Posted by Alex | | Posted On Wednesday, 11 May 2011 at 12:23

Last night was potentially the best night of my Erasmus life. Or at least a close 2nd to all those nights of 3am pizza in Pavia. It was, essentially, the grand finale of the Festes de Lleida; one big fair and festival ground in the lead up to Sant Anastasi today. It's been going on since Friday, but I wasn't really interested in the lesser-knowns, and only had one (well, two) reasons to go: Manel, and El Guincho.

Manel are, for those of you haven't listened to them (or me rambling on about them), the only Catalan band to top the Spanish charts. They've only been around four years, and play a style of folk-pop that is distinctly Catalan, but also easily enjoyable outside of Catalonia. They are also my favourite Catalan band. El Guincho, on the other hand, is an electronic artist from the Canary Islands. Pitchfork, that dreaded magazine, seemed to like him, especially when his video for Bombay came out and was four-odd minutes of topless ladies jiggling around in strange scenes.

A group of us went along, with the intention of seeing Manel. We turned up around midnight, with 45minutes to spare, and went to the only stage playing music at that time. It was some blues and rock'n'roll cover band. Most of the songs were in English, as was most of the crowd interaction, which I felt was kind of silly. Hey-ho, I'm not Catalan, so I don't know how to appreciate this. Around 20minutes into the set, I pondered walking home to get my camera, but figured I wouldn't have enough time to keep my amazing spot for Manel.

Oh, how wrong I was. The music dragged on, with a 10minute rendition of James Brown's I Feel Good, or perhaps it was Papa's Got a Brand New Bag. They always sound the same to me, especially in a 10-minute feelgood rendition. After, we looked at each other confused. Perhaps Manel was on another stage? Perhaps the one furthest from us. No, that had a list up. Perhaps the one behind us. Well, there's nothing going on, so we could always walk...

And the first notes rang out and I felt like a giddy schoolgirl. Not only was it Manel, it was Manel playing El Miquel i L'Olga Tornen, from their new album, which is my favourite song from that disc. And it just kept getting better and better. When gaps in the crowd emerged, I managed to sneak further and further forward, but never quite close enough to enjoy the fan-crowd at the front, who were really into it. I could probably attempt to write out the setlist, having sung (badly out of tune, and garbling most of the Catalan) to most everything they played. They added stories -- El Canço del Soldadet was built up as being a story told to Arnau, the drummer, two years ago "when he was just 6 years old, and made a wish to grow up; he's now 30." -- and audience participation. They even teased everyone with an encore that started off poorly, with Deixa-la, Toni, Deixa-la, a fairly melancholic tune, but topped it with their cover of Pulp's Common People (La Gent Normal, in Catalan), and finished up with Al Mar! a song I've never been too fond of, but which resulted in me, and the group of young guys behind me shouting it into the ears of the bewildered older ladies in front of us.

All finished, and I was lost. But, you know what? While normally I would panic and spend time trying to seek everyone out, instead I went to  see what else was on, alone. There was some early hours techno thing going on, and El Guincho. However, Manel's encore had made them run on til about 1.15, and my wanderings had left me turning up to El Guincho's set with about 10minutes left -- I got to appreciate his music, slightly, before everything stopped, and I was alone still. But, I was in my element. It was actually nice to wander alone, the sound of Manel fresh in my ears.

Now, the question is, after seeing Manel for free, do I spend €70 (and the train fare to Barcelona) on seeing a lot of bands that I like at Primavera Sound...?


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