[Words and Pictures- Pete Hodgson]
The beginning of June marked the closing party of Primavera Sound Festival ’08, but fear not if you missed it, the annual music festival will not be needing a lengthy clean up or fallow year to recover. Each day of the festival saw the sculptural concrete architecture of Parc Del Forum sparkling in the Barcelona sun once more.
While festival goers explore the culinary delights of the vibrant city centre or enjoy a siesta on the beach, computer generated lizards set about removing all traces of the previous night’s hedonism…apparently. The regular clean-up leads to an odd dichotomy; each day has the aesthetic of a pristine beginning but the atmosphere of the very end of a festival… you know, when everyone’s a bit more friendly and comfortable with one another. The bands maintained this ‘last night’ theme with some amazing high energy perfomances, each feeling like the zenith; most notably a great set by Holy Fuck culminating at about six on Saturday morning with hundreds of people joining them on stage.
With an eclectic line-up of around 100 bands including earthshaking Tokyo trio Boris, seminal Bristolians Portishead and high flying Brooklyn pair MGMT, who kicked off the festival for most people on Thursday in the baking Catalonian sun. Nestled on the Barcelona coastline like a slumbering concrete leviathon, the Parc Del Forum attracted people from around the globe to the five stages of Primavera ’08. Most excitingly, All Tomorrows Parties returned to curate a stage at the festival for a second year; bringing the cream of the ATP crop honed from the two UK ATP festivals, one of which returned to it’s original home of Butlins this year (‘Barcelona or Butlins?’ was not a decision I struggled with).
The ATP stage produced some of the most mind-blowing performances including a mesmerising set by the atmospheric Explosions in the Sky and an incendiary adreneal performance from the Rhode Island quartet Les Savy Fav which saw lead singer Tim Harrington taking regular excursions throughout the frenzied audience, wearing a costume which redefined the word unitard.
The festival was also graced by hiphop legends De La Soul and Public Enemy who each drew huge crowds, but for me the more outstanding MC was bronx artist Keith Thornton AKA Kool Keith performing under of his most well known alias Dr Octagon with old partner Kutmasta Kurt.
In addition to being one of the most creative and inventive lyricists around, Kool Keith is one of the few rappers that can spit rhymes on stage to the same standard as the comfort of the studio.
One of the highlights of the festival was The -ever energetic- Go! Team, whose six multi-instrumentalists always provide an uplifting and hugely entertaining performance.
Having only seen them in small intimate venues, it was fantastic to see them command the huge Barcelona crowd with the same accessible enthusiasm. With so many huge bouncing beats, the congregation remained effervescent throughout a relentless set which saw primary vocalist, Ninja, freestyle herself hoarse.
Barcelona’s City centre should not be overlooked, Catalunya has an incredible cultural heritage with the likes of Picasso and Gaudi “who done funny pictures and melty buildings, respectively”.
Being a cosmopolian destination with many contemporary western influences, the aesthetic style is often an elegant fusion of new and old; a juxtaposition paralleled in many aspects of Catalan identity.
This can also be appreciated in gastronomic terms with some superb pioneering eateries alongside the more traditional Spanish restaurants and tapas bars. I was particularly impressed by Sitges a fusion restaurant near Las Ramblas which skillfully exalted some diverse world cuisine dishes with rich complex flavours and the Spanish passion for good meat.
Despite limited promotional work, this year’s festival attracted record numbers whilst pleasingly maintaining a diverse and enlighted clientel; it has so far remained pretty much scallywag free….. For anyone reading who finds alcopops more stimulating than architecture, or takes the Ricky Gervais approach to foreign relations (“speak loudly and if they still don’t understand you, smash the place up”) this might not be for you.
However, if you embrace and explore the Catalan people (metaphorically), it can be an inspirational experience. With some superb performances from an eclectic line-up, Primavera must be one the most interesting and rewarding festival excursions I’ve made… although admittedly my next stop in Denmark was hampered by a large robot…But I guess that’s another story for another day…