Photography by Melissa Vega unless otherwise noted, feature image Eric Pamies.
The next day I woke up around three in the afternoon both completely exhausted and ready to take on my second day of Primavera Sound. I got to Parc del Fórum in the evening and headed to the far stage on the West side of the park for Savages from London. The lead singer Jehnny Beth, stood on stage in all black, hair slicked back as she enthusiastically greeted the crowd. Beth proved to be a captivating frontwoman, delivering each song with intensity, her vocals are best compared to those of Siouxsie and the Banshees, but with a bit more anger and a lot more edge.
Most of the set was made up of songs from this year’s Adore Life. Guitarist Gemma Thompson feverishly flicked at her guitar, throwing screeching chords across the park. Beth floated back and forth on stage, gripping the mic close to her mouth, transferring all her lipstick to it as she sang “city’s full of sissy pretty love” to Barcelona. Towards the end of the set, Beth hopped down from the stage and threw herself at the audience and crowdsurfed across the first few rows of people.
Dripping with sweat and her pink lips smeared across her face, Beth thanked Primavera Sound and the set was over.
I moved quickly across the large concrete space to snag a spot up front for Beirut – a band I’ve loved for nearly ten years, but never had the pleasure of seeing live. The moment the musicians first appeared on stage it felt like magic, as the colors of the sky started to change to red and purple.
The heart and soul of Beirut, Zach Condon, stood center stage looking dapper in a charcoal suit jacket and matching slacks. The lively trumpets and dynamic conga drums swirled around Condon’s buttery vocals. As he sung “Everything should be fine”, his voice warmed me like the orange glow behind closed eyelids while laying out in the sun. Halfway through the set I was rewarded with my favorite Beirut song, “Elephant Gun”. To my surprise it was also a crowd favorite as people all around me sang along, the familiar ukulele and accordion ringing through the air. It’s a song that makes you want to dance hand in hand with someone you love. Squeezed there with the crowd, I couldn’t do much but sway, but still, I remembered why I fell in love with Beirut after hearing the captivating track for the first time years ago. I sung along “If I was young, I’d flee this town, I’d bury my dreams underground / As did I, we drink to die, we drink tonight”.
I walked away from seeing Beirut on a high. I had finally seen one of my favorite bands live and they were amazing. As I made my way back to stage where Savages had performed earlier.
I was in disbelief that I was about to see another favorite, Radiohead.
The crowd was huge and pulsed with excitement as I pushed my way to the far left side of the stage. Thom Yorke took the stage along with the rest of the band and jumped right into their first single from A Moon Shaped Pool, “Burn the Witch”. They followed with the next four songs on the album. From that point on the rest of the set was a perfect mix of Radiohead’s best, including one of my personal favorites “Talk Show Host”, a b-side from their 1995 album The Bends. I had listened to this song a thousand times before and never thought I would ever get to see it performed live. Surreal doesn’t really seem a profound enough word to describe how I felt in that moment.
One by one the setlist unfolded before me and I just sung along in a half-daze, trying to take in the experience and store it away in my brain for safekeeping. As “Karma Police” sputtered to an end the crowd carried on singing “I lost myself” repeatedly. For a few brief moments the song belonged to the entire audience, taking it away from Radiohead who seemed happy to have their own song sung back to them.
While walking around to get a better view from the other side of the stage, a tall and bespectacled gent grabbed my hand during “Paranoid Android” and started dancing with me. I let him lead as we danced around with little concern about who the other person was, simply enjoying the music. He twirled me during the slow parts as we sang to each other “rain down, come on rain down on me from a great height, from a great height” and then we shook our bodies as the chaos of the song broke loose. Noah (whose name I later learned) and I decided to spend the rest of the set singing along together.
Before I knew it, shouts from the audience gave way to the beginning of “Creep”. Noah and I looked at each other with our mouths agape, he muttered “no way” as I smiled wide and nodded my head. “They haven’t played this song in 7 years!”, he shouted to me. We both started laughing and then did what any person would do and sang along with the thousands of people that surrounded us. In that moment, life was pure magic. Having heard one of the most unbelievable collections of songs, and now one that Radiohead had resigned to never perform again, I felt so fucking special.
Still baffled by Radiohead’s performance, my new friend and I made our way
to two different stages, gushing the whole way about what an amazing performance we had just witnessed.
I headed over to see Animal Collective.
The stage at the center of the park sat at the bottom of a giant cement valley I had never seen completely full until that night. There were people everywhere, even the cement steps that led to the sea of festgoers below were congested with bodies. I hiked down the stairs, narrowed by people sitting on either side, doubtful of finding a place to sit. Finally a spot opened up and I plopped down to enjoy Animal Collective seated from afar.
I felt grateful for the opportunity to sit for the first time since I arrived at the fest as I watched the tiny figures of who I knew to be Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Geologist, and Deakin. The stage was a cloud of colorful lights and sounds as the playful psychedelia reverberated below. I nodded my head to “Daily Routine” and wiggled in my seat to “FloriDada” singing “Dresses that glow on girls from Barcelona”. The rest of the set was filled with tracks from their latest record Painting With and went by like a blur.
After getting to rest my feet a bit at Animal Collective, it was time for Beach House.
I walked back to the stage where Radiohead had previously performed. The stage was quiet and the giant crowd had shrunk, leaving behind crushed beer cups and cigarette butts in their absence. I stood to the left of the stage and waited for Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally to arrive.
Nearly 20 minutes after their scheduled set time of 2 AM, the band finally emerged. Legrand wore a glittery cloak that hid her face and long hair. The duo was backed by a sheet of glowing stars as she sung their lullabies to swaying crowd. The whole experience felt ethereal to me as I grew slightly drowsy in the morning hours and realized this was the first and probably last time I would ever see Beach House at such a witching hour. My heart grew tender and nostalgic while I listened to “Take Care”, singing “I’ll take care of you, if you ask me to, in a year or two” to thousands of potential lovers. “Sparks” closed out the set as a cool sea breeze drifted in from the Mediterranean and crawled up my spine in the darkness.
I walked to the opposite side of the festival grounds, the cool night air brushed across my face and made me feel more alive.
I decided to end my night with DJ Koze.
The German DJ/Producer’s record Amygdala monopolized my ears the year of its release, featuring the alluring vocals of artists like Apparat, Caribou, Matthew Dear, and Milosh layered over catchy beats, buoyant synths and electric fuzz. A definite must-listen for anyone that hasn’t. When I arrived at the stage tucked below the giant solar panel of the Parc del Fòrum, the crowd was already throbbing to the beat. I used up my last reserves of energy to dance along, nodding my head and thrusting my hips to the music until 4 in the morning.
Check out the Official B.G.M. Primavera Sound 2016 Playlist on Spotify below (including Radiohead’s entire setlist):
Melissa Vega is not one of those people that needs coffee every morning but one of those people that needs music every morning. There’s just something about trumpets sounding while the sun is rising that gets her out of bed every day. She wonders if her love for music will ever be a talent she will actually realize beyond being really excellent at singing in the shower. She can be summed up in a single lyric from Wilco’s “She’s a Jar”: “when I forget how to talk, I sing.”