Kicking off the summer of European festivals Primavera Sound, held from 31 May – 4 June is this year celebrating its 17th birthday. The line up has once again put the festival up there with some of the best the world over, boasting a vast line up including Grace Jones, The XX, The Arcade Fire and Solange.
The festival’s tag line is “Where music meets”, and of course, it’s a fitting one. Across a whole week, bands, solo artists and DJs play to crowds amongst Barcelona’s Parc del Fòrum – a space filled with a strange but beautiful mix of concrete, Brutalist architecture and the soft blues of the Mediterranean Sea.
Solange played the Mango stage in the early evening just as the sun had set, and it’s safe to say she’s left the “Beyonce’s sister” tag far, far behind her. Her performance was filled with the wisdom and beauty of her latest release, A Seat at The Table and the large crowd were ecstatic as she opened with the album’s first track, ‘Rise’.
Throughout the set, her two backing singers and trumpet players, all dressed in the same pink hues of her own outfit, flowed about her with ease, pulling shapes and complimenting her vocals. Other highlights from the recent album included ‘Weary’, ‘Cranes In The Sky’ and the encore ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’. Alongside these she also added in older tracks ‘Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work Out’ and the single ‘Losing You’, both from her 2012 True EP.
Whilst Solange drew a large crowd, with people queuing way ahead of the set time to get to the front, as she got on stage a lucky few were treated to a secret show by Arcade Fire who played a mix of classic and new songs in preparation for their Saturday night slot.
Shortly after these sets finished, over on the main Heineken stage Justin Vernon and his band were setting up to play, fittingly, with the moon shining brightly up above. The quiet, contemplative crowd were at once enraptured with the instrumentals of Bon Iver’s ‘22 (Over Soon)’ as his voice began to carry out across the many. It very quickly became clear that a Bon Iver set is capable of keeping a very large crowd very quiet and quite enchanted for the whole of an hour set!
However it wasn’t all soft and quiet on stage, Vernon brought out the auto-tuned vocals fairly promptly, performing a stripped back version of ‘33 “God”’ which brought the auto-tuned words to centre stage. In songs from the new album, bass was heavier and harder, Vernon was audibly experimenting with the songs live on stage performing extended re-works of songs and live looped recordings in songs such as ’21 Moon Water’.
Older songs were few and far between, although he did dedicate a track from 2009’s Blood Bank EP to the audience; “This song is about all of you, it’s called Beach Baby”, which saw the band perform a beautiful, extensive instrumental to finish. To close, the band also played a track from For Emma, Forever Ago – ‘Creature Fear’, which served as a reminder of how just how far Justin Vernon has moved on from the songs that thrust him into the limelight in the first place. Nevertheless, whilst 22, A Million displays a stylistic shift from earlier records, the songs still feel at the core, as heartfelt and fragile as For Emma, Forever Ago ever does.
Take a look to the best moments of the festival with our complete photo recap of Day 1, featuring Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire, Death Grips, Glass Animals, Jens Lekman, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, Slayer, The Black Angels and more.
Words by Heather Welsh.
Pictures by Alberto Dal Santo, Eric Pamies, Garbine Irizard & Dani Canto.
Note: Bon Iver and Aphex Twin didn’t allow us to take any shots 🙁