Friday, June 14, 2019

NOS Primavera - Jarvis Cocker / Stereolab

NOS Primavera in Porto is the sister festival to Primavera Sound in Barcelona. It's back-to-back weekends – with a fraction of the Barcelona line-up heading west to Porto for three days in Parque de Cuidade. I came last year, got very wet and watched Nick Cave in awe.

Second year running, it's still wet and cold and a lot quieter this year. The lukewarm response to Primavera Sound's "New Normal" line-up in Barcelona has been replicated in Porto causing disastrous ticket sales and a near empty venue. Barcelona was saved by the sheer scale of the operation and huge number of bands – plus additional highlights like last minute booking Miley Cyrus who drew the biggest crowd I've ever seen there. Nothing like that going on in Porto but ... I'm not complaining. It's still a lovely festival, with a polite, respectable, well-behaved, classy crowd, nice food, grass-fringed stages and cheap drinks. We're with first-time Porto Primeraverans Tash and Dan, plus our friend Ricardo and his wife Ivone who are NOS regulars and live a stone's throw from the park.

Jarvis Cocker
I've spent a lifetime successfully avoiding lyrics at all costs. I love music but, generally speaking, I'd rather people didn't ruin the notes with banal comments about life, love and all that. I've also managed to spend around 30 years not really knowing a single thing about Jarvis Cocker.  That all changed for me last night. Revelation time!!!

It helped that Cocker was wearing a nicely-cut suit that makes him look like a Geography teacher. ("Geography teacher" is my favourite rock-star look and part of the reason I am deeply in love with Matt Berninger of The National).

Cocker was playing with new band "JARV IS". First, the banter. This didn't always work. Cocker tends to say whatever's on his mind  - often a bit random. But lots of jokes. He apologised profusely to the crowd for the English fans who had been doing their best to tear down Porto by throwing cans of lager at it. (Tash actually saw a fan trying to open his beer bottle using the facade of a beautifully-tiled church.) He told the audience that there are actually some nice people in England. They remained sceptical. He then handed out Toblerone and Twixes to people in the front row and asked them to share. He gave his set list to a fan who had been holding up a placard saying "SET LIST?" for the entire gig.

Then there were the lyrics. I wrote some down. This is my favourite:

This body is a temporary home. This body wants to take you home. 

All the tracks were great, dancy, and Cocker loped up and down the stage on his impossibly long legs like a Geography teacher explaining in animated fashion how rivers have different ways of shaping the land including erosion. 8/10

I saw Stereolab in Barcelona and couldn't wait to see them again. They are immaculate.

Lætitia Sadier looks exactly like an Air France flight attendant and acts like one too. She wears a demure tailored navy suit with Air France cravat round her neck and a dead-pan expression designed to stop audience members asking if they can change seats. This makes her sound boring but she isn't. She's riveting – and the music is sublime. This year is Stereolab's first slew of live performances in ten years and was a must-see event for many excited fans. Sadier remained calm in the face of all the adulation and pointed out where the oxygen masks might be if we need them.

Stereolab have an awesome back catalogue and every track is engrossing. As the set drives on, the band step up the tempo until by the last track, you're drowning in an absolute frenzy of electronic sound. Even though it's abundantly clear we're about to crash land,  Sadier remains sublimely professional - a focal point of reassurance as we plummet to earth. But it's all fine. We land safely and start taxiing to the terminal. Sadier takes a modest bow and the audience reluctantly start getting their stuff out of the overhead lockers. We'd all have been happy with a ten-hour flight. 10/10

Sunday, June 02, 2019



6.15pm - Flawless breeze past security with a belt-load of smuggled contraband (bottle caps, whisky flask etc).  We also immediately conduct a fantastic Cup Collection swap with someone and now have two complete collections 2001-2019. The limited edition 2020 cup is being released today and comes with a free ticket to next year's Primavera but we just wanted souvenirs.

6.20pm - Ray-Ban - no better place to start a Primavera day than this gorgeous amphitheatre style stage with great seating, great views and lots of shade. It's often the forum for World Music stuff and today's offering is Dayme Arocena from Cuba. This is a big mama with a huge voice doing salsa and cha cha numbers.

7.15pm - Built to Spill at Primavera. I remember literally nothing about this band. I am assuming it was another dose of "rock normale" and the ever-helpful Primavera Sound souvenir book appears to confirm this: "A day that is still a normal day, a normal career, planned during so many The Normal Years which is, with their usual normalness, what they titled their first compilation."

8.25pm - Shellac at Ray-Ban - Steve Albini is very witty so I'd actually prefer it if he talked more and played less. It's hardcore rock - not really my thing. But Albini is still my hero for being both a bonafide rock star AND a great poker player - he snagged his first WSOP bracelet last year (Event #31, $1,500 Stud) straight after playing Primavera NOS in Porto. Benjo (die hard fan) was beyond gutted he wasn't in Vegas to meet him but Albini did say "hello Benjo" in a winner's interview for Winamax. Albini is performing in the same Cocaine Piss t-shirt he wore at his WSOP bracelet ceremony. Respect. 7/10

Rock star
Bracelet winner

9pm ish - break for pizza and poster purchasing.

10.20pm - over to the Beach Club for Lizzo. I had no idea what to expect but there was already a massive crowd in front of the new Lotus stage on the beach. Everyone is chanting "Li-zzo, Li-zzo, Li-zzo" for a full five minutes before she comes on. And wow, what an entrance. Lizzo is huge, and bounced onto stage in some kind of sparkly pink leotard like a giant, twerking telly tubby.

Lizzo is a formidable presence with an outstanding voice. She's warm-hearted, hilarious, irreverent, rude, sassy. She flings her hair around like Miss Piggy and cracks awesome jokes. Spectacular throughout. Amazing tunes, great dancers, great attitude. The audience was the best I've ever seen at Primavera, 100% engaged, doing absolutely anything she asked of us. When she asked who'd like to lick her pussy, practically everyone raised their hands. She also asked us if she should run for President in 2020. Resounding yes. Probably the best gig of PS 2019. 10/10

11.30-midnight - light dancing to techno at the Desperados Cube stage

12.15am - It's Primal Scream time but a very lukewarm Primal Scream. They look like they prepared for the gig by doing the Telegraph crossword. When Gillespie sang "We wanna get loaded and we wanna have a good time", I'm pretty sure what what he really wanted to do was to get back to his hotel room and read his Kindle. Going through the motions. Zero passion/stage presence. 3/10

1.30am - Stereolab - first live show in ten years - simply immaculate, and I get to watch the whole thing all over again at Primavera Porto next weekend. Beautiful notes. gorgeous melodies. This band has it all for me. 10/10

2.45 the Forum underground car park aka Ray-Ban Studios. Benjo and I have tried this place out three times. Day 1 : we couldn't find the DJ at all because there was so much dry ice. It looked like a zombie apocalypse and we lasted three minutes. Day 2,  we got past the lasers and dry ice and discovered the DJ is in the MIDDLE. Ah! Day 3, we head back in, and spend most our time dancing in car park space #55. We love Peach who has lots of zombies up on their feet including a club owner from Edinburgh, who says she was playing at his place three weeks ago. 7/10

Car park full of zombies

A zombie

5am: I am still up. This is a record (never made it past 3am in previous four years). The usual DJ Coco end-of-event slot is now two girls - Rosario and Sama Yax. I plan to chair dance my way through this but Bowie's Let's Dance gets me up and so does Lykke Li. I survive all the way through to sunrise. I give myself 10/10.

Out of focus sunrise

6am: Thank you Primavera!!!!!!!!! and huge thanks to Benjo, who curated a wonderful musical journey for me, made me laugh constantly and is just the most perfect companion in every way. 

The complete 2001-2019 Primavera Cup Collection x 2

Saturday, June 01, 2019



Noon: wake up, eat, write blogs, shower, look at pool and then sneak in to 15th floor Executive Lounge where we drink a lot of George Clooney coffee.

4pm I pass up on the one-in-a-lifetime chance to watch Midori Takada, a 67-year-old female Japanese percussionist who is exploring a diverse range of Nokia ringtones on a triangle. Benjo's notes say "cinematic, relaxing, nap opportunity".

5pm - I have my first ever bust at security when they find and confiscate my bottle caps. My role as a middle-aged drugs-and-alcohol mule might be over.

5.10pm - Benjo and I meet at the Food Court for one of our five a day (orange juice) while failing to make it to Ray-Ban to see Lucy Dacus. Sorry Lucy.

5.35pm - we race to the Primavera stage to see Snail Mail. This is mainly because Benjo says the singer looks just like Tash. Actually she doesn't look remotely like Tash, apart from the fact that she's a woman in her 20s. We have nothing very bad to say about Snail. I liked her speaking voice ("what a great day to have technical difficulties") more than her singing voice and Benjo didn't like her sunglasses but, apart from that, all very pleasant. The Primavera Sound Souvenir Book (PSSB) really excels itself for nonsensical writing in their Snail Mail write-up - read this and then throw up.

Side note: Benjo is on a last-longer not to have a drink before 7pm. I was eliminated after taking an early slug from my illegally-smuggled-into-venue whisky flask. 4/10

6.30pm - off to the new cabaret room to watch Birkins from the Canary Islands massacre the whole of the Ziggy Stardust album. At least that's what I thought we were in for, but I wasn't worried because I'll listen to Bowie in practically any form and, in any case, Your Heinekin Stage is a great place to play Chinese poker. WOW, NO TIME FOR CHINESE! Cristina Santana made a strong start, then brought on a guy who looked like Bob Geldof and then ex-Posies/REM guitarist Ken Stringfellow bounded onto stage all guns blazing. He rock and rolled his way through five tracks like he was Mick Jagger on Aderall. Jumping up and down, flinging his hair around, flinging the mic stand around, blasting it out. I danced on a table at one point. Ken - you were magnificent and win "Most Energetic and Personal Performance" of Primavera 2019. 8/10

7.15pm - we catch the end of Sons of Kemet XL. As always, the Primavera Sound Souvenir Book is hugely informative ("It’s here. It’s now. And yesterday. And tomorrow. Whatever. It is always.") This is an exuberant World Music type ensemble with four drummers, fab sax, awesome tuba. We'll definitely catch the whole set next week at Primavera NOS in Porto.  7/10

8pm: off to Beach Club for a bit of DJ stuff but Laurel Halo depresses me so we head for VIP and four more hands of Chinese poker.

I'm 38 points at this stage but a handy trips up top saves Benjo from a Day 2 annihilation. He ends the session 4 points up, down 34 in total.

We hit the dance floor for Steffi which I like a lot. Even the PSSB gets this one right calling it "classic house". Yum.

9pm: we pass by Pitchfork stage for rocker Liz Phair. I struggle to understand the USP for these rock chick bands - they all sound alike. Instead I offer to queue for falafels which are absolutely delicious and constructed entirely out of cardboard and sofa fluff.

9.30pm - our first trek to the main stages. First up: Janelle Monae on the Pull&Bear stage. This is a mega show. Must have cost a fortune. Very accomplished. She slags off Trump, homophobia, racism etc and sings lots of great tunes. It's an impressive show.

23.10 - as we're still in the area, I think it might be fun to catch a bit of Miley Cyrus. I know she's a pop star but that's about it. Her set opens with film footage of her eating fruit. It's the most pornographic thing I've ever seen at Primavera and I hope no children were watching as she pouted, sucked, licked, gobbled and squelched her way through a pile of oozing citrus fruits before lathering her tummy and crotch in juice. WOW. Then she came on stage and I'm HOOKED. Fucking hell. Sexiest singer I've ever seen in my life - stiletto boots, PVC trousers, crop top. Jealous-making flat tummy. Gorgeous hair. Great voice. It was stellar. Probably the biggest crowd I've ever seen at Primavera too. Loved every minute. 10/10.

 12.20am - Back to Primavera VIP to watch Low. I liked them when I listened in my bedroom but on stage they were stultifying. They seem very sad and I can only assume it's because of Brexit. 4/10

1am - Yves Tumor is very high on our list of Primavera must-sees. The music is great but Benjo might never recover from the fact that we were listening to playback not actual singing. "It's heart-breaking" he said and went off to drown his sorrows with another half of Heineken.

2am - I've seen Jungle four times now and they are ALWAYS reliable. Catchy tunes and sooooo danceable. Even though the backdrop, set list and line-up never seem to change, they are just fab. Thanks Jungle. Great way to end Day 2. 9/10.

3am - bed. Benjo returns at 6am with another 48 Primavera cups for our collection.

All pics by Benjo