The prestigious Catalan festival Primavera Sounds has made a name for itself for its original line-up that is known to feature cutting-edge acts from all genres under the sun in a celebration of togetherness. It’s younger Portuguese brother, Nos Primavera, is probably one of Europe’s best-kept secrets to date. Perhaps not for long.
Running for the 7th consecutive year in the Northern coastal city of Porto, the second weekend of the worldly renowned festival has seen acts like FKA Twigs, Patti Smith, Flying Lotus, Run the Jewels, Skepta and Aphex Twin gracing the stage in previous editions.
This year’s festivities were kick-started by a free live performance at Porto’s downtown on Wednesday night by British DJ Fatboy Slim. This worked as a sort of prelude to what was going to happen in the upcoming 72 hours. The festival grounds are located in one of the largest natural parks in the city, a stones throw away from the beach. Its size and landscape alone couldn’t be more suited to an open-air, multi-staged music festival.
Wednesday night ravers were greeted with pouring rain on Thursday, but Father John Misty’s performance eased the crowd into the liberating power of the sundown, assuring that he is alive and still killing it IRL. For those of you who might be unaware of it, the artist has removed himself from social networks in 2016, as a stand against the futility of entertainment biz (shame though, he had some fire tweets).
His performance elevated the crowd’s mood, closely followed by multi-hyphenate rapper, media-mogul, sneaker designer and festival curator, Tyler, the Creator. Starting off his performance with a heartfelt “Tell these black kids they can be what they want”, Tyler’s performance in Porto has shown a matured, emotional side of the artist unexplored in his previous body of work, and more intentional and focused showmanship, accentuated by the stage and set design. His set was a combo of classics from his back-catalogue like “Tamale” and singles from his last summer’s critically acclaimed studio album “Flower Boy”. Rest assured that he still gives all parts of himself to the crowd while still giving zero fucks about it. Shamefully, he remains banned from entering the UK, but I’m glad that doesn’t prevent him from entertaining Euro crowds by the thousands.
Jamie XX’s s eclectic set was a display of time well-spent crate digging for soul and funk rarities blended in with a nostalgic jungle and garage beats that kept us dancing until the early hours of the morning.
A blissful Latin sunny afternoon soon brought the joy back to glittery faces washed down by the nightly hedonism of day one.
Portuguese Black Bombaim’s Stoner rock warmed up the crowds on Friday, closely followed by British Punk n’ roll band Idles – that climaxed their set with an impromptu Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ cover mid-stage in June.
Ibeye’s soulful musical reinterpretation of their French Afro-Cuban roots was the surprise ‘du jour’ at the Pitchfork stage. Playing their first ever gig in Portugal at a sunny meadow, their gripping performance was crowned by a short reality check mid-set during their song “No Man is big enough for my arms”. The twin sisters used excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s “Her Story is my Story” as a preamble to the song – and the crowd’s reaction to “The measure of every society is how it treats its women” echoed in the natural amphitheatre. This wasn’t an overpowering subversive commentary. It was a moment of mindful defiance and vocalised disdain towards the now-American Present despicable catchphrase: ‘grab ’em by the pussy’. It was interesting to see how their message was sent across without being too overtly political and without compromising the groove of the day.
The Pitchfork stage has also seen multi-instrumentalist Thundercat’s space-jazz performance, closely followed by British Four Tet’s mind-warping live set further down the hill. One must mention the festival’s excellent sound quality, without the common infuriating sound-bleeding between stages seen in more prominent festivals.
Friday night’s live performances were championed by two American hip-hop heavyweights.
Bringing the sounds of the future all the way from Long Beach, California – Vince Staples hyped and commando’ed the crowds every move. Staple’s fast beat pace requires a high-stamina dose, and many of the younger festival goers appeared baffled by the sea of bodies crashing onto each other to the sounds of ‘Big Fish Theory’. Perhaps the first time they get to see it so up and close and personal.
Contrasting the sounds of the West Coast to Eastside, Harlem’s Pretty-boy Flacko closely followed.
A$AP Rocky’s third studio album ‘Testing’ takes a very different turn of any other mainstream trap-rap that we are likely to hear this year. Even though this project has only been out for a couple of weeks, that didn’t prevent the crowd singing-along during ‘Praise the Lord’, one of the leading tracks of the project featuring grime wonderlord Skepta. While what he is actually testing is still shrouded in a veil of mystery, judging by the crowd’s reaction, I’d say it passed with flying colours.
The festival was closed down by the performance of veteran Nick Fucking Cave on Saturday night. As usual, during “Push the Sky Away” Nick Cave dragged fans to the stage, ending the festival on a memorable Kodak moment, and a no-bullshit set that crested into a run of old-time favourites.
Other acts that deserve an honorary mention such as ethereal Pop-queen Lorde, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, NYC slay-songstress Kelela, Fever Ray, Superorganism, War on Drugs, and gender-bending Ezra Furman.
Even though this festival is only a sample of the main event in Barcelona, the refined branding and the carefully curated line-up resulted in well-rounded and sonically balanced immersive experience.
The festival’s neat schedule includes live acts playing on four different stages throughout the day and an array of after parties going across town till sunrise. Many festival goers have found solace by walking down the road and crashing at the nearest beach. This is ‘No problemo’ with the neighbours either.
The lush green grass and the idyllic Porto coastline, with its well balanced vibrant atmosphere welcomed circa 100.000 visitors, elevating and consolidating Nos Primavera’s status to a yearly musical mecca of sorts for music lovers of over sixty different nationalities (and counting).
NOS Primavera Sound returns to Parque da Cidade from June 6 to 8, 2019. See you next year!
Imagery by Hugo Lima Photography.
Words by Catarina Ramalho