I now have a close relationship with Heineken 0.0.
Having drunk about 30 bottles of the stuff during Primavera 2018 it was certainly the subject of much puzzlement as my 12 middle aged, wine-soaked compadres tried to understand why on earth I could even countenance a full blown music festival without the aid of alcoholic sustenance.
At 4am each morning (my typical home time) I questioned it myself as cat herding is not a qualification I have gained, nor an occupation I particularly enjoy. and, for example, Mr McCrocodile’s multiple explanation of the changing of the guard between drummer and guitarist 2/3rds of the way through the Oblivions’ otherwise excellent set – which I did not have the foresight to attend – was another feature of late night sobriety being tested to its limits.
Nevertheless, these minor beefs paled into insignificance when compared to the gigantic gamut of gaiety that was enjoyed in the many, many hours that we strode the palisades of Parc Del Forum in Barcelona’s dock district.
Not for me, this year, the sheer animal magnetism that wearing a Corbyn T shirt would bestow upon me. Nor the orgiastic pleasure of watching a statuesque 56 year old man stride purposefully through a crowd in pristine white jeans.
No, this year was band (and record label) T shirts and Black Cargo shorts all the way. The shorts spectacularly framing my unusual patina of varicose veins that decorate my left calf, in much the same way that many of my fellow, younger, audience members had opted for an equally eye-catching decoration courtesy of their local tattoo parlour.
George, too, eschewed societal pressure and was much photographed as he paraded the Parc.
As is customary, each day began with the, now legendary and hotly contested, Sangria Sessions. A three hour exploration of musical obscurity based around the theme, this year, of colours in song titles and foreign acts (not US or Ireland – to exclude the abhorrent U2).
The vessel for this quality concoction resembled the colouring of the HMFC stand. A sort of undercoat pink.
Quite incredibly, I now realise, Boards of Canada made my list for the second year running. The only band to suffer this fate and meet, again, with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, although they did not suffer the ignominy of a ‘hooking’. That was reserved in my case for Scritti Politti’s The Sweetest Girl. The fact that Green Gartside , the singer, has colour in his name met with juristic displeasure.
The Red Army Choir’s rendition of The Russian National Anthem met a similiar fate, not for its non-adherence to the rules but because none of the douche bags in my company had either the wit OR the wisdom to realise that this was irony in fantastical proportions.
Perhaps those in ‘charge’ could have displayed the same degree of Nazism to the repeated James Brown outings.
Anyway, here are my selections… (you will note in the colours list that three of my songs are by foreign bands and one has a foreign country in their name) – genius on my part.
Our festival kicked off – after a relatively short, highly disorganised, but nevertheless excellent lunch at Etapes – we again called it E Taps Aff regularly, as is our want – with a politically charged set from transgender American artist, Ezra Firman. It wasn’t a festival set in that he chose quite a sensitive selection of numbers and chose not to opt for crowd pleasers all the way.
Consequently one of our group dismissed him thus “Some guy in a pearl necklace and lipstick – fuck off.”
Me, I thought it was a pleasing enough, if marginally underwhelming, start and bestow a 7/10.
Next I stumbled upon a set by Kurws – a crazy avante rock band from Wrocław, Poland. Noisy but good. But too short a visitation on my part to rate them.
My first Heineken zero was excellent. Ice cold and refreshing. Indeed the bottle was caked in ice. But my second, and most to follow on the first night, were either lukewarm or unavailable. It has to be said ordering Cerveza Sin Alcohol is likely to be met with a raised eyebrow followed by a frantic search among the fridges – often fruitlessly.
But Heineken is the drinks sponsor and presumably preach moderation? So why the poor supply?
My tweet that outed them as a bunch of useless wankers, that couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery, had the desired effect because clearly the CEO of Heineken Spain read it and ordered a mass chilling. Days two and three were more than acceptably quality controlled.
Next up. Warpaint. If you put to one side that they ache to be the coolest band on the planet and couldn’t muster a smile between the four of them, even if they had a swatch of my Varries, they were pretty decent. However, they carry the emotional punch of a fire extinguisher and, for that reason, I can’t find a way past awarding them a 6.
Half way through their set they treated us to a feedback crackle/energy surge that was louder than that volcano in Guatemala exploding. That did crack the ice-maidenly exterior a little but didn’t quite turn their set into an edition of Loose Women.
Warpaint don’t do chat. They’re too fucking cool for that.
Tupa Tupa were my next ‘discovery’ on my ‘stage of the week’ The Pro North outpost that’s almost in the sea. It’s tiny but has perhaps the best acoustics in the whole parc. I’d recommend it for you next year pop pickers. Lots of eccentric but usually high quality fare. I visited several times and Tupa Tupa were one of the highlights. They are so obscure (Polish) that they don’t even make it to Spotify but I thoroughly enjoyed their set. 7/10.
Next up. The absolutely guaranteed Marmite set of the week. Bjork.
Essentially this was a treatise on environmentalism and involved Bjork striding the stage in shoes that her maw would warn her against, in case she ‘broke a fucking ankle.’
Most certainly, her maw would also have said to her “Bjork doll, you’re no really going out in that pink slimy dress and head mask that looks like an open crotch vagina are you?”
Nevertheless, she did. In a ‘Fuck you maw, I’ll wear what I like” sort of way.
The show was a full on sexual metaphor, opening with stunning fast frame footage of flowers (mainly orchids – ooh err) bursting fecundly into life with pollen-laden stamen and pistils shimmering and waiting to drop their load.
Accompanied by 7 flautists in equally garish, but slightly less vaginal, pink dresses she treated the audience to something of a concerto for seven flutes with nary a sop to commercialism to be seen.
We did have the flute version of Animal Behaviour dropped in half way through, but that was it.
Cue mass dissatisfaction and “I told you so” comments aplenty.
Me? I fucking loved it.
Contrary bastard that I am.
True artistry from someone not giving a flying fuck but determined to deliver a set that was both uncompromised and dripping in creativity. One of the highlights of the week. 8.5/10.
She shared the top of the bill with Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds. Slossy dismissed him with a simple ‘Meh” but he was in an obscurist minority.
He was majestic. Striding the stage with so much authority. So much soul, So much passion. So much anger. So much skill (his band is indescribably accomplished).
He invited around 100 of the crowd on stage towards the end of his supreme set and one elderly lady burst into tears and threw herself around him. It was a moment of magic. He cultivates these. Some say he stage manages them – but I don’t care.
For me, this is the greatest performer in the world right now, with a back catalogue that could fuel a 5 hour set without dipping into B sides.
Magnificent. Regal. Straight 10/10.
A guy in the crowd threw a lump of cheese during the Nick Cave set and it hit a girl standing next to me “That’s not very mature” she screamed.
Whoever followed that was doomed to mediocrity and it was Nils Frahn, who was quickly christened Nosferatu by our ‘gang’, who treated us to a slow build up of Jean Michel Jarre-esque keyboard noodling with no fewer than 8 keyboards. It was like a demo in a Yamaha showroom. But no matter his ability to slip-slide his way about the stage the emotionometer failed to engage and he tinkled away to a fairly non-descript 5/10.
I’ll save my ‘Meh’s’ for the earlier set by The Twilight Sad. 5/10.
As we moved into early morning territory we closed the day with a too mellow Four Tet set that failed to engage. Disappointing. 5/10.
And so, the trek home. It’s a shite way to end the night. Especially if you are Doug’s carer. Albeit, he does what he is told.
We had two such evenings trying to hail Catalonian thieves driving black and yellow cabs. One asked for 20 Euros for the final 2km of our trip back to Caller De Mallorca, the next 45. A few seconds later we hailed one with his meter on. 7 Euros.
My ‘every day is a school day’ learning: How do you make Vegan Cheese?
Take ordinary cheese and throw it away.
We were awoken to two earth shattering news stories.
The Spanish President, Mariano Rajoy, had been ousted after a vote of no confidence. But this seemed barely to ripple the surface of the calm Catalonian consciousness.
They officially didnae gie a fuck.
But more significant was the news that…Josh Martin, longtime guitarist for legendary Massachusetts grindcore pranksters Anal Cunt, had died after falling off an escalator.
The band name does carry a degree of respect for its sheer gall and so he was toasted liberally with Sangria.
This wasn’t the only story of death to pervade the week. Keith ‘I’m a bit of a lassie’ Stoddart was carried sobbing from the Johann Johannsson posthumous tribute by Echo Collective, Dustin O’Halloran and guests playing the late film scorer’s Orphee.
No one else cared a jot, but, as drink was taken, the gig was mentioned on more than a passing basis.
Get over it Keith, man.
On the way into the Parc on the Friday, and as anticipation for the other Marmite gig of the week, The Arctic Moneys (or ‘Monkeys’ as they are now calling themselves) I was reliably informed by George that “Going to an Arctic Monkeys gig is similiar to voting Liberal Democrat, eating sweetbreads and having anal sex. Things that should only be done once, with the emphasis on only.”
You’ll find out how accurate his prediction was soon enough.
Lunch was a spectacular treat at the superb Mastico. Outstanding tapas followed by Squid in its ink and meatballs. Yes, I know, the picture below looks like the aftermath of a vasectomy gone horribly wrong, but trust me; it was superb.
Superb value, especially compared to the lunch the following day, and we will be back there next year.
Musical festivities began with Josh T Pearson. My pick, and only mine, but I persuaded the troops to join me and he was a winner, not least because he became a close personal friend of Keith’s, albeit in a state of extreme chemical enhancement.
Pearson’s musicality was enhanced further by his verbal frippery.
“I know what you’re thinking, how can someone this good looking write such sad songs but hey ya’ll – models are people too.”
“Y’all know the difference between a Garbonzo bean and a chick pea? I’d never let a Garbonzo bean all over my face.”
A 7.5/10 for me Josh.
After Josh’s hilarity we tripped over to Waxahatchee. The lead singer, Katie Crutchfield, is aptly named because she provides a crutch for her all female bandmates who collectively don’t add up to much of any great interest or virtuosity. She carried the band too much for my liking and despite some good tunes they were out of their depth on the Primavera Apple Music stage and only mustered a 6/10.
On the way to Father John Misty I picked up another great band at the Night Pro stage. The astonishing lead singer in ‘Austrian’ band Cari Cari was truly remarkable playing, as she did, in the first 10 minutes of the set; vocals, drums, keys, jaw harp, didgeridoo and, I think, flute. A sweet treat and 8/10.
Father John Misty, on the main stage, played a fucking blinder. Aided by a strangely situated orchestra (downstage left hand corner) which allowed him to handsomely stride the rest of it looking swell but, more importantly, sounding it, and choosing to roll out all of the aces for a banger festival set. A real highlight. 8.5/10.
He was followed by The National. One word to describe the 30 minutes I endured of this audio equivalent of stagnation. Boring as fuck! (That’s three words – Ed. ) 5/10.
Next up, and on my own because the second I mentioned the J word (no, not Jizz George, Jazz) I found no sympathisers. But Thundercat proved to be truly outstanding with a mesmeric performance from him (on his six string bass), his keyboard player and his drummer. All of whom had learned their craft from Benny Hill’s theme music composer after a large dose of amphetamines. 9/10.
Talking of amphetamines, after 16 hours on the lash, and back in the privacy of our communal living space, Mr McCrocodile forcefully informed us, through somewhat mangled consonants, that he could have got any of us anything. ANYTHING. We wanted.
(Disclaimer: Mr McCrocodile neither pushed nor consume anything his schoolteacher, Mrs Mason, would have disapproved of, simply that in late night conversation his imagination ran, albeit slowly, amok.)
Loudly and persistently he proclaimed
“If you wanted some snack, I’d have got you it.”
I’m still not sure if he was referring to Scooby Snacks or heroin.
After Thundercat I made my way back to the Primavera stage for an oddly constructed, but in large part brilliant, set by Charlotte Gainsbourg. It will definitely make me listen to her latest, excellent album (Rest) more often (in fact I’m listening to it now). The trouble is she played her best cards in the first half of her set and drifted into her hippy stuff later on. She went out with a whimper, not a bang, but still merited an 8/10 for her outstanding first half and really good set design.
The night was bubbling up nicely for Idles. Some of us had already enjoyed their insane leftist rants in Glasgow earlier this year, at The Garage. But nothing prepared me for what was to follow.
Arriving early I was surprised to make my way to the barrier where I joined Doug in one of his more coherent moments. Not long after, Stoddart joined the fray. We were on the rail for what was about to become the biggest mosh pit any of us had ever seen in our lives.
For the next 25 minutes I thought I would die of a heart attack, or trampling following concussion, or blindness because someone crowd-surfing-twat kicked me in the head not once, which would have been fine, but twice. It was on the second occasion that my spectacles exited face left and found me scrabbling among the gooey detritus of two days of mayhem.
But, as luck would have it, my Gregories survived the trauma and, soon after, I took solace in the sidelines. Sodden and bleeding profusely from my over-exercised nipples.
“Why don’t you use vaseline?” asked Stoddy.
“I would, but it ruins your T shirts and anyway, my nipples will grow back.” I advised.
(What the fuck are you on about? Ed.)
<< Rewind to 48 hours earlier <<
I’d gone out on the first of my three morning runs in Barcelona. I was feeling fit after my Edinburgh Marathon exertions of the weekend before and I love running in new places so I managed 5 miles each day in sweltering heat. As evidenced below.
The trouble is, as soon as my nipples make contact with wet cotton it’s as if I’m being attacked by a cheese grater. Blood normally follows. It did.
On telling my daughter Ria, in Australia, of my exertions she opined;
“Fucking little bitch, you’re the ‘special’ who goes on runs at Festivals. You’ll be a vegan next.”
>> Fast forward to Idles again >>
So my nipples are gushing like an elephant on its dabs, my head is pounding from a near stamping to death, my near blindness has only just been avoided and my legs are like jelly.
Then they crank up into Mother.
It’s just brilliant.
A straight 10/10
That was enough for one day.
Was it fuck.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better it nearly did.
Confidence man. Australia’s answer to Dollar. Only good.
Watch the charts folks because they are gonna be massive.
It was late, admittedly – they came on stage at 3am – but I’ve been listening to, and loving, their album since its release in April so there was no way I was missing them. Mr Peter was in on it too, and Doug. But Doug had been on something (10 pints of Heineken , a bottle of red wine and an 11th of a bucket of Sangria) that made both knees bend at impossible angles and almost completely fail to support his upper body weight, so he decided instead to sleep from start to finish of this magnificent gig.
I was in no way prepared for just how good Janet Planet, Sugar Bones, Clarence McGuffe and Reggie Goodchild would be (the latter two dressed in black veiled hats like some terrorist cell from The Marigiold Hotel).
This is proper pop sensation stuff and the Ray Ban crowd went fucking bananas until 4 am when we all crawled back to central Barcelona.
Outstanding. Another straight 10/10.
On the tram back into town I was chatting to a couple of girls who looked at me open-mouthed.
“Have you been on substances mate?” They asked.
Merely the drug that is music my dears; merely music.
Otherwise known as anticlimax day.
The lunch at the beach front fish restaurant we chose, Els Peixaters for the record, was extraordinary, in that it cost extra and was ordinary.
We quickly shrugged this off as the luck of the draw and headed instead towards Parc Del Forum for the final instalments.
First up, former Only Ones’ lead singer Peter Perrett and his two sons and two foxy birds, one of whom, had she have mustered a smile, might have melted our hearts.
By rights Peter Perrett should be toast by now given his well publicised ‘habits’ but he’s still with us and although we had to wait until the last number for Another Girl, Another Planet he treated us to a great set, with a voice that is once again intact and is as distinctive as his stage attire of red leather jacket and red cotton chinos. A solid 7.5/10.
Next up, 70 year old Jane Birkin. (She of “did she or didn’t she while recording Je T’aime with Serge Gainsbourg?” fame, and mother of the previous day’s smash, Charlotte Gainsbourg).
In 2016 the FrancoFolies Festival of Quebec commissioned Birkin to create a ‘Gainsbourg Symphonic’ concert with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and it was this piece that she brought to Primavera. With a full symphony orchestra her performance was electrifying and actually quite moving, although after about half an hour it was boring as fuck and we left. 7/10.
We then squeezed our way into a pretty rammed crowd for Slowdive who were just great. However the lead singer needs a word with herself. Her wardrobe mismatching made me look like Oscar de la fucking Renta.
And it’s proof positive that cool tattoos at 18 look uncool at 40 something. Trust me, and more importantly heed me, on that one my younger friends. 7.5/10.
I saw Lorde for about four songs. Three too many. She jumped around enthusiastically a lot in a sort of negligee.
It didn’t make her songs any more interesting. 4/10
And the shouty Chilean Rap, jazz, heavy metal combination of Como Asesinar A Felipes lost its ardour after 3 numbers I confess. 4/10
By now I’d been hanging about a bit waiting for Arctic Monkeys (5/10). Or, as it now seems they call themselves, Monkeys.
(But won’t that just confuse them with THE Monkees? Ed.)
It turned out to be an unwise use of my time as they were disappointing. Mainly because I could barely hear them. Maybe my ears had been broken by that Idles kick in the head. Maybe some sadistic cunt on the sound desk was hypersensitive to sound. Anyway the crowd chat was louder than Alex Turner’s so I got out of there and reserved, instead, a good spot for OneOhTrix Point Never (7/10) on the far distant Bacardi Live stage.
Now, OneOhtrix Point Never is not just a challenging name but his music is pretty challenging too. Nevertheless it was an enjoyable half hour and, I felt, a better choice than enduring the remains of the Monkees’ semi-audible climax.
Plus, it gave me a barrier place for John Hopkins; one of my picks of the week.
It was not to disappoint. A stunning hour of rampant techno in which the entire crowd (well all the people around me) ‘pogoed’ throughout.
The nipples bled again.
The fourth straight 10/10 of the week.
Brilliant. And we were treated to the classiest majorettes routine I’ve ever seen.
And so it ended with Public Service Broadcasting. Mr McCrocodile on form, setting up Stoddy with a dance (he didn’t want any schnacksch). But we were too far away and too tired/disengaged. 4/10
Pished with rain.
Fuck off Vueling.