After the flood of reviews the festival received on the first day of its previous double and festive edition, marking the 20th year of the festival in Barcelona, the people of Primavera Sound knew that they needed serious damage control.
The past few years, with and despite the COVID-19 hiatus in the middle, have been characterized by a monstrous expansion of the festival, both in the form of new editions that have popped up around the world like mushrooms after the rain, and in the form of an unimaginable number of performances, stages and space at the Mother Festival in Barcelona, which have destroyed far more than good.
For walks of up to 45 minutes from one end of the festival to the other, forcing many to miss countless performances and do much less, the 2022 special edition was added, which spanned almost two weeks both in Parc del Forum and other areas north of it and throughout the city, and was immediately cut short due to terrible crowding, water shortages, delayed opening of doors, unimaginable queues and many other disappointments.
This was the first time that the festival did not maintain one of its two main known characteristics: an exemplary organization on the one hand, and the best line-up in the world on the other. As mentioned, Primavera, who expected its 20th edition to be remembered as the largest and most festive of all, had to recalculate their route, and return to their origins, focusing on audience comfort alongside the quality of the performances - a formula that guarantees an unforgettable experience. And backwards they came back.
Although the festival still offered visitors no less than 15 stages in the park itself (without the Day Pro stage in the city center and clubs around the city before and after the main event in the park), a new arrangement of the stages made the discouraging walks to what was called the "Bits" complex redundant. The festival has been reduced to the (already huge) park, and that's a good thing. Again one could fantasize about catching ten different performances a day, and the mehadrin would even say 13, 14 and even 15.
About 56 dunams of celebration, photo: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
Already on Wednesday, before the official opening of the festival, a day that traditionally offers several free performances in the park to anyone who wants it, perhaps to ingratiate themselves with the local Catalans, Pet Shop Boys put on a jumping and invested performance as expected, full of spectacular hits and effects, lighting and video art. Neil the vocalist, 69, runs, gets excited and controls the crowd with a high hand. At the other end of town, Nicolas Jarre and Dave Harrington's comeback ensemble Darkside offered a mesmerizing and dreamy show for the lucky ones who managed to grab tickets.
You couldn't ask for a better opening to the festival until the moment a 57-year-old Scottish tourist was run over by a tram train at the exit of the park. An event that reminded the festival directors of challenges that are still very fresh in the memory. But this time, of course, it was not their responsibility. All the conduct, organization and order in the park were exemplary this time. It seemed that there wasn't a single corner of the 56-dunam park that hadn't been thought through in terms of crowd flow and crowding, in terms of design, visibility and atmosphere. In addition, almost all the stages and almost all performances had excellent sound, perhaps the best in the history of the festival.
Inequality is not normal
Primavera continues to strive for a new era of acceptance and inclusion. Their 2019 "new normal" statement was joined by a new project called "Nobody Is Normal," which is about equality and total freedom of expression for every festival visitor, whether straight, queer, trans and everything in between, above, on their side and behind them; Whether he wears skirts as a way of life, wears dresses as a profession or just does it for his fun at events. Anything goes, everything is acceptable, everything - except aggressiveness or coercion.
Although one drunk tourist sexually harassed and even touched one of the visitors who complained, a squad of guards immediately put a squad of guards on him and handed him over to the police. True, there is still a lot of work to be done, but the quick, efficient and impartial handling of the matter, which is not foreign to the vast majority of women who spend time at festivals and clubs, proves how much this issue is at the top of the minds of the festival organizers,
Larger than Life
Primavera went back to the sources, literally. It seems that the festival has fulfilled many more dreams for many people this year with performances by Depeche Mode (61), Sparks (77 and 74) and New Order (Bernard Sumner is already 68). The former started off a little weak with new songs and a slightly tired atmosphere, but made up for it hugely with an obvious string of hits in the second half of the show, and New Order? Nothing to talk about at all. Being in this tight performance of people in their seventh decade felt like being part of something historic. The fact that the huge hits of the eighties and nineties sounded so fresh and relevant testified to the immortal power of music that breaks boundaries, and perhaps also that music is the elixir of youth.
A spectacular sequence of hits. Depeche Mode, Photo: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
Although only in their fifties, Blur, Allison Goldfrapp and Bad Religion, each in their respective fields, gave sky-high and ageless performances. Blur, like Depeche Mode, fumbled a bit with the setlist who dug too much into the catalogue, when they could easily drive audiences crazy with monumental pop-rock hits one after another and non-stop, and yet, it's still hard to complain about such an exciting performance.
Goldfrapp, 57, gave an excellent performance that brought her back after many years of silence to the place of honor she had acquired for herself by absolute right in pop history. Bad Religion didn't take its foot off the gas for an entire hour at a protesting, sharp punk rock concert with no breaks to breathe. Vocalist Greg, 58, sounds clearer and perhaps even better than ever, in a performance that can only be called perfect, for all intents and purposes.
No wonder Primavera Sound has a very wide age range. In contrast to the vast majority of festivals of this magnitude, which tend to bring the hot names of the moment in a mix with no context other than popularity in the charts, Primavera's formula is not meant to please high school and college boys, but to appeal to the musical taste of the avid music lover, the one who notices the difference between listening to CDs and records, the one whose shirts he likes most in the closet bear the names of the bands he admired at the age of 15 and accompany him to this day, The one who is always looking for new music to be impressed by and also listens to entire albums with a musical concept, just like in the past, and not just detached songs.
With the help of women
On the last day of the festival, five of the seven performances on the main stages were led by formidable women. It began on a hot afternoon when the sun's rays played with the small raindrops, like the collision of natural factors into a new, pleasant, refreshing and happy connection. That's how the perfect show felt by Domi, the French keyboardist, and JD Beck, the American drummer, who had already been signed to Anderson Puck's label, performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!" and also with Thundercat and Ariana Grande, but it was the show in Meprivera that towards the end they lost the words to describe their excitement in front of the cheering crowd, saying only that "it's just crazy what's going on here", And most of all, they proved not only that jazz is not dead, it is still taking on new and fascinating forms.
Domi, from duo Domi and Jadie Beck, photo: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
Soon after, the American band Wednesday, led by musician Carly Hartsman, took the stage. At seven o'clock in the evening, Mercury Prize-winning Briton Arlo Parks took to the Santander stage, one of the two main stages, and delivered a soul-blowing indie R&B show. The openly bisexual artist, who took the stage with short hair dyed bright red and a white T-shirt several sizes larger than her, gave the audience that never stopped moving for a second an authentic and honest performance, which went deep into everyone's heart.
At eight o'clock in the evening, the main stage next door was probably the biggest surprise of the festival. Sevdaliza, the 35-year-old Iranian singer, prepared a show especially for the festival that began with some of her best songs that combine Persian characteristics and ambient electronic music with cello and drums. As if this original and ambitious combination did not sufficiently catch the attention of the audience, the singer took the stage in a transparent red dress without a bra, attached at the back with a black lanyard, and from the long neckline along the back emerge black thong panties.
Arlo Parks, photo: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
Her serpentine and sharp movements, coupled with this captivating festival sight, made it impossible for anyone to take their eyes off her. She performed several new songs that will be released soon, including an interesting new duet with singer Grimes, but these were only the beginning of the surprises, just as she promised. In the middle of the show, the musicians came down, the singer got a recording table and lifted the park with mixes of favorite songs, including two Prodigy songs, in memory of Keith Flint, who committed suicide in 2019. And the audience? Vote with your legs, heart and corners of your eyes.
Minutes later, the person whose album almost every album receives critical acclaim, the American St. Vincent, came up and showered cheeky and confident rock on the audience that received her with lots of love. One of the most talked-about musicians of the time, Carolyn Polachek, gave everything on stage despite having to perform sick, proving, in keeping with the egalitarian, queer and feminist spirit of the festival, that it is possible to be mega-sexy with a tank top and underarm hair. Hell, who does this even care about when it comes to such talent?
Then came Rosalia. Although she is already one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, she has made no secret of her excitement about performing for the third time at a festival in her hometown, where she always dreamed of performing, where she spent her youth, and this is her second time as a main headliner. She spoke at length in Catalan, seemingly respecting the place and her connection to it, when in fact it was annoying for much of the audience who didn't understand a word. She didn't even host Tokischa for their successful duet even though she performed at the festival on the very same day, a sleazy and uninhibited show that pleasantly surprised many.
Rosalia at the festival. Disappointing performance, photo: AP
But those were the smallest of the problems in her show. Rosalia actually recreated her main show at Coachella from a few months ago, with nothing special for Primavera. Apart from a poor and smeared rendition of the best song on her last album Hentai, the entire show was accompanied by playback and many dancers, but no live music at all. Worse, her every move in her face, her every move, was matched to the videographers who accompanied her on stage, producing beautiful but vomit-engineered shots that transformed this whole show from a musical event into a catwalk.
How destructive success is at times, and what a shame that one of the best and most interesting pop stars of the era, has fans on stage to make sure her hair flutters in the wind in perfect coordination with the movement of the camera, but not using musical instruments. The more beautiful the star looked on the screens, and oh, how good she looked, it was a show that degraded her convention-breaking music.
But anyone who watched a performance by one of the world's best techno DJs, Charlotte DeWitt, had an extraordinary experience. First, it was an extraordinarily impressive stage design and lighting: five large screens rotated on the stage, opening and closing, and floodlights and lasers burst out of them, in what was undoubtedly one of the most visually impressive performances in the entire festival. DeWitt sampled all her hits with a few surprises and proved to those who are still unclear about the subject that for several years female DJs have been responsible for the best and most exciting electronic music in the world.
Rising electronic duo Two Shell set the stage for the festival's traditional closing party with a bizarre but sweeping show. Then began the traditional graduation party conducted by DJ Coco, facing the sunrise and confetti in the air, and in order to conclude this day of female musical power in the most appropriate and dignified way, Coco finished the set of hits with the late Tina Turner's Midnight Train, to the singing of the crowd who shouted the words in a moving tribute.
Quantity of quality
We haven't talked about the sweaty soul glu protest trash, Sudan Archaives, the rapper and singer who is both a violinist and a powerful two-legged sexual revolution, the anticipation of Yves Tomor's performance that released one of the best albums of the year and the disappointment of his actual opaque and heavy show, the Malaysian DJ Tezosing who invents a new dance without distorting anything existing, About the brilliant and slick rock of Turnstile, the unobtrusively sweet indie pop of the wonderful Japanese Breakfastfest, the monstrous and pretentious headache of Black Country, New Road, the well-intentioned but rather pathetic show of NxWorries (Anderson Pakk. and Knxwledge), the impressive Boiler Room x Cupra stage that actually functioned like a futuristic dance club, and more.
Japaniz Breakfest, photo: Primavera Sound Barcelona 2023
But that's how it is at Primavera Sound, everything is big and unimaginable, tiring and awakens all the senses, both impossible and possible, exceeding all expectations even though they start again as soon as the festival is over. Just don't forcibly extend it to us again, okay? We love Primavera Sound, to say the least, exactly, but just as it is.
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