Van Dyke Parks is just about the last artist you'd ever expect to see wandering around among the fashionable hipsters ("young moderns" as he calls them), pizza cones, keg backpack-lugging beer servers, and overflowing port-a-urinals at the 3-day-long Primavera Sound rock festival on the edge of the Mediterranean in Barcelona. Perhaps he was the most unlikely artist in the festival's line-up, as well, but much like WFMU, the Primavera Sound organizers have a diverse freeform aesthetic and an understanding of music that spans far beyond what's hot at the moment.
From his legendary work with the Beach Boys and the Byrds, production and arrangement work for Tim Buckley, U2, the Everly Brothers, Laurie Anderson, and Joanna Newsom (to name just a few), Van Dyke Parks has been an overlooked force and unsung hero of pop music for decades now. His performance at Primavera Sound was much anticipated, and added a wonderful element of charm to the fest.
Parks and his accompanying musicians performed on the festival's sole indoor stage: air-conditioned, comfortable seating, civilized. Not only was it the setting, but the music transported your average festival-goer to a fantasy world, in which reverb did not exist, musicians were professionally-trained, and Monotonix hadn't spat on you two days prior. Highlights of the set included "Orange Crate Art," "Black Gold" (the first time the song was ever performed live), a cover of "Night in the Tropics" by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, of course "All The Golden," and "Wings of a Dove" (which he dedicated to his wife who was in the audience, aww). Parks seemed genuinely appreciative of the audience, and of the fact that he was invited to play the Primavera festival in the first place, but I think that anyone who witnessed the set would agree that the treat was ours. Take a listen to the set posted above, and I guarantee you won't feel (or smell) like you're at a rock fest.
Playlists for the 2010 Primavera broadcasts (and links to archives of other WFMU live events)
Some of the festival's artists gave us MP3s for the Free Music Archive.
Photo by Shannon McClean