Once upon a time in the garden eden
An ode to Primavera – home of the modern day dandys
Well dressed young people with the heart for music at the right spot and an open-mindedness to take life as what it should be: a chance. Please step into the magic world of Primavera Festival and it’s associated club Appolo/Nitsa and smell with Thomas Venker the atmosphere of this carnival of feelings as well as meet its protagonists like Pablo Soler, Gabi Ruiz, Fra Soler, Abel Suarez (DJ Coco).
Once upon a night in Appolo/Nitsa
To create an adequate story on the Primavera festival, I have to slightly go back in time. To be precise: to the first days of this very century. A trip to Barcelona for the Sonar festival somehow lead me to the (then unknown to me) Appolo/Nitsa Club, i think it was the annual Kompakt/BPitch Control night. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone: my beloved friend Alex Mayor, one of the three members of the famous but not adequate successful british Popband Baxendale, who released, and this is where the dots connect, a seven inch on the indie label Inane of a back then very young fellower named Pablo Soler which all place in the last century.
So the story begins and the night started as usual: We had several drinks, enjoyed the good music and – as this was my first of so many steps until the present day into the Appolo/Nitsa world (btw: call me stupid, i still have no idea why some call it Appolo and some Nitsa) –, it’s not an understatement to say I was impressed of the beauty of the former cinema gone club. All of a sudden I heard some certainly loud words, spoken with a warm and winning timbre. And see the man producing these words. Yes, Pablo Soler, co-owner of the club as well as the Primavera Festival. And leading person of what brings us to discussions about modern day dandys.
Originally speakin, dandys are young folks which wear nice, aestetic cloth and show them off at places like churches and year markets. Normally they are not loud, dont wear to colourful and too willing for attention asking clothes, but yes, for sure they want to be recogniced when they come into a room. They are built on a certain mixture of snobism and gentleman maniers, always gentle and wise, cause most of all they know how to drop the lines of words.
Speaking by dandys it seems we always talk bout men – but thats a big mistake and only a result of the aera the word comes from. These days dandys are obviously both, man or woman – and to make it clear: otherwise I would not like to write this article anyway. It would not only feel wrong to speak in the old fashioned men perspective, it would be a massive treat to all the achievements of feministic and gender political work of the last decades. There is a need to drop this, as we will recognize on our journey through the Primavera world, that it is like James Brown once sang a „Man´s world“ – but as he also stated: „it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl “; which means on the meta level that even if its mostly men constructing the Primavera, this fact does not mean shit.
So, how to come back now to Pablo Soler? The man. Best I just follow him through that narrow door in the wall next to the Appolo/Nitsa bar, just as i did in that particular night fiveteen years ago. Behind the door I found not only the stepps to the office of the club, I met the guy who i call now friend for the first time for real. And I did all that things which we normally keep in the dark and so do today. Not cause we do not wanna stand up for our idea of lifestyle, more cause this is not the most importent aspect of it: all these liquid and not so liquid habits of the night are only a parfum to create an atmosphere, an atmosphere of exchange, culture, words and sometimes, why not, also kisses, either between friends or lovers.
Meet the man: Pablo Soler
For me Primavera is first of all Pablo Soler. This might be unfair to all these others who make the festival possible year by year – but it is not meant like this, its only the logical result of my way into this magic world of extremly nice people with an outstanding musical taste. He is like a don back then in the good old mafia days, but a don gone nice. Year by year it is the same: When the festival starts on the thursday nights you see him standing on the green of the VIP area, expecting all his international guests arriving one by one with a big hug (just like in that Leonard Cohen song), already in a good mood and always very well dressed, starting from modern, stylish, elegant shoes, over experimentell poppy socks to usually a blazer – just as the dandy we are talkin about and right in front of his modern times church called bar.
You do not find many people involved in such a big festival in a status that relaxed as him. Well, in a way this is his job (you could call it Public Relations, but dont do it or I kick your ass for using one of this no-go-words from the world of marketing speech) as the others do not seem to have the time for that, at least I never see the other lovly people down there in the Primavera committe like booker Fra Soler (which is not his brother, even if everybody thinks he is – but how not…), Abel Suarez (head of production and most of all DJ Coco), Beba Naveira (who is handling the international press like as we are not this wild bunch of primitives we are) … and last but not least co-owner Gabi Ruiz – Pablo knows he has to be thankful for keeping his back free at that time. And they know vice versa what big of a thing he means fort he reputation of the festival. Its by no chance not a willing act that he is the representing director. One has to be blind not to see what big of a statement in the positivest of all ways this is for such a huge music festival. Its a unique position to cultivate your very own host, your impressor, especially as he is down with and friendly to all, from artists to regular vistors, shows no arrogance at all and excludes the smallest snobism as usual in this world of oh so importent people – and as if not enough, he is a music lover, bringing the vibe of the whole team of enthusiasts in full spirit under the people.
But the most impressive moment year by year is when his family steps by for a visit. There are no words to describe that. In a climate of festival madness the air stands still and he shows his ma and dad and sister and the little niches around the festival. This reminds us that in the beginning and end: its all about socialising.
Primavera – a heart and art thing
Yes, in first instance, and I say this with the knowledge that Primavera is one of the biggest festivals not only in the country, in Europe and in the end as well a money orientated business as an cultural event: Primavera is driven by art and heart. At one point or another you see all of the crew on one of the stages, gently and enthusiastic wipping their tired bodys to the music of DJ Coco, following the performences of their chosen acts. There is no thing sweeter for us regular guest as to see these eye balls. Beautiful pieces of creation.
Does this make sense? Is my writing really going somewhere? A question not so different in its center feeling from what surfing on the festival circus means to your body. These summer festival got their own rhytmn – and sooner or later they drive you crazy. A good friend of mine, lets call him Alex Mayor, does not come with me this year to Primavera, normally one of our yearly chances to rub our bodys together, as off a feeling of repeating history. I exactly know what he means, and yes, yes, yes, with the years and the age it does not get easier to follow our spanish friends into the darkness of the night, but then again: these are the rituals of culture – as in the latin word ritualis -, with such a big corpus of symbolic for what we define as bohemian lifestyle, a cultural system besides markets and strategies. Places like Primavera bring back together similar minded folks from all over the world, create a family. Im by no mean a hippie, but landing in Barcelona something changes in my heart each time: There is this certain nervosity just like before a date. You know whats coming, somehow, but you also know that there are so many unknown things to happen.
Primavera – telling it personal
I also wanna share some of my experienced stories behind the closed doors. I will start with the year 2009. As I smuggled myself into a Primavera bus at the airport (these are normally only there to pick up the artists, but as said, these spanish people are so friendly, they even help a german with blue eyes), I find myself next to Todd Trainer, legendary drummer of Shellac, one of my alltime favourite bands. He asked one by one who we are and what we do, meaning in which band we play. I answered honestly by my job mission, knowing the stupid reaction artists always show when they hear you are an writer (in my world we are part of the same pack, share the love for the darkside of society and the believe in art as a key to change the world, i´m getting pathetic, am i?), a journalist – and made (cause of exactly this missunderstanding of our mission in culture) sure to add that I once cooked for my cooking column with Steve Albini in Chicago. Well, i did not get any props for that, he only grumbled „i heard he is a prick“, followed by giggling and the offer to throw me out of the bus. He did not – and so I landed minutes later in my next fanepisode in the hotel elevator with Steve Albini himself, David Yow (of Jesus Lizard), the others guys of Sonic Youth (which means not Kim, Thurston or Lee – sorry Jim and Steve) and a definitly handicaped, cricked by heart Jarvis Cocker. Call me stupid, but even after all this years of cultural work with these people and knowing not few of them in person, it means something to me to meet the creators of big art in person.
But I understand the need to top it and open the box of pandora for some more darker and perhaps also selffunny storys. So lets go back in history to the year 2006, the year I cried on my way home to cologne, not realizing before landing that I was sitting next to Apparat and Ellen Allien in the plane, sweatin in pain and memories. But i made it home in one piece. Other people that year ended -while I was running to the hotel to catch the flight after one of Pablos legendary Festival Ending Parties – at the beach, but missed the stairs and broke their shoulders.
You may ask how could she / he / they (I keep it open, its enough if i put myself here in a bad light), but the answer is easy: Primavera always means three days of getting totally lost in the charme of this festival. You start with seing a lot of bands, meating great pals and drink together, talk and watch and watch and talk, and for sure at one moment you also start to get stupid and so on and so on – and sooner as you wish the sun comes up the third time, the sadness of the ending suddenly starts to act wild in your stomache, but before it will win you over, you decide to spring into the struggle of life for another wild round.
One of my favorite pictures of all the 15 years I was attending Primavera in the past shows a young fellow drinking champagne out of a very good looking, elegant, red italian woman shoe – or has it been simple sneakers for real? (The memories are blurry) Some people screamed a word known as „no“, but the ones with a deeper understanding of the ceremony of nightlife and the essence of decadence nicked wisly and enjoy a nip themselves. That´s how we do it at Primavera.
So my friends, we came to the ending for now, but the saga continues between 2nd of june and 6th of june. Be there or miss one of the brightest shining lights of culture.
This years Primavera festival kicks off June 2nd. All informations: Primavera Sound.