Friday, May 31, 2019


This will be of interest to you only if you're into music, drugs and Chinese poker - not necessarily in that order.

This year's Primavera Sound Barcelona is an interesting experience in that we have gone from a hardcore group of around 20 friends down to just two survivors - Mad and Benjo. In some ways, this is a shame - we miss our mates – but in other ways, it's fine: no endless, battery-draining text exchanges saying "where are you?", two-mile treks to see bands you're only vaguely interested in and watching other people eat revolting burgers when you're not hungry and you're a vegetarian.

This year I am on a curated musical journey led by the master of music curation, Benjo. I don't know what we're going to see - I'm just being led around the Parc de Forum with a concise explanation en route as to what to expect. I have told Benjo he has free rein to take me to whatever he likes, even if it's well out of my comfort zone. I only lasted at Wu Tan Clan two minutes four years ago, but I've grown up a lot since then.

This is how, in 2019, I found myself enjoying hip hop star Nas and shed-loads of "rock normale." And, on the whole, Benjo and I have agreed on what's been good and what's shit.

Let's start with the shit - Charli XCX- I don't who the fuck you are but you should have been chucked off stage after three minutes. 95% of your "voice" is auto-tuned, you can't dance, your lyrics are trite and you have an inexplicably inflated sense of your own talent and popularity. At one point, I told Benjo she sounded like a Spice Girl. Two seconds later, she sang Wanna Be. Charli - you didn't just let yourself down, you let the whole school down.

All my Day 1 reviews are below, time-stamped, including all Chinese poker hands fully notated. Also included (where relevant) the absolutely senseless band descriptions from the official Primavera Sound souvenir book (free to VIPs so we have copies going back five years).

4.20pm - Day 1 gets off to an astonishingly early start with Benjo saying I "might like" Bridget St John which is in Barcelona's super comfy Auditori Rockdelux concert hall. Let's start with what PS Souvenir Book (PSSB) has to say about Bridget (prepare to vomit.) "The songs by Bridget St. John are always a window. Sometimes, we are immersed in her folk contemplating how it rains on the other side. At other times, we are outside, under a light sun, observing the inside of the house inhabited by this singer songwriter." My review: "great opportunity for a nap" 4 or 5/10

5pm - we stay in Auditori for Julien Baker who knocked our socks off. PSSB called it "existentially anguished folk" - fuck them. Julin is super cute, very shy and looks like she's playing in her bedroom. Julien is only 22 or something, but she has the voice of an angel. In her penultimate song, Turn Out the Lights, which reaches a massive crescendo, I had goosebumps. Hats off also to her wonderful violinist accompanist. On the way out, Benjo told me Julien's lesbian/Christianity/addiction backstory. Major talent 8/10

6pm - we just catch the end of Alice Phoebe Lou at Primavera Stage. Her band were GORGEOUS - lovely line-up of hot and very talented guys, especially blue-haired trombonist and surf dude sax player. Lucky APL - getting to travel with that lot! As for APL, she'd be pretty good if she didn't do an unnecessary screechy whoop at the end of every other line. She also made the unfortunate error of going to a Catalan hairdresser just before the gig so blighted by a truly frightful fringe. 6/10

6.10pm  - off to our favourite stage for Soccer Mommy. First real dose of rock/pop normale and an accomplished, no surprises set. Ray-Ban pretty full for 6pm. I liked her voice, band and songs but really hated her skirt. My only tip to Soccer Mommy (apart from changing her skirt and wearing jeans like everyone else) is NOT to try singing a slow, meaningful ballad to the 6pm Ray-Bay crowd. THEY ARE NOT READY and will just wander off as they think the gig's over.

7pm - Steven Malkmus and the Jicks at Primavera stage. Finally a bloke!!!! (Note from editor - this year's Primavera is branded the New Normal and is 50%+ women - gender equality and all that. Oh well). This is our first opportunity to see someone playing guitar in order to show us how big his dick is (medium size, Steven is modest). He looks like a cross between Philip Hammond and Liam Gallagher (but more Philip Hammond). I am happy to see that the area where Benj Scrimgeour and his hernia watched The Cure is now clearly marked with a massive disabled flag. Benjo tells me that guitars are going out of fashion as lead instruments as they're deemed too phallic. Steven Malkmus bangs on a bit and gets more and more forgettable by the minute. I've forgotten it already and I'm still there.

8.30pm BEACH CLUB - we make the trek across the Port Forum bridge to the now three-year-old Beach Club area. We discover gin and tonics are €7. Horrible shock. We take our first half E and play our first hands of Chinese poker. Hand 1: I bust. Benjo: +16; After four hands, Benjo is up 7 and down about €20 as he's really hitting the gin and tonics hard.

10pm - things are really kicking in in the most perfect way for a perfect set by DJ set by Krystal Klear to a perfect sunset. The crowd are horribly dressed, especially the English (2/10). Highlights - Neutron Dance (his hit single), Dead or Alive's You Spin me Round.

10,20pm. "It's DARK! Let's get the party started", says Benjo, who started partying about two hours ago. We head to Ray-Ban for Nas. It's heaving. Tons of die-hard fans. I love it even though it's hip-hop. I spend quite a lot of time worrying about his bright orange, diamond-patterned nylon golf jumper which is clearly highly flammable and I fear the worst. Luckily no one on stage is smoking or holding candles so all good. This is the first hip hop I haven't walked out of but the fact that Nas utilises a wide range of cultural references including Beethoven and Mozart really helps. It's a huge crowd and they love it and he's very good. A lot of his hits are from 30 years ago - I missed them at the time as I was busy listening to Dave, my then-husband, sing me acoustic love songs about his ex-girlfriend.

11.42pm - Your Heineken stage - Fab new superb new cabaret-style venue with seating booths which is clearly tailor-made for playing Chinese poker. The "background" music is really foreground music - new wave, very good Pylon Reenactment Society. I can chair dance to this and also get Superland in first hand of Chinese and another 24 points.

Midnight - I'm still awake which is, in itself, a miracle. We head to another new stage - Seat Village - and catch half of soul singer Celeste's soulful set. She is fantastic in a lounge, sequin-dress kind of way.

1.55am - Charli - see above. Embarrassing.

2.50am - FKA Twigs. This was more spectacle than gig. A wonderful piece of theatre with sword juggling, pole dancing and about a dozen highly elaborate costume changes. I don't like this kind of music at all, but she was super-impressive. Phenomenal sinewy dancer who outshone her dance troupe by 20:1. She achieved something utterly unique, surprising and entertaining - a feat Bjork utterly failed at with her Mordor-themed production last year.

4am - bed. Great first day. Thanks Primavera 2019. Pretty good so far.