Primavera Sound is well on its way to establish itself as the music festival to attend. Not just in Europe, but throughout the world. Many factors add to the festival’s appeal, but its compelling line-up is on top of the list. With headliners like Radiohead, LCD Sound System, Sigur Rós, PJ Harvey, Brian Wilson, Tame Impala, The Avalanches, Beirut and Animal Collective, a diverse selection of 50 Catalan bands (the biggest display of local talent at the Barcelona festival to date), and everything in between, Primavera Sound offers a one-stop shop festival experience that’s well worth your money.
Diversity of its audience is perhaps the festival’s biggest advantage; food from every corner of the globe feed an audience of 200,000 from 124 different countries. It doesn’t hurt that it takes place Barcelona; one of the most youth-friendly European cities—apparent from its skateboard and street art culture, emerging weed dispensaries and no ban on public drinking. Not to mention the full blown Barceloneta beach in the middle of the city—right next to festival space—that allows visitors, and locals alike, to dip in and out amid the stress of the day.
Walking in the tightly woven streets that seem straight-out-of-Game-of-Thrones; surrounded by history, culture, surrealist architecture and tapas; breathing the same air as Gaudí and Picasso; vibing with the carefree attitude of the siesta culture makes one realize there is no better place for a music festival than Barcelona.
Here are some highlights from last week’s Primavera Sound Festival:
Algiers made its earnest Matador records debut with their self-titled album released last year, quickly securing their place among bands to watch. A year later, Algiers takes the stage at Primavera Sound to play their new record, almost in its entirety.
A biracial trio from the American South, the group is eminent for blending seemingly contrasting genres (namely gospel and punk) and their fearlessness to use their music as a tool for protest to ignite discussion and awareness on social, racial and cultural macro-issues.
Politically-charged lyrics from their track “BLOOD” (‘Four hundred years of torture, Four hundred years a slave, Dead just to watch you squander… So drown in entertainment, Cause all our blood is in vain’) compliment the blustering vocals of Franklin James Fisher’s clamoring voice while biblically profound undertones, soul tempo, and rapturous call and response of gospel contrast their dark, industrial post-punk sound.
The bands live performance far exceeded our expectations; the guitarist, Lee Tesche busting out prop chains IRL to create the sounds that accompany “Remains,” (a song about slavery), while bassist Ryan Mahan hit himself over and over again. Algiers left the audience feeling like they had witnessed a rare and profound piece of performance art; a collage of sounds, words, and movement.
The film auteur and composer of American Cinema, John Carpenter, (director of cult horror/sci-fi films like Halloween, The Thing, The Fog, and Starman) played one of his very first live performances at Primavera sound last Thursday. Joined by his son and godson (who are both in his band), the 68-year-old legend performed some of his most iconic film scores as well as selections from his recent Lost Themes albums.
Carpenter gave detailed and personable introductions to his beloved work from Big Trouble in Little China, Halloween and Escape From New York, accompanied by video clips. Engaging with his audience through anecdotes about partying with movie stars and humorously offering his opinion via gems like: “For most of my career I’ve directed horror movies. I love them. Horror movies will live forever,” Carpenter won the crowd over.
Alan Palomo has swagger and he’s got moves. Both on and off stage, as we learned from our brief interview (coming soon) with the charismatic frontman whose tunes matured and marinated since his last Primavera appearance in 2012.
Neon Indian’s colorful performance brought the party to the Pitchfork stage early Friday, encouraging the crowd to reclaim the vintage dance moves that expired in 1988. The Brooklyn based group combines synth-pop, disco, funk, R&B, and early hip-hop influences in a way that makes you think Blondie, Bob Marley and the Police could have, and should have, a baby named Neon Indian.
Selda Bağcan is the one name you must drop if you are trying to impress a music snob or make an Amoeba Music employee give you a double take and reconsider their attitude. Being a Selda fan is almost like an endorsement; it makes people realise you know your shit when it comes to obscure foreign music.
Similar to Sixto Rodriguez of Searching for Sugar Man, Selda is overwhelmingly popular outside of her home country. Turkey’s first female rock star, the 68-year-old legend was imprisoned and censored in her home country for using her music as a tool of protest, while simultaneously adored and celebrated by the Western world for that same music. She has since been sampled by the likes of Dr. Dre and Mos Def.
Performing with the Israeli collective, Boom Pam, Selda’s Primavera set included “Yaz Gazeteci”, “Yaylalar”, “Mehmet Emmi” and “İnce İnce”, drawing a diverse audience from all over the world. Her Turkish fans sang along and chanted Gezi Park protest slogans with the politically vocal singer, making the crowd go wild with the kind of energy only protest music can create. Among the dancing crowd we spotted: Cole Alexander from Black Lips, Ryan Mahan and Lee Tesche of Algiers, while Dave Portner from Animal Collective was vibing backstage.
Click here to learn more about the Selda biopic and to obtain a limited edition Selda shirt.
Radiohead Sound Check
One of the biggest myths of the festival was Radiohead’s sound check that took place around 1pm, on Friday, about 9 hours before their real performance, and long before anyone in their right mind would dare head to the festival space. But somehow, few lucky superfans caught their sound check and the word spread like wildfire.
One person described it as “soundtrack to the moment,” imagine the hottest hour of the day, around noon, with the sun blazing above, its reflection dancing on the Mediterranean. A slight breeze carrying soft guitar strokes and Thom Yorke’s unmistakable humming to your ears. Your legs carry you in the direction of the sound, and there they are, Radiohead, without the smoke and the lights and the screaming crowd. Just a few guys on stage, playing “Ful Stop” to a sea of empty concrete and an audience of five. This actually happened.
New York hip hop artist Pusha T, known for his collaborations with Jay Z, Kanye West, Pharrell, and Timbaland to name a few, has recently reemerged as King Push, releasing a new album last year called Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude.
With stage design straight out of Baz Luhrman’s Romeo and Juliet, Pusha T’s visuals for the Pitchfork stage were simple yet poignant: A red neon cross outline the words “Sin Will Find You’ written on the inside in blue glowing letters.
Crowd pleasers were no-shockers like “Mercy” (Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chaniz collab) West’s “Runaway,” Clipse’s “Grindin” and his collaboration with Jay Z, “Drug Dealers Anonymous.” Pusha T brought the much-needed diversity to the rock-dominated fest.
PJ Harvey appeared with a ten-piece band behind her (led by Mick Harvey), ready to conquer the audience with her dreamy voice, heavy subject matter and 90s dance moves. She was dressed in all black for her appearance, one of the very first promoting Harvey’s most recent album, The Hope Six Demolition Project.
She commanded the hard-to-please Saturday crowd with ease and grace, her stage presence was so hypnotizing that during the heavier songs you could hear a pin drop in the crowd that was no less than tens of thousands. Her set included pretty much her entire new album (with the exception of one song) and ’90s classics like “Down by the Water,” and “To Bring You My Love.”
The mastermind behind the legendary Beach Boys, Brian Wilson performed the band’s iconic record Pet Sounds (first released in 1966) in full to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album that altered the history of pop music—an idea that emerged in response to the overwhelming positive feedback to the Beach Boys biopic, Love & Mercy.
Crowd pleasers included “I get around”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” “Surfin’ USA” and “Good Vibrations” as well as the unexpected “Monster Mash” played by a ten-piece band which included Al Jardine, (another member of Beach Boys), and his son Matt Jardine, who skillfully took on most of the vocals. Catch Wilson this summer if you can, this tour is rumored to be one of his last.