We had actually made it happen. Not only had we successfully transplanted HQ to Barcelona for five days, but our beloved foreign correspondent, Otacon, had also made it across a continent or two to physically grace us with his presence in ever-sunny Barcelona for this year’s edition of Primavera Sound.
Armed with more merchandise than a Tottenham Court Road Scientology department, we arrived at the Parc del Fórum to quickly survey what had changed. This year’s Primavera attracted attention for its 50/50 gender split, dubbed “The New Normal.” We also noticed that this change in paradigm also apparently extended to exponential growth in brand sponsorship of festivals, as we passed pointless corporate stand after stand, ranging from Pringles to Idealista and SEAT. Yes, when not enjoying bands at the festival, Primavera Sound is also an opportunity to buy yourself a Catalunian apartment and a car – all while nibbling on some hyper-addictive mulch, in case your new mortgage makes you peckish.
Excessive sponsorship aside, the day’s line-up boasted some truly exciting acts, and your beloved Snobs met up with a disciple to head over to the Pull & Bear stage (yet another sponsor) to see Big Thief.
Adrianne Lenker’s vulnerable V for Vendetta-era Nathalie Portman doppelgänger serenaded your Snobs with a beautiful voice as our weekend kicks-off in earnest. In what was a strong showing for the up-and-comers, including crowd-pleaser Shark Smile, the size of the stage they are afforded demonstrated the scale of stage presence they’ll need to bring in future in order to truly ‘make it’. Nevertheless, despite the warm, emotional hug we found ourselves wrapped in, we agreed that Big Thief’s set is better-suited to a more intimate setting, and too mellow for the time slot.
Otacon used the opportunity to sneak off and catch Danny Brown by himself (the other Snobs were happy to pass on his abrasive rap).
Danny’s long-time producer Skywlkr kicked off the set with a sample of Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, the hyped crowd instantly yelling out the iconic ‘Dun Dun Dun Dun Dun, Dananananana dun dun dun’ guitar riff on cue. The Primavera Sound alum, last appearing way back in 2012, emerged onstage and greeted the crowd with a wave and his goofy childlike smile (careful observers will note that the Detroit rapper’s trademark missing / chipped teeth have been replaced with a fresh set of pearly whites), before quickly transitioning into Die Like a Rockstar. Danny effortlessly worked his way through many of the hits off of 2011’s XXX including Lie4, Adderall Admiral and Monopoly, never skipping a beat while the crowd screamed and shouting out the hook to every song.
Throughout the set you could definitely feel Brown’s energy and how much he was enjoying himself, giddily dancing around the stage and stopping at one point to tell us “I am so happy to be here with y’all motherfuckas today! This is one of my favorite festivals to play.” Danny closed out his set with Best Life, a more happy go lucky piece off his upcoming album uknowhatimsayin?. While hip-hop doesn’t exactly lend itself particularly well to the festival environment, Danny’s goofy, fun loving persona – much in the same way that makes Mac Demarco so amazing – sets him apart from his contemporaries, and makes for a great performance in the late afternoon Barcelona sun.
Speaking of Mac Demarco, Otacon hurried back to attempt to find Cuzomano, John, El Mascarado and Easy C amidst the enormous crowd eagerly awaiting him over at the SEAT stage (fortunately not based inside a car).
“Yoooo hoooooo! Thank you guys for joining us for the rock show.” hollers Mac as he walked on to rapturous applause.
This was Mac’s fourth time at Primavera Sound and Otacon’s third seeing him there (his personal favorite was in 2013, with the original band lineup, including the loveable goofy Pierce McGarry). It is amazing to see how far the band has come, as they fully hold their own on one of Primavera’s main stages in a primetime slot.
Mac was completely at-ease with the crowd in his snazzy Nintendo 64 hat (hipster retro nod: check). While songs from the new album, as recently reviewed by Otacon, do not land as well as old material, stellar renditions of Salad Days, The Stars Keep On Calling My Name and Cookin’ Up Something Good (an Otacon and Cuzomano favourite) keep the crowd gleefully bouncing. John, previously a Mac skeptic, admitted he was really enjoying the show as Mac launched into Ode to Viceroy, which precipitates a drunken, arm-in-arm sing-along from Otacon and Cuzomano as we began to make our way over to the Primavera stage for Christine & The Queens.
There was huge excitement as Héloïse Letissier took to the stage, opening with C’est Comme Si On S’Aimait and moving straight into Girlfriend.
“Finally in Spain!” said the French born singer-songwriter, “We are Christine and the Queens, but you can call me ‘Chris.’”
Right from the get-go, Chris had complete control of the audience with her infectious pop, beautiful voice, eye-catching looks and expertly-choreographed dancing. Her performance was extremely evocative of 1987 era-Prince shows on a 1982 budget. Indeed, all the Snobs noted the 1980s popstar similarities, with Letissier nodding in particular to the Michael Jackson school of performance, albeit drenched in her own personality.
“¡La puta Christine!” shouted a couple of Spanish girls directly behind us, in disbelief as Chris confidently breezed through hits Science Fiction and Tilted.
“Fuck me, this girl is incredible!” said El Mascarado.
You can definitely tell that Chris fills the shoes of a proper global pop artist. Extremely well-spoken and funny, you forget she has a backing band. Chris is a terrific performer and entertainer, simultaneously dancing and singing, without apparently having to gasp for air. “I can’t even sing and hold a cup of beer at the same time,” noted John, our favourite hedonist.
The only issue with this career-defining performance was the time slot. The firework show lost a bit of its magic with the Sun still up. Yet it is just a matter of time before this is a long-forgotten issue – Chris is too talented not to fill headliner slots in the very near future.
Mid-set she sang a beautiful acapella version of Bowie’s Heroes to prove a point, it’s like she’s speaking directly to your dear Snobs – the stage is set for Chris to herself become a Hero.
“There’s only one rule while we’re together. No judgement. I can’t control myself. I’m out of control. I’m out of time…I’m out.”
And with that, she closed. Christine & The Queens is everything an artist should aspire to be in 2019.
Following Christine and The Queens’ magnificent performance, the Snobs were feeling a little peckish and so head over to the food court, where El Mascarado sniffed out what would end up being, without a doubt, described as “the official Primavera snack for Snobs” – Argentinian empanadas.
Otacon, meanwhile, had taken the opportunity to once again sneak off – this time to catch Courtney Barnett. Looking like a modern day Joan Jett, with very similar vibes to Kurt Vile and the old tradition of rock bands, Barnett was good instrumentally, but ultimately completely overshadowed when you’ve just seen a tremendous Chris and her “Queens” owning the stage.
Back at the empanadas stand, and in-between mouthfuls of ham and cheese, the remaining Snobs decided to walk towards the Ray Ban stage, where Brooklyn-born Nas was set to play. An improv-jam session began – the intro of Get Down to be precise – to get us in the mood for the show, before bad vibes Cuzomano nearly destroyed all excitement by announcing that he would probably not play the track that evening, with El Mascarado agreeing.
The two Snobs were dead wrong, however, as Nas opened straight into the aforementioned Get Down, to the pleasure of not only John, who called it, but also the thousands of attendees who gathered to see the East Coast rapper perform.
Ultimately, though, this was as good as the show would get as, in a medley spanning a few minutes, Nas hurriedly unveiled the most successful tracks of his discography, from The World Is Yours to New York State of Mind and Street Dreams. He cared little for the delivery, however, with constant meaningless shouting alongside a bass that overwhelmed all other instruments.
Our biggest fears regarding Hip-Hop in a festival setting were confirmed: after you’ve just seen the likes of Mac DeMarco and Christine and the Queens connect with the audience in such an original, creative and visually entertaining way, it was difficult to praise Nas’ performance as we had hoped. El Mascarado was devastated.
We may at this point have had a few more empanadas.
In anticipation of Erykah Badu, we headed towards her stage early and, thanks to Primavera’s layout, found ourselves watching Interpol from afar on the enormous screens flanking the SEAT stage, Pull & Bear’s “sister” stage. While most of the Snobs were fans of 2002’s Turn on the Bright Lights, compared to the likes of their counterparts such as The Strokes, Interpol have totally failed to evolve. John and Otacon were at least happy to hear some classic tracks that included PDA, Slow Hands and Obstacle 1, but most of the set was simply a bit dull.
By now, Erykah Badu was fifteen minutes late, and the crowd (including we Snobs) becoming restless, forced to watch ad after ad on the Heineken screen, brought to you by SEAT, sponsored by who-the-fuck-cares.
When Erykah finally took to the stage in a hat taller than Marge Simpson’s hair, however, all of that stopped mattering. The show began with the perfect opener, Hello, and Ms. Badu instantly won over the crowd. From there, she flowed through to Out My Mind Just in Time, setting the scene for the rest of a set that moved seamlessly between song to poetry to beatboxing and back again, all wrapped in intimate jazz instrumentation by her superb band.
The crowd was madly in love as the soulful performance continued, and Erykah surprised fans with a perfect rendition of Outkasts’ Liberation, which she dedicated to the group, proclaiming them her favorite musical group of all time. “I love you Andre 3000 and Big Boi” said Ms. Badu, reminding us all that before there was Beyoncé and Jay Z, there was Erykah and Andre 3000.
Weldon Irvine’s Morning Sunrise sample then took over the speakers and Erykah spoke over it, sweet as a lullaby, on matters of life and love, of nothing and everything.
She got the crowd dancing again as she bounced back to singing with Window Seat and Back in the Day, during which she called for everybody to “light one up” – we suppose one must do as one’s told.
There’s something special about Erykah Badu as a performer: no choreographed performance or show and dance – just her voice and her band, both of which truly sound as good live as in-studio. As Ms. Badu exits the stage to thunderous applause, all delays forgotten and forgiven, John leant over to confess, “now I know what love is…”
With old person bedtime approaching, El Mascarado, Cuzomano and Otacon returned to HQ to rest their weary legs. Easy C and John, meanwhile, made the completely ludicrous journey over the bridge to see Maribou State, alongside some Audio Snobbery disciples recruited en route. Indeed, the near-thirty-minute journey across a one-way maze necessitated a refreshment pit-stop.
During said pit-stop, the two Snobs found themselves at the Desperados Cube, as one of the few electronic acts to come out as transgender, Octo Octa, fit right into the “New Normal” branding of the festival and put on a powerful show, much to the pleasure of her bass-and-groove seeking audience.
Eventually reaching the sandy shores upon which Maribou State played, however, proved an entirely appropriate setting, as they opened with Feel Good and then serenaded a supportive crowd with the likes of Midas, Nervous Ticks and Manila, regularly joined on-stage by their go-to accomplice Holly Walker. John and Easy C were near silent through the entire set, appreciating a blissful close to the first day of Primavera.