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Gang Gang Dance. Photograph by Inma Varandela

Primavera Sound 2009

Possibly the best music festival in the world according to James Wignall.

God doesn't do music festivals, but if he did I'm pretty sure it would look something like Primavera Sound. As with their art, literature and film, while the Spanish can't compete with much of Europe and North America in terms of quantity, they more than make up for it by their very best offerings eclipsing most others. Quality over quantity, then. And so, having given us Goya, Gaudi, Dali and Picasso, Cervantes and Lorca, Bunuel and Almodovar, back in 2005 they finally got around to giving us quite easily the best music festival there is. It must be down to that famed and disarming Mediterranean passion that scares us Brits and Yanks so.

So what's so good about it? Well, it simply cuts out all the crap that other festivals happily use as selling points. The Parc del Forum, built in 2004, is pretty much all concrete and there's no camp site. And if this puts off those seasoned Glastonbury-goers who drone on about “connecting with nature” and revel in the idea of not washing for 3 days then all the better, for Primavera is undoubtedly the festival for those who actually want to spend their time immersing themselves in great music, rather than walking around in the mud in a Scrumpy induced stupor while wearing a comedy hat (see also: Bestival), and having 3am jimbay sessions with the trustafarians in the tent next door.

No, the organisers of Primavera decided that, you know, something else people might like instead is consistently incredible, eclectic line-ups, where they can see Fucked Up on the same bill as Michael Nyman; Neil Young on the same programme as Sunn 0))) (as this year), all at a venue by the sea. And given that the Parc del Forum is only a 10 minute cab ride from the centre of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, people might actually want to, oh I don't know, spend the day on the beach; or visit Gaudi Park; or take in an art gallery or two - which you can do given that the first bands are on no earlier than 5pm (with each night finishing around 5am). In short then, Primavera is something of a two-headed beast, a perfect beach holiday and music festival all rolled into one. And you can't really say that about Reading.

Thursday
After kicking myself for missing Magik Markers on the ATP stage at 7 (draw of the beach), time clash means I have to sacrifice seeing Lightning Bolt for Marnie Stern, a decision based on the fact my friend Malia is her bass player. Good move - Marnie wearing a very fetching all-in-one yellow jumpsuit and on good form. Next, head towards ATP stage to see The Jesus Lizard; despite ample middle age spread, band still super good and heavy and David Yow still choosing to go shirtless. Plus ça change.

1.20pm. Head straight over to see Phoenix.  They play that song from Lost in Translation that everyone Likes and are actually quite good - although they drift into U2 stadium rock territory way too often. A friend tells me the singer is going out with Sofia Coppola. Feel weirdly annoyed at this news.

Straight to see a super tight My Bloody Valentine on the main stage. After first song decide to put ear plugs in. Oh wait, I have them in already. Catch a bit of Aphex Twin on Rockdelux which is pretty good – amazing visuals.

At 2.30am decide to go off and see Wavves on the Pitchfork stage; it's sounding pretty sketchy so we go off looking for fun elsewhere. Damn! Learn the next day that after we'd left the singer had a massive drug-induced freak-out on stage. Crowd was apparently pelting him with bottles and even shoes.

Friday
After catching a bit of the slightly overblown Spiritualized we blag our way into the guest area for a bit to get some free drinks, and so manage to catch by accident most of Art Brut on the adjacent stage. They seem to play the same song for about 5 hours.

After a so so Jarvis Cocker we head to Dan Deacon. I'm quite a way back, but his band seems to be made up of about 10 people dressed as rabbits. Is a lot of fun until he misguidedly tries to make people form a circle in the middle of the (huge) crowd for a dance-off. We decide to go and see Shellac. The last thing I hear Mr Deacon shout from the stage is: “Don't break the fucking circle - I'm warning you!”

Shellac: Steve. Albini. Rules.

Saturday
Despite the heat and call of the beach we manage to make it to Ariel Pink who, despite time slot (5.30pm), has a pretty healthy audience. Dressed in a fetching over-sized t-shirt (off the shoulder), pirate belt, way-too-short shorts and leopard skin shoes his mix of insanely catchy 80s/psych/west coast pop gets everyone in the mood.

Today's all about Neil Young, however, so we head off to find refreshment and then a decent spot. Shakey doesn't disappoint and plays a great crowd-pleasing set of oldies (Cinnamon Girl, Needle and the damage Done etc) - and plays the Beatles's A Day In the Life for an encore (which is actually a bit lame).

After a very impressive Deerhunter, despite all playing at 1am, I catch chunks of Ghost Face Killah (bass almost debilitating), Sonic Youth (got comically evicted from the press pit for illegal filming), and an on-form Gang Gang Dance, who were doling out the good vibes.

2am in the guest area the bar has officially been drunk dry; and so we head off to catch a bit of the perfect-for-2.30-in-the-morning Simian Mobile Disco, followed by the Black Lips's enjoyably drunken, incendiary set.

Later on on my way back to the apartment I wondered what we were going to do with our time now it was all over, but quickly came to the conclusion that it was a no-brainer. To paraphrase that old French saying, after the festival, the beach.