Taking place over three days at the beautifully situated Parc del Fòrum along the stunning coast of Barcelona, is Primavera Festival. Currently in its 15th year of bringing a diverse selection of artists to Spain and with the reunion of Ride and The Replacements, it’s sure to be one of the festival’s finest.
Cheatahs fit the festivals long documented adoration of shoe-gaze perfectly. The band have already caused a splash in the British underground scene which led to them signing with Witchita records – who boast Dinosaur Jr and Jesus and Mary Chain among their roster. Cheatahs persevere through a plethora of technical difficulties, but it feels as if their songs are better suited for more intimate environments.
On the Pitchfork stage minutes away, Viet Cong have acquired an overwhelming crowd of people. Combining the abrasive intensity of Joy Division alongside the infectious melodies of the Talking Heads, the band debut songs from their self-titled release. However, it’s on the 12-minute song where the attention of the audience dips and shuffles elsewhere. The band manage to reel the crowd back in with the lead single “Continental Shelf”.
Initially forming in the late seventies, The Replacements crafted two absolutely essential albums (Let It Be and Tim) which formed the foundations of punk rock. Since then, bands such as Green Day, The National and Foo Fighters have paid homage to the band who have recently reformed to perform a selection of their greatest hits.
Breaking into their set with “Takin’ A Ride, the opening track from Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash, the band show that decades later, they still possess an unrelenting energy and that age hasn’t hindered their performance.
One of the many highlights was how tight the band have become since reforming, something they weren’t known for in their formative years. The band effortlessly break into the infectious bassline for ‘I Want You Back’ by The Jackson 5 and blend it seamlessly with ‘Color Me Impressed’. A lot of the crowd, understandably, are in fits of hysteria for ‘the hits’, ‘Left Of The Dial’ and ‘Bastards Of Young’ have huge singalongs which only fires up the band’s energy and makes them rowdier.
Towards the end of ‘Alex Chilton’, Paul Westerberg kicks a microphone stand and the microphone torpedoes towards the barrier. The Replacements being the only band to follow through on their claims to destroy the stage and cause chaos.
This year’s big theme for Primavera seems to be reformations and to add to The Replacements, seminal emo act Mineral are also one of the attractions to the bill. Although the band release a great deal of energy in their set and dust off some of their beloved anthems from The Power of Failing. The sparse crowd isn’t as receptive and are more fixated on Brand New setting up on the adjacent stage.
To preface this, it is not a good idea to go into a mosh pit with sunburn. Before Brand New even begin, a lot of crowd members are eager to get as close to the front as possible. By the time they take to the stage, the next 45 minutes becomes a blur of aggressive shoving, careless crowd surfing and even blood. ‘Mene’ opens as an unrelenting behemoth which quickly dismisses the technical difficulties with the guitar levels.
One noticeable change is how comfortable Jesse Lacey is onstage during “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” as he summons up his inner frontman and drags the microphone stand around the stage as if he is seducing it. The band’s set come to an overwhelming climax with ‘Sowing Season (Yeah)’ where crowd surfers drift from the back of the crowd to the front, screaming the candid refrain.
Over on the Pitchfork stage, Tyler, The Creator is causing chaos, debuting material from his surprise record Cherry Bomb. ‘DEATHCAMP’ channels early Pharrell and blends it with the visceral energy that Kanye West toyed with on YEEZUS. The tense ‘Yonkers’ is the highlight of the set where a lot of the crowd shout out Tyler’s signature aggressive quip’s, in particular, “I’m a fucking walking paradox – no, I’m not” as well as THAT line about Bruno Mars.
Although they aren’t necessarily reinventing the wheel, The Black Keys have accomplished so much in their almost 15-year history as a blues-rock duo. One particular question on everyone’s mind is are they up to the task of headlining such a prestigious festival?
The classics are all there ‘Gold On The Ceiling’, ‘Fever’ and ‘Tighten Up’ but the band lose a lot of momentum and the audience’s attention in between with a great deal of filler. The band kickstart their set with a lot of energy but by the time it comes to their pièce de résistance ‘Lonely Boy’, Dan Auerbach is falling asleep on the microphone.
A band perfectly suited for sound-tracking the apocalypse, Sun O))) are perhaps one of the night’s biggest surprises. Crafting a mutating drone which pierces through earplugs and rumbles throughout the ground. It feels like any minute, the ground will open up and swallow the stage. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing however.
With a full moon hanging above the stage, the scene is set perfectly for James Blake’s headline set. His upcoming album Radio Silence is pending a release date, with fans currently hanging in anticipation to hear the follow-up to the Mercury Prize winning Overgrown.
Blake’s setlist doesn’t rely heavily on one album as is proved when he opens up with his debut single ‘Air & Lack Thereof’ which was released in 2009. The crowd meander around in anticipation with small pockets seeming enthused, the first burst of elation from the collective audience comes with ‘Limit To Your Love’, originally by Feist, the song gains a small singalong as well as slow dancing.
Although backed by a full live band, Blake’s set is minimal and reserved, it feels like the band only accompany him on older songs but when it comes to newer material from Overgrown, they embellish it and add their own twists and quirks. The title track, in particular, achieves a greater impact.
Be sure to check back soon for the rest of our extensive coverage of this year’s Primavera Sound Festival.