As festival season gets back into full swing, Weekend 2 of Barcelona's legendary Primavera Sound brought top-notch acts to the Spanish seaside.
I'll start by saying there were a few setbacks to this year's edition of Primavera, most of which was addressed by those who attended the first weekend, but hot temps, massive crowds, and inadequate access to water made this year's edition of the festival feel almost like a test see who was the most devoted to their favorite sets. If you could manage to make it through, you were treated to some truly incredible performances. More water would've helped, however.
The weekend started off with back to back sets from up and coming post-punk bands Dry Cleaning and Squid who took on sets from the Binance and Cupra stage to set the tone for the day with their locked rhythms, funky grooves. Squid got a pretty good size crowd to set out in the sun and mosh along to their brash, angular guitar which felt explosive when they hit into "G.S.K." and "Pamphlets." From there, it was a truly stupendous dream of shoegaze-bliss with Ride playing a sundown set on the Binance stage, a set that felt like a strong showing of their brit-pop and shoegaze styles that saw warm reception with "Vapour Trail." As the sky began to turn dark, Slowdive took over and swooned the crowd with their lush, dreamy guitars which felt extra powerful below a glowing moon. Their expressive lights and celestial sound poured over the crowd and exploded into pure euphoria when they launched into "Allison" and then a completely crushing "When the Sun Hits." Gorillaz were the biggest show of the first night and brought a truly exceptional performance to the main stage. Damon Albarn led a massive backing band through his animated catalogue of hits and wasn't shy to bring out top guests like Mos Def and De La Soul to help him bring the tracks to life. With impressive visuals and an outpouring of love from the crowd, it was clear that Damon has done a brilliant job to bring these tracks to life and has assembled a staggering backing band to bring it to fruition. If only the crowd had felt a little more controlled, it probably would've been a lot more enjoyable. If Gorillaz, however, had the biggest crowd of the night, Dua Lipa wasn't far behind. Judging by the people walking the grounds of the festival that day, it seemed like the love and admiration for her was by far the strongest showing and she rose to the occasion to deliver a phenomenal pop star set full of flashy dance moves and the biggest bops of the weekend. Closing things out was the monstrous set from Tyler, the Creator. With a lavish grassy hill set up on stage, the rapper tore through his set with total domination, playing along with the crowd firmly in his hands. Massive explosions rocked the set and brought the hype to prove that, for now, he might just be one of the best live rappers of the moment.
Courtney Barnett brought pure rock and roll joy to the Binance stage for a golden-hour set that found her delightfully playful, yet solid tunes to be the perfect set up for the evening. Her stoic lyrics and fuzzy choruses felt as cool and necessary as the sweet ocean breeze that would occasionally coast through the Parc del Forum and her performance of "Depreston" felt especially warm as the sun began to set. Over on the main stage, Lorde brought her Solar Power tour to Primavera and proceeded to have the crowd fall madly in love her charm and excitement. Throwing in a cover of Bananarama's "Cruel Summer" was a fun twist, but it was the obvious power of "Green Light" and the one that started it all, "Royals," which saw the biggest reaction from the crowd. She's a summer girl, she told us, and it truly feels like she's in prime season to have her name atop festival posters around the world. I was incredibly fortunate enough to be able to catch The Strokes from the side of the stage and while their appeal might not hit as hard for some as it did ten or fifteen years ago, watching them rip through "Someday," "Reptilia," and "New York City Cops" and watching the crowd erupt was something I'll never forget, the energy flowing right through the band and into me on the wings as I danced alongside all of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lorde, and Brittany Howard in a moment I'm still not convinced wasn't a dream. It was an unforgettable experience to see the band responsible for one of my all-time favorite albums, a record that shaped my life more than almost any other, play to a massive crowd on the beach in Barcelona and feel a small connection to the group, but watching my friends in the crowd watch me have the time of my life was really the best moment of the weekend. After the comedown of that moment, The Smile took over the Cupra stage and unleashed their highly-anticipated set to a crowd of eager and devoted fans. Thom and Johnny are always a please to watch and no matter what they're playing, a set of theirs isn't one to miss. This was, of course, no exception. The songs blended hard rock and steady electronics, but the real joy was watching the men onstage conjure up these sounds like wizards in a lab. Taking a bow to a bass guitar, Greenwood thrashed away while Yorke brought the spirits out of his guitar in a way unlike I've ever seen him do before, something to behold and to be able to see it on a smaller stage was another magical moment. To close out the night, Run the Jewels brought hard hitting beats and furious rhymes back to the main stage for one last blow-out party of the night. Running back and forth across the stage, they traded verses with the utmost flow and never lost sight of their agenda, to be the best fucking rap group in the world. They upheld that promise to the utmost degree.
As the sun began to set on the final night of the weekend, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs made their long-awaited return to Primavera (their first time back since 2006) and festivals as well (their first since the pandemic). As they graced us with their comeback single "Spitting Off the Edge of the World," things began to groove and shortly, the band were ripping through hits with sheer force and absolute domination. While their friends in the Strokes seem to rely a little more on how people remember them on record, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs felt set out to prove the point they're still at the top of their game, and maybe even better than before. "Year Zero" felt like it flipped the planet upside down as the crowd burst with eruptive joy that melted into total euphoria when they hit the repeating note of "Maps." As the entire crowd swayed to the refrain of "they don't love you like I love you," it felt like a transcendent moment for the group that was somehow catapulted by "Heads Will Roll." With such conviction and presence, the band looked beyond thrilled with the moment happening all around them and we're lucky to have them back. Tame Impala followed their set with their usual, and by now very standard, epic performance of incredible lights, tons of fog, lazers a plenty, and the sonic psychedelics Kevin Parker has been churning out for years. If you've yet to catch this show in person, it's one that never disappoints, and consistently confirms that the band have earned their status as a premium rock band. Also, hearing "It Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" being sung out over a festival crowd isn't an experience to miss and at this point feels like a total comfort moment every time it happens. At first, I was a bit surprised that Phoenix were set up to follow Tame given their now prominent status as festival kings, but once the Frenchmen took to the stage, it was clear that they were back with a vengeance as well. "Listzomania" and "Entertainment!" felt electric and their stage set up matched their headliner status. With the band set up within screens, it felt like they were consistently transported to new worlds where they rocked out like their lives depended on it. Every synth pulse, guitar lick, and ridiculous drum fill hit with extreme purpose and the band looked eager to consistently crush each moment. The new tracks came alive with crystalline energy and their glassy-toned keys set the night into a sparkle. "Too Young" brought effortless cool and pure bliss to the night and reigned supreme as one of the band's chillest, yet most emphatic and rejuvenating songs in their catalogue. Of course "1901" brought the pandemonium to full power and when frontmant Thomas Mars took off into the crowd, it was a moment of controlled chaos that put the power back into the fans, a moment where we were all in it together, letting the band come to us and allowing us to shower them in love. Between them and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, it felt like a resurgence of the indie rock of 2009 was back and ready to save us all from the past years of turmoil. A wonderfully magical night that reignited a flame of nostalgia and gave hope that their return might just be the exact thing we've been looking for and that our rock and roll saviors can still be depended upon and never to count them out. Megan thee Stallion closed things out and while her crowd wasn't as big as expected (no doubt in the states it would've been at least twice the size), she still delivered the goods. Armed with an army of dancers, the H-town hottie wasted no time getting into her groove and unleashing monstrous bars with epic flow. She made sure to tell the crowd her exact feelings on the old men in Texas trying to control women's bodies and made it very clear that she was there to celebrate people just the way they are. It didn't feel like the final festival blow-out like some of the others of the night, but it was an absolute fire performance that assured her position as the biggest female rapper in the game. Tyler might need to watch over his shoulder because Meg isn't far behind and if she has a massive crowd behind her, it'd be easy to see her claiming the top billing of festivals where ever she goes.
Comebacks aren't always easy. Remembering things in their prime and then hoping it can be replicated perfectly doesn't always work out, but nevertheless it's usually worth trying. Primavera is a festival with a worldwide reputation as one of the best. From the always impressive lineups, to the timing, to the location, to the joy the artists get from playing it, it's status is that of legendary, up there with Glastonbury, Roskilde, and Coachella. This year felt a little off in some departments, but when the line up is truly out of this world and when the bands and artists bring some of their best performances to the stage, not much else matters. Feelings can subside and the magic of music can feel more real than ever. It's a feeling that has been lost for a few years, but hopefully we can keep it active and constantly allow ourselves to feel the power of live music bring our souls back to life and celebrate in a way that feels like the best medicine for mental health and our overall well-beings. Seeing epic concerts in epic locations with a big group of friends is always something to treasure, next time, just have a little more water.