Primavera Sound 2019


A sun drenched Barcelona sea front played host to a very exciting lineup of aging cult heroes, rising talents and globally known superstars.

Primavera Sound 2019 was a shining example of how a major city festival can be delivered at an extremely high standard. From the latest in all things working class, say it how it is, British thuggery via Slowthai to the privileged and universally marmite-like Miley Cyrus, the various stages of differing sponsorships and sizes had something for everyone.

Beverage time.

Arriving at around half 4 or 5 on the Thursday, my colleagues and I went straight for the Primavera Stage to see Pavement icon Stephen Malkmus perform an arsenal of alt-rock jams. Bordering on boring, he’s no doubt a favourite the world over amongst the American indie church circa 1992 – 99. His latest fully solo record Groove Denied will certainly please Pavement/Malkmus worshippers and his chilled and fun set here certainly warmed the hearts of many locals and international visitors.

The 2nd beverage.

Up next something a bit more upbeat and certainly riddled with darker undertones. Detroit rapper Danny Brown came through with a set bursting with energy, with fans of many different nationalities, skin colours and favoured drugs equally enjoying a frantic hour of quirky rap bangers such as ‘Dip’ and ‘Smokin & Drinkin’. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Mr. Brown and it definitely won’t be my last. He absolutely smashed the Ray Ban Stage with his fantastic flow and killer cadence, an impressive feat considering he spent 90% of his time doing shuttle runs either side of the stage; fit as a fiddle is our Danny.

The 3rd beverage.

Mac Demarco‘s live chops on the other hand, seem to be dying of fucking heart disease. The serial smoker and lover of shitty sounding synths, found himself performing a Netflix comedy special rather than a singer songwriting recital to be proud of. Don’t get me wrong, the man’s set is filled with strokes of lo-fi indie genius from the likes of 2 and Salad Days, his rendition of ‘My Kind of Woman’ in particular is always a fan favourite, but he didn’t seem to take it seriously. It’s the fourth time I’ve seen the geezer and this was by far the most disappointing. Sloppy instrumentation with no punch or zzziiip, versions of tracks from his latest record Here Comes The Cowboy were particularly embarrassing, ‘Choo Choo’ perhaps certifying Mac as an artist who blew up too quickly, who is now losing his will to live up to those lofty indie pigeon holes my generation has placed him in. We only have ourselves to blame.

Beverages 4 and 5.

Moving on, we found a glimmer of hope in Australia’s Courtney Barnett, which lifted me from an unwanted depression about not having any ciggies left and there being no tobacco kiosks in sight; a bit of a ballache for any idiot cigarette chonger. Barnett and her bandmates played hard, heavy and with great showmanship as the sun set on the beautiful Barca shore, fake plastic turf underfoot providing a steady platform to enjoy cuts from the singer’s fantastic records Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit and Tell Me How You Really Feel. Fucking gobfulls I know, but so we’re the gulps of overpriced ale I was taking to fully immerse myself into the overseas festival experience. During this set I noticed how subdued the place was – there was an ounce of respect I found that other festival goers around the world, particularly Britain, fail to invite upon themselves. I will tell you one thing though, the Spaniards love a ciggie, shame there’s no fucker to bum one from! What’s Spanish for “sorry to bother you, may I please be a leech?”

Bevvy 6.

Primavera Sound 2019

At this point it’s all about Interpol for me, the coolest band in the world. Fronted by the stoic Paul Banks, Interpol are a group I’ve loved since a wee teenage lad. This second live viewing of the 4 piece was overall a satisfactory experience. Interpol have often been criticised for their live sound and apparent downward turn in quality of record since 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights but for me, songs from all their LPs held up really well. A rendition of ‘Rest My Chemistry’ in particular had me in sporadic rapture as it’s something I’ve never heard live before. Of course, there are many things I’ve never heard live before, but it’s such a powerful and relatable track that I’ve always held close to my heart. To hear it in the flesh as it were made the hairs stand up and the smirks amongst friends ache on through the night. Accompanying this headline performance was a simple yet engaging light show featuring disco ball-like strobing, it made the whole hour and a bit seem grander and ultimately more of a spectacle to admire. Top notch stuff.

Harry Potter and the 7th Beverage… Parts 1 and 2… (8th Beverage)

Finishing the first night then were Empress Of, a musical project headed by Honduran-American Lorely Rodriguez. Despite technical issues 20 mins into her set on the watersided Pitchfork Stage, the duo under the lights produced a dreamy yet driven sound. Featuring a wealth of sampled drums and rich melodies via bouncy synths, Rodriguez was on fire. My friend Salah said her latest record Us was a solid release and he was certainly enjoying his time in the warm Spanish night air, Sassuolo kit en all! Although lyrically it’s as default as it comes, Empress Of really impressed me, the track ‘All For Nothing’ especially proving to be a bastard of an ear worm; can’t get rid of the fucker.

The desire to crack on after difficulties, which in the end were sorted by Rodriguez herself, very much cemented themselves as a contender for best act so far. Even better than Banks and company, with Barnett coming a close third.

Right I’m ending the beverage count coz its gonna get silly…

Snail Mail, an artist that came to life via the gorgeous vocals/guitar playing from the young and talented Lindsey Jordan, were an excellent opener for Saleh, Slew and I. Arriving with a hangover, lessened greatly by the hour long walk to the festival venue from our Air Bnb, the chilled, sorrowful tunes from her debut effort Lush are an even greater natural remedy for the post alcohol blues. Well, this and the fact there was more alcohol to consume… Anyway, it livened us up as we ironically sat down on the grassy knoll, with the temperatures continuing to assassinate our senses. Slew even fell akip.

Moving on through our itinerary, we saw many a fine act. Australia’s Pond in particular were a tight, well-oiled machine whose energetic and flamboyant frontman showed the Spanish crowds how to dance on the Adidas Originals stage. Later on, the absolutely immense Canadian group that is Fucked Up would do the same. This would also be our second viewing of the… well, “fucked up” outfit.

The first night we arrived in Barcelona (Wednesday) we ventured to the Apollo Club, where we were delighted to gain entry via our festival tickets and witness a band I have heard of but never listened to. Fronted by David Abraham, another energetic and most definitely flamboyant singer, Fucked Up had the crowd in the palm of their hand right from the first chorus of ‘Dose Your Dreams’. The second time was even better, even without the dark and tight setting of the venue, which definitely added fuel to the fire. Alas, Fucked Up absolutely battered the daytime crowd, Abrahams brutal and at times indecipherable vocals proving a melodic machine gun to the masses. Screaming back the words “Dying on the inside! Dying on the inside!” to their banger ‘The Other Shoe’, it definitely made my festival so far. I even got a picture with Abraham just minutes later watching Jawbreaker, what a time to be alive!

Primavera Sound 2019

Speaking of Jawbreaker, a legendary punk rock trio from New York, New York, it was another fascinating watch. Saleh really got into the spirit, especially during numbers such as ‘Boxcar’ and ‘Jet Black’. I was equally enthralled by the energy from the trio who find themselves in their early to mid 50s. I can’t even get up the stairs to my flat sometimes without a click of the knee and I’m only 23! Here Blake Schwarzenbach is playing guitar with his fucking teeth at 52, dropping to his knees in an almost James Brown tribute act manner; man’s a legend. But to be fair, I think that says more about my health than anyone else’s, I need help!

Later that evening we found ourselves miles and miles away from even seeing Kevin Parker’s tiny Aussie head when Tame Impala took to the Pull & Bear stage. This distance sort of killed it for me, that and having to wait a ridiculous amount of time for 2 thirds of a pint in a cup we had to carry round all day. In the words of Sean Bean’s Sharpe, “the bastards!”. Failing to secure any fresh ale for a decent light show accompanied by absolute tunes such as ‘Elephant’, ‘Let It Happen’ and ‘The Less I Know The Better’, we hedged our bets and waited for Robyn in the distance. Once sat down and finding a quieter bar we did actually have a much better experience. You’d be surprised how good ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ sounds when you’re sat down on practically a 3G pitch, smoking a fake Marlboro you bought from a shady mustached man with your mate who’s donning a Marine FC kit; super vibes broseph.

I should say earlier in the day I did venture off on my own to see Kurt Vile. It was the most boring shit I’ve ever seen. I know he’s a chill guy but fuck me, can he do anything other than say “come ooonn maaaaann” after every song. In conclusion, Mr. Vile needs to liven up and sunglasses are overrated. Britain’s Suede, on the other hand, are a fucking masterclass in live performance. Just like Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin, the London rock legends were the personification of energy, desire and commitment to the cause. Rifling through classic tunes like ‘We Are The Pigs’, ‘Trash’, ‘The Beautiful Ones’ and of course, ‘Animal Nitrate’, Anderson and company delivered the performance of the festival so far. I know I keep saying that but honestly, as Primavera wore on, the sets just got better and better. This progression of quality and enjoyment was evident during Suede’s lengthy Ray Ban Stage set, it was a glorious time. Shame we were lacking extra curricular items at that particular moment.

An act we had all been anticipating was just around the corner. As we gathered at the SEAT Stage lagers in hand, we speculated the sort of performance we were going to receive from the seemingly revived Robyn. I must admit the only song I had ever heard and loved by the Swedish artist was 2007’s classic ‘With Every Heartbeat’ (featuring Kleerup), an absolute beast of a tune. I soon realised merely 2 songs in that I had been an utter idiot for not delving into her back catalogue earlier, the eccentric performer has a lot of amazing tunes. It felt like a nightclub at times, finding myself dancing like ye dar after a few lagers at the family barbecue, her music filled me with hope and excitement for the future. This feeling has certainly been touched upon by some performances I had seen this year, but Robyn absolutely took the biscuit when it came to delivering euphoric tunes of electro pop excellence. ‘Dancing On My Own’ and ‘Missing U’ were other highlights during this set and really capped off another excellent day of live musical consumption. At least for the main acts anyway, at Primavera goes right into the early hours of the morning and I fucking love it.

Saturday would have to be pretty special to live up to the previous days so far. Fortunately, it was an incredible time from start to finish. Not only were there many fantastic acts to sink our teeth into – Stereolab, Loyle Carner, Built To Spill and a Breeders covers band were particularly enjoyable – but it was the only time I had managed to get hold of some of those extra curricular items I mentioned earlier on.

Lizzo @ Primavera Sound 2019

With mind and body certainly enhanced and loving life, I left Salah and Slew to continue watching their Champions League Final – which had so kindly been presented in the Heineken Stage – and meet up with some lovely southern chaps to witness the absolute musical unit that is Lizzo. Bold and unashamed, Lizzo was by far the most upbeat, likeable and exuberant festival performer. Her latest album Cuz I Love You has really catapulted the Houston artist’s superstardom, with bangers such as ‘Good as Hell’ and ‘Truth Hurts’ getting a shit load of attention and praise, and rightly so. Declaring something along the lines of “this one’s for all the bad bitches out there…” the crowd was a constant flow of drunk Spainard lava on the Barcelona shore. The Lotus stage, located on actual sand, the first sand I had felt all weekend, was left in tatters. It felt like an extremely satisfying performance and due to certain effects from certain things, I felt like a bad bitch too; her performance will stick out in my mind for quite some time. If you’re off to Glastonbury definitely check her out, you won’t regret it, Lizzo is definitely a one of a kind and just like her Instagram name, she really be eating the success boi.

With dignity left in a thankfully stable condition after dancing like the whitest man alive, alongside shoes filled with bastard sand, we ventured all the way across the seemingly longest bridge on planet Earth to witness the slick, cool and multi-talented James Blake. Mr. Blake’s 2019 album Assume Form is so far one of the best records of the year, if not challenging for top spot. A mix of soul, rnb and haunting Radiohead-like jaunts, it’s an album I looked forward greatly to hearing in the flesh. Finally arriving at the SEAT, we witnessed an aesthetically understated performance but a sonically engaging set of new tunes and old. My personal favourite was ‘Where’s the Catch’, which features an inspired verse or two from hip-hop legend Andre 3000 of ‘Hey Ya’ fame. Unfortunately, Andre 3000 wasn’t in attendance to deliver his epic flow but it was a powerhouse of a live rendition all the same. The whole performance was strong as fuck and a great way to end a very cool festival of sun, sea, joy and colour.

It was a shame then that night, returning to our apartment, I would fall ill then proceed two days later dislocate my shoulder again. At least I had the hazey memories of UK artist Slowthai to keep me company, with his 4am performance on the last night showing how sleazy and honest he really is. Nothing Great About Britain is an album I highly recommend if you’re a fan of dark beats, atmosphering songs about working class Britain, under a current regime some consider on a level with Thatcher-esque hate and general injustice. Its a further shame I was pissed as a fart and half passed out by the mixing desk, but that’s a tale for another time.

To conclude, Primavera Sound 2019 in the beautiful Barcelona was an amazing experience. With a really friendly atmosphere and collection of seemingly down to earth, art inspired people, it’s an event you really, really should go to next year and beyond; I know I will. This review doesn’t really do it justice, and for that, I apologise.

Yours, Connor Patrick Ryan, The Mediocre Music Critic. Peace.

Liverpool born music writer with passion for punk and Everton FC