ip-hop, rock, pop, reggae, funk, soul, folk, rap, R & B, electronic, African rhythms, also Brazilian, varied fusions… whatever David Byrne -former Talking Heads- does today. More than the program of a festival, the Cruïlla Barcelona 2018 looked like a catalog of musical tendencies. Variety, even eclecticism, far away from the easy path, offering proposals which are unusual in our country. These are some hallmarks of the program of a meeting that has become essential for the Catalan musical summer.
This design of the program, together with an express will to avoid the inconvenience caused by overcrowding, gives the Cruïlla a particular atmosphere, which is cozy even for families with small children (in this case, the essential accessory is the earmuff ear-protectors of construction workers, children’s size). In general, it is not a festival plagued by groupie’s t-shirts or radical fans of a particular band or DJ. As a matter of fact, the stylistic variety attracts an audience of a wide range of ages -from the twenty-something years old, to the rather-advanced forties-, mostly female and, yes, eager to be seen and get carried away by a music that effectively encourages dancing.
Because -let’s not kid ourselves- letting each other see oneself, and looking at the others, both live and on Instagram, is one of the unspeakable goals of every festival-freak. And the Cruïlla is also an unbeatable showcase for the trendspotters. The most successful outfits are, among the boys, Hawaiian-style printed shirts, combined with an incipient and worrying trend, the socks up to below the knee. For the girls, the must-haves are swimsuits that turn the bra into a totally optional piece, not to say a nuisance. And so, despite the visual dominance of modernity -tattoos are becoming essential- the most neglected looks are perfectly acceptable.
David Byrne, full of energy and boldness in his show live, somehow denying his 66 years, appeared on stage barefoot and with a brain in his hand, as if taken from a Twin Peaks’ scene.
And in the midst of this atmosphere of hedonism and fun, which also enjoyed many local VIPs -like the actors Leticia Dolera, Miki Esparbé, Carlos Cuevas or Nuria Gago, the musicians Dani Macaco, Fermín Muguruza, Axel Pi and Rosalía, the model Verónica Blume or the mayor Ada Colau- there was music. Six stages of different sizes host around fifty artists for three days. The rock bluntness with roots bluesy of Jack White, on Thursday, gave way to the hip-hop rhythms of Pharrell Williams, leading N.E.R.D., few resisted dancing. There was also a small tribute to White himself, in the form of the hymn ‘Seven Nation Army’ of the much-longed band The White Stripes, before giving way to another of the most anticipated groups, the Prophets of Rage. The rap-metal supergroup formed by former members of Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy made everyone jump, and finished their set with the unforgettable ‘Killing in the Name’. Saturday, more hip-hop with The Roots and his tuba mountebank, than dislodging more than one with his version of Sweet Child O’Mine the Guns N’Roses, who had visited Barcelona barely two weeks ago. But, on Saturday night, with permission from the sound wall of the Justice, and of some long-awaited Ramon Mirabet and Izal, it was for the unclassifiable David Byrne. Full of energy and boldness in his show live, somehow denying his 66 years, appeared on stage barefoot and with a brain in his hand, as if taken from a Twin Peaks’ scene. He did not look back all the way, in a performance in which he combined great hits of Talking Heads with new songs, without standing still for a moment, in a constant choreography with his musicians, who held and carried the instruments without wires.
This was just a small tour to mention the star guests, but the value of a festival like the Cruïlla is to be found also in everything that happens far from the bigger stages, when the inevitable overlaps of performances allow it. Amazing moments, like those experienced on stage Radio 3, the farthest, when the singer of Elefantes claimed that José Luis Perales mola mogollón (“is cool”), before singing a version of one of his songs; when Albert Hammond Jr jumped in the middle of the audience, emulating Jim Morrison or Iggy Pop, during their energetic concert -an oasis of good rock’n’roll within the festival-; or when the rapper Bugzy Malone decided inexplicably to ditch his fans and cancel the concert five minutes before starting.
As it cannot be otherwise, considering the bands involved and the world that we have lived, political messages were also heard in the Cruïlla. “Fuck Trump” and “Catalunya lliure”, left written in the back of his guitar Tom Morello, the always combative singer of the Prophets of Rage, while Byrne encouraged the audience not to stay at home and vote whenever they had the chance. The festival also recalled the slogan #noesno, along the campaign #nocallem, with messages against sexual harassment and support for possible victims.
The curtain of the Cruïlla festival came down, in the early hours of Sunday. An edition that, despite some specific problems -such as the scared Malone or problems of sound pollution during the performance of Ben Howard, for example- left the standard very high. The festival kept the 57,000 attendees of the previous year and showed again that his bet -to avoid the massification suffered in other festivals such as Primavera Sound or Sónar. is a success, since it allows much more fluidity of movements and a more relaxed and familiar atmosphere to enjoy the experience and good music. The contrast with the Mad Cool’s organizational disaster in Madrid, which was celebrated on the same weekend with artists as prominent as Pearl Jam, Massive Attack and Depeche Mode, and an audience forecast of 80,000 daily viewers, cannot be more eloquent. I rather choose the eclecticism and modernity of Cruïlla, call me trendy if you want.
In order of appearance: atmosphere of Cruïlla, The Roots, David Byrne, Ben Howard and Justice. Photos provided by the festival organization. © Xavi Torrent