Surveying the scene at Primavera Sound

Reign in Spain
By LIZ PELLY  |  June 15, 2012

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SPANISH RAYS Belfast's Girls Names played their '80s-inspired jangly dream pop with the added benefit of a Barcelona sunset.

Visiting Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona felt like a sometimes-surreal glimpse into an indie rock myth: the breezy stages surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, dreamy pop bands playing at sunset, hip European music geeks speaking all different languages, late-night punk and electronic sets raging until 5 am. Now in its 11th year, Primavera has grown into an ultimate destination for music fest enthusiasts, a reputation validated by this year's line-up — a mix of big-name headliners (the Cure, Jeff Mangum, Wilco), '90s legends (Mazzy Star, Archers of Loaf, Refused, Yo La Tengo), plus dozens of new and upcoming acts.

My experience at Primavera started on Thursday evening with Pegasvs, a Spanish duo comprising Sergio Pérez García and Luciana della Villa, playing through a captivating set of dark, dreamy Krautrock-inspired electro-pop from their debut homonymous LP, released this year by the Barcelona-based Canada Records. It was easily one of my favorite sets of the fest. One of the unique aspects of Primavera is that — despite the festival's enormous scope, internationally diverse line-up, and huge headliners — it makes space for some Barcelona bands. There were several Spanish bands billed on the fest (Pegasvs, Beach Beach, Aliment) and an entire section of vendor stalls dedicated to local record labels like Canada, La Castanya, Familic, and more. Another local highlight was Barcelona garage-rock band Mujeres, which any fan of Thee Oh Sees or Black Lips ought to check out.

Recently at music festivals I've found myself conflicted between reunions by '80s and '90s indie legends and younger, emerging bands. Primavera Sound made it easy to find a balance between nostalgia trips and new-music discoveries. For the former, the All Tomorrow's Parties stage was the spot: Lee Ranaldo, Mudhoney, Dirty Three, Shellac, the Pop Group. Friday night, the reunion of slowcore pioneers Codeine, who are playing their first shows in 18 years, was made more epic by the view from the way top of that particular stage's coliseum-style seating, overlooking a sea of thousands of festival-goers juxtaposed with a vast view of the actual sea.

Of the festival's eight or so stages, I spent a good deal of time between ATP and those curated by Pitchfork and Vice. In the former's zone, Olympia quartet Milk Music impressed with their grungy high-energy rock, huge '80s guitars, and generally likable West Coast vibes. Grimes played the tightest performance I've seen by her, and Denmark's Iceage upped the punx overall. Trash Talk somehow managed to make a festival setting feel like a basement show (one member literally climbed up the rafters during their post-midnight set), and on the last night, Washed Out played a super smooth 3 am set as a four-piece. Belfast, Ireland's Girls Names played their stand-out '80s-inspired jangly dream pop at sunset on Saturday night. I was so impressed that I went to see them again on the day after the festival, playing a Primavera-presented showcase at a park in the middle of Barcelona's city center, full of orange trees and monuments.

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