Around the World with A-Trak, Part XXII: Primavera Sound

June 24, 2009

After two weeks of madness in Asia I few to Barcelona to perform at Primavera Sound, one of my favorite festivals in Europe. This isn't one of these mudfests where people camp out and play hacky sack to the tune of nu-rock. The programming is very tasteful, comparable to Coachella, and the site is by the water on firm ground.

I flew in a day early and just rested. If you read my previous post you know I was sick on my last two days in China. But I slept the majority of the 13 hour flight and actually started feeling better upon my arrival. That's a first: walking off such a long flight feeling better than when you took off! On my second day in Barcelona I got an early start and walked over to the beach close to my hotel. The ocean air did my body good. This theory isn't scientifically proven, but the sight of Spanish ladies sunbathing topless may have helped me feel rejuvenated too. Maybe it got my blood flowing and the improved circulation sped up my recovery. Just a thought. Then I went over to another beach lined with restaurants and terraces for tapas and sangria with an old high school friend who now lives there. By the time I got back to the hotel, my partner in crime DJ Mehdi had just arrived in town. We went to dinner with his buddy Jackson, the one with the Computer Band. Barcelona's such a fun city. I call it partytown. It's interesting, certain things that would normally turn me off don't bother me at all over there. I mean let's be honest, most people have terrible fashion sense in Barcelona. White dudes with dreadlocks are practically the norm. The food isn't even that good. Yet it's one of my favorite places in the world. The joviality is just too contagious, it overpowers all my cynicism. There is never a dull moment, and the city itself is beautiful. So anyway, we went to the festival and caught the end of Neil Young's set. That guy's still got it, he'll be cool at 80. I watched a bit of Sonic Youth and Ghostface and went to get ready. My set was at 3am which is basically when most people get their night started. This crowd was into anything with a tribal beat so I threw them some UK Funky sounds to get their shoulders popping. Turntablism also never fails at a festival.

From there I went to South America. When my month-long tour was originally booked it was supposed to end in Barcelona, but halfway into it we added a final leg in Brazil and Argentina. So many legs. My tour turned into a Chernobyl baby. I had extra plane tickets so I flew out my homie and art director Dust La Rock to hang out. Our first destination was Sao Paulo. Huge city. The drive from the airport to the hotel took two hours. I landed on an Air France flight the same morning that that other Air France plane left Rio and disappeared in the ocean, so that morning was very eerie. The last four weeks I was on planes practically every day and seeing that happen on a flight so similar to mine stopped me in my tracks. Not to sound selfish but it really gave me a "that could have been me" feeling. And of course you just feel awful for the families. I arrived at the hotel, met up with Dust who arrived from New York and we explored the area of the hotel which was the posh shopping district. In every day scenarios like going to a restaurant, the language barrier was a bigger obstacle than I expected. Another surprise was the appearance of the city itself. People always describe Sao Paulo as this huge metropolis, as if to say that it's without charm, color or character. In fact it's very pretty. There's a law that was passed recently that forbids big billboards and restricts the size of names and lettering on buildings. Perhaps as a consequence, many buildings now have very recognizable façades, some are even very colored. For example my hotel didn't even display its name but was a big blue tower so that's how you found it. The city is also very hilly so when you drive around it's common to get these great views. We met up with the Mixhell fam for dinner—literally the fam, not just Iggor and Laima but the kids too. We went to a churrasqueria and ate until the force of gravity could no longer be overcome.

On the second day we went shopping a little bit, visited the Surface To Air store and some bookstores. I checked out the venue for sound check, it's usually a gay club with a big outdoor terrace and a swimming pool. It looked great! A show in Brazil with a swimming pool sounds like a fantasy but don't expect a bunch of bikinis, it was actually wintertime in the southern hemisphere. I'm not sure why but they set up a tattoo booth and a truck giving away Cup-O-Noodles. The line-up for the show was the Rapture DJs, me, Jay Reatard and the King Khan & BBQ Show. I don't think the party was open to the public, I think it was for invitees, contest winners and people who had gone to previous parties leading up to this one. So the show was dope in its own way but it didn't feel like I went to the nitty gritty of Brazil. I definitely need to go back. There was still over a thousand people there and they were rocking to pretty much any style so I'm not complaining!

My last destination on this tour was Buenos Aires, a city that I've been wanting to visit for years, and I loved it. People call it the Paris of South America but that's not enough to describe it. Yes, part of the city planning was voluntarily laid out to emulate the City of Lights with its wide avenues. And yes lots of the architecture is distinctly European. But it's not just that. It's just so rich culturally. Monuments everywhere. Parks, museums, small independent galleries, boutiques for local designers. On top of that, there is a sort of electricity that you feel with the youth, with music and art bubbling up from all places. The explanation is actually quite interesting. Argentina was very wealthy in the '90s, then it had a massive economic crash in 2001-2002. The money was devalued by 2/3, people lost their savings. But this was a city with lots of culture to start with. Having lost so many material goods a lot of people turned to the arts and creativity thrived. Now the country is rebuilding and starting to do well again. It reminded me of my trip to Cape Town, South Africa a few years back, another beautiful city with a distinct European influence juxtaposed with the local landscape; a city where people were emerging from a dark phase and the youth used the arts as a vehicle to express themselves. It seriously makes you reevaluate your whole take on life.

As soon as I arrived I felt compelled to brush up on my rusty Spanish, so I started a game on Twitter where I spoke in Spanish and asked people to correct me and help me practice. This lasted during my whole trip and was loads of fun. "Ola Twiteros!" On my first night I linked up with the Zizek records crew and we ate at a restaurant called Osaka that people describe as Peruvian. You'd think Osaka would be Japanese, right? Well it was both: there's a huge Japanese population in South America so this was a Peruvian-style Japanese restaurant. I usually find fusion cuisine corny but this was delicious, passion fruit sauce on hamachi! In the hours that followed, various drinks were consumed. We went to some upscale dive in a building that looked like an apartment complex, then tried to go to a club where you have to tell the people at the door a secret code, but they were closed so a girl with a Matrix haircut-and-cloak combo took us to another spot that played eurodance. All I know is I woke up the next morning with the sun shining on my face and the meanest hangover I'd had in a year. My show that day was in a sort of gym behind a soccer field and they decorated it like a prom. I have no idea if it was ironic or not but I loved it. My dressing room had soccer trophies and pictures of the teams. The show was awesome too, such good vibes with that crowd. I played a set that was closer to my Dirty South Dance stuff, I felt refreshed.

During the rest of the trip Dust and I explored the city. We went to the MALBA, a museum of contemporary and modern Latin-American art. We visited some other galleries and more than anything, we ate a whole lot of steak. Sometimes twice a day. We went to one restaurant where the menu was covered in cow hide. At that particular restaurant the waiter cut our steaks up using a spoon! We also visited the most breathtaking cemetery I've ever been to. It's the aristocratic cemetery and it had hundreds of ornate mausoleums. And that marked the end of my five week tour across three continents. Guess what I'm doing now? Planning my next tour.

From The Collection:

Around The World With A-Trak
Posted: June 24, 2009
Around the World with A-Trak, Part XXII: Primavera Sound