New Bands at Primavera – Manel, Sycamore Age and DJ Coco

Primavera by Mark Muldoon for Best New Bands

Barcelona – All week myself and the dashingly handsome Corey Bell have been skirting around this issue of whether or not Primavera can actually claim to be the best festival in the world. It’s time you got some definitive answers.

Nobody could deny that the festival is deserving of its place at the top table of world festivals, let’s state that for the record straight away. The already mentioned setting, the remarkably well-curated line up and the twin-stage setup help close that deal. Also: broadly speaking, everybody at the festival seems to be a delight, which certainly helps. If, on the other hand, we’re picking holes with the festival, well, you need to have a fairly strong stomach for corporate sponsorship to make it through the event, and it’s difficult to fall head over heels in love with any festival that won’t let you get within 80 odd meters of Radiohead without having upgraded to the VIP package.

Both of which are only minor quibbles. For our money, Primavera Sound is as good a festival as Glastonbury, and not quite as good as Burning Man. But it does things very differently to both those events. Primavera is the best festival in the world for the type of music fan that dreams of these kinds of line-ups… The festival will continue to live or die based on how good its line-ups are. Glastonbury and Burning Man – longer established though they are – will continue to sell out each year regardless.

Anyway, here’s three new acts we saw on the final day of Nearly The World’s Best Music Festival.


Manel at Primavera by Eric Pamies - Best New Bands

It can be something of a surreal experience standing in the middle of a huge crowd, all of whom are bellowing along to a song you’ve never heard before.

Local music isn’t exactly overrepresented at Primavera, but Manel are here by way of exhibiting Barcelona’s music scene, as they open up the H&M stage. Singing in their native Catalan, The band can make jangly pop reminiscent of James, or alternately indie anthems that sound as big as The Killers. Now, much as I’m sure you’d appreciate some nuanced lyrical analysis at this point, my Catalan is unfortunately a little* rusty, but given the smiles and dancing evident from everybody around us, it feels safe to assume that thematically, ruminations on Syria and Guantanamo Bay probably don’t figure all too prominently.

This glee on the part of the audience continues even when lead singer Guillem Gisbert briefly opts to shout, rather than sing, his lyrics, with seemingly increasing agitation – whilst somewhat comically waving his arms about. Still, there’s barely a duff track in the whole set. This is remarkably catchy pop – most tracks pull off the impressive trick of feeling like their own self-contained little party. (Photo of Manel by Eric Pickles for Primavera.) 

Sycamore Age

Sycamore Age at Primavera by Mark Muldoon for Best New Bands

A seven-piece mix of gypsy-punk, folk and art rock, Italian band Sycamore Age throw bloody everything into their performances. Their eponymous debut album was distributed across Europe by Rough Trade in 2012. Live, their stage is a chaos of various exotic instrument options. Most members of the band appear to be gifted multi-instrumentalists.

Across their 40 minute set on the Nightpro stage, no matter where one of their songs starts, you can be guaranteed that it’s going to end somewhere one hell of a lot bigger. The audience is happy to respond in their own kind of way – maybe it’s the final day of the festival getting to people, but there’s a strong “let’s all dance about like idiots atmosphere here – and it’s adding to the sense of occasion. Even when appearing to tackle a straight forward piano-led ballad, by its end the song will have become more the kind of soaring epic that could serviceably soundtrack the next big budget Russell Crow film.  (Photo of Sycamore Age by Mark Muldoon for Best New Bands.)

DJ Coco

DJ Coco at Primavera by Mark Muldoon for Best New Bands

Every year, Primavera Sound ends with a big party led by one man. Stories of DJ Coco’s previous closing DJ sets are passed around as legend. We hear of the time when Coco closed his set with Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone”, driving the whole crowd into a genuine frenzy, or the time his set overran its 4am to 6am time slot to such an extent that he was still DJing at 7:30am. This year, a 10,000ish crowd have amassed for the set, and very few seem to be entertaining the idea of going home whilst there’s still music playing.

Having spent the weekend enjoying many of music’s more artsy offerings, it’s a faintly surreal experience to then see the Primavera audience (if you’ll forgive this technical terminology) ‘losing their shit’ to essentially what would be a pretty decent wedding DJ set. The Barcelona DJ plays a mixed bag of crowd pleasing hit records; such as ‘Music Sounds Better With You‘, Renegade Master, britpop-era Blur, Eric Prydz, and a set closer of Bowie’s Heroes.

Naturally, we’re all set to keep partying until 7:30am. Alas, the set actually ends at its proper 6am finish time – maybe the youthful reckless days of Primavera are behind the festival now. At least, it’s just in time for the still-full arena of people to leave whilst watching the sun appear over the Mediterranean Sea. (Photo of DJ Coco by Mark Muldoon for Best New Bands.)

*it’s the final day of the festival and I’ve just about mastered counting to three.

Mark Muldoon can be found on Twitter and Instagram.

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Mark Muldoon

Mark Muldoon

Mark Muldoon lives in Chancery Lane in central London and is out nearly every night soaking up the most fun music, food, comedy and events the city has to offer. He then also writes about them for Drowned in Sound and Brixton Blog, and discusses them on Instagram and Twitter.

He also judges the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award and Glastonbury's Emerging Talent Competition, is never ever without his camera, once backpacked Syria, and also likes Burning Man, the Nottinghill Carnival, BBC 6 Music, India, Taylor Swift, Japan and blueberry muffins.
Mark Muldoon