In Spanish “primavera” means Spring but as the inaugural L.A. version of Barcelona, Spain’s Primavera Sound Festival hit town this past (tail end of) Summer weekend, it wasn’t about anything seasonal. Bands were abloom though, especially for those of us who like the idea of festivals and the musical discovery they promise, but who are all too familiar with the commitment they require in terms of parking, walking, scheduling and spending. We largely avoid large fests these days, especially since COVID is not entirely a thing of the past. But outdoor events held on the spacious grounds of the L.A. Historic Park in Chinatown are always pretty painless. The Metro lets off nearby and the layout is easy to navigate and cover fairly quickly by foot. The gorgeous downtown skyline doesn’t hurt either.
As a Nine Inch Nails fan, Saturday was this writer’s chosen day to check out the event and Trent Reznor did not disappoint, playing a flawless and fervid mix of numbers from the band’s catalog, the highpoint of which saw him putting a riveting new twist on perhaps their most popular track, “Closer”– rearranged with a build up ref to the ruminative, even more sensual (if you ask us) Pretty Hate Machine gem “The Only Time.” It felt alive, alright.
After great bouncy sets from bands we’d never investigated too deeply, like Fontaines D.C. and Surf Curse, we had that magical moment that anyone who attends a fat bill festival hopes to: we discovered a new favorite band. Too bad we have no idea how to pronounce them. Texas’ Khruangbin (Thai for “airplane”) were sonically and aesthetically the vibe we’re at these days, making funky, jazzy, soundtrack-y psych-rock with world influences. This is the kind of background music we like to write to these days, but live, they hit a whole other way. Their set during Primavera was a goddamn disco glam-rock spectacle, and we’re still thinking about the medley they did mashing up Spandau Ballet, Chris Isaak and Michael McDonald into Rick James, Snoop and Dre.
A lot of the bands who played Primavera’s three days (see above gallery for a glance at Lorde, Arctic Monkeys, PinkPantheress, Clairo, Stereolab, Kim Gordon, Mayhem, Amyl & the Sniffers and many more) have played Coachella or other music fests, but for those of us who don’t necessarily have the stamina or desire to stand under a climate-change-era sun all day, Primavera offered a chill alternative that was still filled with musical thrills. We hope they’ll come back for more next year.
Photo gallery photographers (for Primavera Sound):
Ismael Quintanilla III
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