Thursday, June 3, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Saturday, May 29th)

A friend told me on the final day of Primavera Sound, that it was best to not to see the weekend as a race but rather as a marathon.  Having seen bits and pieces of probably over thirty concerts over the previous two days, it was hard to imagine how this night would compare to the others.  Free from any giant headliners(I'm sorry but the Pet Shop Boys don't count), this showcase seemed to be more about having select quality acts, than overwhelming the audience with a flood of names.

Atlas Sound (19:15)
Describing Atlas Sound's music as restrained or simplistic would be haphazardly inaccurate for an artist whose albums always feature an assortment of different styles.  However when Bradford Cox took the stage and it became clear that he would be playing alone, it became hard to visualize how he could reconcile his vast material with only an acoustic guitar, some loop effects, a drum machine.  The answer is that not only did he succeed in accomplishing this daunting task, he translated each piece in such way that it became a presentation on how he singularly constructs the dense layers that his songs are composed of.  By beginning on a more uplifting note and ending with only the repetitive looping of his own voice, the set seemed to a progressive dismantling of the elements that form his sound.

Nana Grizol (19:50)
One of the more pleasant surprises of the weekend, this outfit featuring Laura Carter of the Elephant Six Collective provided the instigative jolt that the initially disinterested crowd seemed to be in desperate need of.  The timely use of a small horns section and having two drummers on stage made, what at first appeared to be cookie cutter festival filler, an impressive flash of upbeat dance rock.

Grizzly Bear (21:55)
Baroque style pop which relies heavily on variable instrumentation, doesn't come off as something that would work well at a large festival.  Besides "Two Weeks", Grizzly Bear's repertoire doesn't have much in the way of instantly catchy songs or anthems that could inspire first time listeners either.  These factors seem like a perfect recipe for disaster, but seeing as how everything these Brooklyn protégés touch seems to turn to gold, their hour long set, unsurprisingly was perhaps the best performance of the weekend.  Indie might take a lot criticism for its stance that places style over musical expertise, but this idle judgment was discredited by the phenomenal artistry that was displayed throughout the show's entirety.  Each member possessed a profound command of their instruments and each part was so thoughtfully placed that those who were lucky enough to be close to the stage, were left mesmerized by the quenching resonance that these four were able to produce.  The complexity behind the composing of each score came off as fluid and effortless, while still delivered with a unique fervency and humility.  The highlight of the set came with a glowing performance of "While You Wait for the Others", which featured every member singing in perfect unison to create a more spirited version of one of last year's best songs.  By the time the show came to an end, one couldn't help but admire the diligence and perfectionism that was behind creating this extraordinary set.  

Built to Spill (23:00)
Plagued by sound problems from the start, Built to Spill's set never seemed to be able to gain any sort of momentum. Even after playing fan favorites like "Going Against Your Mind" and "Carry The Zero", any type of enthusiasm seemed forced for a band that I had hoped would be one of this weekend's best.  Doug Martsch was constantly complaining about the sound levels on stage in spite of the fact it sounded decent enough to those in the audience.  The three ax men on stage all played with an acute sense of time and place but didn't show any signs that they were taking in pleasure in being there.  Maybe it might have been better to just salvage what they could from the unideal conditions, instead of trying to force perfection at the cost of the everyone else's enjoyment. 

Liquid Liquid (00:30)
"Feel the groove!" "Get funky!"  Old guys running around stage and playing a wide assortment of different types of drums while some other guy beat-boxes.  Maybe it's because my feet were tired and that I had scored a good seat near the stage, but I still have no idea why I stayed for this entire set.

HEALTH (3:00)
Even heavier than on their grating records,  HEALTH's mammoth set was not for the faint of heart.  Intense focus was a requisite in order to appreciate the feedback tweaks and morose twists on analog sounds that were being made on stage. A willingness to head bang for hours on end also made the whole experience that much more gratifying.  The manic, and at times trancing, stage circus created a sense of chaos and disarray that seemed to resonate well with a crowd that was running on fumes.  By the time they played "Die Slow", there somehow appeared to be a clear harmony between the jerky rhythms and the idiosyncratic noises that hold HEALTH together.

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