Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – Leagues O’Toole on Primavera Sound 2010 – Friday

Friday sees an early start for Owen Pallett at 4pm, but all is not well. Hope Sandoval’s soundcheck has stretched right up to the wire. While Pallett and his crew are trying to cobble together a linecheck, the venue has …

Mon, May 31, 2010, 14:59


Friday sees an early start for Owen Pallett at 4pm, but all is not well. Hope Sandoval’s soundcheck has stretched right up to the wire. While Pallett and his crew are trying to cobble together a linecheck, the venue has already opened the doors in a bid to accommodate the thousands of people queuing outside.

Three songs in though and some 3,000 people have filled the venue and quickly settled into the rapture of Palletts swirling circles of fiddle and synthesiser. Accompanied by fellow Canadian Thomas Gill on guitar, vocals and percussion, Pallett has never sounded better, fuller and more confident. Gill can even match his employer in the choir-boy falsetto stakes – when the two sing in unison, it is otherwordly to say the least. He pulls out all the hits this afternoon and even deviates into electronic disco with a cover Caribou’s “Odessa”. He entered the stage grumpy and distressed and skipped off elated to a standing ovation.

Back in the sunshine, Madrid ensemble Wild Honey open the Pitchfork stage with a pretty set of Beach Boys style vocal harmonies and cute ukulele and woodwind folk ditties. Over on Vice, Austin buzz band Harlem are flying through a set of three-minute surf-punk tunes punctuated with jerky between-song banter. It takes me awhile to settle on the opinion that they’re just goofballs who don’t take themselves seriously and leave liking them. Yo La Tengo’s James McNew obviously did too as he beamed his way through their set.

In stark contrast, Nottingham’s Scout Niblet unleashes a brutal bruising set of dark power rock on the ATP stage. One of the most breathtaking performances of the weekend, it was amazing to witness such elemental fury billow from this slight, youthful figure. Accompanied by just a drummer, it was as if she was channeling the dark arts of Black Sabbath.

As the line-up clashes begin to pile-up around me, I slump in heat exasperated after my foolishly eager start to the day. Rather than kill myself, I decide to see how the day unfolds organically. I stroll from stage-to-stage catching glimpses of Spoon’s mature piano-pop, Best Coast’s lovely stoned shoegaze, Wire attempting to perform acoustically on the Ray-Ban Unplugged stage and Jose Gonzalez’s new 5-piece pop ensemble Junip who add fantastic colour and arrangement to his usually fragile Nick Drake airs.

I finally settle down high up on the steps overlooking the ATP stage as a huge throng of people, some scaling walls to find a view, gather to witness the unique dream-like atmosphere of Beach House. But what seems like a perfectly romantic hour of lush pop music is lost in a muffled sound.

I’m intrigued to find out what attracts Steve Albini’s Shellac to this festival practically every year. It appears to be their favourite European gig (bar ATP) and the contrast in the energy of the performance to a regular club show is astonishing. This is Shellac at their most theatrical. A devastating version of “The End of Radio”, with Todd Trainer firing gunshot snare snaps into the dumbstruck audience, is the centre-piece of the surprising highlight performances of the weekend.

Sadly I’ve missed Les Savy Fav, Panda Bear and Major Lazer and can only feed off enthused reports from the people I randomly bump into on site. Incidentally, it has to be noted the amount of Irish people at this festival is bizarre. Everywhere you go, there are Irish accents and it strikes me that Primavera seems to be taking over as the festival of choice for Irish indie musos. What this means for the festivals back home, with their tight security and edgy after-dark atmospheres, remains to be seen.

I have to see Pixies because it’s been pre-reunion days since I last seen them. They headline the San Miguel stage to a naturally huge throng. Unlike Pavement though, Pixies style of performance is more going-through-the-motions than putting on a party. They are business-like and efficient and engage in the minimum interaction. The tunes, though, are unquestionable. The hits kept coming, from old fan favourites like “Holiday Song” and “River Euphrates” to minor pop hits like “Gigantic” and “Here Comes Your Man”.

I settle down in the Pitchfork stage looking for a killer climax from Bristol’s soulful dubmesiter Joker and globetrotting mixmaster Diplo, but neither really kick off, the latter particularly disappointing, almost like a bad Girl Talk set with the “Paper Planes” gunshots overused to the point of annoyance. It was a missed opportunity for Diplo, who may have suffered from pandering too much to the festival’s indie-rock allegiance. Instead, I dragged my sore feet offsite with the highlights of Owen Pallett, Scout Niblet and Shellac ringing in my poor ears.