or, "Why be waiting when you could be DANCING?"
Friday 27 May 2011 - Sunday 29 May 2011
Coming back to Barcelona was something of a homecoming for me. I was here in February for the Mobile World Congress, so when we entered the city, it felt like hardly any time had passed. Back to Barca! I was excited to be able to show Nick and Gerst around to the places I had been before: The BarBarBar, the Ferreteria, the giant cat, and doner kebabs! We got in on Friday afternoon from Avignon, France and took a few hours to unpack, grab some food, and check out these nearby sights.
We enjoyed an oh-so-Barcelona dinner of seafood paella and sangria on Las Ramblas (a long boulevard filled with shops, street performers, and over-priced restaurants) and then explored the nearby plazas. Here, we encountered the first group of street performers that I can honestly say I was totally impressed by. These guys were amazing! It was a group of five or six young guys who were acrobatic beyond all belief. They tumbled and flipped, even leaping onto (yes ONTO) each other’s heads with no visible effort. One guy executed something that I can only describe as a long series of in-place cartwheels/front flips. He literally appeared to be spinning around and around, head-over-feet without ever leaving the tile on which he originally stood. So cool. We threw them some euro coins, and then walked up Las Ramblas toward Plaza Catalunya as night fell.
As we neared the plaza, the crowd grew thicker and thicker, and the noise kept growing. People were flooding in from every direction, clapping, banging pots with spoons, even clashing beer cans against each other – seemingly doing anything to make noise. We were in the middle of a protest! In the plaza, protestors hung from trees and statues, huge red banners draped from the lamp-posts, billboards grafitti’d in messages of freedom. All three of us looked at each other, excited to be in the midst of this massive protest, but unsure what was being protested. We later found out (from the bartender at an Australian bar we happened to wander into) that the residents of Barcelona were holding a peaceful demonstration for the independence of Catalunya – the region of Spain in which Barcelona is located. Very interesting!
Later that evening at the hostel, we met up with some Aussies in the common room, played a few games of cards, and then headed out with them to Razzmatazz – supposedly one of the best night clubs in Barcelona. Barcelona is definitely a party city. Barcelona doesn’t sleep. The club was crazy – different floors and rooms for any style of music or dance you could want! Fun fun fun! Finally, after losing our Aussie friends in the madness, at 4:30 am we decided to leave (and trust me, that’s kind of early in Barcelona), but after leaving, we realized that the metro wouldn’t be running until 5 or 6 am … we were stranded! Exhausted from hours of dancing, we gave in and decided to just wait it out. However, after several minutes, a tall Spanish guy in a cool hat (who Gerst later deemed “homeboy”) danced over to us from across the street where a small group of locals were listening to music in their cars and chatting. He was grooving hard to his electronic music, and his enthusiasm was infectious as he invited us to hang out with him and his friends and then head back into Razzmatazz until the metro opened – why waste time waiting when we could be dancing?
Finally (FINALLY) around 6 am, we said goodbye to Razzmatazz for good and took part in traditional Spanish custom: getting late night (early morning?) churros from a stand on the street! Churros are a sweet, fried dough covered in sugar. They make for the most delicious treat after a long night. Exhausted and happy, we made our way back into the hostel on the now-open metro, and once again collapsed into bed just as the sun began peeking over the horizon.
We woke Saturday (late!) in excitement – it was finally time for the music festival for which we had come to Barcelona! Primavera Sound, a huge three -day indie music festival was going on with headliners like Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, Of Montreal, Fleet Foxes and The Flaming Lips, and we had tickets to day three! With the venue situated right on the Mediterranean and the sun blazing, it was picture perfect.
Nick is probably more qualified to describe the concert itself, so he’ll take over this next part:
We all set a new record for the longest concert we’ve ever been to: 10 hours. Ten hours of music from different genres, at different stages, at different times. The festival was awesome. There were 7 stages with bands playing at all times between 5:30pm until 3:30am+. I wished I was two different people (even three at some points) so I could see all the bands that I wanted to, but that is the way it goes with music festivals. However, the bands that we did manage to squeeze in were fantastic! The bands themselves were excited to be at such a huge festival all the way in Spain (a lot of the bands were American), and of course this energy from the bands transferred into the crowds who kept at it into the wee hours of the morning (though I suppose 3:00am is practically the start of the evening for some Barcelonians). The circuit that we saw was:
• The Tallest Man on Earth
• Cloud Nothings
• Fleet Foxes
• The Album Leaf
• Money Mark
• Animal Collective
The first awesome showing was Fleet Foxes, who played at 7:40pm for about an hour. They are an indie folk rock band, with influence from a variety of bands, including The Beatles. All three of us were already fans of this band before the trip, but are even bigger fans now. The band did a good job of balancing showing off songs from their new album and jamming along to fan favorites from their older work. Not only that, but the live versions of their songs were just so much more epic than the album versions. The songs were louder, longer, and just more intense. And they were very talented – each of the 6 band members could play multiple instruments. On the lesser end of the spectrum, the main singer used the guitar (both acoustic and electric). On the more extreme end, another band member played the standing bass, flute, maracas, guitar, tambourine, violin, banjo, bassoon, and citar. And that is just what I noticed. Each of the very talented band members were happily rocking out the whole time, and so was the MASSIVE crowd.
The other show that stood out to me was of course Animal Collective (described as future experimental pop rock kinda sort of – they have been around for a long time and are at the forefront of experimental indie music). This was the band I was most excited to see, and they certainly performed to my expectations and then some. We waited for an hour at the stage in order to get a good spot, and for me it was worth it. We were about 6 or 7 rows from the front of the stage (standing room only of course), so I could see each of the 4 band members very clearly. Unfortunately, due to the smaller stature of the female body, the girls had a little bit more trouble than I did seeing everything due to some tall crowd members. Sorry girls. The performance was full with brand new material by the band, so I felt very lucky to be able to hear it (their next cd probably won’t come out until next year even). They played around 14 songs, of which 4 were songs I recognized from their older albums.
Another late night, but a concert well-worth the price! We got up early the next morning to meet Noah at the train station (his trip from Amsterdam took longer than expected so he did not get to Barcelona on time for the concert!). With the few hours until our train left for Madrid, we caught some more sights and grabbed our now-group-famous durem kebabs, then hit the road for Madrid!