Monthly Archives: July 2008

Summercase 2008: final review

Yes, as Grey said in his comment on my brief binary review, I was warned. I seriously doubt that I’ll go back to Summercase. Here’s my review (links point to pages).


In over 11 years of regularly attending pop festivals, Summercase 2008 was by far and away the worst organised and most blatantly commercial event I’ve ever attended.

The lineup was poor and got worse with the loss of mia and Santogold, among others. A group of low-quality English pop groups (Maximo Park, Kaiser Chiefs, Sex Pistols, The Verve…) dominated the lineup and left little room for decent local or international break-through acts.

Also, the organisers’ addiction to Disneyfied 1970s acts (Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Stranglers…) made for further dull concerts as large groups of 20-somethings mumbled through the lyrics to PlayAtomic, a song which was fist performed before any of them were conceived. Incidentally, Blondie’s guitarist also managed to mess-up the guitar-part for Atomic, despite it being one of the most celebrated riffs in pop history. Give you a clue: it’s not good enough to just play the notes in the right order… you need to get the rhythm right too.

The thing is that, of what I saw, the only truly great concert was by Cornelius (easily the most experimental artist playing at this MOR event). Pretty much everything else was just rubbish.

As to the general organisation of the event, we were shocked and dismayed at the rudeness and generally low level of service offered by the Summercase team. Part of this was to do with the alleged policy of festival organisers to employ staff not from Barcelona, in order to prevent the normal issue of ‘free drinks for friends’ happening. What this resulted in was a service team of rude and aggressive non-locals who spoke neither Catalan nor English, and who were quite clearly unhappy with their work. Added to this, the females were forced to wear very tight pink t-shirts (men were in brown), and the festival succeeded in making itself not only a gross display of consumerism but also perfectly happy with breaking Barcelona’s modern conventions on language, culture and gender equality.

This year, I decided not to attend FIB because I thought the lineup didn’t justify a trip down to Castelló… especially when I had a festival on my doorstep. I won’t make that mistake again. And it looks like, with a huge drop in attendance, Summercase needs to sort out its act or clear off altogether.

Summercase 2008: 0

Summercase Day Two: yeah, yeah

We managed to drag ourselves out to the second day of Summercase yesterday. We didn’t see anything that beat Cornelius. Review:

Kings Of Leon – 1 – but only just

The Stranglers – 1 – too Disnified but Golden Brown’s a great song

Mogwai – 0 – scheduling fuck-up

CSS – 1 – I still love Lovefoxxx

The Raveonettes – 1

Neon Neon – 1 – the only performer to utter a word in Catalan. He’s Welsh, after all.

Summercase Day One: has fun ever been so corporate?

Bands we saw yesterday, scores using my not-patented binary scoring system.

We Are Scientists – 0

Edwyn Collins – 1 – a very enjoyable show

Ian Brown – 1

Grinderman – 0 – sorry, but the Bad Seeds are way better.

Blondie – 0 – Basically Blondie-On-Ice, this Disneyfied production was so sickly sweet that all of the local audience enjoyed it. Bad sign.

Cornelius – 1 – by far the most enjoyable concert of the evening.

Primal Scream – 0 –  we didn’t stay for the full gig. Heard the Motorstorm song, though.


Summercase is the worst example I’ve ever seen of corporate pop festival management. The multiple sponsor tie-ins lack any nuance of subtlety and induce a sort of nausea on first contact.

Speaking of which, the ‘facilities’ are completely awful. The only food to purchase is Telepizza, beer: San Miguel (I mean, sius plau!), loos with doors that don’t lock, staff who don’t speak Catalan or English… in 11 years of attending pop festivals, Summercase is by far the worst.

What I’m planning to watch at Summercase

I had to contact the festival organisers to get a copy of the set times in plain text (essential for producing your own Excel festival guides… at least I haven’t laminated it). Their web designers/webmasters obviously know little about accessibility.

Here’s my planned viewing (highlighted in pink). Continue reading What I’m planning to watch at Summercase

Things I like: O alienista (The Psychiatrist)

About eight years ago, I lived in Fremantle, Western Australia. I had a great time there, working as a door-to-door salesman (more on this in the future), getting into scrapes, going clubbing and listening to Royal trux and the Flaming Lips. I also indulged my habit of wondering around second-hand bookshops looking for new, interesting books that I thought I’d enjoy.

One such book was a collection of Latin American short stories edited by Thomas Colchie (it’s still available second-hand from Amazon or you could spend a pleasant afternoon in an actual shop, looking for it). The anthology is packed with moving and amusing stories by writers from all over Latin America, translated into English. At the time, I knew nothing about Latin American authors (still don’t, really), except that I had enjoyed the dreamy romance and masculine mendacity of Love In The Time of Cholera.

I devoured the collection and have read it several times since. But one story I always come back to, and must have read nine or ten times now is The Psychiatrist (O alienista) by the famed Brazilian author Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. First published in 1882, The Psychiatrist tells the story of one Dr. Simão Bacamarte, a famous physician who decides to start studying psychiatry. He constructs a mental hospital in the town of Itaguaí and begins the process of committing those who appear to be mentally ill according to his theories.

The story is an obvious metaphor for the abuse of science, power and authority on the part of Bacamarte but it’s also a stinging (and hilarious) indictment of bureaucracy, populism, demagoguery and selfishness. Another fascinating aspect of the story is that even though it was written in the 1880’s, if not before, it seems to gently foreshadow much of the madness that was coming with the century ahead.

In turn funny and thought-provoking, O alienista is also helped along by the very modern direct-narrative form employed by its author. Machado de Assis had a very interesting background as he was apparently the son of a mulatto housepainter and a Portuguese washerwoman, not an upbringing which one would expect to produce a famous writer and journalist (at least, not in the 19th century). His writing is clear, simple, witty and absorbing and The Psychiatrist almost feels like it might have been written in 1952.

If you’ve not been lucky enough to enjoy this fine piece of literature, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s almost certainly available in numerous anthologies and if you find a copy of Colchie’s, it’ll be accompanied by a fine selection of great Latin American writing.

Update: Apparently, you can still buy the anthology I have, published under a different title.

If you can remember the 1970s, you weren’t there

Summercase festival is fast approaching and the line-up’s looking OK. I’ve never been before but I imagine it’s a bit like Primavera Sound only with a different name.

There’s definitely a big seventies feel to the lineup, with Blondie, the Sex Pistols and The Stranglers all playing. Although, if you’re Katie Addleman of Barcelona Metropolitan, that would be a 1980s theme. Huh? Anyway, what do I know? I can’t even remember the 70s.