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Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 3

  • Published in Live

The sun is still blistering as Dam-Funk brings in da funk, brings in da noise. There’s a two tier set-up, one with the decks, another one with a small synth and a set of mics, and he alternately plays some records and plays some music. A constant there, they all are funky as heck, some on the disco side, others going all out house music. So we get the Detroit, the Chicago, the NY (Dam-Funk helpfully guides us through all that), and he’s sure not to forget to honour the late Prince, doing a couple of his songs.

So, in the sweltering heat, we are dancing. It’s real disco and real house, so it might be too slow for some who like dance music, but it’s my sweet spot, and evidently that of the people behind me as well. So at the front the people are swinging, singing, movin’ and grooving to the house beats and the disco divas. And to Dam-Funk, who, when he takes the reins, shows us the prowess of his own vocals, and who brings the wobbly with his synthesizer as well. A little bit of that Warehouse and Studio 54 in bright sunlight, but in the end, it’s the music that makes the dancing, and this set/show certainly delivers right there.

On that very same Pitchfork stage, just a little bit later, it’s Jenny Hval who does right what Holly Herndon, in my opinion, didn’t succeed at. Yes, it’s experimental, and it is perhaps closer to performance art than it is to music, until you hear the singing and the music, and then it’s a combination between both that downright works. She and her two companions all don wigs with long, blonde hair, and throughout the show they cut in it, use some of it as pubic hair, and rub it all over their arms before finally, for the last two songs, discarding them completely to unveil, for the first time, Hval without mask. Just to, for the last song, quickly throw on a cape for some dancing in unison with one of her partners on stage.

It’s not only that, clearly, she has something to say and, clearly, she isn’t afraid to get in there and get messy in order to convey her message. It’s also that her voice is absolutely beautiful, both in spoken word and singing, and that near the end she even goes for all out party with a nice, catchy beat and the aforementioned prolonged dance routine. And, when she takes off the grotesque mask that she’s been wearing all day, what she unveils is the beauty of womanhood underneath. Which, surely, can be decoded as some sort of symbolism in a performance that’s full of it.

Chairlift gives it the good ol’ dancing try with their set, mixing some of the older, more dreamier work with some of the new, more punchier singles. Personally, the dreamier work does it for me, and you can do a little dancing with your eyes closed on those ones (though at the risk of missing the entertaining and energetic lead singer). The audience, though, goes berserk especially for their single ‘Ch-ching’, which they save as last and which, for most out there, seems to be the right choice.

To end the festival we take a seat at the Ray Bans stage to see Julia Holter and band doing their thing. Her voice sounds good, and you can see these are the pros at work there, with the whole performance oozing with professionalism. Holter is just the latest strong female performer that performed at the festival this year, and she, too, gives the gathered crowd a reason for why they might join her in her European tour later on this summer.

After this seated show we take one more look at all of it all from the top end of the festival site. One more time, the city lights, one more time the throng of people, even though at that point we are seemingly by ourselves in the room upstairs. As the city is prone to do, we become voyeurs, witnesses to life or some sordid thing like it, disconnected yet surrounded by those that at least come close to being similar. Combine this mood with the perfectly eclectic soundtrack throughout all the three days, and it’s just the right darn place to be.


Primavera Sound 2016, Barcelona - Day 2

  • Published in Live


It’s not only the well-known that get a crack at convincing the Primavera crowds, as the young Moses Sumney plays the Pitchfork stage early on in the second day. And, really, he hadn’t expected over a handful people to be there, let alone the sizeable hand he gets dealt early evening. “Who lied to you?”, he asks, smiling, as in his mind the reason people are there cannot possibly be him and his music. He is certainly enjoying himself, treating the audience on one hand to slow, soul & country inspired tracks, and on the other hand he gets the looping pedals going, doing the claps, vocal lines, and other assorted sounds to provide, in the end, a full fledged track over which he sings with a soulful, velvety voice.

The middle part sees most of the slow songs, dragging the pacing a bit, and some of the loops go wrong a tad. Which one can forgive since he does everything himself. In the second to last song he gets the second rhythm clap just a tad wrong, but after a moment’s hesitation decides to just go with it as, well, festival time is unforgiving with the short set-up times between bands. On the whole though, Sumney is pleasant to listen to and, with the sunglasses and cape and the fact he does everything himself, nice to look at. If the album lives up to this promise, maybe next time he is accustomed to those numbers in front of him today.

Same stage, half an hour later, it’s Nao. Her backing band comes on, all in black, and with the slight electronic tinge that her EP has, one perhaps expects something mysterious or broody or the likes. And there she comes, dancing, beaming, and all smiles in the most summery, colourful dress anyone has probably ever owned. The band adds some oomph and takes away some of the cold from her EP, instead even rocking it a bit with some guitar riffs and the likes. In the mean time, Nao is doing the dancing and the singing, both convincingly and with enthusiasm, so much so that it gets contagious. She ends with her track ‘Zillionaire’, which is basically an ode to loving and being happy (as money don’t mean a thang). That is what she not only sings, but exudes as well, and the message gets across.

As far as headliners go, they just don’t get much bigger than Radiohead. It’s silly to expect anything less than a simply jam packed field full of people, an undoubtedly eclectic mix between the die hard creeps, those that never leave the main stage area anyway, and those curious by the skyscraper like reputation of Thom Yorke and band. Surprisingly, the sound even in the belly of the beast is excellent, the band even at times visible due to the slightly upwards curve of the field, and all those kinds of people (after an initial hush by the fans unable to get further upfront) join in with attentively listening to the band. Unheard of, really, and Radiohead manages to cash in on that and deliver a super set.

The band goes from super small to a bigger sound, to more experimental to the hits that everyone knows. ‘Paranoid Android’ is there, a superb version of ‘Street Spirit (Fade Out)’, and the band connects so much with all them fans that the crowd spontaneously erupts in a chorus of For a minute there, I lost myself. And then, at the end, the gut punch, the heartbreaker, the ode to all the people who are prone to gather at the Primavera festival; "I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here". It takes a second encore to get there, but they get there, and you can see it’s what many people wanted to hear and the lines with which they want to join in and resonate.

Holly Herndon’s album isn’t the easiest listen, but I’ve worked my way through my share of experimental sounds, including hers on tape. Live, though, she goes from experimental and outside of the box to downright inhospitable, making it such a tough listen for me that I’m finding myself moving further and further away until I’m nowhere near the stage anymore. I’m not demanding three chord songs and verse-chorus-verse structures, but these sounds asked for a ticket that I didn’t have on me, excluding me rather quickly from whichever group it is that might enjoy her live show.

On the Adidas stage it is Shura who brings her brand of dreamy electro/synth-pop to a crowd that already includes some definite fans, eagerly awaiting her arrival and giving her the idol treatment. I like her songs, but despite her at one point donning a guitar and moving all over the stage, the band’s sound seems a notch too tame to really win the votes and hearts of those out there. Compared to a Nao earlier that day, and Jessy Lanza the day before, it feels a bit too sleepy-headed, making it a slight dud to end the second day with.

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