In some form of haze and after finding myself without a job (through no fault of my own) and without a house, and after many months of pestering from my friends, I decided to book tickets to Primavera in an attempt to go on holiday (something I hadn’t done for ~3 years). That’s the great thing about Primavera, if you’re sensible you can extend it to a break either side of the festival, taking advantage of the fact that you’re in a beautiful city as well as experiencing some excellent music - it can be much more than just going to 'a festival'.
So here we were in Barcelona, beginning with getting off at the wrong bus stop from the airport and having to walk our way back to our apartment — but it didn’t matter because there were dogs, and plenty of them, and if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that I love a good dog spot, so we’re off on a good footing.
As there are just two of us arriving so early in Spain, we decided that we’d settle in at the apartment and then go smugly to collect our wristbands, as thousands of people (including our friends) would have to queue and get them in the coming days, we looked forward to laughing at them as we waltzed through the gates.
Bellies full of tapas, we ventured forth to the Parc Del Forum to collect our wristbands and explore. On our way, we peeked over fences to catch glimpses of the stages being built still. Personally, it allowed me a chance to explore some of the architecture of the site, and I had instantly fallen in love with its straight lined, sun basked geometric concrete charm — something which would only evolve over the coming days as bands filled the space.
Tired from our flight and exploration, we rested up back at the apartment looking forward to beginning our second day, where there was only one important thing on the agenda: the Zoo (and beers). Meandering around the grounds with a beer in hand was pretty great. It had all the usual feelings of a zoo: the aww’s, the hilarity of some animals doing peculiar things, stories of how the peacocks were actually in charge at the zoo and not the humans, and then guilt setting in as you began to remember that these animals were kept in captivity just for us to wander around as we sipped €5 beers.
Still, I couldn’t complain, I got to take pictures of a bear and get a tan whilst I was at it. We left the zoo and decided to get some paella nearby — another one of the joys of Barcelona — before going to get ready for the shows at the Apollo venue that evening after experiencing the local parks, filled with tourists and locals alike doing yoga, rollerblading classes, running together and several street performers and bubble blowers to entertain nearby crowds.
The pre-shows for Primavera had started a few days ago, but tonight was probably the main draw for them as it was the day before the festival and several bands were playing at venues across the city. We wanted to head to Viet Cong who were playing at midnight at the Apollo, and after a disastrous start to our journey there where we got on the wrong direction on the metro missing the last train, we arrived in a taxi to see the queue for the venue halfway down the street. As frustrations built in the queue and we realised we weren’t going to see Viet Cong at all tonight, we decided that we’d head into the other room of the venue which was considerably less busy where a band called The Suicide of Western Culture were playing — and what a decision this was.
Low ceilings and people crammed in as the bass and synth rattled more than made up for what was our earlier disaster and TSOWC won over a whole crowd of new fans tonight. We managed to make it upstairs for the last few songs of The Juan MacLean, which was stellar, but by this point the Spanish heat and zoo adventures had taken it’s toll and at 3am and with dreary eyes it was time to call it a night. The following day was the start of the festival.
After a day of exploring the city and delights of the Boqueria Market, where I had sampled many cones of cured meats, ice cream and generally gorged myself, I was ready to begin. I had who I was going to see all planned in my head and nothing was going to stop me.
That was until I found out that the band I really wanted to see today, Battles, were on the Heineken Hidden Stage, which was a ticketed event that you had to be at the site at 4pm to collect tickets for. Much to my disappointment, I didn’t have a clue about this — or the fact that you had to have tickets to get into seeing Sun Kil Moon too — so I felt little bit put out I went and explored the food stalls before catching Mineral's set on the Pitchfork stage.
I argued with a friend that there would surely be more than 200 people watching Mineral (they were adamant that nobody would turn up, it turned out he was right). It was pretty much empty, and whilst it was a good slice of nostalgia to my earlier emo days, the atmosphere and lack of a crowd on what was one of the bigger stages swallowed them into the night. Wanting a good place for Brand New, we headed across to the Adidas Originals stage five minutes before the end.
It felt like the festival actually started here, with Brand New blowing the cobwebs off the festival so far. This was especially the case for a man in the crowd that looked like he was being either possessed by Jesus or having a panic attack as Brand New decided that they'd turn up the aura a few notches from snoozey to absolutely fucking crazy. I particularly enjoyed the other man, three people to my left – wearing a Superdry t-shirt – that conned his chirpse throughout the entire set, despite the young girl making it quite clear that she wasn't interested in his moves nor fashion sense.
During ‘Sic Transit Gloria...’ the crowd exploded and came to life; with limbs flailing, mosh pits starting to open up and crowd surfing happening, it became quite easy to forget about writing this diary.
Our aforementioned Superdry man met our man that was possessed during ‘Jesus Christ’, and as Superdry tried to embrace him, Jesus had already taken too strong a hold upon our possessed friend and he could only muster a gentle shove off, to then resume his beautiful moment in what must have seemed like just him and Brand New alone in this sea of raucous fans.
On our way to Black Keys, we caught the end of Tyler The Creator’s set just as he lead into ‘FUCKING YOUNG / PERFECT’. Whilst my company profusely enjoyed it, many of his crowd interactions to get them to sing 'gurl you’re perfect' along with him failed as fans didn't quite sing as loudly as expected, instead just leaving a silent gap as the DJ paused the track. Our wandering to The Black Keys was stopped in its tracks again by the booming bass of Tyler playing ‘Yonkers’ – my party bounced into dips and grinds, but this may just have been the intoxication, I'm not sure. Maybe I’m cynical when I’m unfamiliar with things.
As you can tell, there was a thing about stopping on the way to Black Keys, so it happened again as we stumbled across a Bacardi Mojito hut, where they were streaming Chet Faker who looked like he was having a good time, attempting a moonwalk at every opportunity. As one of our party (the magazine’s Deputy Editor) was having a nervous breakdown about us not being at Black Keys yet, I slurped a mojito and enjoyed the comfortable white sofas of the Bacardi Hut, with a moment’s respite at 00:30am.
Finally, we made it to The Black Keys, which for me was just a long and slow walk to see James Blake on the stage opposite an hour later. As expected, Black Keys delivered a set that was consistent and professional, standing up well to what was the Thursday night headline slot and being able to entertainment the masses, but not reaching any real momentum that was more than trundling through their songs. I almost felt as if I had gone back a few years, with it feeling mildly dated (I know, I just saw two nostalgic emo acts, whatever).
In fact, as the set progressed, and I listened to more average middle-aged dad blues rock, I slowly pondered about throwing myself into the nearby Mediterranean Sea just to bring some excitement back into my life. Three minutes after this I wondered if the prospect of the gravel beneath my feet being shovelled down my throat might bring some added fun, but just as I did one, of the Heineken beer turtles wandered past, dispensing me a ‘pint’ for just 6 euros. And when I say ‘pint’, I mean that half of it was foam, for which I had to chase my turtle friend down and get another as it was undrinkable.
And now I was at the stage for what I was hoping to be the best act of the night: James Blake. After all, he did clash with Jungle, which meant a difficult decision had to be made. As he boomed out across the Heineken stage and thanked the crowd for turning up to see him, it was easy to tell that the 2am crowd were tired and restless, and even with what was incredible music coming from the speakers, it wasn't really transfixing the quite thinned out crowd as it should. Perhaps it was the wrong time slot. Perhaps it was too big a space to fill. I'm not sure, but the intimacy and intensity felt a bit lacking on this grand scale, despite the musical accomplishments, which made for a weak atmosphere – but that was through no fault of his own.
We headed back to the Adidas Stage to catch The Suicide of Western Culture who we had seen the previous night and thought was worth seeing again. They were up against some pretty heavy electronic opposition on the Ray Ban and Pitchfork stage, so I wasn't expecting it to get much of a crowd. Surprisingly, the crowd was bigger than expected, with a lot of people drifting over from Gui Boratto. It wasn't quite as great as the day before in a small club, but it was still good.
After half a set of TSOWC, we decided to call it a night after catching a bit of Roman Flugel on the Pitchfork stage, which if my body wasn't crumpling beneath me, would have been the perfect tonic to keep going through the night.
Words and Photography by Myles Palmer