REVIEW festival Old Subbacultcha Old Subbacultcha

Primavera Sound 2014 smashes the festival season open - fantastico!

The Iberian festival sets the bar high with its curtain raiser to 2014’s festival circuit.

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 17.57.12Snaking its way along the northern Barcelona shoreline, Primavera Sound is a festival that year-on-year boasts a reputation as strong as its line ups. Last weekend was no exception, with a wealth of talent taking to the heavily branded stages. The untimely, and somewhat British-esque, temperamental weather that preceded the festival fortunately cleared up for Thursday evening, which played host to an invasion from across the Atlantic. LA four-piece
Warpaint dipped into 2010’s
The Fool and this year’s self-titled follow up when entertaining the Heineken stage’s crowd, sharing vocal and percussion duties before casually dropping a cover of Bowie’s ‘Ashes to Ashes’. On the Pitchfork stage this year’s most hyped act,
Future Islands, couldn’t be faulted for their endeavour, but unfortunately their live show fell flat on its high notoriety courtesy of the band’s overreliance on frontman Samuel T. Herring to provide interest. A frontman who did captivate however was
Queen of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme; the ginger Elvis effortlessly leading his motley crew through a substantial back catalogue that was well received by the enthusiastic – and inebriated – Spanish crowd. The closing tracks of ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’, ‘Go With the Flow’ and ‘A Song for the Dead’ were the perfect no frills tonic leading into the opening night’s more mellow headliner. Montreal’s
Arcade Fire are broadly considered music’s best live performers, something further endorsed following their recent Reflektor tour. It was the same-titled track from their fourth album that kicked off the show, with the band surrounded by as many flashing lights and mirrors that could fit onto the huge Sony stage.
Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 17.57.41You find yourself not knowing where to look when at an Arcade Fire show, as the band swap instruments as frequently as they play a new song. It’s an assault on the senses, but in the best way possible. Finishing with ‘Wake Up’, they left the stage to a sea of confetti as colourful as their set list. V-Festival fodder, and first UK band on the bill,
Disclosure entertained Primavera’s stag dos with their highly recognisable Oceana-friendly pop tracks. The set was relatively dull and predictable, and after an inexplicable bass guitar made an appearance it was time for an early departure to see the excellent
Metronomy at the Ray Ban amphitheatre. Joe Mount admitted “we aren’t really used to playing shows at 4am”, but the group’s eclectic show was anything but tired, keeping everyone on their feet for set-closer ‘You Could Easily Have Me’. Primavera’s second night opened with the fantastic
Haim, who on their first trip to Spain performed a polished and well-travelled set to a huge early-evening crowd. Taking the mood down slightly on the ATP stage was Brooklyn’s
Sharon Van Etten; her moody ballads eerily fitting for the sunset slot. Aptly named for festival season’s
War on Drugs were exceptional with their late show, frontman Adam Granuciel’s vocals remarkably similar to Bob Dylan’s in tone and delivery.
The National were the band everyone was talking about for the Friday night, and definitely attracted the biggest draw in the main arena. Like Arcade Fire the night previous, the Cincinnati five-piece have developed a reputation for awesome live shows, but with their strengths engrained in sonic intensity rather than dramatic visuals.
Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 17.57.24The reputation was justified, with a career-spanning set list delivering notable highlights through ‘I Should Live In Salt’ and ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’. Guest performers came in the shape of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, the latter contributing to ‘Mr. November’ – fortunately so with Matt Beninger’s microphone breaking mid-track. The late night / early morning amphitheatre gig came from psychedelic Aussie group
Jagwar Ma; their rise and rise over the last twelve months as steep as it is justified. It was the ‘Man I Need’ band’s biggest show to date, the crowd swelling in size as the show went on, and was definitely one of the weekend’s highlights. As can be expected with most festivals, the final day saw a lot of sorry looking punters dragging their heels about the site. The cheap sangria and warm cerveza were taking their toll. Soothing music was in order ahead of Primavera’s final flourish, and it was duly delivered from the beautifully melodic
Volcano Choir. The Compton ying to Wisconsin’s soulful yang came courtesy of
Kendrick Lamar, whose short headline set was as memorable as any other at the festival. The
Good Kid mAAd City rapper entwined his own verses as interludes between tracks, with his opening brace of ‘Money Trees’ and ‘Backseat Freestyle’ as good as anything else over the weekend.
Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 18.10.41After Kendrick came the raucous
Black Lips, whose combination of structured riffs and thrashed drums brought carnage to the Pitchfork tent, before the more poised (unusually so considering their previous)
Foals closed the main arena with a festival-friendly set including ‘Inhaler’ and ‘Two Steps Twice’. Flying the Union Jack one last time was the multi-talented Dev Hynes, whose new 
Blood Orange project brought some funk to a heavy final night in Catalonia. As with previous shows, 'Chamakay' was an alluring highlight. 
Cut Copy’s elongated beat-laden ATP show followed the ex-Test Icicle, with Dan Whiford’s acid squelches closing Primavera for another year. The jewel in the Spanish musical crown is the perfect embodiment of city festival, with the sizable site only minutes from Barcelona’s centre. Tickets are already available for the fifteenth Primavera next summer, and I couldn’t recommend going enough.