Arcade Fire, The National, Real Estate, Covers and Guests Highlight Primavera Sound
More than 100,000 people gathered in Barcelona’s Olympic Village this past weekend for the annual Primavera Sound music festival. The event had a decidedly Barcelona feel, as indie and alternative bands like Arcade Fire, The National and Nine Inch Nails played for classic rock-sized crowds—upward of 80, 000 people—when they headlined the main Sony Stage on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Acrade Fire’s Win Butler talked about his love of the festival before their early signature song “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels).” The frontman also reminisced about playing the fest during the band’s Funeral tour and said Barcelona is on the “short list” of cities he could live in. Notably, Arcade Fire worked New Order’s “Temptation” into the version of their original “My Body Is A Cage.” New Order’s Peter Hook was present at the festival with his solo band, so the tribute resonated in a uniquely personal way. Butler also nodded to the location by counting off in Spanish before “No Cars Go,” while the band—who have been playing songs by local artists during every stop on their current tour—played Serrano y Sus Jamones “Tequila” during the show’s bobblehead encore fakeout.
Interestingly, Arcade Fire touring saxophonists Colin Stetson and Stuart Bogie pulled double duty during the fest. Both played with Arcade Fire during their show, while Stetson played a solo gig earlier in the day, and Bogie joined his longtime group Antibalas for part of their packed set. It was the first time that Bogie had played with the group since hitting the road with Arcade Fire.
The National played for one of the biggest crowds of their career at Primavera on Friday. Singer Matt Berninger gave a shout out to Pixies, one of his early influences, who had played the same stage earlier in the day, and the band also dedicated part of their set to fellow festival performer Sharon Van Etten, who appears on their latest album, Trouble Will Find Me. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who was at the festival for a set with Volcano Choir the next day, sat in on “Slow Show.” He played guitar and offered his trademark falsetto vocals to a unique, almost remix-like version of the song. The group joked that he had no idea how to play the song before he started. (Vernon is a major contributor to the band’s upcoming Grateful Dead project). The Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser and Paul Maroon, who performed a set in support of Leithauser’s new solo album, sat in on “Mr. November.” Berninger remarked that The Walkmen taught The National how to be a band. Maroon then remained onstage for a show-closing “Terrible Love.”
The National also got some love on Saturday, when Kronos Quartet played material from their new classical collaboration with guitarist Bryce Dessner.
Real Estate, who appear on the cover of the current issue of Relix, played the biggest crowd of their career on the festival’s second largest stage. The jam-influenced indie-rockers teased the Grateful Dead’s arrangement of “Turn on Your Lovelight” prior to “It’s Real” before riffing on Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” later in the set. The group also gave guitarist Matt Mondanile, who has played the festival four times between Real Estate and his Ducktails project, room to shine with a rare lead vocal on his “Beneath The Dunes.”
Dr. John deserves some credit for knowing his audience. The New Orleans legend nodded to the hipster crowd by opening with the title track from his Dan Auerbach collaboration Locked Down. He also worked through classic’s like Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” “Let the Good Times Roll,” “Right Place, Wrong Time” and “Such A Night,” while also proving himself on his original instrument, the guitar, for a bit too.
The Pixies played the biggest non-headlining set of the weekend when they took to the Sony Stage for a show that mixed new material with staples like “Where Is My Mind?” and “Here Comes Your Man.” Fellow recently reunited indie darlings Neutral Milk Hotel made their Primavera debut as locals literally ran to the front of the stage for songs like “Two-Headed Boy,” “The Fool” and “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea.”
Post-punk pioneers Television treated fans to a marathon rendition of their classic “Marquee Moon,” while New Order/Joy Division bassist and co-founder Peter Hook played Joy Division’s debut album Unknown Pleasures in its entirety before encoring with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Transmission.” Meanwhile, Queens of the Stone Age brought a harder sound to the festival, with frontman Josh Homme introducing each member of the band by the alcoholic beverage they represent before jokingly asking the crowd not to applaud their drinking problem.
Plenty of covers and guest appearances dotted Primavera Sound throughout the weekend. Haim showed off an impressive understanding of Spanish during their sprawling mid-afternoon set, which also featured a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well.” Kendrick Lamar also worked in Tupac’s “Hail Mary” and Warpaint played David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes.” Warpaint drummer Stella Mozgawa also sat in with Jagwar Ma during their nighttime set.
While the festival was an all around success, there were a few bummers. The War On Drugs had their set delayed due to sound issues, while Macaulay Culkin and his Velvet Underground/Pizza tribute band Pizza Underground cancelled their performance after being booed off the stage in London a few days earlier.