From Barcelona to the West Coast, the festival delivered big on its signature promises.
Words by Luis (@heaviestofart), Photographs by Luis and Ekaterina Gorbacheva (@ekaterinagorbacheva.art) at the Los Angeles State Historic Park:
Known for curating some of the most unique festival experiences across the world, Primavera Sound is no stranger to momentous occasions and what more than 50,000 fans witnessed at the Los Angeles State Historic Park this past weekend was nothing short of grandiose. The Barcelona, Spain-founded event now made its United States debut with aplomb, bringing a roster of artists both new and established to California for all to bask in. Upon scanning our festival wristbands at the entry, underneath a park bridge glowing with Primavera Sound lettering was a crowd sprawling with enthusiasm, getting ready to kick off a weekend to remember, and what better way to do so than with catching a sight of the beautiful Downtown Los Angeles skyline as Giveon's moving vocal harmonies soared throughout us all.
Eclectic lineups are signature to the Primavera name and Friday's kick-off excelled on that end, offering much in the realm of sonic diversity from beginning to end. The aforementioned Giveon drew a swaying of heads and visible connection with the countless fans singing along staples like Get To You, The Beach, and of course, Drake's Chicago Freestyle. A fast rising powerhouse on a big stage was not to be missed.
The event layout and artist schedule made for seamless traversal, ensuring fans had the ability to compromise little as they jumped from stage to stage in time to catch consecutive sets, which seemed to be the case more often than not. Giveon's ecstatic crowd flocked over to the Tecate Alta Stage nearby to witness Mitski's hypnotizing hymns alongside her expressive stage persona. Mitski's popularity skyrocketed rather quickly in recent years, due in part to her relatability, inviting nature, and soothing soundscape, all of which where felt that evening. Her facial expressions said it all and loud cheers reflected her contemporary strength.
The evening's headliner was next and standing on a ladder supported by a hollow cylinder was New Zealand's celebrated Lorde — a joyous performer who fed off the crowd's roaring energy. Every passing track was met by an electrifying reaction that spoke volumes of the grip that hits like Royals still had on the keen audiences. The stage theatrics, musicianship, and overall atmosphere throughout this headlining set was truly superb.
As we've referenced before, Primavera isn't known to be a linear event. Far from it actually, the musical transition from multifaceted pop to the resounding electro-rock hybrid of Darkside was a thrill, Darkside of whom could likely be categorized as our performance of the night. Lights beamed through the fragmented circle that sat above their stage as they played amidst the fog, adding a level of suspense and mystery to a slow-burning outing that lured you in with bombastic sound. It was vibrant, and at times, downright punishing, rounding out Night 1 of Primavera with majestic darkness.
Take in the sights from Day 1 of Primavera Sound below:
Day 1 Photo Gallery
Day 2 was quite the contrast in more ways than one, as noted from the increased amount of black metal long sleeves, battle vests, and a bloodied Norwegian ensemble playing through Satanic hymns at the Barcelona Stage. The legendary Mayhem would play a rare set in sunlight, yet still masked in corpse paint and embodying the same sadistic spirit that is true to their name. Mayhem's ripping affair brew up a mosh pit — the first and only one of the weekend. Black metal amidst an ambiguous selection of indie rock, pop, and hip-hop is not what you'd expect from a festival, but it's right on character for Primavera's unconventionalities.
Despite the craziness that is a large crowd and the sensory overload of the lineup, there were always areas where one could step away from the action to catch a brief break or simply soak in the scenery. Many found themselves underneath trees or laying on the hilly pasture below the glowing "Made In Barcelona" signage.
The music continues and Houston's Khruangbin delivered a maelstrom of sound that did right by their acclaim. Vibrant strobe lights became one with the trio's world and psychedelic influences, perplexing those close enough to the stage while their soul and funk layers were on full display, setting the bar high for Saturday's closing acts. As Khruangbin's excellence came to a close, Surf Curse commenced and reigned through spirited tracks from their forthcoming album, MAGIC HOUR. Surf rock held a special place that evening at Primavera as Surf Curse connected with the thousands basking in their lively stage presence. Add October 7th to your calendar because Surf Curse have a gem on their hands with MAGIC HOUR.
By this time, Primavera's main stage was packed to the brim for industrial legends Nine Inch Nails. Spread across the smoke underneath flashing bright lights and explosive sound were the Trent Reznor-led group, kicking things off with Somewhat Damaged and treading into the revered Wish. Crowds pushed forward and the intensity was felt as riffs and synth passion raged on.
This career spanning set was a gift to all. Reznor's facial expressions, Ilan Rubin's cataclysmic drumming, Robin Finck's riffing, and Atticus Ross' approach to sound all collided to form one towering feat to aspire to. Consider this one of the festival's best sets by far.
Bicep then flexed their electronic muscle with staggering visuals to boast and vigorous groove that sparked infectious dancing. There's no doubt as to why the duo have been able to headline major events across the world. With light shows this electric and a compositional process this accessible yet intricate, Bicep have already established themselves among the upper echelon of the electronic music ranks and it's with performances such as this that such statement rings true. Day 2 was a hell of ride.
Take in the sights from Day 2 of Primavera Sound below:
Day 2 Photo Gallery
Arctic Monkeys carried Day 3's energy from the moment we entered the gates. The English rock band, led by Alex Turner, commanded long merch lines and a fervent crowd that erupted in cheer at the start of every track. It's important to mention that this success is warranted and not simply a byproduct of high level marketing. They're elite performers who visibly give it their all and the array of tracks chosen for the setlist show for it with diverse qualities and characteristics.
They may have been the big ticket item for Sunday's festivities, but there was much more to enjoy, like Girl In Red, James Blake, Boy Harsher, King Krule, and Cigarettes After Sex. Cigarettes After Sex, who we named as a "must see" act this weekend, swooned the audience with their selections from 2019's Cry and 2017's self-titled, which soothed the thousands after a long day of dancing. Digital screens alternated from black and white to the occasional color imagery as the ideal backdrop to a performance characterized by its mystique. The soft spoken Greg Gonzalez romanced Primavera for a summer night glistening experience to remember.
For artists, debut albums are often make or break moments that dictate a trajectory to follow and what Primavera Sound achieved on their own Los Angeles debut warrants a highly anticipated return. Whether it be at an expansive park or elsewhere, one can surely guarantee that the tens of thousands will flock towards the Primavera gates for whenever it arrives once more, and rightfully so. The festival further cemented itself as an accessible and welcoming experience that excites and astounds through the arts, arts that go beyond just music but intentional extracurricular activities, like the Flatstock poster showcase. There's room for improvement there, but it does little to take away from the already massive collection of performers that kept us enthralled from Day 1 to the wondrous Day 3. Not one headliner was like the other and the supporting cast added additional depth to the day's lineup. This was reflected in the unique audience and fashion sense seen on each day as well, allowing for all to feel comfortable in their own aesthetic and music choice despite the many distinctions.
One thing is certain — Los Angeles gave Primavera a warm welcome that'll leave a lasting memory for the many in attendance, ourselves included.