Optimus Primavera Sound @ Parque da Cidade, Porto, Portugal, 7-10 June
The queen of European festivals, Primavera Sound, sprouts a sister this summer and opens a new edition in probably the second most exciting Iberian city after Barcelona: Porto. the girls are very excited to suddenly find ourselves in a beautiful park overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, grassier and a touch friendlier than Barcelona’s concrete Parc del Fòrum (though the pissing in the bushes problem became a lot more pronounced).
For a first edition, the festival is solidly organized: all four stages have a good sound, the schedule clashes are not overwhelming, and even when it starts pouring it down, rainproof capes are handed out generously. There are a few serious hiccups, though. The rain causes some cancellations, which is unfortunate as the festival is already weakened by artists pulling out for personal reasons. It does not take away any of the splendor of seeing some select bands in the fantastic setting of Casa da Música concert hall – better information flow could make the experience less stressful. But what saddens us more than anything is that our diversity audit finds only 12 bands with at least one female member, out of 66 scheduled: that’s 18%; not very impressive. And after Björk cancels, there’s no female headliner, either. Not even the cheap sangria on tap or delicious caipirinhas freshly made on site can sweeten this, but we’re crossing our fingers for next year, Primavera! (MO)
It’s hard to predict what the next song will be like with this band. Sometimes the frontman throws himself onto the keyboard, sometimes the cellist plays the tambourine, and one thing you know is that the two massive drum kits in the back will keep on thumping. Loads of instruments make guest appearances, and occasionally it sounds folkier, then again more symphonic, but consistently powerful. The singer’s voice goes up and down, often within one song, sounding like Interpol in the chorus and like Anthony and the Johnsons in the verses. It’s a pretty long and compelling set for an early show, but much appreciated by the audience, who seem to follow the non-straightforward melodies like they’re second breakfast, or rather lanche (Portuguese equivalent of afternoon/high tea). (MO)
Yo La Tengo
This is the chillest, coolest band; no doubt about it. One that does a change of guitar effortlessly mid-song. Husband and wife Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley plus bassist James McNew have been going on for almost 30 years but seem like they’re still having the best time on stage, swapping instruments, drawing out songs into ten minute looped jams with crazy feedback, strings flying loose, Hubley looking like a stern Meryl Streep hitting the drums, Kaplan mowing the stage with his guitar. They play ‘Sugarcube’. Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne ecstatically films ‘Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind’ on his white iPhone from backstage. Roadies whistle the chorus in ‘My Little Corner of the World’. Half the audience look confused in the bright early evening sun. The other half are as wide-eyed as that sun permits. (MO)
Disco-esque lighting behind them, swaying hipsters in front of them, Brooklyn-based Chairlift attempt to enthuse the rained on and shivering punters at Optimus Primavera Sound with their synth-led indie pop. Caroline Polachek twists dreamily on stage and soon the crowd are hypnotised and mirror her. To entrance the easily distracted, and thoroughly drenched, Porto music fans is not to be sneezed at. Unless the sneeze has been brought on by the weather. Still. For those who didn’t throw in the proverbial towel after a ridiculously long and dispiriting wait for the Sunday gigs’ limited tickets, Chairlift rewarded them with an ethereal set: Chairlift plus Primavera Sound equals sublimation. (AO)
This, unfortunately, is the festival’s royal fuck up: putting Beach House on the smallest stage, under a fucking tent. Don’t you know it’s cruel? Even if you got there early you will have probably missed Victoria Legrand’s massive hair. The sound still carried for some distance so it was not unpleasant to look up at the sky and listen to the soothing, beautiful ‘Norway’, or new album highlight ‘Lazuli’, but if it was happening on one of the main stages, this show could have been THE festival experience. It also doesn’t help that most of Beach House’s upcoming UK tour is already sold out. Dreamy, lo-fi SULK. (MO)
M83 is a project of French musician Anthony Gonzalez, so technically it does not belong here at the girls are, but behind the scenes is the incredible Morgan Kibby, and her presence definitely deserves a mention from us. The keyboardist is one of the most prominent figures in M83’s live setup, dominating the right-hand side of the stage, dancing wildly, and singing on most songs (she’s also done an extensive write-up of the group’s tour recently, and apparently co-wrote, arranged and produced half the stuff on Saturdays=Youth and Hurry Up We’re Dreaming. Yeah.) ‘We Own The Sky’, ‘Midnight City’, ‘Couleurs’, ‘Teen Angst’, ‘Reunion’ are absolute bangers and this is one of the best, danciest, partiest sets of the festival. Special mention goes to Jordan Lawlor (aka the jumpy kid in a diagonally split black and white t-shirt), the world’s most over the top 20 year old multi instrumentalist. (MO)
The xx’s sound on their first record depended so absolutely on empty space: the pauses that make your heart skip a beat and your stomach flip. Their music is one the best aural simulations of being in love ever likely to be produced. the girls are have seen The xx play an immersive set at 2011’s Latitude Festival, but that was in a tent, where you could imagine that you were under a duvet, perhaps, listening to the music on headphones, in a darkened room. Their set at 2010’s Barcelona Primavera Sound was disappointingly dull: their trademark darkness swallowed by the coastal night. How would their sound translate to a huge stage in Porto? As it turns out: fantastically well. Surprisingly the band choose to open their set with a new song, and then go on to include at least five new tracks. If the first xx record makes the listener believe that they’re in love, then by these new tracks, the second may make you feel like breaking up. They have a tang of disappointed end-of-love about them. The older songs in this set include all the audience’s favourites. The crowd chant along to every word of ‘Shelter’ and ‘Heart Skipped a Beat’. The effect, combined with the band’s stark monochrome aesthetic, is intense. A single crutch is held aloft somewhere in the sea of people clapping along. The xx seem to have mastered making intimacy meta. Their set has the impact of a private moment, shared.
Marta Owczarek + Arike Oke