I was in Barcelona for just over one week—first and foremost to see Primavera Sound. I arrived on my own for my first 3-day solo trip, both excited and anxious for what was to come. I did what any self-respecting tourist would do and rode the double decker bus to see the sights, and after 3 days of solo exploration, I was joined by my boyfriend who would come to see this epic music festival with me.
We came prepared with VIP tickets in hand, and those extra $70 USD spent were ready to prove their worth. The Parc Del Forum is massive and just overlooking the Mediterranean. At the main stages, the Heineken and H&M, there is a section reserved just for VIP guests right up front! We mostly went back and forth between the Heineken and H&M stage, first seeing Daughter, then the legendary Air, Explosions in the Sky, Tame Impala, and LCD Sound System. Each had gave it their all and added their own distinct qualities to the festival. The music acts ran late into the night, and I knew we were in for a long one because I wasn’t going to miss Neon Indian at 2:45 a.m. Of all he acts I saw on the opening day, Thursday, Tame Impala was one of the most impressive in terms of ability to connect with the audience, crank out hit after hit, and even move past technical difficulties rather quickly. A fuse blew during their performance of “Eventually” just after a break in the song. It seemed to be a musical pause at first and then their display shut off as well. To their delight, the audience kept on singing the words to the song “Eventually … I.” And after maybe 15 minutes of tech work, they were up and running again and finished their set with confetti guns all around. It was one of those sets where I felt as though even though I hadn’t listened to them much, I still knew most of their songs in some form or other. They are just so catchy with their Rock ‘n Roll style, even dedicating one song to their icon, Air, who they were humbled to share a stage with. Another gem in Thursday’s set was Neon Indian who had the coveted 3:00 a.m. slot. Nonetheless, singer Alan Palomo was full of energy and dances moves for all, as he played a good mix of his newer, more world-music meets Prince-inspired tracks and some songs from my favorite of his albums, Psychic Chasms.
Day 2, Friday, was the most epic of the festival. I was amped to see Radiohead, Beirut, and Beach House all in one day. I wanted to arrive early to check out Alex G‘s set—I’d seen him perform earlier this year at the Echoplex and enjoyed it! This daytime show over at the Primavera stage lacked some of the energy and enthusiasm I had experienced in watching him perform prior… frontman Alex Giannascoli repeatedly introduced the band as “Title Flight” from Scranton PA. Not sure what was up with that? My favorite from his set was a chilling performance of “Salt.” We made the trek back to the main stages just in time for Savages, which was pumping with hardcore rock energy. Front woman Camille Berthomier stated she was too far from the audience, as she hopped off the main stage and said “that’s better.” She high-fived fans and crowd-surfed while singing. She wins the most points for physically engaging with her fans. I headed to the H&M Stage for Beirut, preparing myself for the switch from hard rock to high brass. All I have to say really is that Zach Condon’s voice is divine, and their horn players sure can play! Their set was very light and upbeat, and they made the most in a difficult spot, performing between Savages and right before Radiohead.
Now let’s talk about Radiohead. I really wish I could have seen the stage better, but I’m sure so did everybody. The audience joined in on vocals in every song, as you’ll hear in my recordings. After “Karma Police,” the audience hadn’t had enough of the verse “For a minute there, I lost myself” as they continued to sing past the song’s close and Thom Yorke turned the mic over in gratitude. It was one of those sets where everyone was left completely satisfied in terms of their set list. I was enthralled with their performance of “Idiotechque.” And loved finally hearing “Daydreaming” and “Burn the Witch” live. Thom Yorke is still his quirky self, as he danced fluidly when he felt it appropriate. The set closed with “Creep” and every audience member’s hands in the air.
We made the trip over to catch Animal Collective over at the Ray-Ban Stage near the festival entrance. To be honest, I was in such a haze from Radiohead. It’s difficult to see any bands after them really, but I was so stoked for Beach House’s 2 a.m. performance. Animal Collective is one of those bands that I don’t fully get. Their music just seems all over the place. Sure “My Girls” is a catchy song, but I really found their latest album, Painting With challenging to listen to. I was hoping seeing them live would sway me, but I’m still just as annoyed at “FloriDada” as ever, with its boing-y reggae beat and trite chorus.
My view of Beach House at the Heineken stage was slightly better than trying to see Radiohead, but maybe there were just fewer tall people. And another stage set change! The group formed an arch so as to seem of equal importance perhaps, and draped behind them was a blanket of stars. Victoria Legrand’s voice was strong as ever, as the audience swayed to their dreamy sound.It was soft and loud at the same time, the loudest point being the close of “Elegy to the Void” which was epic. It was a beautiful way to close the Friday night.
Saturday began a little more subdued, being the final official day of the festival. I arrived in time to see Wild Nothing redeem themselves from the last time I’d seen them at the Regent in which Jack Tatum left the stage during the closing song in a flurry. It felt in a way like home was coming to be since I had already seen them perform three times in L.A. Jack Tatum appeared grateful and slightly bewildered as he closed with “Thank you Primavera, up next is Brian Wilson…when will I ever say that again?” Pet Sounds wasn’t something I really grew up with, but many sang along to the spectacle that was the Brian Wilson band. I was pleased to recognize some songs, even though I felt very young here! The close of his set was when the party started with “California Girls” and “Good Vibrations,” which left everyone feeling the beach-y carefree vibe. Deerhunter began promptly on the opposite side of the field with another great vibe set. Front man Brandon Cox shared that Primavera is one of his favorite things, as they’ve performed there the past couple of years. He mentioned the value of the festival and how excited he was to see PJ Harvey. I knew I couldn’t miss her! PJ Harvey‘s set began with a serious drum line, as she entered the stage sax in hand. She looked and sounded great! There was a very artsy darkness to her performance, as the large screen projectors were turned to black and white only, and she gazed intensely at the audience while singing. I definitely made me make a mental note to fully take a listen to her latest album, the Hope Six Demolition Project. After PJ Harvey, it was back to the H&M stage for Icelandic ambient rock band Sigur Ros, who delivered an immersive, artistic experience with their wash of beautiful sound. It was quite an experience. But I was torn between staying the whole time, and leaving early to check out Julia Holter and Parquet Courts. I did so briefly, and headed back to the Heineken stage’s final showcase, Moderat, and we ended with a tasteful EDM dance party! And just like that, the weekend was over.
Here are some highlights:
- The Atmosphere. There’s something really special about everyone coming together for music. But this crowd was not there for the flower-crowns or to get trashed…these were die hard fans! During every set, the people around me knew and felt the performers lyrics. Even the security guards came off as peaceful to me and were there to help, making sure fainters were okay, given water, and moved to safety. And the languages—people came from all over the world! This was a festival for music people and people lovers.
- Radiohead. This was their first appearance at the Primavera Sound Festival in over a decade. I’ve read that Thom Yorke often attends Primavera as a fan! I love that. Their 2-hour set totally delivered, complete with visuals. How the stage set technicians kept up will all of the set changes, I’ll never know, but hats off to them! But time seemed to just stand still as their music washed over the audience. And they played all the hits including Karma Police, In Rainbows, and more, along with a few of their new songs off their latest album, “A Moon Shaped Pool.” They closed the show with “Creep” in a way that hopefully I can finally disassociate that some with creepy men singing karaoke!
- Fuck Yeah, Brass! I saw more acts than ever that had horn players … PJ Harvey, Beirut, Brian Wilson, and it didn’t stop there! And it wasn’t cheesy. It was totally refreshing to see them incorporated into popular rock music after going to so many shows with the standard guitar, bass, drum set-up. Consider it if you’re starting a band!
- VIP was a great choice! At some festivals, the VIP just wasn’t worth it. But for this one and perhaps other major festivals the extra $70 came with some great perks. The top of the list was the access to the space in front of the main stages, the VIP lounge no risers between the Heineken and H&M Stages overlooking the water on one side and a 180 view of both stages from the top, cheaper Heineken beer (2 Euro!) and luxe bathrooms. Not to mention the great swag bag filled with pins, magazines, and my favorite—a booklet about all the bands playing at Primavera.
- These videos and photos that speak for themselves!
The festival was meticulously planned. I mean, there were thousands of people there and nothing ever seemed annoying or poorly-planned, down to the busses dedicated for festival goers to get to a main central location. But to me, Primavera was way more than just a festival. It was a totally invaluable experience of stepping into my courage and vulnerability—an experience I’ll remember forever.