Festival Review – Primavera Sound

Organisational hiccups aside, the titan of European Festivals returns with a relentless barrage of greatness 4 stars.

Twice delayed and subsequently extended into a glorious two-weekend celebration, the 20th anniversary of Primavera Sound featured both a diverse line-up and hit-and-miss organisation. Even if not attending, Twitter ensured the complaints and subsequent apologies were visible to all. An overcrowded and dehydrated crowd tumbled through the festival’s first day; after which organisers doubled water points and employed crowd control with greater rigour to mitigate issues for the remainder of the festival. For the most part, they succeeded.

The performances themselves ran more smoothly, with Primavera’s eclecticism attracting artists from all spheres. Dua Lipa filled the most notable pop headliner billing; her slick performance was entertaining if a touch austere in delivery. A more understated performance came from Lorde, whose albeit underwhelming third record Solar Power translated serenely into a live, sun-drenched setting. There were strong hip-hop showings from Tyler the Creator and Run the Jewels, the former’s stylish presentation and unabashed dedication to cool charming audiences into the early hours.

Of the guitar-centric headliners, Pavement’s return to touring was necessarily rough, seeing the unkempt ‘90s rockers dive head-first into a production line of sing-along nostalgia. Having ensured every inch of his outfit was polished to perfection, the perpetual youth of Beck provided a set that was as reflection-inducingly glossy as his immaculate attire. The Strokes and The Yeah Yeahs brought New York to Barcelona; the former were tight, although underplayed themselves with over-nonchalant chat between songs, while the latter were as colourfully dazzling as ever. Damon Albarn and his conveyor belt of guests provided Gorillaz their characteristic funk while Tame Impala’s opening and closing night performances captivated the crowd, albeit with a visual display that literally and metaphorically outshone the music.

While crowding remained a consistent mainstage issue, performances elsewhere were largely watchable without this issue. The Cupra Stage hosted some of the latest performances each night, with a particular focus on DJs. Disclosure’s reliance upon a solid discography did little to make up for a lacklustre mixing display, especially in contrast to DJ Shadow’s masterclass in the artform on the festival’s opening night. However, the stage’s highlight occurred towards the festival’s end, when Jessie Ware, seemingly possessed by the power of the ’80s, turned clocks back with her most recent disco-infused album.

The Binance stage, another place of solitude for those anathema to the mainstage masses, saw Beach House bring their synthesised beauty to a festival whose attendees were receptive to the much-needed tranquillity. In contract, the raucous chaos of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s fist-pummelling performance included the thunderously lengthy ‘The Dripping Tap’, accompanied by a side dish of moshing.

Over 1000 days had passed since Primavera 2019 and it showed. In the Barcelona heat, water must be easily accessible and crowds must be safe. On the first day especially, such poor planning was a notable and regrettably standout failing. Furthermore, there was an unsavoury corporate feel to the occasion, especially with cryptocurrency company Binance sponsoring the festival while providing NFTs to ticket-holders in a particularly dystopian display of consumerism. Nonetheless, Primavera Sound remains the behemoth it was pre-pandemic. While the crowds were heaving, the lineup remains unparalleled.  

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