Ray Ban Stage

Ray Ban Stage

After a slow day of recovering from the night before, we make it down to the festival site, after a bottle-of-gin-under-baggy-shirt-hidden-in-underwear trick to catch The Julie Ruin on the Ray Ban stage with a wonderful (not really) two pint cup of Heineken (not our sponsor, theirs) in hand. 

With a decent-sized crowd forming, they launch into a sass-led frenzy, with lead singer Kathleen Hanna moving across the stage with a kick and bounce, starkly contrasting the statuesque nature of the rest of the band, providing an interesting juxtaposition. 

Before breaking into ‘Party City’ after saying how she loves art made by young people, she proclaims that "old people rock, look at this, fourty-six! And I'm still punk. You can't stop this," reminding the crowd that her spirit and energy isn't constrained by age. 

The backing singers throw a chorus of squeals and squeaks with loose guitars and drumming — in what some people may consider to be a wall of unaccomplished noise — but for me, it starts the night perfectly. And it clearly does for others, as I watched people surfing and beach balls being flailed around with arms and heads bobbing along.

A quick note on the Ray Ban stage: it's probably one of my favourites at the venue in terms of layout, with a large standing area that's got an auditorium like set of stairs at the back, which proved to be very useful to take a load off and watch bands in a more relaxed state when the festival began to drag on to the early hours of the morning.

Next came a difficult decision, though. There were three bands clashing at once — all three I was equally bothered-but-not-bothered-about before heading to see someone else — Damien Rice, Belle & Sebastian and Perfume Genius. 

Not wanting to trek all the way across the festival to see Damien Rice on the Heineken stage (it's fucking far away) for 20 minutes before seeing The Hotelier, I opted for the close option of Perfume Genius. Arriving to the opening of his set, he's essentially grinding the mic from side to side, grooving around the stage and strutting with precision.

Being quite drunk by this point, I needed the toilet (for about the sixth time; that gin was going down well) and played the 'pick the urinal' game with countless other people soundtracked by the wailing of Perfume Genius, filling my ears with deep toms and beautiful synths bouncing around the air. As he hot foots through three upbeat numbers, I manage to catch the beautiful 'Look Out, Look Out' before heading off a few hundred meters to the Adidas Originals stage to get in place for The Hotelier. 

Bridge over Primavera

Bridge over Primavera

I had high hopes for The Hotelier, as my friends described them as the best pop-punk emo band of the last five years, and as I hadn't seen them before or listened to them, I was going in with great expectations.

Straight away, I felt the feels. I felt that this was my thing, as everyone had told me, but I didn't know the songs and with a crowd around me singing every lyric back, this made it tricky. It could have been the bottle of gin, it could have been the band, but this was right up my street. It had emotions. It had voice breaks. It had heavy break downs. It had everything. It made me want to go and listen to every song they had recorded, just so I could go to the next gig and sing every lyric back to them at full voice.

Whilst I really enjoyed them, I think that with such a passionate crowd, I found it difficult to connect with them when so much was being sung back to them. I felt quite out of place. They pulled a large crowd — nearly as big as Brand New, even — which was to my great surprise. I think if I was to know the songs, they could be my new favourite band (since writing this, I have listened to them everyday for two weeks).

There was a little break here where there wasn’t anything I wanted to see which enabled me time again to go to the toilet and grab some food before what I was looking forward to most this night: Run The Jewels. 

Crowds

Crowds

Note: I wrote all of this next part while I was very, very drunk.

In my excitement for Run The Jewels, I smashed our Editor-in-Chief's phone by knocking it out of her hand as I danced, and to further her night into terrible depths, she was then accosted by a Spanish man in a toilet in an attempt at taking drugs and fuck knows what else. That what was the only grim side of the festival we experienced. From here on out, my notes were an absolute mess as I was so drunk I couldn’t really type on a phone, but they said the following:

“I can't say anything about RTJ. It was incredible. By far going to be the best set of the weekend. Nothing can top that. Fun throughout the entire thing.”

And it’s true. Upon reflection, it was a powerhouse of a set, with wave after wave of deep bass and beats coming at you, and the crowd chanting ‘RTJ! RTJ!’ back to Killer Mike and El-P after every song. It had one of the busiest crowds of the weekend that I saw, and when they had the entire audience singing ‘Lie, Cheat, Steal’, it was evident that Run The Jewels' self-declaration of being “the best rap group in the motherfucking world” is accurate.

Death From Above 1979 are good, but not great. They are a bit murkier live because it just all ends up mashing into one, and I can’t blame the festival here because the sound for all the other acts has been top notch. They're still fun, just slightly ropey. I watch 30 minutes of their set before heading to alt-J, catching them in time for the start of 'Flitzpleasure'. 

This is my second time across this side of the festival, and it's safe to say they have absolutely packed it out compared to the same slot James Blake had yesterday. Even though they were up against stiff competition from Jon Hopkins on the ATP stage, it was a difficult decision that I had to make. At this point I start feeling quite unwell and I'm feeling the effects of the festival — or the bottle of gin I've consumed — and with a sore throat and a headache kicking in, I’m concentrating more on going to bed than alt-J. The struggle really starts to begin.

As I found a comfortable concert spot to lay down on and gaze into the skies of Barcelona, 'Taro' boomed over the speakers and I began to wonder how the festival had been so far. I mean, I had seen a few sets that were fantastic, discovered a new gem in The Suicide Of Western Culture, but overall, had I really seen that many bands? One of the big drawbacks is the timing and clashes — everything is packed in so tightly, and everyone gets a full set length and a full soundcheck — but it does feel like I should have flicked between acts more to sample more and the venue definitely wasn’t suited to this.

As my headache began to increase, I decided to call it a night and grab a taxi home along with another person I was staying with who was feeling shit too. Having been a tourist by day and out until 4am every night, Primavera began to take its toll and we needed to recharge our batteries for Day 3.

Words and Photography by Myles Palmer