Primavera Sound Los Angeles: Weekend Recap
Primavera Sound, the infamous festival birthed 20 years ago in Barcelona, brought its presence to North American audiences this past weekend. The festival took place in Los Angeles, a city known for its rich Latino heritage and presence–an apt choice to bridge the transatlantic gap and host a lineup of artists described as “gender-balanced and musically plural” by the fest.
Boasting 65 acts and four stages, Los Angeles Historic Park served as an idyllic location for the mid-September occasion. Spread across the park’s length, walking between the Smirnoff Ice DJ Stage, the Tecate Alta secondary stage, Primavera main stage, and the intimate Barcelona stage was just a short stroll. Ample shade and a slight breeze each day brought a reprieve from the toasty temperatures, while small hills and gigantic LED Screens ensured there wasn’t a bad seat (or, rather, a place to stand) throughout the fest.
The crowd ranged from infants to seasoned live-music veterans and spanned across various cultures–acting as a mirror to the acts showcased. The festival is one curated and known for blending the underrated with more expected festival favorites, as such, the weekend carved a space for music discovery as well as recognition. No singular genre dominated, though each day felt distinct. Friday featured female-fronted indie-pop headliners Lorde, Clairo, and Mitski. Saturday served as the most heavy-rock and electronic-based day of the three, featuring Nine Inch Nails, Kim Gordon, Fontaines D.C., and Bicep. Sunday rounded out the weekend and offered more experimental bluesy and punk rock that included Gustaf, King Krule, and the anticipated return of Arctic Monkeys.
Attendance to single days was a viable option for those seeking to see genres suited to their pallet, though patronage for the whole weekend meant more room for exploration in between. As a whole weekend attendee myself, there was certainly discovery–though I’d be remiss to say everything I wanted to hear and see was accomplished. Such is the plight of a festival with too many enticing acts…
Here are a few of my favorite moments from what I did catch:
Kicking off the fest, Chicago-via-Bogotá band Divino Niño took to the Tecate Alta stage first. Camilo Medina, Javier Forero, Guillermo Rodriguez-Torres, and Pierce Codina brought swagger and stage presence that matched the groove and dream poppy sounds they played. Hip swinging abounded. Closing out with kisses to the crowd, Media sent us off with thanks and multiple repetitions of, “Mwah, Mwah.”
The most ardent moment I witnessed over the weekend occurred on the first night with Mustafa, a Toronto-based singer and poet. Black and white videos of figures smiling played behind him on a loop as he recited songs from his debut album When Smoke Rises. He described the album as one that formed as he grieved his tumultuous childhood in Toronto’s housing projects. By the end of the set, Mustafa let us in to tell us those on the screen were friends who had passed as a result of circumstances surrounding his upbringing. Mustafa played with sincerity and commanded the attention of the crowd which was certainly left touched by the raw display of emotion.
Following a raucous sound check that saw “Kids” played almost in its entirety, Los Angles-based indie rockers, Current Joys, closed the Barcelona stage down for the night. “What’s up Barcelona… that’s a Primavera Joke,” singer Nick Rattigan bellowed before launching into one of his signature melancholic songs. Though their lyrics my illicit feelings of nostalgia and sorrow, Current Joys live renditions bring a crowd to the point of moshing, some hard-core guitar riffs, and even Rattigan feigning death halfway through the set. Current Joys is one for theatrics, and I love them for it.
Coming off of her North American tour, Lorde was in top shape to give a tight performance to finish up the first day of Primavera Sound. The pop-icon played a set imbued with favorites from her 3 LPs, though heavily leaned into the themes of her most recent Solar Power. There was dancing, there was crying, but mostly there was an invitation for all of us to soak in the last rays of the summer sun as she set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
Pictures also include Clairo and Jehnny Beth
Irish post-punk rockers Fontaines D.C. made the second stop of their North American tour at Primavera on Saturday. Already well established on the European circuit, it seemed as though American audiences were more than willing to welcome them with open arms. Singer Grian Chatten writhed along the stage as he crooned about a selection of songs, many of which were pulled from their most recent album, Skinty Fia.
Khruangbin sent everyone swaying from their first note, putting a pause on the high-intensity rock roster of the day. Psychedelic projections, slinky dances, and heavy bass lines seethed from the threesome on stage. Peaking came with the stellar melody of, “The Message / Rapp Snitch Knishes / Coffin Nails / Gazzillion Ear / Genius of Love / Simon Says / Footsteps in the Dark / Regulate / Nuthin’ but a G Thang / Got Your Money / Electric Relaxation / Girls Dem Sugar / Get Money / True / Summer Madness / What’s Love Got to Do With It / Summer Madness (Reprise).”
(I had to look that one up)
I had yet to see Khruangbin live pre-Primavera, but I knew they’d be good–I had no idea they’d be THAT good.
Nick Rattigan and most of the Current Joys crew returned Saturday night to grace the Tecate Alta stage. With the addition of Jacob Rubeck, Surf Curse played in anticipation of their forthcoming album MAGIC HOUR. Of all of the performances over the weekend, I felt this one had the most murmurs around it of, “going to be fun.” And fun it was: crowd surfing, moshing, the ever-charismatic Rattigan begging, “are you entertained yet?” while standing one-legged on his drum kit–what more could you ask for in a Surf Curse set? How about a new song they’d written three days prior? Well, they snuck that in there too.
Saturday’s rock-heavy lineup closed out with quintessential industrial rockers of the 21st century, Nine Inch Nails. Complete with smoke, lasers, synth, and the sound of Trent Reznor’s guitar reverberating through the park, NIN put on a show to garner the attention of an audience that spanned generations. Of all the acts, it seemed as though Nine Inch Nails had the largest fanbase devoted solely to their performance–NIN tees and hats united a sea of people in front of the Primavera stage as the set surely went down as one to write home about.
Pictures also include Kim Gordon, Tierra Whack, Georgia, Paloma Mami, and Derby Motorola’s Burrito Kachimba
Of all the performances this weekend, I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed Gustaf’s. Brooklyn-based five-piece art punk rockers began the final day of Primavera on the Tecate Alta Stage. Donning eclectic costumes and performing convulsive dances, vocalist Lydia Gammill jeered at the crowd while Tarra Thiessen echoed her sentiments in an altered vibrato. Results were comical though Gammill’s descriptive lyrics (and attention-commanding interjections) gave room for a bit more contemplation than I’d anticipated.
Effortlessly cool Faye Webster opened the Primavera stage on its final day. Despite playing mid-day, Webster drew a large crowd of devotees. Webster’s soft-spoken delivery of poignant lyrics made for an introspective listening experience that clearly resonated with the audience. Standout moments from the set included a rendition of the band’s favorite Pokémon song “Lake” by Go Ichinosend and a sweet moment where a fan threw a stuffed Pokemon Squirtle to Webster. It’s easy to root for a self-assured Webster, but what makes it even easier is seeing her admiration and willingness to engage with those showing up for her.
Continuing on with the effortlessly cool look, Archy Marshall (aka King Krule) performed an abridged set following Webster. Surprisingly, his set was the only one I saw that didn’t start exactly when it was scheduled to–major kudos to the festival operations team on that. Despite “feel[ing] like shit” King Krule delivered fan favorites like “Dum Surfer” and “Stoned Again,” as he plodded back and forth on stage. With his singular gold tooth glinting in the sun King Krule’s voice droned on in the best way possible. There are quite a few artists I’ll be listening to non-stop in the coming weeks and King Krule will be taking the top spot on that list.
What can be said about Arctic Monkeys that hasn’t already? The Brits packed in next to me in the hours leading up the final headline act of the fest would say they were, “the most prolific English band of the 21st Century… you just can’t argue with that,” and I certainly won’t. Arctic Monkeys played with a measured sense of professionalism that pulled the crowd forward in an attempt to get just a little bit closer. With Alex Turner as the ringleader, they delivered a setlist for the people: greatest hits pulled across the span of 20 years. A chaotic crowd pulsed to the heavy bass lines of tracks from 2013’s AM and shoved back and forth to hits like, “From the Ritz to the Rubble” and “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” off of their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
All in all, Arctic Monkeys delivered an absolute all-timer of a show. I’m happy to know that I was a part of the historic crowd there to witness it when I recount my time at the inaugural Primavera Sound Los Angeles.
Pictures also include girl in red