Together with some disciples who drove all the way from the neighbouring country, I arrived at Madrid’s Universidad Complutense just as Maribou State were joined on the Main Stage by long time collaborator Holly Walker to perform Midas and kick start festivities for the weekend. Having seen the English electronic duo close Day One of Primavera Sound two weeks before, I confess I was quite curious to see how they would perform in a completely different time slot. Given the “mellowness” of their sound, I was almost sure that Maribou State would be a better booking under the Spanish sunset rather than a closing act, but speaking in hindsight almost always makes anyone sound like a douchebag. Since we don’t want that to be happening here [Author’s note: I promise I am not a douche] [Editor’s note: John is a douche] let’s just say that Maribou State is definitely a daytime act.
Following Maribou State, and as the stage was being prepared for the next act, we ventured to the Manifiesto by Absolut stage to kill time, where Dominican Republic’s MULA was commanding the animation. Despite entertaining at certain points, it never stopped feeling like a poor attempt at replicating what their Colombian counterparts Bomba Estereo have been doing for over a decade. Or maybe it is just not my thing, so we headed again towards the Main Stage where around 9 p.m. the first act that I was really excited to see, Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses, was set to play.
Although slightly disappointed by 2018’s Battle Lines, I have always been a big fan of their first two LPs, and so headed together with a couple of disciples to the Main Stage to witness the powerful bass that characterizes Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance’s music, and which catapulted them into the international routing radar.
“Alright Madrid, let’s go”, said Tom, armed with a guitar, announcing the final bass drop of Talk, a personal favourite from 2015’s Days Gone By. This kickstarted an impressive medley which seamlessly transitioned into an amazing rendition of 2013’s hit Far From the Tree which was followed by another smooth changeover to Like It or Not – another personal favourite – that delivered an authoritative bass to keep everyone in attendance in-check.
I must confess that newer songs did not blend as well as the old material (might be a matter of nostalgia), but the pace never stopped and overall the set was great. Bob Moses closed with 2015’s All I Want and, as anticipated, they had everyone’s bones rattling with a powerful bass that led to a group discussion as to whether the duo’s performance should have been saved for later on – as a disciple put it, “after this, there is a strong possibility that we are fucked.”
After Bob Moses, the first big artist clash took place: French-born Nicola Cruz was playing at the Manifiesto by Absolut stage, while the Club stage was housing the Israeli Moscoman – decisions, decisions. Fortunately, and thanks to the layout of Paraiso, I found myself hopping between both stages, witnessing either how Moscoman was changing the perception that Israel is all about psy-trance, or boogieing down to Nicola’s blend of indigenous music, a reflection of his Ecuadorian ascendance and heritage, and Western sonography.
Nevertheless, both acts were part of the “killing time” plan, since midnight would bring one of the night’s most anticipated moments, French disco legend Marc Cerrone. Unjustifiably unknown to most, unlike Georgio Moroder or Nile Rodgers, the legendary playboy musician is considered one of the most influential disco producers ever, while also being known for his impressive live performances. With that in mind, and following a quick pit-stop to recharge our hedonistic batteries with our poison of choice, we headed early to find a good spot to watch the show – quite a herculean task I may add, given the amount of people who gathered around the stage for one of the festival’s headliners.
Taking over the Main Stage for nearly an hour and a half, the 67-year old disco pioneer was accompanied by a “sidekick” DJ who would occasionally run to some drums to provide a little bit of analog percussion and add an extra kick to the drops. [Author’s note: “sidekick” DJ is by no means a depreciative characterisation. I mean you no offence, my good sir, but I’m sure you will not take personally the fact that I am unaware of your name.] Every once in a while, this “sidekick” DJ would also climb the speakers to teach us how we should be dancing a specific Cerrone anthem. In his defence, he was a pretty good teacher, but at that time of night the “students” were not exactly capable of learning any new moves. Put another way, the audience was hammered.
Hit after hit was delivered, including crowd favourites Give Me Love and Je Suis Music. At a certain point the duo was joined on stage by French singer Adjäna, who added some amazing background vocals to the pot. “Cerrone, play that shit!” she eventually incited us to say, and we do as we’re told just as Hooked on You began.
Clearly focused on dancefloor music, Cerrone closed his set with Supernature, arguably his biggest hit and the one song everyone was waiting for. I, an expert in being in the wrong place at the wrong time, obviously lost this big moment as I was taking care of my (and the disciples’) hedonistic needs at the bar.
From there, we decided to do a short pit stop at the Club stage for Catalonian DJ and producer Oriol Riverola (also known as John Talabot), a pioneer in Spanish electronic music and a regular guest at electronic music festivals. Nevertheless, this pit stop was short lived, as I wanted to give French act Polo & Pan another shot at redeeming themselves, after attending the electronic duo’s premiere in London back in 2018. Allow me to elaborate – I have always been a big fan of Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynnszpan’s first EPs, having been one of the major broadcasters of their music amongst my peers, so it was particularly heartbreaking dragging my fellow snobs to Oval Space for such an underwhelming performance, notwithstanding the verbal abuse and injuries I sustained after the show. So one can say it was a matter of honour.
As the duo walked on stage, prospects immediately looked better – unlike the ill-fated performance in London, the never ending roll of photographers and Instagram influencers was nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the setlist ended up being pretty similar to the set I saw, and anything one can find online. Starting with Zoom Zoom, moving on to Dorothy, from there to Nanã… You know how it goes – if you don’t, just watch any one of their YouTube sets. As a disciple put it, the duo was probably playing the set directly from the Internet, and I have to confess I wouldn’t be that surprised if that was the case.
“A pleasure to be with you tonight” they announced, as they unveiled a new song for the first time in quite some time. Saving the best for last, Polo & Pan closed the set with 2016’s Canopee, the single that catapulted them onto my radar. Don’t get my wrong, the show was undeniably better than last time, but it feels that I might have overhyped the French duo when they first appeared – lesson learned.
After Polo & Pan, we stayed at the Main Stage waiting for Dynamic boss Solomun to take over the soundsystem, sacrificing KiNK’s live act at the Club stage. At this point in the night, I confess my notes are quite scarce, so suffice it to say that, despite a slight volume problem that was easily solved by moving to approximately 6.2 centimeters away from the closest speakers, the Bosnian-German DJ-Producer knows his shit and provided the perfect soundtrack for the closing of Day One of Paraiso.
Following a great afternoon stroll around sunny Madrid preaching the Audio Snobbery gospel, we unfortunately arrived at Paraiso too late to catch England’s newest indie pop frenzy Superorganism, which I’ve been told is a great live show.
We decided to head towards the Manifiesto by Absolut stage to catch Switzerland’s tastemaker Kalabrese, unaware of the fact that, once again, we would not reach our envisaged destination. While crossing the Main Stage area, we are drawn to the sound of one of the few “unknown” acts of Paraiso 2019 for your dear snob, Channel Tres.
Three guys were on stage – as the name would clearly suggest – but it rapidly became apparent that two of them were nothing more than backup dancers. Channel Tres is a one-man show, courtesy of LA’s own Sheldon Young, whose take on hip-hop – a blend of Anderson .Paak and Childish Gambino, with some traits of Moodymann – quickly captivated John’s wookie ears. I am not saying everything was spot-on, but damn, that guy could sing – and damn, those guys could dance! “Say ‘Yeah Black’” he shouted, while asking how to say it in Spanish. Jet Black then began and all three of them undertook an impressively-choreographed dance, one that we (poorly, but entertainingly) tried to mimic. Cerrone’s sidekick DJ would have be proud of our effort.
“We have been travelling since last year, trying to get the word out, so thanks for having us!” he shouted, while his backup dancers joyfully bounced from one end of the stage to the other. But the mood suddenly changed as he announced that “this next song is dedicated to my younger brother, who is locked up away,” and Brilliant Nigga began to play. Amazing song is all I have to say about that, as my dear old Forrest Gump would put it. While an instrumental section developed, Channel Tres revealed a bit more of his heart – “I had a dream about him last night and that shit fucked me up.” We all commented on how how much of a surprise the show was turning out to be.
Stopping for a minute to reach for a bottle of water, Channel Tres engaged the audience once more, this time to announce that “me gusta agua,” a weird thing to say in a hip-hop performance. He proceeded to say “hablo un poco de Español,” while a disciple commented that he could have learned cooler words than “water,” to the general agreement of my hedonistic companions. But these thoughts and any others quickly disappeared as Topdown started to play – I didn’t know whose song that was, and once again I was amazed by Channel Tres.
Cheerfully surprised with what we had just seen, and with roughly thirty minutes to kill before the next act at the Main Stage, we rushed to the Club stage in time to see the closing of Or:la, where the Irish DJ and producer was delivering a power-heavy show; a weirdly zen mix of… truth be told, the Club stage was conveniently located next to the food court, and they had empanadas.
Soon after, it was time for one of the night’s biggest moments, brought to you by the R&B project Rhye, and so we once again headed back to the Main Stage. Captained by Canadian singer Mike Milosh, seven musicians walk on stage to kick off the concert with Verse. Vocals, drum, guitar, bass, violin, violoncello, piano, organ – you name it, they had it on stage. It is during Major Minor Love – more specifically, amid the phenomenal instrumental section extended for the live performance, that we realize just how good Rhye’s band really is. With nothing to do for those seemingly long minutes, and not wanting to miss the party, Mike headed to the extra mini drum on stage to join this melodic frenzy. It was epic. It was also during this moment that I noticed how much like a sobered-up version of Germany’s Acid Pauli their guitarist looks, who, oddly enough, played on the first edition of Paraiso.
As they performed a beautiful rendition of The Fall, the song that originally made me fall in love with Rhye while thinking the singer was a woman (fair mistake, give it a listen and you’ll see), Mike took the opportunity to ask Madrid how we were doing. “Fucking great” someone roared in the audience, and I think he couldn’t be more accurate, right before the band took us on one Last Dance.
At a certain point, carried away by the great show, the sobered-up Acid Pauli broke a guitar string, which led to the band announcing that they “will try to do a song without him.” Turned out the song was 2018’s Phoenix, and it was phenomenal. But Acid Pauli’s absence from stage was short-lived and, as Mike asked “you guys clap in Madrid, right?” and the intro to Taste kicked off, he plunged into an epic solo to remind us that he is, undeniably, a fundamental member of the band. “Please don’t break another string” could have been the collective thinking of the audience at that point.
Paradoxically, given that the end of the concert was near, they then moved on to Open, which was quickly followed by Count to Five, before closing with Hunger. A beautiful medley to close a phenomenal show and, as the band bowed to thunderous applause from everyone in attendance, I realized we might have just witnessed the literal sound of seduction – and it was marvellous.
Once again we found ourselves with our glasses empty and, while waiting for Charlotte Gainsbourg to take command of the festivities, headed to the nearest bar to restore our hedonistic levels. It is at this point that we saw Channel Tres joyfully dancing to the end of Rhye. Seeing the opportunity to promote a bit of the Snobbery gospel, I drank some liquid courage and approached him to comment on how surprising his show had been for a pair of uneducated buffons like ourselves. Intrigued by my and the disciple’s t-shirts, he asks us about Audio Snobbery, which started a brief conversation on how we humans need to be more selective with the music we listen to, and ended with him receiving a t-shirt that he too may preach the Gospel of Snobbery. By this point, Charlotte was already on stage, accompanied by five musicians and an impressive production, particularly for a festival setting.
Gainsbourg’s show, however, failed to meet the audience’s craving for bass and, unfortunately, this was no hour for Ms. Gainsbourg. After being (immensely) surprised by Peggy Gou on Day Two of Primavera Sound, the honorary Audio Snobbery crew headed to the Club stage to attend the Berlin-based Korean DJ’s show. She didn’t disappoint – as concluded in Barcelona two weeks before, “she is class”. A disciple turns to me and says that “she has the joy while playing”, and it’s true – Ms. Gou has the bass you need, but also the melody you want, and you can see that she is enjoying herself on-stage, especially when playing her own material – namely last year’s super-hit It Makes You Forget. A good indicator of how good the set was is the old “Shazamometer” or, in other words, how many times one uses Shazam on a night out – in this particular case, it was a looooooot.
After Ms. Gou, and to keep our asses wiggling away, one short stop away was German born Motor City Drum Ensemble. Consisting exclusively of one man, Danilo Plessow delivered, as always, an impressive show. If you still haven’t had the chance to witness him, I suggest you practice your dance moves and head to his nearest show, which is guaranteed not to disappoint. Particular shout out to a terrific version of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love in Brazilian – fucking epic. If any of you dear readers happens to stumble upon such a relic, please share it with me as soon as possible, as I’ve already ventured into the darkest corners of the web unsuccessfully, though I did happen to see some really weird shit that might have scarred me for life.
It was then time for Paraiso’s closing act, legendary French DJ and producer Laurent Garnier, also famously known for being John’s favourite DJ. At 53, Mr. Garnier doesn’t need much to show he’s pure class and still the godfather of all these new talents still swimming in the kids’ pool. With a career spanning over three decades, it’s impossible to enumerate the countless hits and anthems that played on that final night of Paraiso – although it could also be the fact that he played for nearly three hours, or that it was 5 a.m. and, again, my notes were rather useless. Regardless of the reason, everyone in attendance returned home, happy and ears satisfied, as fan favourites Crispy Bacon and Man with the Red Face were obviously part of the night’s repertoire. Hell, he even added Maceo Plex’s Solitary Daze and Oxia’s Domino into the mix, to the incredible excitement of everyone in attendance, including yours truly. Great show, as always – trust me, I’ve seen him a bunch of times by now.
With an incredible curation, particularly for a second-year edition, Paraiso 2019 were two days of absolute fun and phenomenal organizations, and I can’t wait to see what Madrid’s newest electronic festival will bring next year. Kudos!