Barcelona’s Primavera Sound is festival heaven.
It’s sun-drenched sea, tapas, and sangria in the afternoon, followed with one of the best festival line-ups at night, teetering into the morning. The Mediterranean breeze sweeps across the immense (but never over-crowded) audience, allowing you a breath of fresh air in the midst of your chosen “addle.”
Read on for our top surprises from this year’s Primavera Sound: some grim, some merry, some a bit too naked for our pure, Berlin eyes. All in all, it was a daydream. One we’re still coming down from.
1. Mac DeMarco stripped naked and burnt off his body hair.
In an event akin to a There Will Be Blood or A Serious Man end-of-film breakdown, Mac DeMarco—whose set was a quiet, trudging, California-dreaming one—got down to his tired grey boxer-briefs and started lighting his body hair, standing atop an amp and revealing his strange, sac-like frame. While he dove deeper into some kind of other-worldly concentration, the music booped into nothingness behind him. Not tranquil. Not peaceful. Just a naked, saggy man on a stage, singing about getting older.
His drummer was naked the entire time, too.
2. Aphex Twin made a mockery of the main stage.
Aphex Twin has a kind of unspoken respect. We stood, diligent, at the main stage, awaiting his set—and then, after nearly an hour of “waiting,” left, dejected. Electronic music has upgraded, emotionally and cinematically, and left Aphex Twin sounding barren and uninspired.
3. Miguel’s to-die-for sexual passion.
First listens of Miguel took me straight to 2002. Smooth, cheesy R&B, making any teen romance seem electric. We’re all above that, right?
But then I saw him. Hawaiian-shirted, thrusting over the microphone, and then closing out with a pep-talk better than any mascot. Along the lines of “we’re all in this together, guys, so try your hardest to save everyone and live and dream and end discrimination and eliminate overpriced alcohol–“ Something like that.
Damn, if I didn’t walk away from that set—a strange mix of funk, hip hop, and electronic—excited for Miguel’s future. With a name like Miguel, he couldn’t be anything else BUT a sex icon. Prepare yourself, world. He’s gunning for our teenage-girl personas, and he’s hot AF.
4. Frank Ocean canceled.
Due to “production delays beyond his control,” Frank Ocean gave Primavera the proverbial middle finger and bailed just a week before the festival was slated to begin. The stacked schedule pegged Jamie XX into the Frank slot, but not without slicing out a piece of our already-bruised hearts. Frank’s been known to bail. And we can’t, or won’t, learn to expect it.
5. Swet Shop Boys
Is this the year of Riz Ahmed? Still reeling in the wake of that Girls pregnancy arc, I wandered toward the Pitchfork stage and found him there: bouncing around and easing from silly, banter-y raps to pointed, political ones that left us goose-pimply. He and rapper Himanshu Suri, of Das Racist, have this wonderful, youthful swagger, with spitting skills that made this a powerful, mid-day protest, along the Mediterranean Sea.
6. The xx is music for operatic nerds, now.
The sparse, bass-heavy The xx of old is not 2017’s The xx. Not as cocky in their older age, they’re honest, like ‘80s pop stars bleating through ballads, rather than cool assholes murmuring in the corner. And for this reason, their set was expansive and gorgeous, making you cling to your tribe and sway. For their new, 2017-album songs, co-writer Andy compared them to “master” songwriter Phil Collins: “But instead of the drum solo, in their songs, it was just Jamie XX dropping a beat.”
7. Weyes Blood’s brilliant vulnerability: a mix of tragedy and awkwardness.
At 5:40 on the last day of the festival, Weyes Blood was a difficult one to catch. Exhausted, reeling from days in the Barcelona sun, burnt skin stripping like orange peels—I heard the first chords of Be Free from last November’s Front Row Seat To Earth. It was captivating. And I ran.
The sound was rich, nourishing: her voice as clear and profound as it is on the album. She eased through the set song-wise, setting emotion-bombs, with strange interjections and banter that seemed better suited in me at a party I’m not quite cool enough to be at. Endearing? Wholly. Her performance was one of souls.
8. Sinkane’s honest eagerness and swaggering hope.
This is the second time BERLIN LOVES YOU’s spotted Sinkane this year, and for good reason. Once-of Montreal drummer Ahmed Gallab is versatile, one of the most “alive” people on stage I’ve ever seen, with a band and co-vocalists that seem to genuinely appreciate and like one another (and the music they’re creating). The music was infectious, igniting those who hadn’t heard them before, and–above all–making everyone dance.
9. The quiet power of a bearded man at a table.
Bon Iver’s music is personal: best-suited for bedroom sobbing and long, lonely winter drives. Yanking thousands of people together at the main stage for his set seemed ill-advised. And yet, when he appeared on stage, just a bearded, balding, tubby man with a pair of headphones—he created a wall of sound, one that swept across us like a wave and demanded our attention. Justin Vernon’s Midwestern folk belongs on a main festival stage. Who knew?
Of each second of this gorgeous festival along the Mediterranean Sea, we can only quote the illustrious Engelbert Humperdinck: “Every moment’s a day; every day seems a lifetime.”