5 Highlights From Primavera Sound 2024 Thursday, May 30

    Year after year, Primavera Sound upholds its reputation as one of the most diverse festivals in the world, and my first day at this year’s Barcelona event seemed to encompass it all: ambient, indie, hardcore, and at least a couple of subgenres with the divisive “hyper” prefix. But the Parc del Fórum is a place where none of it felt discordant or without purpose, and even sets I didn’t catch in full left a mark. Amyl and the Sniffers proved that energy really is their currency, Sofia Kosurtesis reminded us how music makes you feel better, Peggy Gou kept the party going, and A.G. Cook stretched Britpop into the early morning just hours after one of the actual genre’s big three, Pulp, took the main stage. In chronological order, here are five highlights from the first day of Primavera Sound 2024.

    Pondering Time With William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops

    The festival environment doesn’t lend itself to pensive reflection, but the prospect of hearing The Disintegration Loops live at the Auditori Rockdelux – my first time visiting the indoor venue after three years of attending the festival – was too enticing to pass up. Any kind of ambient music is a strange way to kick off your Primavera experience, but given the near-mythic story behind the album – a masterpiece composed on September 11, 2001 by transferring reel-to-reel tape loops to a digital format and capturing their gradual deterioration – its performance by a small orchestra took on a level poignancy (and nuance) I’d try to intellectualize if I wasn’t writing this on the way to another show.

    Though the set had already begun when I took a seat, the fact that I could already hear those familiar horn sounds as I walked in felt fitting. The place was packed, and just thirty minutes later, the purportedly hour-long show was over. I figured it had, for whatever reason, started thirty minutes earlier than announced, which someone in attendance confirmed to me, though several others were left wondering the same thing: “Was that it? Did we miss it?” Which are probably the exact questions Basinisksi would have liked to leave us with. He got up to say a few words at the end, informing us that the musicians managed bring the piece to life after just two rehearsals. “Let me tell you something: It looks simple, but it ain’t,” he remarked. (Also: “I’m not Phillip Glass, okay?”) A bit of a letdown for those of us who only caught so much, but totally transfixing – like time, I guess.

    Mannequin Pussy’s Heavenly Catharsis

    Credit: Gisela Jané

    Mannequin Pussy brought the fire at the Plenitude stage on Thursday evening, right opposite the Steve Albini stage that had just paid tribute to the late underground icon with a listening party of Shellac’s new album. (“Shellac and 249 more,” reads one of this year’s merch shirts.) Woven together by Marisa “Missy” Dabice’s alluring theatrics and impassioned speeches about religion, capitalism, and police brutality, the band’s set was visceral and life-affirming throughout. Despite some technical difficulties (it seemed Missy had trouble hearing her vocals, noticeably fractured and breathy during the more melodic parts yet always astounding in their intensity) and audience chatter marring the first half of their set, the show absolutely erupted after ‘Loud Bark’, whose opening notes everyone around me whooped at louder than most of I Got Heaven‘s advance singles. From there, it was ripper after ripper and sweet, heavenly catharsis.

    Vampire Weekend Deliver the Hits, Jam Band-Style

    Credit: Sergio Albert

    Vampire Weekend were the perfect band to headline the first day e of Primavera, even if they’re the sort of indie band you’d rather watch as the sun goes down than way into the night. Having played Coachella, Kilby Block Party, and Radio 1’s Big Weekend earlier this year, they happily showcased highlights from their new album, Only God Was Above Us – ‘Capricorn’, ‘Gen-X Cops’, and ‘Connect’ – for the first time in Spain, along with an array old of hits. While they didn’t go full jam band mode – I guess Primavera has to tap into that market for us to get another 30+ minute ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ – they did get pretty jammy with songs from across their catalog, and it was the most thrilling part of their show.

    That was especially the case during the extended version of ‘New Dorp, New York’, the SBTRKT track to which Ezra Koenig contributed vocals a decade ago. Alongside Father of the Bride‘s ‘Sympathy’, it became the set’s unlikely centerpiece, suddenly music worth raving about and to as everyone on stage virtuosically yet playfully played off each other. Equally impressive and dynamic was the show’s general presentation, from the lighting to the video art – some of the best I’ve seen at any festival – which solidified the impression that Vampire Weekend were there to do more than conjure indie’s golden era; they’re still pushing it forward. But they also knew when to stick to the script and cater to an audience gleefully mouthing along even to Koenig’s wordiest verses. Every now and then, the frontman would gesture his hands widely, lest we forget the existential dread that belies the band’s sunny hooks. And how could we ignore it when they closed with a powerful rendition of ‘Ya Hey’, meeting us right there on the festival grounds, the air already cool, the sun already down.

    Yeule Is Electric

    Despite conflicting with sets by Pulp and Deftones, yeule had a devoted crowd to captivate and tease just after midnight at the Plenitude stage. The Singaporean singer-songwriter-producer, who used to describe their project as a “cyborg entity,” makes transcendent music so vaporous and gauzy it’s hard to translate to a live setting. “Post-humanism and cyborg theory came from a deep hatred for my body,” they’ve explained, and their conceptual and artistic progression manifested in deeply embodied and human performance. (I’m curious how different it was when they played the festival two years ago.) Rather than let the show blur into a dreamy, distorted reverie, yeule made it feel like an actual rock show (not unlike Yves Tumor the year prior), with songs like ‘dazies’ clearly owing a debt to the alt-metal heroes whose music could be heard not too far away. They displayed full command of the stage as soon as they launched into Glitch Princess‘ ‘Electric’, accompanied by an energetic live drummer who reveled in every hit, and the songs from their latest album softscars sounded mesmerizing, too. But the moment the audience was waiting and rapt for arrived with the euphoric ‘Bites on My Neck’, in which yeule sings, “I had to walk into the fire to know how to feel.” That was the feeling alright.

    The Armed Jolt Us Awake

    After eight hours on the festival grounds, I couldn’t think of a better way to be jolted back to life than the sonic onslaught of the Armed’s 2am set, which had me questioning if there was something wrong with my earplugs or if it was really that loud at the Plenitude stage. Given the mystery surrounding the experimental hardcore collective and its members, seeing them live was as intensely thrilling as it was overwhelming. The band ripped through highlights from 2021’s ULTRAPOP and last year’s Perfect Saviors with wild abandon and damn-near clinical precision, barely ever softening except for the refrain of ‘Sport of Form’. Members shared vocal duties as well as their time in the spotlight, making it feel like a communal celebration even as it was Tony Wolski’s stage presence that clearly stood out. “Wake up, the real fun’s about to start,” he said about halfway through, and he wasn’t wrong.

    Follow along with our Primavera Sound 2024 coverage here.

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