expect Nick Hornby to do a Hugh Grant and appear on the vacated drum kit beyond to really power its raw sentiment of desolate separation home. Indeed, its slushy vibe is only dampened by the scurrying of some illicit cerveza vendor in a clichéd Johnny Cash tee although as ever, it’s Days Go By which really does the deed, Savage rhetorically quizzing: “It won’t last forever/ What ever does?” It’s the primary sensation of the whole shebang as Primavera Sound 2013 enters its final day although as he continues to tell of nomadic times whiled away on the beaches of Malaga ahead of a simmering You Changed Me, there’s a sense of continuation and a cause for further optimism. “The winter breeze/ Put me at ease” he reassures, his precursory recount only contributing an hitherto unprecedented tenderness. “She’s my best friend! I submitted myself to love! And then I fucked it up.” Such is life, though its recital this afternoon proves flawless and so too does that of Chin Chin. It’s music “recorded at night for the afternoons” but whatever – it works whenever, and even the statues flanking the stage stay transfixed by his oddly mesmeric presence. For it’s another thoroughly irresistible performance, and one to make the heart grow forever fonder.
Over on the other side of the ornate greenhouse beside which Savage splurges the contents of his many bulging atria and ventricles, Merchandise sport their newly acquired Ray-Ban, erm, merchandise to offset the ‘Get Stoned At Stoney’s’ tees only to prove grittily brilliant, if seemingly accidentally so. That is to say that although grossly American as a tumbledown Cadillac smothered in indeterminate Big Mac sauce, they make a becoming rumpus for a bunch covered in Levi’s, Ray-Ban’s and whatnot. And, aside from the quick-witted park life quips of canine observation, among the swooping of parrots and shitting pigeons it’s the music itself which quite rightly stands right out. Carson Cox’ snivel one of unintelligible sweetness, they endear long before they condescend to dish out freebie Heineken and for all the slack of their recorded counterparts, these live representations witness the four-piece really pull it together and in turn pull it out the bag. From the sludgy, psychotic onslaught of I Locked The Door to the ramshackle riffage of Anxiety’s Door which in parts sounds positively vertiginous as Gaudí’s La Pedrera, they’re absolutely slaughterous, and make for an invigorating awakening.
Some hours later and back down at the Parc del Fòrum, the show somewhat inevitably goes on with the distinctly estival, if mildly dreary fare of Californian Secretly Canadian signees Cayucas, echoes of whom can be heard reverberating back off various jaggy corners from some way off. Akin to an Afrobeat Fleet Foxes replete with hackneyed lyrics of cowboy boots and loose shrapnel jingling about the depths of raggedy back pockets, although delectable enough sonically speaking they leave us craving a little more of the proverbial substance basically, and not least when they so ill-advisedly cite Grizzly Bear mid-song. It may well be a reference of ursine connotation as opposed to one aligning them with just about the least savage band on the bill, but it’s lazy songsmithery in short and is such in the bad way rather than that of the West Coast lethargy they frequently cite in again contrived fashion. The charlatan queen that is Melody Prochet then does another number on the psych-seeking with her ersatz ’60s schtick, as we’re invited on into the chintzy experience within Melody’s Echo Chamber before it’s onto better, if alas bigger things.
Having become Barcelona’s house band of sorts for the duration of the week and with Band Of Horses run out the race due to devastating tornados stateside, a makeshift Deerhunter stint serves as that most adequate of substitutes even on the ludicrously enormous Heineken monstrosity. Coupled with the earlier cancellation of self-proclaimed Sugar Man Rodriguez, the evening had gotten off to an understandably slow start until Cox & co. once again intervene. The notices markedly announcing this one have the Atlanta, Georgia ensemble down as one of the bands of this year thus far and although comprehensible hyperbole given the gravity of the situation into which they’re here so unceremoniously thrust, this expression of exuberant praise ain’t too far wide of the mark. For they play as though they could perform this unimpeachably every night, and they indeed do on three of the six I spend overseas as they set about winning us all over all over again each and every time. The size and stature of the situation struggles to best suit them, for they were never destined for such immense things as these. This be a stage fit for Kings Of Leon, Arctic Monkeys et al., and not such spaced oddities as they. Their setlists still handwritten and their quips crude (“We’re Band Of Horses pt. II: The Reckoning” Cox continually guffaws somewhat irksomely) they’ll doubtless have been ready and more than willing to fill this one in, although I can’t help but feel their impromptu promotion to a purported big time doesn’t do them quite as many favours as it could. And that they opt for the immediately abstract, squawking feedback kicking up a storm, suggests a subversive trait again too kooky for such stuff as archetypal enormodome shows are made on: there’s a sense they don’t fully realise the opportunity this time, Cryptograms swirled out into an hypnotic wig out with little, to no regard for intricacy. All intimacy is of course long gone as well, and thus if Thursday’s showing seemed a lucid continuation of all that Deerhunter came to be around the release of Halcyon Digest, then this appears to be exactly what Cox had in mind when he kicked things off in the beginning and subsequently came to kick Joshua Fauver out just last year. It’s an illustration of the band’s reputedly undervalued alter ego penned in to counterbalance the supposedly overestimated outfit the melody makers have become in recent years and yet just as it would seem to be a show of Cox’ construction, it’s once again the hour of The Missing with Lockett Pundt’s jejune delivery pertaining to a porcelain fragility, even in such a vast expanse. It’s a Lotus Plaza number in essence, and never has that resonated with a more perceptible clarity as Bradford appears utterly, and with it deplorably disinterested throughout though it’s of course he who dishes out the cursory gracias. They fail to kindle that same celebratory feel as they did two days ago, it must be said, and there is a discernible sense that with a more or less identikit setlist it’s rather literally all been seen before. But although Desire Lines doesn’t sound quite as direct as it did the other day, it fares far better than most as Pundt again takes the reins. It’s he to whom our desire lines of preference lead without fail, but it’s Bradford’s listless approach to this evening which becomes more patent yet: he’s neglected to get tarted up as was before, while he tonight seems a performer strangely lacking a prerequisite vitality.
The Blue Agent lyric comprising the words: “If you need a friend now/ Better look some place else/ You burned this bridge long ago/ Here’s to your health” thereby assumes a newfound relevance, for he’s so often the spry pick of the bunch though not only does he tonight seem detached from both his counterpart and his congregation, but so too does he disappoint. He and his foil are, however, best attuned to a still sprightly T.H.M. as Pundt diligently plucks away while Cox hypothesises: “He came out a little late/ Maybe that’s where frustration’s born.” Whatever the cause, there’s an unmistakable element of frustration intrinsic to his performance and not least when they rattle off some ostensible “Eurotrash” drum machine loopage-cum-Death Grips impersonation in a demonstration of spurious descent into irremediable inanity. He then turns tediously self-deprecating, ruffling a few feathers as he admits to MBV having “bigger amps than us; better songs than us.” It prompts a tempered exodus, and expectedly so for the whole show seems an unnecessary subverting of the norms now anticipated of them. It is what it is I suppose, though it vexatiously remains an eternally majestic prospect when they really want for it to be. But it’s hasta mañana for the moment, baby, before Thee Oh Sees’ screechy nonsenses flare up elsewhere.
Compulsory respite comes in the extracurricular form of the Champions League final and while many seem to be of the impression that the wrong lot won, there are similarly few victories being celebrated over in the Primavera arena as far as the Wu-Tang Clan may be concerned. Akin to a footballing titan presided over by some rash foreign oligarch, the ‘Clan lack what is, within the context of the so-called rap game, of course a rare habit of humility as it’s instead all about pomp and show, in place of intriguing substance. Similarly, another of their foibles lies in their universal conviction that they’re tonight in fact shacked up in “Barcelonia” but it’s the show itself which proves most deflating. I’ve a preprogrammed scepticism of oversized rap gigs, for they’ve a tendency to fizzle out into the grim realms of damp squib. This one’s no different, as groggy vocals and a general torpor that’s about as alluring to the taste as that of those anchovies left festering in the oily tanks of the city’s umpteen bars for months on end. It’s a prime case of the ‘Clan’s reputation preceding the increasingly listless corps before us, as they’ve nothing in any way memorable. “We travelled a long way to have a good time with y’all muthafuckas” though it seems they left that professed good time at the airport, for they probably oughtn’t have bothered with this one…
A certain adopted Brightonian equivalently needn’t do any more than show his murine features around these parts to incur an irrepressible hysteria, for he’s eventually welcomed as though some sort of fallen demigod to have bashed his bonce on a brilliance stick on the way down. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are kind of a big deal over here it seems and although it’s Warren Ellis who more closely resembles the part of almighty demiurge, his beard blowing in the wind to the sultry, funereal clunking of We No Who U R, it’s Cave who commands such unwavering adoration. He sneers his lines of “we know where you live” with an impassioned menace, while a purposefully rusty Jubilee Street rolls over us with a subtle strand of grandiosity showing it the way. But again, it’s Cave who’s the real ringleader here, whimsically flittering between pianistic flutters and rigorous pelvic thrusting. He’s a vision of the preposterously debonair, and as such it feels somewhat ludicrous that someone of my age and such insubstantial standing should be afforded even a word on him. He utters only a couple himself, grousing: “It’s fucking cold here!” He ain’t wrong this evening, but it’s a gnarly Red Right Hand which proves unremittingly cool: an inimitable lesson in great restraint, it’s louche as Brighton Pier and a work of antique relish as the God; the man; the ghost; the guru so rakishly growls of some ethereal assassin descended from Heaven, or more likely arisen from hell. Whichever way around, it proves devilishly appealing.
With each one vivid as the slaughtering of a bouquet of innocuous roses, Jack The Ripper then sounds bloody riveting while another lifted from Push the Sky Away, We Real Cool, simultaneously feels both guttural and Amazonian to befuddling degree. Stagger Lee meanwhile, during which he indirectly implores some importunate lass down the front “suck my dick, ’cause if you don’t you’re gonna be dead” whilst sprawled over the adoring as though the throng were the best sofa round his worst friend’s abode, smoulders with smoky guile as Ellis thrashes one out on the Strad yet it’s again Cave to whom our gaze remains glued. He partakes in far too much human contact for a song of such explicit content, although his is a forever raffish attraction and if I could look so gaunt and devil-may-care at the ripe ol’ age of fifty-five, I too would be gyrating so wildly so as to ensure a hip replacement would be required sooner, rather than later. For even when continually “pushing the sky away”, they grow ever closer in our hearts, ears and most intimate of body parts.
Shorn of gangly locks, Angus Andrew’s channelling a similarly lusty spirit where, at the core of the Krauty maelstrom that Liars tonight provide, he entreats we “eat my face off; drink my face.” Yes please! Well, perhaps, but the Antipodean trio tonight go hefty on a quite mechanical dance slant seduction which really favours the brave genre-hoppers. WIXIW becomes a thalassic shimmer which splashes out into cacophony some minutes in, this metronomic motorik achieved via the almost exclusively electronic. Aaron Hemphill’s Fender therefore sneers only transitorily, although the transition to this again innovatory aesthetic has been made with chameleonic seamlessness and whereas more recent live shows could be condemned for their immoderate dependence on more contemporary material, there is this evening a sublime blend of this newer with a rejuvenated older. It’s basically now a case of daft house music intermingled with ephemeral sprinkles of the wilfully avant-garde. “Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction” Andrew gnashes on a previously unexperienced number which manifests itself in a gloriously demented manner, rivalled only by the muffled trashcan rollicking of The Overachievers. It’s an intense feeling of familiar affection I harbour for Sisterworld – I’d rank it as their most ferocious masterstroke thus far – but it’s of course Broken Witch which witnesses a reversion to the trio’s erratic best. It sounds like nothing else heard this evening nor on any other, and this and indeed the set itself elucidate just how unsure Liars truthfully are of their own cultural identity contemporarily. That’s no bad thing by the sounds of it however, and an incurable artistic schizophrenia has long since been one of their most remarkable hallmarks. To bookend this older material with initially incompatible new bits and pieces is an audacious manoeuvre, but surely only a band of their indubitable talents can get away with such unflappable perversion and as such they too ought to be highly commended.
An intriguing clash, meanwhile, is that which pits Kevin Shields up against Alice Glass as the elderly statesman of shoegaze comes up trumps against his precocious electroclash counterpart. Both have at various times carried with them a heavy indie cred and while I thought the world would’ve opted for the searing ruination My Bloody Valentine bring so unrelentingly, the torrential counterflow of person and the catastrophic devastation it wreaks throughout the arena seems to suggest otherwise. For us, it’s earplugs at the ready and away we go anyhow, the incisive riff of I Only Said cutting right through the slurry of sound with consummate ease. Exposed under invisible stars, it lacks that eardrum-shredding viciousness of yore with the overall effect one of viscid gloop, though it’s one in which we long to be smeared. The vocals may be utterly pointless as they seem purposefully unintelligible, instead employed as layers of light ethereality shed in order that they might float atop the aural sludge like hypnotically polychromic oil on water but as was with Deerhunter, they look somewhat out of their depth when set against a thing of such great magnitude.
An hypnagogic When You Sleep sounds massive however, while New You forcefully sucks us into its swirling vortices as a violently swizzling propeller might a bed sheet. But with only a solitary other from their unanticipated latest m b v not only cowering behind feedback, but so too impermeably cloaked in deadened mumble – all of which makes it out to sound as though heard through the feathers of some plush hotel pillow – Only Tomorrow becomes a vapid gurgling oddly accelerated. They’ve an insatiable drive and a real need for speed do the enigmatic Celts, their feet never far from the pedal and their paws never away from their whammy bars. But much of the night therefore resembles the violent descent, or rather the arresting decline of MBV.
Mercifully, I miss out on their trademark holocaustic bit and whereas they may well have otherwise sounded quite stagnant, while rather samey Syrian visionary Omar Souleyman taps into a maniacal frenzy that may never dull. Quite what he did to deserve the gone-three slot I’m still unsure, although that said the delirium incurred by days and nights of punishing sleep deprivation only heightens the crazy idiosyncrasy of it all. That he aurally overpowers his nearby adversaries is no mean feat of course, and as Atabat reverberates around the gravelled lands about which we stand, we’re mentally transported to the alien lands over the other side of the neighbouring Mediterranean. An authentic musical revolutionary, it’s an instance of Alhamdulillah that we’ve him here among us.
But regardless of creed and indeed credence, Hot Chip are eternally apt Saturday night live stuff and as the London cast haul down the metaphorical curtain on the 2013 edición of Primavera Sound, the house comes down with it. From the ebullient bloop of opener How Do You Do? right through to the swanky garage refrains of I Feel Better, if they may seem slightly more understated than their usual (blame the MBV effect, I should think) then a vivifying And I Was A Boy From School asserts itself an education in immaculate genre cross-pollination. As musically pulverising as it is lyrically passionate, One Life Stand winds up by now leaden eyelids although it’s a Flutes which, although lacking in bass, resonates most potently. And what seem mere moments later, they’re but a memory forever treasured in our heads only for the festival itself to then go that same way.
And so as I finally complete this verbal recount of all that was Primavera Sound 2013 from the discomfort of an aeroplane over the sea, that, as they say, is that for another year when next time Jeff Mangum is to reunite the one, and indeed only Neutral Milk Hotel for a headline stint rarer than most Spanish meats. It’s been an audacious edition by all accounts, and something of a gamble in many senses to have herded so many headliners into the one rundown but it’s one which has been emphatically vindicated in terms of quality, as well as entertainment. All that’s left to say is hasta luego, Barça. For as ever, you’ve been an absolute blast.