I had the chance to spend a little time in the protest camp in Plaça Catalunya in Barcelona today. I’m no good at estimating the size of crowds but there were many more people around today than there were yesterday. Here are some snaps I took with my phone.
MGMT – Congratulations
Following their hit debut, Oracular Spectacular, was always going to be difficult. And lots of people seemed to find Congratulations a let down. True, it’s lighter on obvious hits than the last disc. But this album makes up for that by being an unabashed bit of hero worship. Every song is packed with musical and lyrical references to MGMT’s influences, sometimes making it seem more like a covers album than anything else. But the more subdued songwriting and an over all more melancholy sound (notwithstanding some outstanding chorus explosions) led me to love Congratulations even more than Oracular Spectacular. And live, it was even better.
Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)
Janelle Monáe is really cool. Originally given the nod by Sean Combs because her MySpace videos showed no flesh, and because she ‘sounded different’, her music is a combination of soul, funk and hip-hop and it’s 100% pop. She might be the new David Bowie. The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) is effectively two EPs on one album, both smoothly combined as single compostions and packing an incredible number of great tunes, inventive rhythms and intriguing android-themed lyrics. The album is produced by Big Boi and there is definitely a pretty clear Outkast influence on its sound… with is always a good thing. She’s playing live in Barcelona next February.
Wavves – King of the Beach
I don’t know much about these guys but I gather they’ve divided opinion among their target hipster audience. King of the Beach is just a great collection of surf rock songs played in a psychedelic mode. The album is essentially about being a lazy bum who smokes weed at the beach all summer. If that sounds obnoxious and sad, you won’t like this album. If, on the other hand, you think it reminds you of good times, and you like the idea of Beach Boys riffs played at quadruple speed with a ton of fuzz, you will like this album. The band is constantly shedding members (they had a disastrous on-stage meltdown in Barcelona in 2009), so I’ve no idea what they sound like currently. Either way, the record is cool. I might sneak a few tracks onto the New Year’s Eve playlist.
It’s that time of year again! As Barcelona’s winter continues to fling a surprising array of nastiness at us, we’re already getting the occasional day that lets us dream of spring. And spring in Barcelona means one thing: the Primavera Sound festival. This year’s festival takes place from the 27th to the 29th of May, at the Parc del Fòrum.
This is the line up so far. It’s pretty much final, though a few more acts will likely be named. The big names so far appear to be The Charlatans, The Fall, Gary Numan, Orbital, Pet Shop Boys, Pixies, Wilco and Wire.
A Sunny Day In Glasgow Apse Atlas Sound Beach House Beak> Ben Frost Best Coast Bigott Bis Biscuit Black Lips Black Math Horseman Boy 8-Bit Broken Social Scene Built To Spill Camaron, La Leyenda Del Tiempo Circulatory System CocoRosie Cohete Cold Cave Condo Fucks Crocodiles Delorean Diplo Dr. Dog Dum Dum Girls Emilio José Endless Boogie Fake Blood Florence + The Machine Fuck Buttons Ganglians Gary Numan Grizzly Bear Half Foot Outside HEALTH Here We Go Magic Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions Japandroids Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard Joker featuring Nomad Junip Lee “Scratch” Perry Les Savy Fav Lidia Damunt Liquid Liquid Low performing “The Great Destroyer” Major Lazer Marc Almond Matt & Kim Mission Of Burma Moderat Monotonix Mujeres Nana Grizol No Age Nueva Vulcano ODDSAC Orbital Owen Pallett (Final Fantasy) Panda Bear Pavement Pet Shop Boys Pixies Polvo Real Estate Roddy Frame Scout Niblett Seefeel Shellac Sian Alice Group Sic Alps Sleigh Bells Spoon Standstill Sunny Day Real Estate Superchunk Surfer Blood The Almighty Defenders The Antlers The Big Pink The Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 The Books The Bundles The Charlatans performing “Some Friendly” The Clean The Drums The Fall The Field The King Khan & BBQ Show The New Pornographers The Psychic Paramount The Slits The Smith Westerns The Wave Pictures The XX Thee Oh Sees Titus Andronicus Tortoise Ui Wilco Wild Beasts Wild Honey Wire Yeasayer
It’s not clear whether the Guardia’s elite Jazz Investigation Unit was sent out to Sigüenza or if they simply consulted its Contemporary Arts Bureau.
For what it’s worth, I don’t like genre labels as they always end up being exclusive rather than inclusive. Here’s hoping that the Anti-Folk Brigade don’t get called out to tonight’s Jeffrey Lewis gig in Barcelona.
This billboard is on my walk from the bus to work. It’s advertising the ‘This is war! Robert Capa at work’ photographic exhibition which has come to Barcelona after a successful stint in London. The image used is, of course, Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death – a fine photograph which most experts consider to have been posed (not that this makes any real difference: all images are created, one way or another, and this is a particularly good image).
Attached to the billboard is an interesting statement from persons unknown, pointing out that Capa’s great work was staged, and then continuing for lines and lines and lines without really saying anything that makes sense. Is this madness?
One other thing worth noting: hampones is a synonym of ladrones, I’m told. It’s a new one on me.
So here we are. Unless things go on for much more than 90 minutes tomorrow evening, in 24 hours we’ll know the outcome of the Champions League final. F.C. Barcelona face Manchester United in what should be a mega-clasico of a match. We’re going to watch the game at the Penya Barcelonista de Cerdanyola del Vallès, the same bar where we saw Barça win three years ago, and where we saw them knock Chelsea out just three weeks ago.
If you’ve never been to an official penya (they exist for most football clubs but around here they’re predominantly F.C. Barcelona-affiliated), these official supporters’ clubs are often the finest places to watch a good football match, provided you back the penya‘s team. You need to make sure you get there early, though. For the second semi-final, I got there over an hour before kick-off and barely managed to snag a couple of stools in the non-smoking area (shock, horror!). For tomorrow’s game, I’ve booked a table in the smoking area – three years ago, I did the same thing, and when I offered my name, the owner simply shook her head and said ‘Els estrangers‘, ‘the foreigners’. This time, she at least admitted she knew me and allowed ‘Tom’ to go on her bit of paper. We’ll see how well this works out around 8 tomorrow evening.
I’ll avoid predicting the outcome of the game because my hope that Barça will win is far greater than any knowledge I’d ever profess to having of the game. Suffice to say: I reckon it’ll be hard for both clubs, and while Man U may be favourites, I do think that Barça can win it.
And if they do, it’ll set off a great long weekend of celebrations. Because while I’ll be in the office the next day, whatever happens, Thursday night sees the start of Primavera Sound – Barcelona’s pop festival and officially the first party of the summer (well, that’s what I always say). The lineup is pretty good, and this year I’ll probably be aiming to take in a few newer bands I don’t know so much about (any recommendations are welcomed). The festival runs until Saturday, but even better news is that Monday is ‘second Easter’, meaning we get another day off! Skill!
So it could be a brilliant few days or just a very good few days. And you can’t say fairer than that.
As I was walking back from the Mississippi station today, I happened to bump into a TV3 OB team and a bunch of Culés. I asked a likely young lass if, perchance, El Barça would be coming through shortly and she confirmed that they were on their way.
I stood around for about five minutes and then spotted the TV3 team moving into the middle of the road, a surefire sign that the bus was on its way. And then, there it was. Heralded by flashing blue lights, cheers and foghorns, the Barça bus made its way across Carrer Numancia towads us. The cup itself was displayed proudly at the front of the bus, and some figures could be seen behind the tinted glass, waving and cheering. I imagine Eto’o led the chants.
Behind the bus was a fleet of hundreds of motos and cars, horns sounding and flags waving.
But this was fairly subdued by Barcelona standards. Everyone knows that within a couple of weeks, we could all be celebrating a much bigger triumph. If Barça can win the Champions League and secure a historic triple (yes, that’s a big if, but it’s there to be won), Barcelona will party for days on end.
(All 9 pics here. By the way, the pics aren’t great: I was using our compact camera and I was somewhat hurried)
Yes, as Grey said in his comment on my brief binary review, I was warned. I seriously doubt that I’ll go back to Summercase. Here’s my Last.fm review (links point to last.fm pages).
In over 11 years of regularly attending pop festivals, Summercase 2008 was by far and away the worst organised and most blatantly commercial event I’ve ever attended.
The lineup was poor and got worse with the loss of mia and Santogold, among others. A group of low-quality English pop groups (Maximo Park, Kaiser Chiefs, Sex Pistols, The Verve…) dominated the lineup and left little room for decent local or international break-through acts.
Also, the organisers’ addiction to Disneyfied 1970s acts (Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Stranglers…) made for further dull concerts as large groups of 20-somethings mumbled through the lyrics to Atomic, a song which was fist performed before any of them were conceived. Incidentally, Blondie’s guitarist also managed to mess-up the guitar-part for Atomic, despite it being one of the most celebrated riffs in pop history. Give you a clue: it’s not good enough to just play the notes in the right order… you need to get the rhythm right too.
The thing is that, of what I saw, the only truly great concert was by Cornelius (easily the most experimental artist playing at this MOR event). Pretty much everything else was just rubbish.
As to the general organisation of the event, we were shocked and dismayed at the rudeness and generally low level of service offered by the Summercase team. Part of this was to do with the alleged policy of festival organisers to employ staff not from Barcelona, in order to prevent the normal issue of ‘free drinks for friends’ happening. What this resulted in was a service team of rude and aggressive non-locals who spoke neither Catalan nor English, and who were quite clearly unhappy with their work. Added to this, the females were forced to wear very tight pink t-shirts (men were in brown), and the festival succeeded in making itself not only a gross display of consumerism but also perfectly happy with breaking Barcelona’s modern conventions on language, culture and gender equality.
This year, I decided not to attend FIB because I thought the lineup didn’t justify a trip down to Castelló… especially when I had a festival on my doorstep. I won’t make that mistake again. And it looks like, with a huge drop in attendance, Summercase needs to sort out its act or clear off altogether.
Summercase 2008: 0
It has been a great week for live music in Barcelona. As well as the ever popular Wilco (who I didn’t go and see), the two most notable concerts were by very different acts. Jazz legend Ornette Coleman played the Palau de la Música Catalana on Wednesday evening and Welsh indie favourites Manic Street Preachers played the new Espacio Movistar on Friday.
The term genius is certainly bandied around too often. But that’s what Ornette Coleman is, so forgive me my use of this tainted word. Coleman, for those who don’t know, is one of the last surviving jazz legends of the late 50s, a time when Western music was changed forever by a small group of men working mostly in New York City. A Texan, Coleman (and his quartet) performed a now legendary two month residency at the Five Spot Café, and revolutionised jazz music. Despite having learned to play the saxophone ‘wrong’, the music he and his band created and performed was a sharp break with the current output of scene leaders, Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Davis hated Coleman, which is probably as much of an accolade as anyone could wish for.
At 80 years old, I must say that I was worried that Ornette Coleman would be a talent diluted somewhat by age. I shouldn’t have worried: though physically quite frail, he played with a power and tenderness which was truly captivating. The band, a five piece, was interesting, consisting of two bass players, and electric bass and Ornette’s son on drums. At the centre sat the master, who led us though several numbers from their new album, Sound Grammar. As well as this, he performed a few of his classic pieces from the old days, including the astoundingly good Lonely Woman (a personal favourite). The venue is OK: beautiful looking, but the acoustics aren’t perfect and the seats are damned uncomfortable. The concert was magnificent, however, and I remarked to Gemma as we left that I might never attend another gig, Ornette Coleman was that good.
But statements like that don’t last long in Barcelona. The very next day, while
browsing the internet working, I stumbled upon information about a Manic Street Preachers gig in Barcelona on Friday. Looking further into it, I discovered that it was a concert especially for Telefonica Movistar mobile network customers, and that it was free! To get hold of a ticket, you needed to be a Movistar customer. By sending a text message to a special number, you’d receive a code to be presented at the entrance to the venue. Awesome! But I’m a Vodafone customer and my (admittedly foolish) attempts to trick the system by using my Vodafone account failed miserably. So my friend Nick hatched a plan to get all the Movistar customers he knew to send a text to the special number, and then forward the response on to him. He sent me a code, we queued and we got in. For free!
There was no support band, so after buying several very expensive beers from an impressively busty (though slightly inept) barmaid, the lights went down and we awaited the gig. I was expecting a concert built around the band’s new album (again), but was pleasantly surprised when it turned out that we to experience a greatest hits concert, with all the Manic’s most famous songs performed in what felt like quite an intimate setting. So we had You Love Us, Motorcycle Emptiness, A Design For Life, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next and the rest of their best songs . The band seemed to enjoy themselves, despite the fact that most of the audience seemed to be moderately bemused (though excitable) students. We had a great time and Nick managed to get some pretty good footage of the gig.
In all, a great week for live music. There’s no doubt that Ornette’s was the most impressive and exciting, but to see the Manics performing as well really capped things off. I love this town.
Ornette Coleman, Palau de la Música Catalana, Nov 7 – 1/1
Manic Street Preachers, Espacio Movistar, Nov 9 – 1/1
I first really got into Exile on Main Street about two or three years ago. It was the sort of time in a Barcelona summer when you go to xiringuitos, get drunk then head into town and get high. My Monday morning commute would be rendered about 300% better if I could listen to the trashy stoned noise of Shake Your Hips and the bombastic rock of Loving Cup at top volume. Late night sessions got much messier with Keith and the boys as the soundtrack.
But that was just the Stones’ version… I mean they were already millionaires and they didn’t even record it in New York City. They did it in tax-exile at Keith’s chÃ¢teau in the south of France.
So at the same time, my permanent addiction to Royal Trux was just continuing steadily. I had begun to get my head around ideas like never believe a word Neil or Jen says in an interview and yes, it is possible for a man and a woman to be the joint incarnation of the Rolling Stones’ guitarist, even if he’s still alive. I’d read that there was some mysterious tape in existence which featured Pussy Galore performing a cover of Exile on Main Street, in its entirety.
Anyway, I always thought that this would be the most amazing recording ever… but it was always impossible to get hold of. I mean, this was a limited tape release from about 1986 or something.
Well I managed to get hold of a copy (in digital format) a couple of months ago and it doesn’t disappoint. Of course, you’ve got to like the messy, scabby, Pussy Galore sound if you’re going to dig it. You’ve probably got to know Exile pretty well and not mind hearing it on the stereo in the background as Pussy Galore play, karaoke style.
Just one track from this recording is better than the total output of bands like The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and that lot. It’s a completely different thing, naturally, but that’s what makes it better.
Reposted from my Last.fm blog. Listen to Pussy Galore – Exile On Main Street.