Live Report: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2024

Moments and memories from the Parc del Fòrum Pt.2...

In its 22nd edition, Primavera Sound returned to its roots. Festival organisers streamlined the event space, removing the satellite venue in Madrid from the programme after its inaugural trial last year (some say they preferred the insular set-up to its flagship counterpart, others called it a disordered alternative). This year’s headliners – Lana Del Rey, SZA, Pulp, Phoenix, Justice, Vampire Weekend, Mitski, PJ Harvey, The National and Disclosure – proved their place on the billing as touring stalwarts. Justice brought their French touch classics to the panoramic future. Lana Del Rey was late again. If there was a point of contention about this year’s headliners, it was the lack of true star power – a belaboured theme across much of the other premier festivals this year.

Still, Primavera Sound’s biggest draw is its commitment to platforming a gender-balanced, genre-inclusive line-up. The dreaded overlap became a window of opportunity to catch the rare gems and risers emerging as acts to bet on amongst the ones making a comeback. Speaking of comebacks, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib honoured their hardcore rap excursion, ‘Piñata’, with a commemorative performance; an ad-hoc set made looser and more inviting through wine-soaked repartee between the rapper and producer. Madlib’s stop-start, technically astute mix was the best part. Progressive South Korean rap collective Balming Tiger proved to be the daytime festival hit, leaving the audience stunned with their synchronised choreography and the sheer range of their rhythmic assault. Amaarae brought forth her ‘Fountain Baby’-themed study of sex, signs, rituals and religion on the Amazon Music stage, performing a set of anthemic proportions. Special mention goes to the victor of the dance-off.

Erika de Casier‘s impromptu Boiler Room set was a welcome slice of sweet confection, a teaser of her rave-centric collaboration with Nick Léon a glazed cherry on top. The Plenitude stage aka The Green Stage stationed in the shade of the iconic solar panel hosted British-Nigerian star Obongjayar, whose punk-infused Afrobeats brought with it an abundance of grooves and polyrhythmic intricacy; his nimble, sinewy moves a sight to behold. A midnight set from Tirzah followed a few hours later on Plenitude, the only blip in our three-day programme. The drawn-out, mechanised cacophony bordered on tedium, setting in motion a hollow, droning effect that made weary festival goers even more… weary. Maybe that enervating feeling was the point.

The Cupra stage and its vast amphitheatre backdrop presented two of my festival highlights. BADBADNOTGOOD channelled João Gilberto, Flying Lotus and Sun Ra Arkestra in a space-dwelling set that made the most of the tried-and-tested synergy between the band members and their additional live ensemble. I finally caught Jai Paul on his Renaissance tour, the dazzling, protean light display a secondary feature in an expression of unfettered euphoria. The performance cobwebs were well and truly shaken off – the reworked, revivified versions of those vaunted ‘Bait Ones’ demos drawing audible, palpable feedback from an audience that didn’t stay still.

The finale brought with it a message from the heavens in the form of cloudbursts of rain and thunder, so the only option was to seek out Shabaka’s evening symphony in the Auditori Rockdelux. A masterclass in endurance and mythic evocation, the British jazz bandleader had the audience mute with his quasi-psychedelic, ambient experiments on the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute. As the rain clouds cleared, headliner SZA brought her tour-ready, nautical set to the Santander stage, moving adeptly between floor-writhing dance interludes, stadium-sized sing-along refrains, and femme-forward revenge anthems. A far cry from her playback-reliant early days, this was a commanding showpiece from one of the biggest stars in music today.

Last year, I made my Primavera Sound debut. This year, I knew where I was. I knew my bearings. I belonged. I walked the Parc del Fòrum like a pro, making the serpentine journey between the 16-stage stretch, gastronomic delights, vendors, workshops, craft fairs and shops. This year was less about following a regimented guide and more about embracing the off-the-radar, far flung ethos of the festival. An underrated feature of Primavera Sound is its safe and secure code of conduct. This is a clean, green festival and it shows. Continuing its promise as a sustainability partner for ecological awareness, four more stages operated with clean energy by being connected to the grid.

Preservation. Performance. Primavera. A worldwide festival geared towards the future.

Words: Shahzaib Hussain
Photo Credit: Lesley Mensah (@ellemensah)

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