Primavera Sound Festival, Day 3, May 25, 2013
Words by Jakob Ross, Pictures/Videos by Scott Ross
Back to Spain we go for the final day of the Primavera Sound Festival. Today we will conclude with me recapping the five acts I saw for that day, and then we’ll open up the floor for a Q&A session.
The sea breeze turned into some pretty harsh winds that blew garbage and hats throughout the festival grounds, but that didn’t stop the festival goers, including myself, from having a good time. Five bands to talk about, let’s get this show on the road.
Bands seen so far: 16
Hours of sleep since festival started: 12
Phil Elverum has had a fairly long career in the world of indie rock, all starting when he started to release music under the name The Microphones when he was 18. The Microphones hit its peak in 2001 with the release of “The Glow Pt. 2,” and only continued for a few years after that before Phil changed the name of his project from the Microphones to Mount Eerie, which is also the name of the final album The Microphones released. Mount Eerie has released several lo-fi indie folk recordings that have garnered Phil similar critical praise that some of the Microphones’ best albums have given him, and the music he makes under this moniker is haunting, beautiful, and even loud at times, as evidenced by their loud-but-not-quite-loud-enough set at Primavera’s ATP Stage.
The strangest thing about Mount Eerie is their current live setup, which consisted of Phil Elverum on lead vocals and 12-string electric guitar, a young-looking lady on vocals and a drum pad machine, and two female bass players that also sang. The band played beautifully, although I imagine there was quite a bit of frustration with the adjacent stage.
The ATP Stage is located about 100 yards away from the Heineken Stage, so when two bands play these stages at the same time, there can be a sound clash. At the same time that Mount Eerie were playing, former Moldy Peaches singer Adam Green was playing the main stage with Binki Shapiro, and they were playing a lot louder than Mount Eerie was playing, most of the time. The drummer was having trouble starting the songs because she couldn’t concentrate on the beat, but they were able to persevere. It was obvious that the band members were at least a bit frustrated. At one point in between songs, Phil tried to sneak a peek at the noisy stage, pointed at it with his thumb, and said “Well that kinda sucks.”
Fortunately, the band handled their misfortune with grace, much like Savages did during their own difficulty. This made the audience love and respect the band even more, and the music Mount Eerie made sounded even more beautiful as they tried to create enough noise to drown out the sound of Adam Green and Binki Shapiro.
There was a long break in between the end of Mount Eerie’s set and the beginning of Mac Demarco’s set at Pitchfork’s stage, so I’ll tell you a little about Mac DeMarco first. Just to fill the gap. I mean I could tell you abou the disappointing kebab and messy crepe I ate, but Mac DeMarco is a little more interesting.
Mac DeMarco (not sure if that’s his real name) is a 23-year old Canadian musician and singer/songwriter who’s second album “2” garnered a decent amount of critical praise. His music has been described as “slacker rock,” and that title certainly reflects his style well, but only in the most positive way. Mac uses an extremely cheap guitar and he uses a string as a guitar strap, but that doesn’t make the music any less incredible. A little bit punk, a little bit pop, a little bit lo-fi, a little bit garage rock. All these styles combine for a very fun sounding blend that makes me think of bands like Pavement or Pinkerton-era Weezer. On his album, Mac sings about romance, nostalgia, and relaxation, and he’s able to actually capture the emotions associated with these topics very well. “2” is the perfect summer album, and Mac DeMarco is the perfect musician to hear at the end of May in Barcelona while standing right on the Mediterranean Sea as the sun sets.
Although the songs have a more relaxed and sometimes acoustic feel on the album, Mac really brings them to life with a full band on stage. The entire band play with 100% energy that gives these songs a new life.
Mac DeMarco and the band played a ton of songs from “2,” including the strangely dark “Cooking Up Something Good,” the cigarette ballad “Ode to Viceroy,” and the set-closing love song (which he dedicated to his girlfriend who was in the crowd) “Still Together.” But not only did they play their own incredible songs, they also did some strange covers (which Mac is known for doing). At one point the band went from Bachmann-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business” right into The Beatles “Blackbird.” I’m not a huge fan of either song, but the band had a ton of fun playing them. They ended the set with the aforementioned “Still Together,” during which Mac DeMarco sang the chorus in falsetto pitch and then crowd-surfed. Overall, a very fun set that made me wish summer was closer than it really was. If you’re looking for a good summer album that was released in the fall, I highly recommend Mac’s “2,” and then go see him live.
WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG WU TANG
It’s rare for any musical act to be able to maintain a certain amount of fame for 20 years, but, believe it or not, New York’s Wu-Tang Clan have done just that. It’s been 20 years since Wu-Tang released their influential debut album “Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers,” and that album has aged very well. It is now, along with “Illmatic” and “Ready to Die,” considered one of the best New York hip hop albums of all time, and often cited as one of the reasons the west coast didn’t completely take over the rap game in the 90s.
Although Wu-Tang currently have 8 members (RZA, GZA, Raekwon, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Masta Killa), Method Man and Raekwon were unable to attend the festival for reasons unbeknownst to the audience, and even RZA, who, according to several websites, admitted that he wasn’t sure why Meth and Rae weren’t there.
Nevertheless, Wu-Tang Clan put on an insanely energetic and almost completely audience driven show. Members of the group directed us to “hold our W’s in the air,” wave our hands from left to right, sing the “DOLLA DOLLA BILL, Y’ALL” part of “C.R.E.A.M.,” and repeat whatever strange thing RZA wanted us to repeat. “Hi-de-hi-de-hiiiii,” “Ho-de-oh-de-ohhhhh,” etc. And every time RZA said “Barcelonia,” it just got more and more funny. That doesn’t really fit here, but that’s just something you have to know. The RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan said “Barcelonia.” That sounds like a planet in Star Wars.
Before we left the Primavera Stage to go to the Heineken stage, we were able to hear some of Wu-Tang’s classic songs, including the set-opening “Bring da Ruckus,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta F’ Wit,” and a delightfully strange and somewhat out-of-place semi-cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Maybe the members of the Wu-Tang Clan are insane, but I do know that after 20 years of classic albums and not-so-classic albums, deaths, legal battles, and feuds, they’re still able to put on a wild show, even if the majority of the people they’re playing for don’t speak English.
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
One of indie rock’s most disturbingly heartfelt and poetic frontmen is Australia’s own Nick Cave, who’s been writing angry post-punk and soft ballads for 35 years. In 1978, Cave formed the band The Birthday Party, whose combination of post-punk and gothic rock turned them into legends, before forming The Bad Seeds with multi-instrumentalist and The Birthday Party co-member Mick Harvey. The Bad Seeds have gone through tons of phases that have produced some brilliant albums, some even more brilliant songs, and a raucously fun side project called Grinderman.
A few years ago, Mick Harvey left the band, resulting in a far more minimal and dark album, “Push The Sky Away,” which came out in February. The album was well received, and for good reason. Some of the best lyrics I’ve ever heard come out of Nick Cave’s mouth seem to come from this album, and hearing a lot of these intense works live really made me enjoy the man a lot more.
The band came on, Cave wearing all black, playing “We No Who U R,” a fairly soft yet slightly creepy song from the new album, followed by “Jubilee Street,” another new song. The band then jumped back nearly 30 years to the eponymous song from the band’s 1984 debut album “From Her to Eternity.” This loud rock song in 5/4 was played with the explosive energy of a punk band, and Cave danced all across the stage. If there’s any rock frontman who could challenge Mick Jagger to a “dance around onstage the most” contest, it’d certainly be Cave.
They then played the sorta-ballad “Red Right Hand,” from 1994’s “Let Love In” album. “The Weeping Song,” “Jack the Ripper,” and “Tupelo” (the latter of which was dedicated to Elvis Presley) all followed. The Seeds played another song from the new album called “We Real Cool” before jumping back to 1988 with “The Mercy Seat.” It’s amazing that they can play such a career-spanning set and still sound so consistent.
The Bad Seeds then played “Stagger Lee,” which is a huge fan favorite. The intense and swear-filled story involves a man named Stagger Lee who pretty much kills anyone who crosses his path, be it a grouchy bartender or the Devil himself. This song reflects Nick Cave’s own demeanor pretty well, considering it’s rare that I ever see a frontman look so terrifying onstage (apart from Michael Gira during the Swans set), and Cave’s dance moves pretty much certified his position as “World’s Sexiest Ugly Man.”
They ended the show with the album-closing “Push The Sky Away,” before thanking us and stating that they can’t wait to come back to Spain.
My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine would play the same stage as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, except they were to go on about an hour and a half after The Bad Seeds’ show ended. So my dad and I had some waiting to do. So we did what it is people do when they’re waiting. Sit down, eat some snacks, try our best to stay awake, watch a guy who was quite obviously tripping on some sort of hallucinogen dance around to whatever music was playing from the speakers.
It was pretty fun to watch the road crew set up for MBV though. They rolled out amps after amps after amps for guitar player Kevin Shields, as well as quite a few for lead singer and guitar player Bilinda Butcher. We also got a sneak preview of some of the crazy projections that would be showed while they played.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity of trying to stay awake, MBV came on stage and played “I Only Said,” the midpoint song on their 1991 classic album “Loveless,” followed by the dreamy “When You Sleep.” They then played the first of only two new songs that night, “New You.” You’d think a band that are just coming off the release of a new album (especially when it’s the first one in 22 years) would play a little more new music, but the music itself still sounded great.
Another slight complaint: MBV were the victims of some pretty bad mixing on the festival’s part. I know that the vocals are not the most important part of the show, but I’d at least KINDA like to hear them a bit.
MBV moved through a ton of songs from their classic album “Loveless,” as well as a couple from their debut “Isn’t Anything” and some tracks from some of their early EPs. The loud (and I mean LOUD) guitars combined with the hypnotic drums and woozy projections made this feel kind of like a late 80s/early 90s acid rock/rave show in Manchester. For some reason I was reminded of bands like Primal Scream and Happy Mondays.
At around half past 3, Kevin Shields took the mic and said “We’d like to play a new song, but we only have 5 minutes left.” So with that, they burst into their infamous show-closer “You Made Me Realise,” which is not only one of their faster songs, but it is also the loudest. This song is known for featuring a very long wall of noise and feedback that is sometimes referred to as “the Holocaust section.” They stretched a 3 and a half minute song into a 10-plus minute show stopper that left every ear ringing. This Holocaust section is often seen as something of a concert “rite of passage,” kinda like hearing “Ignition (Remix)” live or getting covered in GWAR blood.
MBV left the stage with the feedback still ringing through the amplifiers. We left, completely satisfied with the festival and life itself, and headed back to the hotel to try and get as much sleep as possible. By the time we woke up in the morning, I’d seen 21 bands and gotten 15 hours of sleep, which leaves my total ratio of bands seen to hours of sleep gotten at 7:5. Not bad for Spain.
Sure, the festival had its faults. The lineup was a little bit too good to be true, in the literal sense. Confirmed acts such as elusive singer/songwriter Fiona Apple, indie folk act Band of Horses, skate punks FIDLAR, psych rockers Foxygen, and shoegaze/dream pop band DIIV had to cancel their appearances for one reason or another. Some of the sound was kinda muddled and not mixed entirely well. Such is the way of the music festival. But overall, I had an amazing time, and it was worth every hour of sleep I didn’t get.
Author’s note: My dad saw both the Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine in the late 80s (different shows), making this the first time in nearly 25 years that he’s seen either band.