Oh, Primavera Sound.
The 2017 edition was my sixth year of attending the event in a row. An event that takes place in the wonderful city of Barcelona. Six years is a lot, I know, and I’ve had friends ask me in the past why I keep returning when there are so many other festivals in Europe. It’s a question that has a simple answer – Primavera fills me with joy every time that I go.
See, for me, Primavera isn’t just a music festival. I mean, there’s not actually anything do on the site but watch music, but it’s about the experience. The fact that you can go from watching the thrash metal of Gojira to the protest hip hop of Swet Shop Boys all within a five-minute walk of each other is not something that you would find at your typical music festival.
Also, due to the lack of camping, it’s a festival that allows you to experience the amazing sites and culture that Barcelona offers as well. I have changed where I’ve stayed each year and each year I’ve had a different experience. This year was the turn of Poblenou, a stone’s throw from the beach, and it was probably the best yet.
Anyway, enough of that. Let’s take a look at the actual festival. A festival that gave us secret sets from Arcade Fire, Mogwai and Haim. A festival that also slightly cocked it up by replacing Frank Ocean with Jamie xx. But, ultimately, it was a festival that showed that is currently one of the best festivals you could hope to attend throughout Europe. Rather than break each day down in a type of diary review, this year I’ve gone for what was great, what was not so great, and you should be keeping an eye out for.
Local Natives opened the festival with the free show on Wednesday night and were their usual excellent selves. The free night felt like it had more in attendance than it usually does this time around and no doubt Saint Etienne and Local Natives were a big reason why.
All my first day plans were thrown out of the window when murmurs of a secret Arcade Fire set made their way through the festival site / on the Arcade Fire Tube Twitter account. Planned visits to Solange, Julia Jacklin and Glass Animals went out of the window when the chance to see the Canadian giants on a small, 360-degree stage presented itself. The show did not disappoint and anyone able to see them on the upcoming tour is in for a treat, it was an experience that I won’t be forgetting for a long time. Because of this, their Saturday headline slot felt a little less special but they were still fantastic and the inclusion of ‘In The Backseat’ was enough to make it worth it.
Bon Iver was impressive but would have been much more enjoyable had it not been on the main stage. A chatty crowd was a little annoying but 22, A Million worked will live and the sound was very impressive. A rendition of ‘Skinny Love’ did manage to bring the 30 or so thousand people in attendance to actually fall silent, singing along at the chorus, but there wasn’t enough of these moments. Primavera then demonstrated its diversity by following the set with one from Slayer. The thrash metal giants put on a really fun show with huge mosh pits appearing throughout the standing crowd. A lot of the songs may have sounded quite similar but they were one of my surprise acts of the weekend.
Showing that they aren’t some kind of one album wonders, Whitney, as always, were a fantastic watch. They appear to be growing with confidence each time I see them and the new track they slipped into the set was a highlight. They were also joined by Mac DeMarco for the instrumental track ‘Red Moon’ (and later repaid the favour by joining Mac onstage). Another one of Primavera’s gems.
William Tyler was another surprise for me. Sat alone at the Pitchfork stage watching the instrumental folk artist was one of those moments where I was watching him on stage, the sea behind me with night falling. Reflecting on how it’s amazing that this stupid little website gets to give me the opportunity to come to amazing festivals like Primavera on a yearly basis.
A power outage stopped Killer Mike and EL-P mid-flow during the Run The Jewels set. A performance that was typically full of energy from the duo with EL-P remarking upon how much Primavera meant to the two of them. If you get the chance to see them at any of their upcoming shows or festival appearances then ensure that you do. They are one of the best acts around at the moment.
One of the craziest crowds of the weekend was for, surprisingly, Metronomy. The British act are really making a name for themselves across Europe and with performances like this, it doesn’t feel like it’ll be too long before their headlining festival shows outside of the UK. ‘The Look’ got a huge reaction and caused a few people next to me to climb into a huge bin (see picture). Whatever floats your boat, Barcelona.
Finally, there was Angel Olsen. Oh, Angel Olsen. Her career feels a bit more special to me simply because I have been able to watch her career blossom and have seen her hone her live show to the point where if you see that she’ll be playing your city, you better go. She looked like she was having a ball up on the Ray Ban stage and Looking around at that crowd, it seemed that they were too. A set that visited material from all of her records but all had been reworked to fit her new sound.
The not so great
This section isn’t purely reserved for just bad acts. It’s for all the stuff that was on at Primavera that just wasn’t all that great.
Festivals keep putting on Mac DeMarco into those elusive headline slots. You festivals can keep trying to convince me that Mac is a headliner all you like, but I’m not having it. Over the course of the time that I spent watching him, I moved to around 8 different positions and didn’t find a single group of people who were trying to watch the performance. I guess saying his new song is called ‘Penis Butter’ and belching down the microphone works for some people. I like Mac, I really do, but no.
Another one that many will disagree with is Aphex Twin. I just didn’t get it. I felt like I knew what it was about after 10 minutes. Let alone the full two-hour set. However, this is just my personal opinion and I have no doubt that if you’re into him, it was probably amazing.
Then finally, and it hurts me to say it, there was Jamie xx, Frank Ocean’s replacement. Although he started by opening, in great fashion, with the Frank Ocean track ‘White Ferrari’, his set took too long to really get going (and never really did, to be honest). The interesting thing about Mr.xx is that he has a different theme for his set every time you see him and on this occasion, he went with more of a Spanish and gospel vibe. It appeared that the already disappointed crowd (because of the lack of Frank) would have enjoyed hearing more Jamie xx album material, demonstrated by the biggest cheers coming for the snippets he was played across the set.
The ones to keep an eye on
I’m not really sure he qualifies as one to watch, but Sampha was one of the highlights of the festival. I don’t know too much about him but I do know that he’s got a superb voice and he can pack out a stage. An act that I would definitely like to see properly on a smaller stage.
The second act in this small section are Swet Shop Boys – I’m not really sure where to place these. They had some great tunes, some not so great tunes and were also a bit preachy at times. Certainly an enjoyable watch though. Ones to keep an eye on because they’re perfect festival fodder.
And there you have it, Primavera Sound is over for another year. I’ll end this review in a similar way to the others that I’ve done for this festival. If you haven’t visited before then you’re missing out. Not only are you guaranteed (yes GUARANTEED) to enjoy the weekend of music that Primavera puts on but the city of Barcelona is one that just begs to be visited. If you’re even slightly tempted then do it. It’s been six years running now and friends, I’ll be going again.
Picture Gallery to follow