Photography by Melissa Vega unless otherwise noted.
My third and final day of Primavera Sound started in the early evening.
Having averaged nearly ten miles each day so far, this was the last 8 hours of walking I could get out of my feet before a much needed rest. I headed to one of the festival’s two largest stages in time to catch Wild Nothing and as I stood there listening I could think of no better backdrop than the Barcelona coast for Jack Tatum’s dreamy pop.
I lifted my arms and let the breeze caress my face as I swayed to songs from their new record, Life of Pause. Although not quite as dreamy as 2012’s Nocturne, with its hushed vocals and euphoric reverb, the chill, casio-blazed essence of the band remained. My favorite moment of the set was when the band performed “Paradise” sans Michelle Williams monologue, along with tracks “Nocturne” and “Shadow” from my favorite album.
I headed back towards the entrance of the park to check out Autolux, a band I had never heard before but was recommended to me by a fellow B.G.M. staffer.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the LA trio, but kept an open mind as I watched the band get settled. I first noticed the drummer, Carla Azar, in bright orange she sang “Brainwasher” from the back of the stage as she kept a perfect beat. The drummer, who has received praise for her work on Jack White’s Blunderbuss and Lazaretto and who some might even recognize from the movie Frank, drew me in with her dynamic drumming and haunting soprano croons.
The following song “Plantlife” showcased the vocals of guitarist Eugene Goreshter, a sleepy and staggered melody against spacey guitar riffs and crashing cymbals. Then Greg Edwards sharp falsetto kicked off “Hamster Suite” from the band’s latest release Pussy’s Dead. By this third track I had discovered that Autolux was a band in which no one and everyone was the lead singer. The unusual approach threw me off initially, but then I realized how much it actually worked. It kept the set interesting as my attention bounced from one musician to the next, each taking turns to exposing their vocal talents.
I left the set to make my way back to the other end of the park. As I got closer I could hear “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” from one of my favorite albums of all time, Pet Sounds.
My heart swelled as I ran to the stage like a kid running towards the sound of an ice cream truck. I made it just in time to sing along to second verse. Brian Wilson sat behind a piano and endearingly made comments between each song on the 50th anniversary album. Wilson, like the best of grandfathers, was sweet and slightly ornery (he scolded us to stop clapping at one point so they could start the next song).
I just wanted him to read me bedtime stories or tell me about his old days touring with the band. In that moment I felt a lot like the girls who cried when they saw the Beach Boys perform back then. Despite Pet Sounds being known as a despondent record, I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear as I sung along to every word like I’d done hundreds of times before in my car or in the shower.
“God Only Knows” finally brought me to tears, big orbs of salty liquid squeezed out of the corner of my eyes, thankfully hidden behind my Wayfarers. I thought to myself why my favorite songs are always those that make me cry, although before I could answer the short, but moving, teenage anthem was over. When the final track on Pet Sounds finished, I was pleasantly surprised to find Wilson continued on with other Beach Boys favorites like “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “I Get Around,” and “Surfin USA”. It was then the park by the coast turned into a full on beach party as the whole crowd shimmied their hips to the danceable 60’s hits. I could have danced there forever listening to Wilson and his backing band (which included original Beach Boy Al Jardine) perform their entire catalog.
Perhaps the only person that could have pulled me away from Brian Wilson at that moment is Bradford Cox of Deerhunter.
I settled into the middle of an audience standing in front of his stage that was larger than I expected and Cox took the stage looking like an alien trying to pass off as a human in a baggy jacket and felt hat. Having never seen Deerhunter before, the musical gems for me where those from 2010’s Halcyon Digest, “Revival” and “Helicopter”. I swayed my hips side to side and got lost in Cox’s angelic vocals singing “I keep no company”.
Deerhunter reminds me of the kind of music that accompanies a montage of vacation videos through a faded filter. I thought to myself how much I missed the sun on my face while I stared at the dark stage. Bradford Cox played a few different sets throughout the course of Primavera Sound and in that moment I regretted not being able to make it to all of them, “I need a clone or a drone” I muttered softly then moved right into the lyrics from “Living My Life”, the best single from Deerhunter’s latest record, “I’m off the grid, I’m out of range and the amber waves of grain are turning grey again, the darkened stage and the infinite waves”.
I walked away from the Deerhunter set to the opposite side of the park to catch Pusha T. When I got near the stage, King Push was already in the depths of his rhyme schemes.
I walked to a playground in the middle of a small sandbox directly across the stage, scaled a metal slide and sat at the top to get a better view. Pusha stood alone between two large neon crosses that hung on either side of the stage reading “Sin Will Find You Out”. The throbbing crowd gave King Push his power as he moved across the stage and slayed his set.
Though I was attempting to give my body a break I couldn’t help but bob my head to “Grind’n”, from Push T’s Clipse days, the hip-hop project in which he, along with his brother No Malice, first gained popularity. To finish the set King Push performed his latest single “Drug Dealers Anonymous”. The track, which hadn’t even been released officially at the time, features Jay-Z who raps around a snippet from the conservative troll Tomi Lahren’s obnoxious rant about Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show performance, “Your husband was drug dealer, for 14 years he sold crack cocaine”. Both the rappers acknowledge their time as drug dealers in the track, while Big Homie makes a nod to Bey’s Lemonade lyrics “Nothing real can be threatened”. With that, Pusha T ended his set and I left the playground a better fan.
There were no traces of Deerhunter at the stage where they’d previously performed as I searched for a closer spot to see Sigur Ros.
Yet another first for me, I was eager to experience the other-worldliness of the Icelandic band live. They opened up with a brand new song, “Óveður”, a sparse and haunting hymn that created an eerie hush across the giant crowd. The music was so loud it pressed hard against my ears. I stood watching the flickering lights and swirling fog, completely captivated by a language I couldn’t understand. The glistening “Glósóli” felt like a choir of angels singing, suspended high in the air above me.
The celestial track soon gave way to the buttery horns of “Ný Batterí” one of the first songs I ever heard from Sigur Ros. I felt such gratitude in that moment, contemplating how lucky I was to be there and how fortunate we all are that a band like Sigur Ros exists. I took in the rest of the magical set with child-like wonderment and began growing a little sad that my experience was soon coming to an end.
Across the way from Sigur Ros, German electronic group Moderat would conclude my third and final day of Primavera Sound.
Back home, I rarely come across a Modeselektor or Apparat fan, so I was surprised to see the gigantic crowds gather for Moderat, a supergroup of the two bands. Sascha Ring, whose vocals give me the deepest chills, sat center stage while the band opened up their 2 AM set with “Ghostmother” a new song from their newly released album III. Big hands gestured on the screen behind them, as the slow and seductive track glided across the night air.
The following track got the swarm of people moving with its stuttering beat and driving drums. I shuffled around in the cool night breeze and waited patiently for Ring’s voice again, which I was rewarded with every few tracks. The group performed their remix of Jon Hopkin’s “Abandoned Window”, a beautiful track that starts quiet and pensive but then explodes in dynamic synths and a pulsing beat.
One of my favorite Moderat songs, if not my most favorite, “Bad Kingdom” came towards the end of the set. Ring’s vocals were perfectly clear and vibrant as they sang “this is not what you wanted, not what you had in mind” followed by perfect “oohs” and “ahhs”. The last note rang out and seemed to hold still in the sky, it was then I decided I wanted to end my night. I made my way through the crowd and listened to Moderat play their last song as I walked away.
Feeling like a zombie, I walked through the Parc del Fórum, reminiscing about my last three days there. I silently said goodbye to the place that had grown familiar to me.
Saturday is the only day all week that the Metro in Barcelona ran all night long. I fed the machine my ticket and boarded the train surrounded by Primavera Sound festgoers, as well as clubbers finding their way home. I held onto a pole to steady myself during each stop, pressing my face against its cool surface and reflecting on my experience.
Primavera Sound is without a doubt the best music festival I’ve ever been to. It attracts true music lovers from all over the world and reciprocates their dedication with a perfectly curated lineup. Even the bands that performed felt a sentiment towards the fest that I had never seen before. Maybe it was the dreariness brought on from the early morning set times, or the Mediterranean sea breeze, but there was a magic to Primavera Sound and everyone that had ever been before knew it. I thought about how I might never be back in this place and my heart ached. I wanted to start all over, to live each day again until I couldn’t take it. But that’s not how life works and so I got off at the 3rd stop to transfer lines thankful that I got to live it even once.
Gracias, Primavera Sound.
Check out the Official B.G.M. Primavera Sound 2016 Playlist on Spotify below: