“And on Day 3, The Snobs are nowhere near as vigorous,” declared El Mascarado. Indeed, he was right. Our bones were creaking and blood-alcohol levels alarmingly high. John was showing early signs of jaundice. So, who better to kick off proceedings with one of the more senior groups at Primavera, Built To Spill.
While not drawing as big an audience or offering the same scale of performance as many of the younger acts, you can’t argue with almost 30 years of staying power. That being said, three out of five Snobs kept forgetting their name. Whilst we will always have a soft spot for ‘90s and ‘00s Indie (Otacon and Cuzomano are indie kids at heart), for much of the crowd Built To Spill predominantly serve as a ‘battery-recharger’ on the hill, basking in warm Catalunian sun. It is a perfect way to start the day.
After finally managing to stand (this took approximately fifteen minutes), the Snobs were approached by a friendly stranger wanting to take our photo. Obviously, we would not be doing ourselves justice if we did not seize an opportunity to spread the gospel amongst fellow Primavera attendees. Seeing the potential to recruit another disciple, we smothered our newfound friend in hugs, only to learn that he too represents a fellow illustrious, independent music blog! So, big shout out to our new Italian friends, indie-zone.it!
Next up is Kali Uchis, who John has been raving about seeing for approximately three months. Taking to the stage in an exquisite rainbow-coloured half-dress, half-coat, replete and white boots, Uchis hyped the crowd in Spanish, celebrating her first time on the Iberian peninsula. She seemed almost as pumped as John, who is screaming “Kaliiiiiiiiii!” at the top of his Wookie lungs.
Opening with slow-burner Loner on a rotating platform, if any artist solidified female empowerment at Primavera, it was Kali Uchis’ ultra-confident, totally ‘her’ performance during the 8:45 p.m. slot at the SEAT stage. Uchis showed off her Colombian roots with some sweet dance moves that would make Shakira jealous, but the spotlight was on her voice and her band, as we were greeted with an epic guitar solo and Uchis’ heart-melting “woob-woob-yus”.
Uchis did not have the back-up dancers or big production of other acts, meaning it all fell on her, but she – and her stellar three-piece band – owned the stage, taking the audience through excellent renditions of Dead To Me, Your Teeth In My Neck and Pobre Diabla. The latter remains too reggaeton-y for John, who was holding out for a conversion that is yet to materialise.
The most memorable moment of the set was Uchis’ slow and sensual cover of Radiohead’s Creep whilst laying atop the stage. The cover is a perfect choice for a festival that bet so much on diversity this year. Everyone (except El Mascarado, who “hates” Radiohead) loved it.
Killer and Rush quickly followed, alongside another cover (Pharell’s Beautiful), before Uchis launched into John-favourites Nuestro Planeta, After The Storm (during which the crowd sang along so loudly as to drown the band out) and set closer Tyrant. Uchis’ vocal and musical range is surprising and, as we walked away, John had – yet again – fallen in love.
From Kali, it was a short walk over to the Pull & Bear stage for what is probably the most-hyped local act of the weekend, Rosalía.
Having been sold on one of the best, most-animated pitches the Snobs have ever been subjected to by a Subordinate, we duly obliged and saw Rosalía. Definitely playing to the home crowd, the area surrounding the stage was absolutely packed and may have been the biggest crowd thus far at the festival, with everyone singing along. Otacon first saw Rosalia back at Primavera Sound 2017, when an extremely intimate acoustic set with Raul Refree blew him off his feet. Her transformation into Ariana Grande-level pop star did not go unnoticed. Indeed, all the Snobs noticed the parallel in looks and positioning. Resemblances, however, end there – Rosalía’s take on flamenco is innovative and fresh, placing her Catalonian identity central to her music and bringing the traditional Spanish music straight into the 21st century.The pitch heard a mere few minutes prior was already bearing fruit.
Rosalía delivered some amazing solo vocal performances – she has a truly impressive vocal range, and her Spanish sound takes full advantage of that. With dancers all around, she was more visually engaging than Kali Uchis, with great stage presence. James Blake joined her on stage for Barefoot in the Park, and the crowd went crazy – especially when they hugged in the end, prompting John to note, “I wish I had a reaction like this every time I hug someone.” A stranger agreed, “My son gives better hugs than that and no one applauds him!”
She returned to the stage – replete with shades – to perform Brillo, much to the joy of the crowd, which, at this point, physically needed what is arguably one of Rosalia’s biggest anthems – even an audio snob could not stop wiggling their arse.
Cuzomano, Otacon and El Mascerado began to exhibit severe EWS (Empanada Withdrawal Syndrome), forcing them to swiftly exit, but John and Easy C decided to stay (as has become the norm). That Rosalía has since penned a deal with Universal comes as little surprise amidst not-so-quiet murmurings that she will be a star.
On the Primavera stage, Pusha T gave what was certainly the best rap performance of the festival, boasting far greater production than Nas and therefore eliciting a far stronger reception from the crowd (“It’s not all muddy bass!”). Whilst we might say “best rap performance of the festival” it’s also important to note that this is not a tremendous accolade. Whilst tracks like Hard Piano and Daytona landed very well, they ultimately proved that the rapper has little to offer a mainstream crowd beyond his most noteworthy release to-date. Much of the set was unknown to the audience, dampening spirits as Cuzomano lurched over to the Ray-Ban stage.
Jarvis Cocker was probably Primavera’s most underwhelming performance. The iconic, Britpop-era legend appears to have unfortunately lost almost all of his swagger compared to the last time Cuzomano saw him perform with Pulp at Glastonbury. His recognisable, spindly figure cut a matchstick man on-stage as he proclaimed, “Sooner or later, everything will remind you of something else.” Cocker is surely right, but new song Must I Evolve (for ‘Primeval Festival’) failed to inspire. An attempt to crowd-please with Pulp track His and Hers also conjured little enthusiasm. Looking a bit haggard, Cocker closed the set with the cult hit Cunts Are Still Running The World. That they may be, but Cocker’s relevance is manifestly ebbing away.
The decision to see Cocker was clearly a very poor decision. With absolutely zero interest in the same ‘90s-era British nostalgia, John, El Mascarado, Otacon and Easy C made the right choice in breaking off to watch Solange.
Even before Solange took the stage, the Snobs knew that this performance was going to be special. The stage design was great – more akin to a theatre stage, comprising a white rectangular box with a staircase on one end and the drummer nested within it on the other. Solange, along with her six-person backing band and a further six dancers, came out to a pitch black stage in all-matching black suits for a slow and extremely smooth start, cementing her production as the best seen at Primavera. Natural comparisons are undoubtedly drawn between Solange and her sister and production assembly, in terms of choreography and fashion, is certainly one of them. However, while Beyonce is a global superstar, this does not render Solange anything less. In fact, the Jazz/Soul queen connected with the Snobs and crowd in a manner that should be praised, thanks both to her accessibility and ability to blend genres in a contemporary setting.
The second song after her intro was Down With the Clique. The instrumentation was loud and slow as Solange sang and narrated but, as the chorus kicked off, the beat took over and the crowd became increasingly focused. Solange was the first act that we saw this weekend that took advantage of the barrier layout to walk out and connect with the crowd during F.U.B.U., doling out hugs and taking selfies to people crying out of sheer joy. Solange yelled “this is my third time at Primavera,” and you could tell she was truly enjoying herself and loving the reception.
At some point during the first few songs Solange’s ear monitor fell out, but this didn’t seem to phase her in the least, as she went on to perform the rest of her set without it. During an interlude, she took the time to recount how much she has grown as a person.
“My old self would have stopped and cussed somebody out.”
She went on to talk about how she had a multitude of dreams, ambitions, plans – that she thought she would conquer the world until life happened: “That’s not for you right now, bitch.” No other act this weekend gave us this much insight into their personal self and it rendered it all the more special. Solange commanded the stage and crowd in a way few artists can, accentuating the essence of class that has come to be associated with the Knowles family.
Solange asked the sound tent to turn her mic up – she was right; the louder she got, the nicer it all sounded. In addition to the live horns, which are a great touch and add that extra bit of soul, the percussion was incredibly tight. We later found out that Solange’s drummer is in fact also her producer, and spent many a night helping her to write her new album while she was hospitalised.
Solange’s encore pushed well past her originally scheduled end time and was much more reminiscent of an artistic performance than a musical act. A solo back-up dancer emerged mid-staircase under a spotlight, covered in a sequenced full-body sheet, for Things I Imagined while the rest of the act – Solange included – performed in shadow. The Snobs departed, blown away by one of the best acts seen this year.
We reunited for the tremendous Primal Scream. The reunion is short-lived, however, as Otacon, John and El Mascarado make the foolish decision to go sit on the grassy hill to make jokes about bootleg Portuguese passports, after missing openers Moving On Up and Jailbird – the fools! Sporting a dashing pink suit, Bobby Gillespie is just about all there to take us through a tour de force of songs to remind the crowd that there is a lot more than just Screamadelica to Primal Scream. Kowalski, Higher Than The Sun and Kill All Hippies kept the fans jumping ahead of a war footage-laden rendition of Swastika Eyes.
Primal Scream played a no-nonsense set, with few pauses for any conversations with the audience and full-blooded performances of every song. Alert to what they needed to deliver, Gillespie began to close out the set with an extended version of Loaded, during which the crowd danced ecstatically to the drum sample for a good minute before the song kicked-off in earnest. Loaded segued into a crowd-sung chant of the chorus for Come Together before the band kicked things up a notch with Country Girl and set-closer Rocks. Gillespie is an odd frontman, but Primal Scream remain a must-see act on any festival line-up.
Feeling horrifically worse-for-wear, Otacon, El Mascarado and Cuzomano return to BCN HQ. As they waited an inordinately long time for a taxi, the trio found themselves stuck behind a group of rowdy 17-year-old Scottish lasses, who serenaded the crowd with covers of The Proclaimers between declaring an urgent need for “balls slapping against [my] vagina,” and “a fat cock and a fat spliff.” Girl power, indeed.
John, meanwhile, was adamant in wanting to see David August. The Lotus stage is on the edge of the venue, and the logistics to get there are pretty much a nightmare. Nevertheless, it was John’s first time seeing August live and he gladly skipped the opportunity to see James Blake for a third time.
At August, the sound system and light show were impressive. Surrounded by an organ, laptop, synthesizer, amp, and a million other unidentifiable things, Mr. August turned from one to the other to conduct his own individual orchestra, sometimes adding a live guitar in the mix – just because.
A disciple accompanying John, just like Cuzomano, described David August as a “fake Nicolas Jaar”. John prefers the term “good fake Nicolas Jaar” in light of what the original tends to put out nowadays [Editor’s note: fair point].
August delivered good fake Nicolas Jaar perfectly, adding his own touches to put on a great show, bowing as he left the stage to thunderous applause.
There have been a few occasions at Primavera where Easy C was not in full attendance with his fellow snobs – notably John during the later hours – for reasons that we shall not bore our dear readers with. This was one of those moments, and he found himself watching James Blake.
After August, and joined by two subordinates who had no idea who Roisin Murphy is, John rushed back again to the Primavera Stage to catch the Irish singer-songwriter’s performance in time for the opener House of Glass. Wearing some kimono / I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-what-that-is style robe and pants, and sporting a cap and sunglasses at night, Ms. Murphy reminded us why she’s been around since the ‘90s, showing how classy electronic music should be done.
Easy C meanwhile was hurriedly moving rejoin John, locating him using nothing but his snob-sense. Witnessing the wookie in the full throws of hedonism alongside two subordinates during You Know Me Better, it was at this point that John rightly asked Easy C what he thought of James Blake. It was a good question, what did Easy C think of James Blake? Best to check those cleverly-formatted notes Easy C had prepared earlier.
“He surprises me”
That was the only note Easy C had written to describe a performance lasting well over an hour, much to John’s amusement. Evidently the “other business” Easy C had been attending to throughout parts of the festival granted greater attention than James himself. Sorry, James (not sorry). Nonetheless, John and Easy C were both now fully-immersed in the last big concert of Primavera 2019. The bass was monstrous and got right under your skin – just what they needed at 3 a.m. on a Saturday.
As the show reaches the end, Murphy played an extraordinary rendition of Forever More, arguably her biggest hit as one-half of the electronic duo Moloko [Editor’s note: John’s favourite song, at least]. In a superb, eye-catching performance, Murphy showed us all how it’s done at 45 years old. At this point, John freely admits to totally losing track of time, completely lost in Murphy’s amazing vocals and the un-fucking-believable bass and guitars. The band closed with Overpowered in three minutes of absolute madness, all while Murphy bowed and bid adieu to us all. Ms. Roisin Murphy, ladies and gentleman, electronic diva. Needless to say John had, once again – and for the last time at Primavera 2019 – fallen in love.
While deciding the next steps for the final night of Primavera, John and Easy C still managed to see part of Modeselektor from the top of the Ray Ban amphitheatre – frankly, they couldn’t be bothered to go down the steps, despite being pleasantly surprised by the German duo’s performance, courtesy of an amazing light show and impressive bass.
After the performance, Easy C took a page out of the “wiser” Snobs’ guide and headed home for some much needed beauty sleep.
John, after 3 days and nights of Primavera, admits his ability to do anything at this point was reducing dangerously by the minute. Going to the edge of the venue was out of question. Instead, our hedonist ventured back to Ray Ban Studios to catch Martyn, Dutch producer and DJ, and one of the closing acts of Primavera 2019.
Originally introduced to the world as a drum n’ bass DJ, the Eindhoven-born artist has since evolved to a mash-up of several genres, from house to techno and bass, and closed 2019’s Primavera festivities exactly like that, with his hybrid musical style fascinating everyone attending the underground parking lot. It was, at that moment, just before a thunderous applause took over the room and security started turfing everyone out, that John saw – like a vision from the Almighty – a newly-converted Audio Snobbery disciple, dancing his happy, snobby booty off, in the middle of the crowd.
Mission accomplished, Primavera.