Monday, May 31, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Thursday, May 27th)

After weeks of anticipation and arguing over which bands should get the honor of being highlighted, Barcelona's Primavera Sound came off to a roaring start which included sets that won't be easily forgotten and others which reminded us of the shortfalls of the festival format.  Despite being the most crowded year to date, Primavera Sound was mostly free of the headaches that can plague a festival which has experienced such substantial growth in the past few years.  Yes, the lines to buy a beer were excruciatingly long at some points, but this predicament was offset by the excellence of this year's line-up.

Titus Andronicus (20:30)
Though mostly showcasing material from this year's The Monitor, these Jersey rockers strayed away from the cinematic touches that distinguish the album and decided to perform their material in the most straightforward and noisy way possible.  By extending the more rambunctious moments of their mammoth songs, Titus Andronicus managed to show that their sweeping flourishes aren't an exercise in presumptuousness but rather a vehicle to accentuate the grandeur of their ballads.

The Smith Westerns (21:45)
I knew these kids were young before coming in to this show, but I couldn't help but be taken aback but their amateurish pose and poorly hidden nervousness during their brief set.  The group may not have much material to work with, but their small legion of fans made up for any lack of energy that was felt on stage by providing the desperately needed spark which made the group interesting in the first place.  The grimy vocals and treblely guitars that filled their debut album were mostly washed out in their live mix and caused the simplicity of their songs to turn on them in a quite unflattering way.

Crocodiles (23:15)
While not known for their especially profound songwriting, Crocodiles seemed like a good alternative in a mostly guitar heavy night.  Using heavy kick drums and an over amplified bass to try to turn plain songs into instant crowd-pleasers, however, only works if the set features an effective balance of highs and lows, but by constantly relying on their simple rhythms, the set quite quickly became linear and not enjoyable.  Most of the crowd seemed to share my opinion in that they spent most the set chatting away or leaving halfway through. 

Pavement (1:00)
The most anticipated group of the night and possibly the entire festival brought such large crowds that it showed how much this band's stature and influence has grown in the past years.  Productively balancing favorites like "Cut Your Hair" and "Conduit of Sale!" with more restrained numbers like "Stop Breathin'"", Pavement's very presence and exuberance seemed to leave the crowd hanging on to every note with a concentration that is rare at such large venues.  Stephen Malkamus's guitar playing and vocals moved away from the sloppiness that defined their earlier material and instead seemed to focus on producing a precise effect for every moment.  Far from being a greatest hits set, the performance came off as a fresh, new statement for a band trying to define their already revered legacy. 

Delorean (2:45)
The popularity of these local heroes has grown unexpectedly in the past year thanks to their original blend of melodic pop and painfully dense electronic dance music.  At this hour, their live show came off as more of a showcase for their ability to get bodies moving rather than having a defined purpose or aesthetic.  The band should be admired for their ability to effectively reinterpret the loops that make up their songs and congeal them into a more fluid experience.

Moderat (3:30)
This Berlin based project featuring the techno powerhouses Modeselektor and Apparat, included all the positive aspects that one comes to expect from a minimal show.  Their stunning visuals and unpredictable dynamics, joyously brought the very long evening to an end that was surprisingly eventful for a Thursday night.  It may not have suited the tastes of everyone in the crowd but it certainly gave an extra boost to the few and faithful who decided to carry on dancing long into the night.

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