Reviews

Primavera Sound 2014

Primavera Sound 2014 – Parc del Forum Barcelona

Primavera is at the forefront of forward thinking European music festivals. With its undeniably Mediterranean character and flair, it’s impeccably curated and diverse lineup and a host of sponsors that actually mean something to music, the festival sits in a unique pole position when it comes to European alternative festivals. 2014 was an important year for Primavera, as the sun-drenched affair turned fifteen. As it’s artistic Wes Anderson-esque promo videos constantly reminded us fifteen is an age of great extremes. One that can symbolise intense creativity and the cultivation of individuality, yet also one filled with hurdles to cross and awkward growing pains. Celebrating it’s hypothetical quinciñera all of this was apparent, Primavera was at times flawless and unabridged with creativity; case in point its diverse, truly international lineup. Yet despite this, at times struggled to find and maintain a solid identity. Indeed the addition of this year’s intrusive and divisive stage-front VIP areas being evidence of this.

Thursday

Thursday evening saw the official launch of the three day festival with surf rock virtuosos Real Estate warming up the ever-growing crowds at the Heineken stage. With their array of instant classics and the late afternoon Mediterranean sun slowly descending, it was the perfect tone set for the weekend ahead. Warpaint displayed their avant-garde indie pop with style and skill, withUndertow’s distant echoing riffs drifting across the crowds.

Headliners Arcade Fire put on a characteristically grand spectacle on the Sony Stage, donning white lamé sequined suits, the world’s new biggest band fulfilled the needs of a chorus hungry audience nicely, with lead vocalist Win Butler stating that Barcelona was a city he wanted to live in. A brilliant live band, if you’ve seen Arcade Fire you’ll know about the incessant instrument swapping and abstract dancing, it’s a fascinating show, yet at times a tad repetitive. This having been my fourth time seeing the Canadian collective, it was a mixed affair; on the one hand they were musically brilliant and entertaining, yet on the other a tad formulaic.

British brothers done good, Disclosure put on an extensive and impressive set on the Heineken stage, relying heavily on material from debut album Settle. A showcase of musical ability, there were many hooks sung, basslines played live and intricate percussion, causing anyone to call these two ‘button pushers’ to be scoffed. A set that passed by all too quickly the duo left the crowd desiring more.

The night’s electronic baton was passed onto Montrealer Lunice and his eclectic sounds of trap-tinged Hip Hop in the Boiler Room and Bowers & Wilkins Stage. Within the swirling igloo of a stage with impressive visuals and impeccable sound, the one half of now defunct supergroup, TNGHT, put on a show to remember, with dancing on decks and a forward thinking Hip Hop set. The night’s electronica reached a crescendo in the form of Jamie XX and his eclectic mix of bass heavy remixes. Playing the Ray Ban stage, an amphitheater overlooking the sea, the young Londoner played his rendition of disco classics and minimalism to a hugely appreciative audience.

Friday

Friday began with sister act trio Haim, undeniably the unexpected rockstars of the weekend. With their unique blend of chillwave hits numerous improvised classic rock jams and the best bassface in the industry, the Los Angeles trio were flawless from start to finish and were the paramount of crowd interaction throughout the weekend.

The Pixies were more or less what was to be expected. It was a performance that whilst technically impeccable, lacked any significant drive. The idea of a Greatest Hits nights was dispelled almost instantaneously as new material from this year’s ‘Indie Cindy’ remained on heavy repeat. With only a handful of classics and zero crowd interaction, their set felt removed, distant and resting on historical laurels.

Continuing Friday’s indie theme were Brooklynites, The National with their extensive collection of emotionally driven indie rock songs. With an unexpected guest appearance by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon for ‘Slow Show’ with lead singer, Matt Berninger quipping that he had only taught him how to play guitar last week.

SBTRKT Live saw the end of the night at the ATP stage; the man in the mask taking to the stage with two others and a 50 foot inflatable panther. A delayed set, tragically plagued with technical difficulties led to the London producer’s distinct sound becoming a tad lost, however new material from his upcoming album was promising and extremely well received.

Saturday

Saturday saw the main Hip Hop contingent of the festival out in force. With Macaculy Caulkin’sThe Pizza Underground’s last-minute, unexplained cancellation, we headed to the Pitchfork stage to witness the mysterious drive within Odd Future, Earl Sweatshirt. A man still relatively new to the live music game Earl’s set was a mixed affair. Dogged by lousy sound and vocals lost within bass, he fell into the pitfalls of live Hip Hop on numerous occasions. That being said, when it came to stage presence, the young rapper was energetic and interactive.

Transatlantic troubadour Dev Hynes’ latest project, Blood Orange were the Pitchfork stage’s undisputed champions of Saturday night. With their emotionally wrought collection of vintage songs they were sleek and soulful with a mystical edge, the definition of a brilliant live band.

Dispelling numerous rumours about poor live performances, Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar put on a fast paced, energetic set laden with modern Hip Hop classics. With a talented backup band donning FC Barcelona shirts it was a fun set that fitted in effortlessly into this musically diverse lineup.

Altogether, Primavera was an intricately directed festival, with few details spared. All of this making it somewhat of a benchmark for alternative music festivals. It had the reunion acts, it had undiscovered talent, all of which it delivered in a unique yet professional way. If we compare Primavera Sound in it’s relatively young stage of life, it’s impossible to deny that it’s a festival that its older counterparts should be looking to and learning from.

Words: Charlie Jaco

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