Saturday’s Primavera Weekender day looks like a marathon: a lot of concerts in a row, with hardly any breaks. But that’s the only thing we have to worry about: seeing great concerts and when to eat. We show up early at the buffet because we have to gather strength, at 4:30 p.m. there is the proposal that I am most looking forward to at the festival: Alan Sparhawk. Accompanied by his son Cyrus on bass, he tells us that this is going to start “soft.” And so it is, surprisingly the band plays a kind of strange jam, a little easy listening, a little jazz, a little psychedelia, a little bossa. Then Alan gets into more familiar territory, but he doesn’t touch anything by Low. If I pay attention to setlist.fm and The Guardian, they are all new songs. He makes no mention of Mimi, but because there is no need: everything is a tribute to Mimi. Alan looks a little worse for wear, but he never plays the role of a sad widower. He doesn’t try to emulate what he did with Mimi, he doesn’t touch anything from Low because it’s sacred. He dedicates himself to somewhat more worldly and lighter music, there is a lot of Americana, some country. But even so, there are moments when he overwhelms, when he sings hymns that break into noise after the stillness, or attacks a furious blues in the vein of the first Nick Cave. He amazes in a song titled ‘Do n’t Take Your Lights Out Of Me’, each “Oh My God” that he sings mournfully penetrates the soul, the closest to Low’s music that we will be tonight. Alan’s voice is magnificent, sometimes spectral, sometimes powerful. But how much Mimi’s voices are missed. He pours heart into it and we imagine them in our heads, we fill in the gaps. The banjo that accompanies him helps, not to degrease the songs, but to give the necessary touch of lyricism. There is also music that is not at all gloomy: on the contrary, it becomes funky towards the end and you can almost dance.
From the intensity of Sparhawk, to the super-pop of Renaldo & Clara. Between one thing and another we almost reached the third song, which is their now classic ‘Globus’. Although she complains that she is quite quiet, “normally I talk more”, Clara Viñals jokes a lot during her concert, displaying that fine humor, that subtle bad temper that characterizes her. She explains to us that ‘Encaix’ is the most literal song on the album: “if you follow the instructions, you will learn how to draw a perfect face.” She and the band move easily between analog (guitar, bass) to digital (keyboards, samples). Perhaps the sound is too strong and his proposal loses some subtlety, and I also notice a great melancholy in his performance, although he sings gems like ‘Fent amics’, ‘Per fer-te una idea’ or the optimistic ‘Rodones’, do some mini-choreographies or make us clap. But towards the end she changes course and lifts the spirits with the funky vibe of ‘S’està millor al carrer’.
Although the stages are close to each other, you have to run so as not to miss anything from the beginning of the mythical events. Bush Tetras. If yesterday we had our share of “older-gentlemen-who-scream”, today we needed the ladies. The Bush Tetras, Pat Place and Cynthia Sley, accompanied by none other than Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues on bass and Steve Shelley on drums. I detect Alan Sparhawk himself in the audience, very attentive. Bush Tetras display their New York post-punk with ferocity. Cyntia Sley is a great frontwoman, O’Riordan’s bass couldn’t sound more forceful, the band overwhelms us with its threatening roar. “It’s so strange to live in the US,” Cynthia tells us, before attacking a cornered and aggressive ‘So Strange’. I don’t see pogos, but I suspect it’s because the audience is too intimidated by that Velvetian fury. And although in ‘Walking Out the Door’ they soften the noise, they do not reduce the threat. Bush Tetras have given us a good beating and, in the process, they have given one of the best concerts of the festival.
The Damm room looks remarkably full to see Blonde Redhead. The last time I saw them, the Pace twins still had dark hair. Now his curls look practically white. Where time does not pass is through their music, dreamy shoegaze that improves and multiplies its power live, thanks to the intense atmosphere they know how to create and the art of Kazu Makino, all-round singer and multi-instrumentalist: among other things, he plays a mellotron, which is one of the best instruments in the world. He made out a Palestinian scarf tied to the microphone, a subtle but clear way of positioning himself. His comeback album, ‘Sit Down for Dinner’, hasn’t particularly caught my attention, but this performance has, so hypnotic and captivating. Blonde Redhead launch their poisoned lullabies and the audience dances liltingly. ‘Kiss Her Kiss Her’, the best song from her latest album, sounds like a timeless noise classic. And the closing with the mythical ’23’, with Kazu free to play, just singing and dancing lost in a spiral of noise that she directs with her spectral voice, takes us to the most dreamlike.
You have to have dinner early to regain strength before Antonia Font, even if that means sacrificing DOMi & JD Beck. At the buffet we bump into Alan Sparhawk and my friends get another one! photo with Joe Casey, the singer of Protomartyr. I had a bet with my boyfriend about who would attract the biggest crowd, Antònia Font or the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I think the Jesus are going to win, because there are a little less people on the main stage than at Blonde Redhead. But perfect for me, that way I get in the front row. Let’s say I’m getting even for all these years without seeing them: this is the third time since they’ve returned and I still have the Palau de la Música next year.
They start, as is usual on this large-scale tour, with ‘Un minut estroboscòpica’ followed by ‘Me sobren paraules’ and my favorite, ‘Darrera una magazine’. But they sound weak. I see Pau Debon suffering. It seems that the return does not work and he does nothing but manipulate his headphones and bodypacks. He has to leave the end of ‘Love Song’ to fix it. He apologizes to us. But in the end the technical problem is fixed, Pau is radiant again and the rest of the group is as if it were assembled again and picked up the optimal speed in ‘Armando Rampas’. Pau sings so well, he screams in ‘Mecanismes’. He is the king of the stage, he lives up to the instrumental parts and contrasts with the stasis of the rest, Joan Miquel Oliver included. There is some lack of coordination in ‘Dins aquest igloo’ or ‘Alegria’, but in ‘Tots es motors’ everything fits together again, until we reach Debon’s authentic “tour de force”: ‘Rhyming Astronaut’. It seems incredible that he doesn’t choke while he lets loose on him. The rest are not far behind, they create an intense ball of sound.
Everything stops to let Debon sing ‘Cartes de Ramiro’ a cappella (I think the only concession to ‘Vosté is here’). His magnificent voice stumbles over the murmur of the audience in the background, who don’t seem to care about becoming so noticeable. But I stop caring, because they immediately go straight to the heart with ‘Amants perfectes’, lighter and more heartfelt than on the album, and ‘Batiscafo Katiuscas’. This emotional moment does not last long, the fun immediately returns. ‘Wa Yeah!’ It is a major festival, with pogos, dances and joy from the public. ‘Calgary 88’ has the honor of closing the evening. It seems strange that they don’t do it with ‘Viure sense tu’, which is the great culmination of their performances, but schedules dictate and Antònia Font only had 70 minutes. Not enough time for the fans, because they are the best.
Running again to see another of the groups that I most want to see, Protomartyr, and their latest album, ‘Formal Growth in the Desert’, has gone somewhat unnoticed by me. And yes, on the Protomartyr stage they look like your company’s computer scientists with the alcoholic head of accounting as a singer. And although one of the joys is seeing Joe Casey take one can of beer after another from his jacket pocket, drink them and throw them at the back of the stage, they go beyond that apparently pathetic image. Live they are abrasive, precise and aggressive, much rougher than on record; They almost make all the songs sound like one, starting with the opening ‘Make Way’. Casey is from the Black Francis school and he screams, he screams, but he doesn’t miss a beat. He plays at being unpleasant. He’s not funny, he’s scary. The bulk of the public is excited, very dedicated, but the pogo is made to be asked. They close with the monumental ‘Processed by the Boys’, which is overwhelming, although live it is much rougher than the original version.
At the exit from Protomartyr we meet with everyone who has seen the Ciutat anti-pigeon concert and I suffer a little thinking that I am going to miss the start of The Jesus and Mary Chain. Luckily not, although I can’t get close to the stage because this is, definitely, the concert that attracts the largest audience of the entire festival. My visibility is quite precarious, in fact.
From Barcelona I receive less than hopeful news: they say that they are poorly lubricated. And it is true that at first it all sounds a bit weak, Jim Reid likes it (within his style, of course), he continues to maintain that dangerous sex appeal, at least from a distance, but his voice doesn’t follow him. William remains in the discreet background of him all the time. On top of that are early classics like ‘Head On’ and ‘April Skies’, somewhat decaffeinated. Of course: they are the first to use projections in the concert. But for ‘Far Gone & Out’ things have already taken shape, their “he-he-hey!” They sound super energetic. ‘Between Planets’, with its projections of little stars, is overwhelming. In fact, I have two thirds of the Antònia Fonts next to me jumping around. The concert is already reaching a good pace when suddenly Jim cuts ‘All Things Pass’ because he made a mistake and starts it again. The drummer is a brown beast, even the more or less quiet moments, like ‘Some Candy Talking’ or ‘Darklands’, end up hitting.
“For the next songs we need help,” says Jim. Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino comes on stage and we already know what she’s playing: ‘Sometimes Always’, although Kazu doesn’t know it much at first, she manages to make it through the rest of the song. And ‘Just Like Honey’, of course. But the closing is with ‘Reverence’, and they leave you speechless between the screenings and those “I wanna die!”, which I’m going to have stuck in my head for the rest of the days. Not to be greased, not bad, the Jesuses.