When the Iowa Informer said they wanted to send me to Barcelona, Spain, to review the Primavera Festival, I thought about it for a few minutes before giving them my humble demands:
- My wife has to go with me, because I get confused a lot on foreign land, and to serve as translator.
- One care package, consisting of one ounce of mescaline, one pint of ether, two bottles of absinthe (the good stuff, not that cheap Canadian shit that skimps on the wormwood), and one cereal box filled with Quaaludes.
They conferred and eventually agreed, and we were off.
The Primavera Festival is a five-day affair featuring a metric shit-ton of bands from all over the world, including some of the biggest names in indie rock, but also including DJs, world music, and bands that are sort of the equivalent of fusion food, where they put fruit in everything. The upper tier of bands is a virtual who’s who of top touring acts this year (Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, Animal Collective, PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson, Air, and lots more). The bottom tier is all over the place and nothing I’ve ever heard of before, with what looks like a lot of Euro bands.
In between is an interesting blend of things I never thought I’d get to see, along with some things that sound pretty damned interesting. The list is frankly overwhelming.
There are, according to the schedule, 15 different stages, the biggest being the Heineken stage (goddam I love Heineken). Pitchfork has a stage for this festival, and it’s a relatively small one, to give you an indication of the size of this thing.
Our first day involved a lot of travel and figuring out how to get from A to B. The plane actually went on time, and everything ran smoothly, and I was surprised at how much entertainment there was on international flights since the last time I’d left American soil. They have video screens in the back of the seat of the person in front of you, and you can choose from a vast selection of terrible American cinema (though, admittedly, Zoolander 2 wasn’t nearly as horrible as reviews had led me to believe). They give you free Heinekens (goddam I love Heineken), and the food has been upgraded, too.
So far, so good.
The hotel accommodations were good, too, with vending machines dispensing small bottles of wine and tiny containers of Ben and Jerry’s. The elevators are tiny, but the view is decent, and the bed is soft.
There was an announcement of a preview show the night before the Primavera Festival proper, so we felt encouraged to get our wristbands and dive in. It turns out my wife doesn’t actually speak Spanish, so her utility as a translator came into question, but we found our way to the festival site, which is a large plot of land surrounded by towering hotels right near the ocean. The architecture in Barcelona is beautiful and diverse, even to my untrained eye, so the entire landscape is distracting. We christened a building near the hotel the “dildo-bomb,” based on its shape, but it’s undeniably striking.
The lines at the festival site were pretty short, because there’s no music going on yet, and the staff were incredibly helpful and informative. When asked to produce my ID, a young man grinned and said, “Iowa.” I said, “Yeah, we’ve come a long way for this,” and he laughed and helped us get us where we needed to be.
Wristbands procured, we attempted to get our care package, but our connection didn’t show. I angrily called my editor, who said there was a problem with shipping drugs internationally, but assured me that it would only be a day or two. So we did the only reasonable thing, and began drinking our way across the city to the preview show.
We were only able to catch the last part of the preview show, a one-woman show called Deradoorian, at a bizarre complex called Sala Apolo. The complex has a hotel, casino, club, restaurant, and probably a Spanish brothel rolled in, all under the name “Apolo.” The club part was pleasant enough, a dark room with a big stage and good sound, and there was a good showing for the act. Deradoorian is actually a young woman named Angel Deradoorian, who played bass and sang with The Dirty Projectors, a group I’ve enjoyed in the past, and who released a collaboration with Bjork at one point. You could tell working with Bjork had made an impact on Deradoorian, who had a great voice, augmented by delays and reverbs and was often looped, and supported by drum machines and a Roland keyboard. There were a lot of Middle Eastern scales and flavors involved, which added to the mystery of the music.
Her set was a bit short, but it was good, and the crowd was with her. After cheering, she walked off stage, the lights came up, and people politely began to leave. Deradoorian came back out on stage and smiled and shook fans’ hands, and then ducked behind the merch booth for a bit.
We drank our way back to the hotel (goddam I love Heineken), crashed, and prepared for day two.