primavera sound day one andrew bird squarepusher aphex twin the bug

Day one of the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona came to a close, and though the crowd shuffled away worn out and bleary-eyed, there was still the excited hubbub of fans satisfied with the day’s shows. If the performances had continued, then people would still be there dancing holes into the ground. Watch the video of day one.

After checking out Marnie Stern, Lightning Bolt and Yo La Tengo, I hurried to see Andrew Bird, The Bug, and Jay Reatard.  To finish the first day of the festival, two stunning acts from Aphex Twin and Squarepusher, complete with visuals and electronic wizardry, led the entertainment into the wee morning hours.

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Multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird was nothing short of incredible, as he recorded short bursts of violin, made them play in a loop, and then played over his own recording while also singing masterfully. He had a curious contraption set up behind him which resembled two gramophones attached to each other, which spun around at a tremendous pace while somehow producing an enormous racket. Andrew Bird was trained in the violin Suzuki method, and the performance was not only skilled, but also interesting and varied, as he is influenced by a wide range of classical, folk, and jazz music.

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The Bug has been around for over a decade, so producer Kevin Martin is always safe bet for top-notch grime dub electronica. Eardrums at the Pitchfork stage were getting pounded by some of the heaviest bass-lines to be heard at the entire festival; Martin and his MC made bodies move, to say the least, and I appreciated the variety The Bug conferred to a festival that, up to that point, had been dominated by acoustic bands.

Next on my extremely dense list of must-sees was Jay Reatard; it was imperative that I get my share of his big-haired indie punk rock. The rest of Jay’s band was impressive, with the bassist Steve Albundy’s enthusiastic head banging (also with big hair), and Elvis Wong’s flawless drumming. I’m definitely catching the Tennessean next time they play nearby, hopefully in less time-constrained circumstances.

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Before I had time to stop and breathe, Aphex Twin was starting his act in front of one of the largest crowds of the day. Richard James’ deafening beats ranged from house to drum and bass to kuduro, and to complete the performance he presented an audio-visual component. Video synchronized to his music that, of course, displayed his own face being twisted and distorted by special effects. Aphex Twin didn’t play many of his more recognizable tunes, opting for a more DJ set format. To top it off, morbid, grotesque imagery of autopsies and surgery was shown during his last song -  a combined experience I don’t think many people will forget any time soon.

Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, began by himself, playing bass over well known tracks Welcome To Europe and Hello Meow. But just as soon as the public was starting to get used to the format, he was joined by drummer Alex Thomas, who played with Jenkinson for most of the concert. Thomas was remarkable, in the sense that most of Squarepusher’s beats are nigh impossible to play on a drum kit, and are usually providing by electronics. Thomas filled the role quite nicely, and provided rhythm for tracks like Startime, A Real Woman and Delta V. The gig lasted over two hours, and was the highlight of my small slice of the festival.

Tomorrow promises Shellac, Crystal Antlers, The Mae Shi, Bat For Lashes and Bloc Party, so don’t forget to check back to Beatcrave for more coverage of the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona!