Primavera Sound 2001: Barcelona Poble Espanyol

UNKLE, Bent, Carl Craig and Armand Van Helden are among those block-rockin' the Primavera Festival...

This isn’t a festival, or even a weekender. This is one lukewarm night in Barcelona for 18 DJs, 4 live sets and 5 stages – all housed in the city’s vast (and monstrous) open-air homage to Iberian architecture, Poble Espanyol. Tonight’s Primavera Sound is, like Poble Espanyol itself, an all-encompassing day trip around a thousand things you don’t have time to look at properly, with DJs and bands from seemingly every genre of electronica, pop and techno in one place queuing up for the decks.

There are big names and local names all one after another, with a DJ hour of the elegantly-moustached Gentle People winding the cogs of the evening into motion with a decidedly retro air wafting out of the main stage (enjoyed seemingly only by thirty-year-old’s with tweed Adidas bags). Brit UK duo Bent rip coarsely through the ‘Programmed To Love’ long-player; their trippy, nodding live set mixes up both vocal and social harmony as they emotionally profess their love for Catalonia (whilst waving aloft the local flag) to anyone willing to listen and understand them.

Meanwhile, upwind at the Nitsa Stage, a large and demanding crowd is already hovering around for UNKLE. Kingpin James Lavelle and the other guy (who isn’t DJ Shadow) unload a truck’s-worth of digital hardware and set up shop for two hours of undancable and unforgettable electronic rawness. Judging by the noise from the folk gathered here, Lavelle is a bit of a star now, although three years ago at the Benicassim Festival he was forced (by aching coolness, of course) to don a “I am James Lavelle” T-shirt for the entirety of his universally-damned DJ slot.

Thankfully, Lavelle isn’t DJing at all tonight. He is instead treating Barcelona to those beefy sounds which keep him awake at night, with beastly drum breaks and Richard Ashcroft‘s northern drawl drifting in and out of ebbing basslines. Radiohead‘s ‘Everything In Its Right Place’ and Queens Of The Stone Age‘s co-co-co-cocaine anthem ‘Feelgood Hit Of The Summer’ both get the barraging drum roll treatment, much to everyone’s enjoyment. The crowd is spared a long heavy session, with Lavelle and Co. opting instead for short spasmodic beats before Lavelle notes that the sum of break + uplifting bit + big beat = happy cheers. Ad infinitum.

Carl Craig hasn’t notice this and treats the now-fragrant crowd to ninety minutes of wall thumping Detroit bassbins and that ‘20,000Hz’ number which never seems to quite reach it’s finale. In the main arena, meanwhile, Yasuharu Konishi (from Pizzicato Five) pumps his self-titled ‘happy music’ into the atmosphere, raising the tempo and the temperature with jumpy Japanese versions of ‘My Sharona’ and other unmemorable pop hits. Leila is upstairs in the chandeliered Palace room with her 7″ singles collection, bopping along to the Human League, Run DMC, Art Ensemble Of Chicago and even stopping in at The Doors’ ‘Soul Kitchen’.

Le Hammond Inferno start kicking in heads on the main stage, punk-rocking the house before Armand Van Helden picks up the ruins with slick NYC dance moves until dawn. Not the best choice for a closing act perhaps, but a magnificent end to the best event of its kind in the city for ten years (since the last one, that is).

James Pearse