More about: Primavera Sound Festival
You're home, sunburned, can't stay awake, there's sand inside all that you own, and you're still swaying to that incessant ringing in your ears. You've made friends, lost your mind, and are currently dealing with the comedown that comes from being unable to imagine another weekend quite like that in your lifetime. Welcome back from Primavera Sound 2016.
Based in the beating heart of Spain on the gorgeous and sprawling Barcelona coast, you're surrounded by history and culture. From the Sagrada Familia to Parc Guel via the endless rolling streets lined with oldworld facades, a vibrant nightlife and the breeze of chilled back Mediterranean pace, you won't find a more perfect place for a festival. From in the friendly, buzzing, chic and fun hub of Generator Hostel's hotel in the centre of Barcelona, we took in the free spirit of the city and went adventuring for the sounds that Primavera had to offer.
Playing their first European festival show since their initial demise in 2011, LCD Soundsystem receive every bit the deserved heroes' welcome. The main arena is packed out as far as the eye can see, as pods of friends huddle together arm in arm before the motorik beats of opener 'Us V Them' beckons James Murphy to the stage. A rapturous rave erupts as we holler back the words we've been waiting five long years to sing: "The time has come."
Absence may indeed make the heart grow fonder, and tonight is an invigorating reminder of that the world has been missing since LCD left us. 'Daft Punk Is Playing At My House' lands like the call-to-arms classic it has become, 'I Can Change' shimmers with its sideways pop grace while the unholy trio of 'Tribulations' leading into 'Movement' into the runaway insanity of 'Yeah' showcase just how perfect LCD were when they first arrived on the scene. They are more than just a band. They are a celebration and a revolution.
There's not a dry eye left in Barcelona for the aching, elegiac perfection of 'Someone Great', before the acerbic tribute to ageing hipsterism with 'Losing My Edge' now carries a whole new irony when performed by a band so on top of their game. The Bowie-driven beauty of 'Home' sends Barcelona into an extended swoon, showing that dance music can indeed have sentiment, heart, thought and soul - as well as groove.
The mini-epic of 'Dance Yrself Clean' and summer-defining pure perfection of 'All My Friends' see those pods of friends embrace enjoy as waves of love overcome Barcelona. This is the moment we've been waiting for. There's no more fitting lyric for such an occasion than "if the sun comes up and I still don't want to stagger home, it's the memory of our betters that are keeping us on our feet."
Sadly no new material was performed, but the goodwill that surrounds them and the familiar immaculate form that they're on suggests that they're onto something great - and that they will finally enjoy the mass, universal success that they've always deserved. Their time has come.
LCD Soundsystem played:
Us v Them
Daft Punk Is Playing at My House
I Can Change
You Wanted a Hit
Losing My Edge
New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down
Dance Yrself Clean
All My Friends
A heavy tension hangs in the hot and humid Barcelona air, the kind that can only come from a mass and communal sense of hope and expectation. Beirut are playing a fine and resplendent set on the stage just opposite, but hordes have been planning their movements for hours as they flock in droves to camp down for arguably what could well be the live event of the weekend, if not the whole summer. Radiohead are due on stage at Primavera Sound 2016.
The crowd swells as the sun slowly sets behind the coastal highrise buildings. An ominous drone simmers, the lights fade, and shrieks of sheer ecstasy pierce the silence. Drifting straight into 'Burn The Witch' from new album A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead kick off a setlist that leans more on their esoteric nature, but one that emphasises the extremes that make this band so utterly essential.
'Burn The Witch' is driven by a more effervescent, guitar rock-led groove live, starting things off at the perfect pace. Then, it must be said, the audience at Primavera Sound may well be one of the most respectful we've ever experienced at a major festival, as the entire crowd falls perfectly silent as the band glide through the aching and gossamer light 'Daydreaming'. As Yorke's pining vocal floats over the stunned masses as he mourns "dreamers, they never learn," you can almost feel your heart rising to the back of your throat.
'Decks Dark' and 'Desert Island Disk' keep things sombre but sublime, before 'Ful Stop' is the first to really get a frenzy going, with that twitching schizophrenia and sci-fi menace that only Radiohead can do so well.
As with the setlist on the rest of the tour, what happens from here is anyone's guess, and the anticipation before the release is all part of the thrill at a Radiohead show. Fanboys squeal and hold their heads in delight as the radio static to intro to the twisted jazz dance of 'The National Anthem' lets out, and those opening notes of 'Talk Show Host' again prove to be absolutely devastating. From there, the hits and true fan favourites come thick and fast, punctuating the more abstruse moments - as 'No Surprises' lands alongside 'Pyramid Song' and 'The Numbers', 'Karma Police' blooms before 'Weird Fishes', and the first set ends with the almighty trio of 'Idioteque', 'Bodysnatchers' and 'Street Spirit'.
Just when you felt things were already pretty complete but itching for more, they drop the perfect encore, as the cinematic grace of 'Bloom' clears way for the epic rush that comes from the epic 'Paranoid Android' into the crystal-cut heartache of 'Nude', the manic fire of '2+2=5' and the underrated but Herculean 'There There'. Sonically, visually, and when the band add up to become more than the sum of their parts, Radiohead are one of the greatest bands on the road right now. And in short, they prove that they're able to pull off the perfect festival-pleasing set without diluting what makes them great, using their idiosyncrasies to create a more dynamic show, rather than shying away from them. Returning to play the rarely outed 'Creep' to close is surely just taking the piss. Bravo, Radiohead.
Burn the Witch
Desert Island Disk
The National Anthem
Talk Show Host
Everything in Its Right Place
Street Spirit (Fade Out)
2 + 2 = 5
A respectful silence for a few choice cuts in a Radiohead set is pretty understandable, but the stunned hush that holds the huge but transfixed crowd throughout the entire of Sigur Ros' set is nothing short of absolutely spellbinding. It's the only way to truly soak up the majesty of this band. Visually, sonically, and spiritually - the whole combined experience of watching this band is of another world entirely.
As they edge onto the stage behind a stunning and vast cage of LEDs and lights, they literally become one with their mind-expanding stage show. They open with new track 'Óveður' - a slow-burning, cacophony of ghostly howls, melancholic mystery and clattering beats, calling back to the more open sound of their earlier work, albeit now with a greater darkness, and an almost Nine Inch Nails industrial edge to its backing. It leaves us all the more eager to see how deeply they explore new emotional sonic landscapes on their upcoming record, but mainly, all present are left absolutely breathless by the sheer power of the now more overwhelming spectacle from one of the finest live acts on the planet.
Sigur Ros played:
Tame Impala pull one of the largest and most swelling crowds of the day to show them how they've become a headline-worthy force of nature - delivering kaleidoscopic and triumphant rush of life-affirming psych-soul brilliance. Their live spectacle is a beauty to behold, and on stage their sound is so 'complete' and opulent that it totally overcomes you.
The collective haze of Barcelona losing themselves to 'Let It Happen', 'Elephant' and 'The Less I Know The Better' is a memory that shall endure. A power-cut forced them from the stage temporarily, but the day had already been won. You need to see this band live, at all costs.
"Go out and fucking fall in love with someone tonight," beams Beach Slang frontman James Alex, finishing off their early but blistering set on the opening day of the Firestone stage. The truth is, we were already there. Early arrivals were in for a treat. Beach Slang's Americana slacker punk sounds something quite close to what we imagine Springsteen would do if he were absolutely baked and set alight - carrying that decadent rush of so many long youthful summers lost but never wasted. We'll allow them to soundtrack this one at least.
Warming up for Tame Impala and Radiohead is no mean feat, but kicking up the fire in the early evening sun is Savages with a blistering blast of scorched post-punk and a fearless abandon.
"Do you want to be entertained?," growls a wild-eyed Jehnny Beth, eyeing up the front rows of the crowd as she stalks the stage before throwing herself into the audience. As the likes of 'Fuckers', 'Husbands', 'The Answer' and 'TIWYG' ignite a punk spirit so sorely lacking elsewhere, they give everything to their performance. You'll struggle to see a band more at one as a unit, or a singer more at home in the arms of her fans.
"We all are here because we love music," says Beth with an arm raised aloft. It's a love that's infectious, and leaves you salivating for more. That's entertainment.
Explosions In The Sky
After the sun goes down, twilight provides the perfect setting as Explosions In The Sky proved to be a surprise highlight of the opening day. Vast and vivid sonic landscapes are painted with the effervescent flourishes of their cinematic post-rock, showing a level of musicianship and symbiotic understanding between all members so unparalleled, it's impossible for your eyes to ever leave the stage. A triumph of sound and vision.
Most bands of their stature and legacy would fall into self-parody to still be shaking their bits to the hits at this point in their lives, but there's an effervescence and compulsion to Suede as they see the sun away on the opening night of Primavera Sound 2016 that leaves Barcelona with the lasting impression that this band NEED to exist.
As people claw and tear at frontman Brett Anderson's open shirt, the feral fervour of hero worship that he inspires can't be denied, but while he's naturally earned his standing as a statesman and ambassador of indie, it's the fact that he and his bandmates are still very much on top of their game - not only in their performance but with the standout moments from their immaculate new album Night Thoughts - that shows Suede are very much living in the now, and with a very bright and beautiful tomorrow. Suede still matter, and they always will.
They've been absent for a good 15 years now, so expectation was high about what Avalanches' suprise return to music and touring would entail. This was not quite what we were expecting.
One was hoping for more of a live 'experience', and instead what we got was a DJ set. That said, their quirky, feel-good and blissed-out approach to sound was the perfect late night tonic - and the memory of all in the bowl of the Ray Ban's stage amphitheatre going apeshit for 'Frontier Psychiatrist' and new track 'Frankie Sinatra' is pretty hard to top. This band are designed for the summer.
Performing the seminal Pet Sounds was never going to be anything less than a triumph. This was the album that inspired The Beatles to up their game on Sgt Peppers, after all - and today, it's still as inspiring. Here tonight, in the highest of spirits, Brian Wilson delivers The Beach Boy's classic in the exact spirit that it was intended: one of pure, unadulterated joy.
'Wouldn't It Be Nice' makes for a glorious sing-along as the sun sets over the dusty landscapes of the Barcelona coast, while 'Sloop John B' and 'God Only Knows' are so familiar that they feel like home.
As if the record in its entirety wasn't enough, a giddy smile spreads across everyone's face as Wilson delightfully rattles from one classic to another - with 'Good Vibrations', 'California Girls' and 'Surfin' USA' proving highlights, however his cover of 'Monster Mash' was so much damn fun. It was just silly, really.
They may not his words, but Wilson is one of the few living reminders that love is all you need.
They're clearly humbled by the honour of being sandwiched in between Brian Wilson and PJ Harvey on the bill, but you can't deny that Bradford Cox and Deerhunter ultimately earn their slot, and we daresay they'll appear much higher in years to come.
A frontman with a totally commanding presence, Cox acts as an anchor amid the haze of the band's beautifully undefinable sound. The sounds of psych mix with post-punk, pure pop and everything in between, taking us on a fully immersive and panoramic tour of what they're capable of - so meandering and ambiguous but grand, we haven't seen another show like this apart from Beck.
Highlights come their career high of last year's Fading Frontiers, especially the alt-funk brilliance of closer 'Snakeskin', but the truth is that there's never a lull. Why? Because they take you everywhere.
Hawley's Yorkshire charm and old school sense of romance is the perfect accompaniment for the oceanside setting of the Ray Ban stage, as he croons his way through a genuinely flawless set to prove one of the best performances and one final surprise of the weekend. Leaning heavily on the soaring grace of his latest effort Hollow Meadows and the scorched desert rock of Standing At The Sky's Edge, the laidback vibes of Sheffield land perfectly in Barcelona thanks to the universally human nature to all that he does.
'Tonight The Streets Are Ours' and 'Open Up Your Door' inspire a heavenly camaraderie, before things crash down to Earth for the fiery rumble of 'Leave Your Body Behind You' and 'Down In The Woods'. His set tonight is perfectly in balance, and you couldn't ask for more.
He dedicates 'Heart Of Oak' to Muhammad Ali as 'one of the greatest human beings who ever lived', before bidding farewell with "we have to go back to Sheffield, the greatest city on Earth". It all ended too soon, but tonight, Yorkshire could be anywhere - and is more than welcome in these somewhat more exotic climbs.
Returning to the world stage for the first time in four years, PJ Harvey was undoubtedly one of the top talking points and most hyped acts in the run up to Primavera Sound 2016. One of the most critically-adored artists of our time, forever shifting shape and changing the game, she's also the only person to win the Mercury Prize twice. She proved that she was still every bit on top of her game with the lush but provocative new record Hope Six Demolition Project earlier this year, so all were eager to see where her latest evolution would take her live show.
Flanked by a nine-piece band that included long-time collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and Jean-Marc Butty, along with friends friends Alain Johannes, Terry Edwards, and James Johnston, she stands resplendent in black to deliver a performance with the grace to stand up against her legacy and reputation.
Photo: Christie Goodwin
Her set consists of pretty much the entirety of her latest record, which is a bold move for such a high profile festival set, but that acts only as a testament to how essential her music is. Her work is always 'complete', and to ignore so much of her newest work would do it a terrible disservice. True, a couple of cuts from Stories From The City wouldn't have gone amiss, but the Tom Waits-esque horror soundtrack of opener 'Chain Of Keys', the new Polly Jean classic of 'The Community Of Hope', and the prog-rock tapestry of 'The Wheel' are such stand-outs of the evening alone, that you realise you'd ever want Harvey as an artist living very much in the now and forever looking forwards, rather than a touring pantomime legacy act, merely rolling out the hits.
The truth goes marching on, and long may it continue to do so.
PJ Harvey played:
Chain of Keys
The Ministry of Defence
The Community of Hope
A Line in the Sand
The Orange Monkey
Let England Shake
The Words That Maketh Murder
The Glorious Land
When Under Ether
The Ministry of Social Affairs
Down by the Water
To Bring You My Love
Photo: Christie Goodwin
After the ethereal grace of Sigur Ros, the deep web of sound from Moderat was much-needed to see things off an energetic high. Formed from the shoegaze electronics of Apparat, aka Sascha Ring, and the twitching beats and bass rolls of Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary’s Modeselektor, they come together to form something worth far more than the sum of its parts - a dark but oddly lush landscape of electro and post-punk. As the final hours of Primavera Sound draw in, the weary and bleary-eyed masses can't help but lose themselves to dance - no mean feat after three days of such an epic onslaught.
Pantha Du Prince
Three masked and cloaked silhouettes take to the Ray Ban stage for what is for many, the final show of Primavera Sound 2016. It certainly was for us, and we couldn't think of a more perfect or fitting full stop. Why? Because Hendrik Weber's outfit of dark ambience and minimal techno alone represents the eclectic but commanding nature of the entire weekend's line-up: creating that brilliantly enigmatic space between pop and the unnameable, but you can't help but lose yourself in it. Entranced, we rave and sway until the sun comes up - welcoming in a new day, and the end of one unforgettable festival. Thank you, Primavera - see you next year.
Issue Four of the Gigwise Print magazine is on pre-order now! Order here.
More about: Primavera Sound Festival