ATH Abroad: Primavera Sound Days 2+3
I’ve had a few days to recuperate from the fest that doesn’t sleep and have gathered my thoughts on the sets from Friday and Saturday of Primavera. Read on for highlights and some comments about Parc Del Forúm and the festival itself in case you’re thinking Barcelona is on your music festival horizon.
Day Two (Friday) – This was personally the day I was looking forward to the most and it did not disappoint. I headed to the fest early to catch a set from Mas Ysa and his electronic mixings. He played to a small crowd that seemed to enjoy what they were dancing to, even if they’d never heard it before… and in general the crowds that this festival were more in tune with the artists, less on their phones and even when piss drunk they managed to hold their conversation to breaks in between songs. Between this set and the next, the rain came in and came in hard, and while I’m used to Austin’s torrential downpours, it rivaled these, but with the cold wind coming off the sea it made it a little less pleasurable. However, Joana Serat’s folksy and blues inspired quiet rock played us through the rain and soon everything was right again in paradise as a huge rainbow appeared over the sea and through the clouds. Next I headed over to the big stage to catch a bit of the Haim sisters in action, but their set wasn’t quite enough to keep me around and so I ventured back to small stage land and caught Natas Loves You crammed onto a the tiniest stage for their equally small set (read on to Saturday for notes on their full set later).
After this, I got to the meat and potatoes of my Friday, the coup de gras of indie–rock bands currently putting out killer albums; the back to back line up of Sharon Van Etten, War on Drugs, and The National. Sharon Van Etten played a well balanced set of building rock and equally as moving quietness filled with new songs off her album that just came out last week, but also some of her earlier tunes to pacify those who haven’t yet fallen in love with the new material. Van Etten was as equally as charming as her music, apologizing for apparently offending Spain the last time she was there with sarcasm and trying her best to speak Spanish to the crowd. She encouraged the crowd to join her at The War on Drugs set which was happening immediately after and most of use complied with her request, and found ourselves awaiting for this other band, who began with force after a bit of technical difficulties. Adam Granduciel didn’t let this get in the way of the execution of the set, which was filled with jams. The ‘woos’ and somewhat seeming graceful imperfections off their latest album, Lost in the Dream sounded great and had me dancing along.
I finished my night with another big name on a big stage with The National. I have seen this band a vast number of times in varying locations, but I was a bit surprised at their level of response to the crowd’s excitement. Matt Berninger was as ape-like-college-professor as always, but on the whole more ape like, banging around the microphone so much that he broke not one, but two mics and one mic stand. Chorded mic in hand he climbed onto a platform and sang into the rafters, appearing crazy and odd to the masses, though they seemed to love every second of it. They brought out Justin Vernon for “Slow Show,” whose high pitched vocals added a lovely juxtaposition to Matt’s deep voice and later on they brought out The Walkmen’s Paul Maroon and Hamilton Leithauser for “Mr. November,” though they were sort of lost on the song as Matt ventured into the crowd to scream with the masses (Should’ve played “The Rat) . Finally, the band concluded with “Terrible Love,” though at the beginning of the song Matt’s mic stopped working as he began the song and he abandoned the idea altogether, letting the Dessner twins and the rest of the crowd sing together while he crowd surfed alongside a blow-up alligator to the sound booth and back. One word: unbelievable.
Day Three: Saturday
The final day was tough and required most of my mental and physical strength to make it through. Primavera’s late-in-the-day start times are wonderful, but the early in the morning end times make it a festival not for the weak. Saturday began with Katy Goodman and La Sera, who put on a sugary yet spicy little set with new rockers from her current album. The band seemed to enjoy themselves a lot, and appreciate the crowd that grew despite another little rain shower. Next I caught Belako, whose youth didn’t show in their performance as they drew in more and more people with their intensity and tunes.
Ironically, I made it all the way to Barcelona to then find myself at Spoon’s set on the big stage, where the band wound around their old hits, with many in the crowd knowing one or two of the songs, but Britt Daniel’s stage presence and overall gratitude for the crowd’s response to their music gave out a positive atmosphere for all, and it made me proud of the band’s accomplishments. Though they mentioned something about not playing together for a while, it didn’t show, and they were as charming as ever. Next up was Justin Vernon and Collections of Colonies of Bee’s side project, Volcano Choir, which had a small number of people gather to watch the group on the second largest stage. The group, minus Justin, seemed generally overwhelmed at the turnout of people that came to see them and they “were having the time of their lives” up on the stage. In the crowd, the sentiment seemed a little mixed; my theory is that most of those in attendance had yet to listen to any of Volcano Choir’s music, but had heard whispers that it was Bon Iver and they should be in attendance. I personally enjoyed the set a lot—most of the songs came from their most recent album, Repave, but we were also treated to some new songs that were more dance-able than most of the tracks. Vernon’s performance from behind his pulpit seemed very emotional and personal and he was at ease without a guitar in hand.
Next I caught my newfound favorite from Primavera, Natas Loves You, with their full set that had a small crowd dancing hard to their electro-pop music. Though it was late in the game, the crowd grew larger and larger for this group and their endless energy. Dance party? More like constant body-rolling. I ended my Primavera with a mix of mostly Foals‘ set and a few songs from Chromeo. Foals amped up the crowd with a jam-session of an introduction and then played their groovy hits to a very drunk and tired crowd that formed grand circles of dance and merriment to get down with Yannis Philippakis. Chromeo had spectacular lights and also brought the jams as the festival wound up and then down for some of the final times.
All in all, it was an amazing time. While the rain was a little unfortunate, the location offered concrete and gravel in place of festival cancellations and muddy mess. The sea kept us enamored when we weren’t watching bands do their best to wow international audiences. The sun kept us warm, when it was out. The view of the tall buildings of Barcelona and its history kept reminding us exactly where, and how lucky to be where we were. If you are looking for a festival to attend in Europe, I would highly recommend this one, as the bands and the fans were both equally as excited to partake in the little bit of magic behind Primavera Sound. Hasta luego.