Viva la musica! at the Euro festival of choice. Parc Del Forum, Barcelona, Thursday, May 28 - Saturday, May 30
A motorik thudding announces the arrival of The Horrors, like an ominous cloud over the Iberian coastline. Barcelona’s seafront is the perfect spot to witness the London-based quintet taking (occluding?) their place in the sun and dispatching the majority of recent reinvention ‘Primary Colours’. It’s a pity nobody told them that dark clothing retains the heat, though. It was almost unthinkable 12 months ago that The Horrors would be sharing a bill with Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine but, this year, with that record, it all makes perfect sense, and tonight’s a coming-of-age affair. Not that their set is without issues: a keyboard cuts out during ‘Who Can Say’ and the sound is so bad during ‘Three Decades’ that Faris Badwan up-ends the mic stand and launches a volley of abuse at the side-of-stage desk. “It’s not you guys I’ve got a problem with,” he explains to the audience apologetically. The sheer euphoria conjured by epic set-closer ‘Sea Within A Sea’ is enough to make amends though.
Despite Faris’ outburst, the hissy fit of the festival comes from Wavves’ Nathan Williams, who spends much of their Pitchfork Stage slot arguing with his drummer, slurring at the crowd and strumming aimlessly before storming off. A UK tour is subsequently cancelled, and we’re left wondering if his tracks ‘So Bored’ and ‘Weed Demon’ are, indeed, autobiographical.
Fellow buzz band Crystal Stilts acquit themselves in far better (not to mention more affable) fashion the following evening. Drawing largely from recent debut album ‘Alight Of Night’, their organ-led surf-rock sounds at home on the Spanish coast, sea in sight and sun setting. Talking of suns, Bat For Lashes is singing about a couple of them over on the Estrella Damm stage. Ms Khan’s recent large-venue tour seems to have prepared her well for festival season; despite the magnitude of the crowd, she’s in her element, with new cuts ‘Glass’ and ‘Daniel’ sounding as vital as old favourites ‘Prescilla’ and ‘Horse And I’. No big surprises there, but The Pains Of Being Pure Heart truly smack gobs soon after with a ballsy, rocked-up set that belies the cutesy recorded nature of their trebly, trembly fuzz-pop. Tonight, ‘Come Saturday’ and ‘Young Adult Friction’ sound almost like a pre-‘Loveless’ My Bloody Valentine – which is all the more appropriate seeing as Shields and co are up next in the Auditori, a cavernous, space-age 3,000-capacity venue just outside the main site. For the following 75 minutes – and, indeed, the subsequent few hours – other music seems irrelevant; the intensity of the quartet’s indoor performance is enough to make several grown audience members weep with happiness. How, you might wonder, can an ageing band with zero stage presence and weak, often inaudible, vocals do that? Tracks like ‘Only Shallow’ and ‘You Made Me Realise’ hold the answer; perfect approximations of a perfect sonic blueprint that still has as much relevance and resonance today as it did 20 years ago.
Jarvis Cocker’s no spring chicken either, but he’s opted to grow old (dis)gracefully. Tonight’s Estrella Damm set has him in limber form, with ‘“Further Complications”’ tracks ‘Homewrecker!’ and ‘Angela’ serving up riffs as sharp as his moves, and prompting a banner to be passed from the audience proclaiming, ‘Jarvis es bueno’. Indeed.
A grinning Deerhunter provide some of Sunday’s best moments on the Rockdelux Stage, with ‘Never Stops’ and an extended take on ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ both sending us into woozy ecstasy. But it’s left to Brooklyners Gang Gang Dance to bring the party to a close on the final night with a rhythmic onslaught of tribal persuasion, looped vocals and treated guitar. ‘St Dymphna’ highlight ‘House Jam’ proves the crowning glory and, come daylight, we’re left wandering in search of the Metro with both tired feet and well-worn smiles, having witnessed one of the best festival bills this or any other city has seen in years.